There is a big misconception that buffing is what takes out scratches. Most shops (or amateur detailers) that claim to “buff” your car do exactly that. They are using a random orbital buffer which will shine the paint up and remove light scratches, but does not cut the paint to remove moderate and worse damage like a rotary polisher does. This is easier, takes less time, and is less risky, so it is easy to understand why they choose to do so, but it will not correct your paint. This will often be one of our last steps in the paint correction process.
A true paint correction process can have up to 6 stages. The amount of steps needed depends on the condition of the vehicle and the end result desired. It involves using a combination of compounding and polishing the paint to remove a large percentage (75-85%) of all paint defects, including heavy scratches, oxidation, water spots, swirl marks, stains and blemishes.
The first step is to prep the vehicle by washing it with a citrus based soap to strip any wax or contamination from the paintwork. Then the car is dried, then clayed using a poly-clay to remove any sap, over spray, industrial fallout, bug remains, and all foreign debris. Sometimes different grades of clay are necessary to remove all contaminants from the paintwork. The vehicle is then washed again.
The next process is to inspect the paintwork, sometimes with a type of microscope designed for this, to look at deeper scratches to determine if they can be corrected. Paint is measured using a paint depth meter, in either microns or mils to insure the paint is thick enough to be worked on safely. Depending on the damage to the paint we choose how abrasive of a polish to start with and use a rotary polisher.. We then bring the combination of the pad and polish down to a less abrasive for each step. Once that is completed we use a DA polisher to remove any swirl marks left by abrasive polishes . We use many different polishers and pads of all sizes to best suit the situation that is being corrected.
Paint must be protected after it is brought back to life. We clean any polish left over to ensure that the wax bonds with the paintwork properly. We hand apply a coat of wax and then allow time (occasionally overnight) before applying the second coat to ensure best coverage and durability.
Paint defect and scratch removal is an art and should only be performed by a professional with experience. If done correctly, paint correction and scratch removal will result in a beautiful, deep, high gloss painted finish.
If it is not done correctly, you will wind up with more problems than you started with, for example swirls. We correct at least a couple of other “detailers” work a month. Most do what they call buffing in a one step process that as you can see below, can leave swirls and doesn’t even remove scratches from the paint. It really just shines it up, and if done incorrectly, can make things worse. Below, the entire car looked like the right side of the hood the day after getting out of the other shop.