Buffing your newly-finished paint

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by: Cobalt327, Jon, Schnitz, Sreno, Techinspector1
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[edit] Introduction

This is the second part of finishing off your paint job. Doing this will bring out the brilliance, while eliminating all impurities of the paint.

[edit] Basic concept

You've made the decision to finish your ride and it's going to be a show-quality paint job with "THE LOOK". Anyone can achieve the look; all it takes is some basic materials and lots of elbow grease. Sanding and buffing is the icing on the cake. It can be done and you can do it!

[edit] Wetsanding

Many car owners underestimate the value of a good wetsand job. It's only when attempting to buff the paint that they discover it's back to the drawing board (usually, they did not do enough wetsanding). So let me instruct you guys and gals in the process of wet sanding. THIS is the way to get a SHOW FINISH as opposed to a "20-20" paint job (looks good 20 feet away at 20 mph).

This method requires the vehicle panels to be straight and solid to begin with, and the paint to have been applied correctly. Start with a fender, side and flat parts and inspect them to see how much you must flatten. Cover all sharp corners with 1/2" masking tape and use 1000 grit wet/dry paper to begin, assuming everything is in very good shape: the clearcoat is flat, color is right, etc.

Assorted sanding blocks and buffer with buffing compounds

Use a 5 gallon bucket with a drop of dish soap, then blend it with lukewarm water. The dish soap will act as a wetting agent by removing the surface tension of the water, allowing the water to flow out on the panel instead of beading up. Use a good quality rubber sanding block and sand until the surface is completely flat. Use a 3M squeegee to clean the area, then stand back a little to inspect the sanded surface, and determine if any shine is present. The area must be kept clean and wet so squeegee it off frequently and dip your sanding block into the bucket often. If it's flat, go to the next area.

If the surface is still not flat and lacks a semi-gloss look, continue re-sanding the area until a semi-gloss, flat surface is achieved. The finer the paper, the more gloss to the semi-gloss will be seen. Continue doing this until the entire car is done with 1000. You must repeat this routine with every grit-level of paper you use!!! Now you will do the whole car in 1500, 2000, 2500, and 3000 grit. It will take anywhere from one week to 2 1/2 weeks to get it right. Then you can buff it out with ease using light pressure because the surface is pre-polished and it only takes a bit of buffing to do the rest. So go for it.

[edit] Buffing and polishing pads

There are many different types of buff or polishing heads. After the wetsanding routine all the way through 3000 grit paper, you can use a yellow buff foam pad that is stock with a plastic backing. These can be purchased at any car paint shop. You can trim off at least 1/2" of plastic around the outer back top of the plastic because it can hit the paint when you tilt the buff pad and cause a bad spot in the paint.

[edit] Buffing and polishing compounds

For the buffing compounds, first use a very fine 00-white buffing compound. It makes a mess but it works!

Choose an area to begin on and spread out a one-foot diameter spot of compound/water mix. Use half-speed on the buffer motor to prevent excessive heat build-up and resultant burning of the paint. Use light downward pressure to begin. Be particularly careful with the speed and pressure on higher areas of the panel, like fender creases. You can burn through the paint very easily and ruin the whole job. As the compound begins to dry up, clean off the spot and see how it looks. If it's still dull, wet it and go again with a little more speed. Do not use full speed until you get some experience. It's better to spend more time on a panel at a lower speed than to go full-bore the first time around and burn the paint. Once the gloss begins to come around, put a tablespoon of undiluted compound mix on the spot and buff again, moving the buff around the area back and forth while increasing the speed a little. The area should be very glossy by now.

Wipe the area down with a clean rag and soap and water. Using a new buff pad, apply a line of non sealing glaze to the area and buff. (Usually brown in color. You don't want to use a pink sealing glaze until the paint is a month or so old). The buff should glide across the surface by now and result in a beautiful, smooth shine.

[edit] Buffers, which ones to use

Before you buff out impurities in the paint, you must first get the right power unit to properly buff the paint. Some use a Makita brand multi-speed buffer. Yes, the rotary buffers may LOOK like a regular angle grinder, but they aren't. The buffer has a trigger that varies the speed of the wheel, while almost all angle grinders are either all or nothing. Different speeds must be applied to different surface areas; so you absolutely need a multi-speed type.

[edit] Buffing wheels and bonnets

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