Buffing the paint on your car or truck can be a scary job if you think about it. Take a tool that spins a pad very fast and press it on your car. Press too hard or use it at the wrong angle and you could cause more damage than help, but do it correctly, and you could really make that new (or old) paint pop! Below we put together 10 tips on techniques and what products to use, and when.
1.Don't mix buffing pads!- Buffing pads should never be mixed once you have used each one with a certain compound. No matter how much you clean the pad, you may never get the compound out, and it could cause swirl marks. Spend the extra couple bucks and get separate pads for each type of compound you will be using.
2.Wool Pads- Only use wool pads for heavily oxidized paint, or after paint has cured for quite some time where a foam pad won't effectively cut the paint. You can actually do damage if you use a wool pad on fresh paint that hasn't 100% cured. Wool pads are really handy to have if you have a car with "patina" where you need to remove the years of oxidation your "barn find" may have earned. You'd be surprised how well that original paint may come up!
3.Foam Pads Have Many Uses- Foams pads and compound are the 2 things you should be stocked up on if you are planning on polishing paint on your car or truck. Foam pads are available in a few different "grits" if you will (PPI or Pores Per Inch) is the official term). Most companies distinguish these by dying the pads different colors. Foam pads can be used for light cutting with the right compound, but they won't remove deep scratches like a wool pad might. The nice thing about foam pads is that they do not leave swirl marks like a wool pad might. Some like to strictly use foam pads just for this reason.
4.RPMS are everything- One key to a perfect finish when buffing is to make sure you are running your buffer at the correct approximate RPM when doing each step. Generally wool pads you would do your heavier cutting at around 2000-2500RPM, while you'd want to finish at around 1100-1300RPM for final foam polishing. A slightly higher RPM can be used with the wool pads if you are lightly cutting with them, around 1600-1800 normally.
5.Keep Moving- Often times damage with a buffer is done when you stay in one spot too long, or you are moving too slowly. The longer you stay in one area, and the slower you move, the more you heat up that area of the panel. Heat=bad when buffing, keep a rhythmic, uniform motion buffing a panel. Jumping around can cause you to miss spots or get an uneven final finish.
6.Masking Tape Is Your Safety Net- Use painters or a quality masking tape to protect edges and areas you may easily burn through or catch with your buffer. Once you develop the "touch" you can work right up to these edges, but to avoid any accidents I'd still advise to tape off the car, then come back and work just the edges with your full attention on not pressing too hard or sitting in one place too long. You'd be surprised how quickly an edge can be buffed clean of the paint!
7.Buy A Spur And Use It Often- Do not use sharp objects like a screwdriver to clean your buff pads, it can damage the pads, and I'd bet that you wouldn't want to mix the grime on your screwdrivers with your buffing pads. Instead, buy a buff pad "spur" to clean your buffing pads. Make sure you use these often, especially after finishing with that pad. Dried up old compound can cause damage to your paint if it isn't removed fully from the pad.
8.The compound belongs on your car, not you!- Apply the compound to the surface you are buffing first then turn the buffer on and begin buffing the panel. Applying buffing compound to the pad itself will cause you to wear the compound as soon as you turn the buffer on and make a mess of anything near by!
9.Do Not Let Your Buffing Pads Touch the Ground- Under any circumstance, do not set your buffer down on the ground, all it takes is your dog, the wind, your significant other, etc. to trip on it or knock it on it's side and the buffing pad touches the ground. The pad will instantly pick up dirt, rocks, etc. that all become extreme abrasives when you go to buff next. If this happens, do not use it until it is fully cleaned, to be safe it is even best to just replace it with a new one all together.
10.Wash and Care for your paint often- This should be obvious, but in between buffing, waxing, or polishing your paint, make sure you are regularly washing your car and caring for the finish. It will make life much easier when you go to buff or polish the paint. Just before you begin buffing the paint, it is a good idea to give the vehicle a nice wash to remove all dirt and grime. Id suggest to do wash each panel down minutes before buffing even if you washed the entire car before. Again, even one piece of rogue dirt/grime can become an abrasive and when coupled with the buffer, become a scratch or swirl-maker.
Follow some of these basic steps, and you could be on your way to a mirror finish!