process of a complete detail Section 3

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    Drying is the most damaging step as far as maintenance of a car goes usually, simply because not enough care is taken and dirty towels are used. During washing, you at least have some lubrication and a tool (sponge) to pick up and contain some of the loose dirt. When drying, however, you’re wiping paint with a towel with very short nap, especially compared to a wash sponge/mitt, and the more you wipe on the paint the more chances you have of introducing swirl marks into the paint. Some paints, Porsche for example, are EXTREMELY soft, and any pressure and/or additional, unnecessary drying/wiping on the paint will results in pretty noticeable scratches, especially on black. BMW has some pretty hard paints usually, but jet black is soft sometimes and other colors might randomly be soft, so always practice being careful when drying. The best process I’ve found works for me is:

    1. If doing drying right after washing, use a large, microfiber, waffle drying towel and simply blot-dry the entire car with it. Use as many towels as necessary (I use 2-4 depending on car size; E36 would usually require 2 16”x24” or 24”x24” towels)… this will prevent any damage you might do by dragging the towels across the paint to dry.

    2. Once the entire car is dried as mentioned above, use a new microfiber towel, preferably another waffle drying towel, to LIGHTLY wipe off any access water.
    3. OR, instead of step 2, do what I prefer on maintenance washes (maintenance being washes when there is no polishing afterward; if I’m polishing after, I could honestly care less about drying very carefully, since I know anything that I might put in the paint will come out with the lightest of polishes)… use a quick detailer to spray the car in sections and wipe down, once the car is blot-dried that is. This way you have some lube and aren’t wiping almost dry paint and you’re also cleaning the paint a bit with the quick detailer.


    1. If you’re drying after using a clay bar, you would simply do step 3 above, meaning you would dry the car and get rid of any leftover clay bar and clay lube residue in one step by using a quick detailer and some micro fiber towels to wipe down the car.
    2/4. Once the paint is done, you can wipe down the door jambs, trunk jambs, etc. (basically any crevice where water might sit after a wash). Car is now ready for polishing or sealing.


    Polishing is the most important part of a detail. You can clay a car then wax it, or you can just wax it, and it will look better and feel better than what you started with, but it isn’t until you’ve properly polished the paint (usually only possible by Rotary machine) that the real gloss, clarity and swirl-free finish comes out. Polishing will mechanically remove paint in order to correct defects such as swirl marks. After a proper polishing a sealant and/or wax is a must to protect the finish. Polishing process is as follows:

    By hand:
    I can safely say that very little can be accomplished by hand, and while not very efficient, even a $20-30 orbital buffer/polisher from a local car parts store will do a MUCH better job than by hand. This is due to the simple logic that your hand can only move so fast and apply only so much pressure. Plus you’re going to feel numb for a week if you try and polish an entire car by hand. What IS effective by hand is the use of all-in-one polishes (such as Klasse All-In-One) to chemically (as opposed to mechanically, by machine) remove defects such as some water spots, oxidation, etc. Also, a must by hand is the polishing of crevices on the car that are otherwise simply impossible to polish by machine… such places/parts include underneath most door handles, emblems, Etc. Process by hand is simple:

    1. Choose a polish that will have enough cutting power to actually do something by hand.

    2. Apply a dime or smaller sized bead of this polish to a foam applicator pad, or even a small 3” machine polishing pad (this is what I use for those tight areas)

    3. Spread the product onto the surface where you intend to polish, then simply go at it as fast as you can and almost as hard as you can, wiping in circular motions but moving up and down, left and right.

    I’m no expert on hand polishing, so above steps are what I use for small areas and what I’ve used a long time ago on a few panels done by hand. It’s been very effective for the small areas, but tiring even then.

    By machine:
    As stated above, this is the detailing step where you should strictly follow the rule “least aggressive method first”. If you go with a pad/polish and/or machine that’s too aggressive, you’ll only make more work for yourself and possibly even damage the paint (usually with a rotary buffer). That said, there are two buffers that are very popular… a rotary machine, which takes a lot of skill and experience to properly use, but is definitely not an impossible task to accomplish, and a random orbital machine,which is VERY safe for anyone with any logical thinking, yet it can do great correction work when done properly. There are many videos online (I’ll post links when I get a chance) that show proper movement, polish breakdown, etc. etc. with different machines. Since many detailers have different opinions, and many manufacturers have their own data and opinions about how polishes will work, how long to work it in, etc., I won’t go into detail about that. One thing to note is that you will always work in a polish longer with a random orbital machine than a rotary, which creates heat and breaks down polishes much faster… this is why some, usually more aggressive polishes require a rotary to work properly, and are limited with a random orbital.

    1. As stated above, choose a pad and polish combo that’s least aggressive (basically a finishing polish with a finishing pad) and move up if necessary.

    2a. Apply an X of product across the pad… use small (1/8”) lines for this as you don’t want too much product on the pad, then spread the product over a small work area (20”x20” or so).

    2b. (Usually, if not always, done with rotary polishers) Apply a line of product to the paint then pick it up with a pad… this takes skill and one should first learn step 2a…. both work the same way, so they’re simply different preferences of different detailers (I use 2a 99.9% of the time just because I became more comfortable with that)

    3. Start at a lower speed to more evenly spread the polish, then move up in speed to work in the polish.

    4. After doing a section (I always recommend doing a few test spots, usually on hood and/or trunk, to find the best pad/polish combo(s) to properly correct the paint) wipe off the polish residue, then use a 50/50 isopropyl alcohol 70% and water mixture to clean off that section. This ensures no filling agents within the polish are hiding leftover swirl marks and/or other defects… (some polishes, usually called “glazes” have filling abilities, so while they do remove some swirl marks by removing paint mechanically, they tend to hide a lot of what’s left over, making the finish seem better than it actually is)

    5. Keep doing step 4 until you’re happy with the results, whether it’s 1 step or 5 steps is up to you… the steps is also a topic in its own because you are in fact removing paint, so, especially with a rotary, you must limit yourself to how much polishing is to be done.

    6. Once you’ve found a combo(s) that work, and the entire vehicle is polished, do a 50/50 iso/water wipedown to get the car ready for sealing.

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