Surface Prep Part 2 – Polishing
First thing is first, we need to define the term “polishing.” There is no industry standard for the term “polish.” If you are talking polish in terms of Zaino, it is going to refer to a non-abrasive filler or a polymer sealant. If you are talking in terms of Meguiars, it is going to mean an abrasive designed to remove flaws from the paint, rather then filling them in. I see it all the time, people saying they polished their car when they really don’t understand what they are saying.
For all intents and purposes, I am merely going to define polishing as the step prior to your final layer(s) of sealant.
It is not a good idea to leave your paint unprotected for very long. Once you finish claying, you’ve got to move into the next step as soon as possible.
You have just finished claying your car and it looks great. The paint is smooth as glass, but chances are it lacks luster, and worst of all, it is completely open to the elements. At this point in time, your paint is at its most vulnerable point. On the same token, it is also at its cleanest, purest and ready to be worked on.
Now let us discuss just what polish we want to use. The two I am going to discuss are Zaino products and Meguiars Professional Series products.
But first, the question is “what one should I pick?” Here are the differences:
-Can be applied in sun.
-Application is by hand.
-Takes less than half an ounce of polish to do an entire layer.
-Requires more time to dry.
-Hard, glass like shine.
-Abrasives remove scratches completely.
-Application is best by Porter Cable 7424 Dual Action Polisher.
-Requires less time to dry.
-You will go through more of the bottle.
-Deep and soft shine.
Either way you are a winner, the choice is up to you.
-Fillers level your paint, giving it an even appearance although in reality the scratches are still there.
-Abrasives are designed to remove the scratches completely.
-There is no industry standard for the term polish. I simply define it here as being the step you do before the sealant.
-After you have clayed, your paint is at its most vulnerable, as well as its cleanest. Don’t leave it vulnerable very long.
-Zaino gives a harder shine while Meguiars gives a softer shine, it just depends on your preference. Zaino is also more durable, but that isn’t to say Meguiars isn’t durable.
Polishing with Zaino Products
If you have chosen to go the Zaino route, then you are going to want to give your car a layer of Z5 Swirl Remover. I strongly suggest getting the cure accelerator for your Zaino products, so you don’t have to use Z1.
Zaino products are very easy to apply by hand, and less than half an ounce can put an entire layer on the car. Here is the trick to do that: grab a spray bottle that just has water in it and mist your applicator pad (use the Zaino pads only). Then put a dab on the pad and mist it again.
Then apply it to the car and work it in. You will find that it stretches out quite a distance for only using a small dab of the substance. Re-dab as needed and re-mist as needed.
You will know the Z5 has gone to work because the area you applied will be a bit hazy, indicating that you did in fact get the polish on it. Let it sit for half an hour (this is going under the assumption your weather is at least 60 degrees and you are using the cure accelerator).
Zaino can be applied in the sun, so if you feel like working on your tan then by all means move your car into the sun. Zaino can also be applied in extreme heat. If your weather is below 60 degrees it may take anywhere from 45 minutes to a few hours if you are using the cure accelerator.
Once the wait is over, simply grab your PakShak towel and remove it. It will come off very easily and leave behind a nice and even shine to your paint. The product fills in swirls, so it essentially “levels” your paint, effectively hiding swirls.
Apply another layer if you like. The great thing about Zaino Z5 and Z2 is they can be used one after the other as many times as you like. It is advised you finish with Z2, though. In other words you can go Z5, Z5, Z5, Z2, Z2, Z5, Z2 or any other combination you want to do, just make sure Z2 is the last one. You can also throw Z6 in the mix, but we will get to all that later. Some people have 50 plus layers of Zaino on their car, and it shows.
You are now ready to apply the sealant, which in this case would be Z2 Show Car Polish. But first, a look at your options with The Meguiars Professional Series.
-Z5 is your weapon of choice from Zaino, it is an excellent filler.
-The nice thing about Z5 is you can always apply it anytime you want, as long as you have washed your car first to remove any loose dirt and grime.
-Zaino can be applied in direct sunlight without problem.
-Misting your pad with a spray bottle will help spread the product much more evenly, and enable you to use less than half an ounce of the product to do the entire car.
-Always use the cure accelerator to save time. It is well worth it.
Polishing with Meguiars Professional Series Products
Unlike Zaino, we do not want to apply in sunlight. Get your car into a shaded area or at least out of direct sunlight.
Hands down, the best way to get results out of the products I am going to mention (and depending on the product, the only way) is to use a Porter Cable 7424 Dual Action Polisher equipped with a yellow cutting pad (more info on products later). Using one will take less time, better results and less “layers.”
The reason I quoted the word “layers” was to put emphasis on the word because I used it for lack of a better term. These products, when removed, are gone. They go in, do their job, and leave. Just an FYI for you all.
Here are the products you can safely use by hand:
#9 Swirl Remover 2.0
#82 Swirl Free Polish
#97 Medallion Premium Paint Cleaner
The following need at least a Porter Cable 7424 Dual Action Polisher:
#2 Fine Cut Cleaner
#83 Dual Action Cleaner Polish
A word about the #2 Fine Cut Cleaner. The directions say rotary only. I have discovered this to be not so true. I did some research and found that back when they first made the product, a dual action polisher was all you needed. Nothing has changed as far as I know. I’ve had no problems using it with my dual action polisher. It is definitely not for hand, though.
Regardless of if you are applying by hand or by machine, make sure you work the product in very well. Almost to a point of where you can’t even see it anymore. You want to break the abrasives down as much as possible.
Much like washing your car, you want to separate your car into sections while working on it. For example, do your roof thoroughly, wipe it off with your clean microfiber towel and then move to another section. It just helps you keep in mind where you have been instead of jumping all over the place.
Out of the products I have recommended, here is what I strongly recommend you do:
Remember in the clay bar section when I told you to write down or remember defects and what not? Well, the following is going to tell you why:
Grab your #83 or #2 with your DAP and get to work on those areas, this is called “spot work.” You do not need to use such abrasive products over the entire car. The key to abrasives is to use the least abrasive product possible, but abrasive enough to get the desired results. This ensures safety. Once you have taken care of your spot work, it is time to move onto the entire car (including the spots you just did).
I suggest using #9 next. Go over the entire car, slowly but surely. Make sure you work the product in nicely, and remove it just as well. Change your towel as needed. Your cars paint should feel even more squeaky clean. Your surface should also look a lot smoother to the eye, without so many scratches or swirls.
Now switch to #82 and do the same process. Your surface should have more depth to it now, as #82 tends to remove any haze the #9 may have created.
You are now ready to seal the deal!
-These products should be applied by Porter Cable 7424 Dual Action Polisher with a yellow cutting pad rather then by hand.
-#9, #82 and #97 can be applied safely by hand, if you so choose.
-#2 and #83 cannot be applied safely by hand, don’t get any bright ideas.
-Do spot work over stubborn areas and paint defects with #2 or #83. Work the products in very thoroughly with your DAP.
-Go over the entire car thoroughly with #9, separating the car into sections. Remove the product before switching to another section.
-Same deal as above, just use #82 to give the paint some depth and to remove some of the haze that may have been created.
Everybody’s favorite step, and with good reason! People always ask, “man that is a shiny car did you wax it or something?” and other comments. However, you have to remember that the surface prep you just did is what is going to give you that good shine. No surface prep means no shine.
Your surface prep is done and your car is probably looking better than ever, especially if this is your first time through. Now you are ready to seal the deal with your Zaino or Meguiars products.
Sealing with Zaino
So you have just used your Z5 and the cars surface is smooth and the paint looks deep. Now you want to take it to the next level and apply one of the most durable products known to man, Z2.
Z2, much like Z5, only needs a little under half an ounce to give the car a layer. Again, use the cure accelerator.
Your method of application is the exact same, mist the Zaino pad, dab the product on it, and mist again. Apply to one section and let it sit. Then move onto the next. After you finish and the car still has the product all over it, let it sit for about half an hour. There is no such thing as waiting too long with Zaino, it can sit for days and come off like butter if you want.
The cure accelerator eliminates the need to wait days, though. Remove it with your PakShak towel to reveal a very superior shine and an incredibly slick surface. Pretty amazing given the ultra thin layer you put on, huh?
Apply another layer of Z5 or Z2 if you want. You can even put Z6 on if you want. Z6 is just a spray that you remove immediately after spraying on the car. Don’t let it dry.
Remember, no matter what you do, Z2 should always be the last layer applied. But you can always put on a layer of Z5, just put the Z2 on over it after you finish going through the process.
-Application is the exact same as Z5.
-Z5 and Z2 are interchangeable and can be applied in any order you wish, just make sure Z2 is the last layer (or top layer) applied.
-Congratulations, you have just applied the most durable paint protection system ever made.
Sealing with Meguiars
You are going to be doing this by machine as well. However, these products can all be applied by hand if you don’t want to invest in a machine (although it really pays for itself).
First you are going to be adding a layer of glaze to your car, this will really make your sealant shine. When using a dual action polisher, you want a white foam pad to apply with.
#7 Show Car Glaze
#81 Hand Polish
#7 is good all around, #81 tends to be best on dark paints.
You want to apply a thin layer of whatever product you choose. Let the product haze before you remove it. Don’t let it sit too long, or it will take a lot of effort to remove. After you remove it, your paint should look very deep, especially if you have a dark paint. The surface will no longer squeak either; it will be very oily and smooth.
Now that the glaze is done, it is time for the sealant! Use a grey pad with your DAP.
Here are your choices:
#20 Polymer Sealant
#26 Hi-Tech Yellow Wax
#98 Medallion Premium Paint Protection
NXT Tech Wax
NXT is in the list with good reason, although it isn’t part of the Professional Series, it is still a great product. Like Zaino, it has a good swirl filling capability.
Apply the same way you did the glaze (by hand or machine), letting the products haze and removing with your clean microfiber towel.
Out of all the products listed, I like #26 the best. The depth of it is amazing and the surface is unbelievably slick after you apply it. It isn’t as durable as the #98, though. #20 is great on silvers and whites. NXT is good for pretty much any color.
-Glaze first with #7 or #81, #81 is best for dark paints. These products use white foam pads on a DAP.
-All of the sealants (26, 20, 98 and NXT) use grey pads on the DAP.
-Seal with #26 for a deep and soft shine.
-Seal with #20 if you have a lighter colored car.
-Seal with #98 if you want pretty good depth and a lot of durability.
-Seal with NXT for pretty much any color, it is good all around product.
Your paint should now feel slick and look excellent regardless of which product you chose. Congratulations on making it through such a tiring process! Now all you have to do is maintain it!
Maintaining – Zaino
Maintenance with Zaino is very easy. Regular washes with the Z7 Car Wash Concentrate and a thorough drying job are all you need to do. Water beads off the car very nicely with Zaino products, which makes drying that much easier. The second you turn on your leaf blower, the water scatters like water bugs and it is dry before you know it.
After you wash it, use the Z6 Ultra Clean Gloss Enhancer if you like. It is often called “slickness in a bottle” for obvious reasons. You don’t have to put Z2 over it, although you can if you want.
Simply spray the Z6 on and wipe it off right away. If some dries, simply re-spray and wipe and it will be gone.
Maintaining with Zaino is that simple!
-Wash regularly with Z7 Car Wash Concentrate.
-Apply Z6 Ultra Clean Gloss Enhancer and remove.
Maintaining – Meguiars
Much like Zaino, Meguiars makes water bead very easily. Regular washes with #00 Hi-Tech Car Wash or NXT Car Wash are going to give you excellent results. Meguiars also offers other alternatives to washing your car everytime you want to see it clean.
You can use either Meguiars Quik Detailer or #34 Final Inspection if your car is only dusty. If you have any dirt caked on, then you are going to want to wash it. Otherwise, you can use one of these two products with one of your microfiber towels to take care of it. You might find yourself doing this several times in a day, as the more you do it, the more obsessive you become.
-Regular washes with #00 or NXT Car Wash are a good way to do it.
-Meguiars Quik Detailer or #34 will also work well if the car is only dusty, not dirty. Dusty includes things like pollen; it does not include mud or grime.