Compounding & Polishing Paint | Autoblog Details | Complete Detail Ep. 6

Compounding and polishing your car is an art. Like anything else it takes time and practice to be proficient, but today on episode 6 of 10 in this new series, learn the step-by-by process for compounding and polishing your paint.

Watch all of our Autoblog Details videos for more tips on car cleaning and maintenance by professional detailer Larry Kosilla. While you're at it, check out Larry's other video series on how to diagnose, fix, and modify cars, Autoblog Wrenched!
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[00:00:00] Compounding and polishing your car is an art. Like anything else, it takes time and practice to be proficient, but today on Episode Six of 10 in this new series, learn the step-by-step process for compounding and polishing your paint, coming up on this episode of Auto Blog Details. Almost every modern car today has areas that don't like to be hit or touched with a pad on a machine. Black trim, moldings, sharp areas, or delicate pieces should be covered with masking tape for two reasons.

[00:00:30] First, to clearly protect the area from accidentally getting hit with your pad, but second, to help product sling, which is when the machine throws off the abrasives from getting stuck in tight spaces that require a lot of tedious and time-consuming work to remove later in the detail. Every detailer has their own method or favorite technique for compounding and polishing paint. However, the paint is what dictates what it likes and what you need to do to restore it, so you have to be flexible and observant.

[00:01:00] To start off, I prefer a microfiber cutting pad on a duel-action polisher. These types of polishers rotate and oscillate at the same time for a safer paint correction in most cases. With a black Sharpie, add a thick black line to your blacking plate, which is the pad that connects to the actual machine. This line will help you determine if the pad is rotating or spinning, not just oscillating. If you notice the line jiggling but not spinning, adjust your pressure or angle to allow the pad to rotate.

[00:01:30] Keep in mind if the pad isn't rotating slightly, you're doing very little paint correction, so you wanna see the black line consistently spinning for proper correction. Next apply compound to the pad and spread it in by hand evenly so that every fiber is coated. This is called priming the pad, an essential when using a microfiber cutting pad. Once the pad is fully primed add an additional two to three little dots of compound and place the pad on the paint before pulling the trigger.

[00:02:00] In this case, I'm using speed 3.5 on my machine, but this may vary from detailer to detailer and paint job to paint job. With the pad, product, and machine ready to go, I perform a test spot. Test spots allow you to decide what combination of products and pads work best on this particular paint. For me, I prefer to work the passenger side rear corner panel as my preferred test location. Your goal here is to go through both compounding and polishing steps to get the level of restoration desired by you or your customer.

[00:02:30] Once you figure out the compound, polish, pad combination that actually works, you can repeat these steps on the entire car. Without performing this test spot, there's a huge possibility of getting halfway done with the paint only to realize that the pad, product combination didn't work. So test spots save you a ton of time, don't skip them. Compounding a car properly takes a bit of practice to do it safely. A great way to learn is to find an old hood or a door panel from a scrapyard or a body shop and practice on this before working on an actual car.

[00:03:00] With your glasses on, work in a two by two section of the paint with medium to slow arm speed, and about three to four pounds of downward pressure, and spend roughly one minute or so compounding a section. But keep in mind, all these variables will change with every single car based on what that car's paint wants or needs. Cleaning your pad is crucial to a swirl or haze-free finish. As your compounding, the paint is being cleaned and upbraided, causing residue.

[00:03:30] This residue comes off the old paint and gets stuck in your pad, then gets reintroduced to the paint again, in turn scratching or hazing. It's a vicious cycle detailers call residue control. So this needs to be flushed out on a regular basis after every one or two sections with compressed air or rubbing with a microfiber towel to clean the pad. Once the pad is clean and the residue is gone, add one or two drops of compound and start a new section.

[00:04:00] After the entire car has been compounded and wiped clean with a microfiber towel, it should look at bit dull or slightly hazy, because we used an abrasive to evenly cut away the previous scratches or gouges in the paint. But don't panic, this is normal and it will be removed with polish. I prefer polishing with foam. In this case, it's a stiff yellow foam pad and a slightly slower speed of about three. Much the same as with the microfiber cutting pad, you'll need to prime the pad thoroughly so that every pore is coated.

[00:04:30] Then add one or two small dots, place on the paint with medium to slow arm speed and three to four pounds of downward pressure. Remember, polish is done to remove the haze left or caused by the compounding step. It also brings out a bit of depth and shine within the paint. Having consistent lighting in your workspace is critical to inspecting the paint while you're polishing. To get a better view after you've completed a section and wiped with a microfiber towel, special paint lights or paint pens can help you see even the slightest imperfection, giving you vital information to adjust your technique, your pad, or liquid, before moving on.

[00:05:00] After a few passes you may notice the pad wobbling or not polishing as it had earlier. The build-up of residue can cause the pad to bounce around and diminish its efficiency. Dirty pads are the most common paint finishing issue, so constantly cleaning them is vital. Then add two or three small dots until the paint is complete. Keep in mind that restoring the paint to its former glory takes time, so be prepared to spend a few hours to complete this stage of the process.

[00:05:30] Make sure you have on work clothes and you're wearing comfortable shoes. Detailing is a lot more physical than you might think, so being comfortable is key. For tighter spots like the A pillar, you can switch to a smaller pad and machine to access areas too small for these big pads. Again, working with these machines takes practice so find an old panel and practice, practice, practice. Once you're happy with the result, go back and double-check your freshly cleaned paint with a paint pen.

[00:06:00] If you need to clean up a spot here or there this is the time to do it, while your machines are out and there's no wax or sealants on the paint. Because the paint was so bad we couldn't get every deep scratch out, which is normal, especially on a daily-driven car. However, the before and after on this paint is spectacular with just a few hours of work. In the next episode we're gonna prep the paint for coating, apply the coating, and then add a sealant or a wax as the top layer.

[00:06:30] To watch the next step visit, and if you found this video helpful please share, and keep up with all the latest details video by liking and subscribing to the Auto Blog page. I'm Larry Castilla from, thanks for watching.

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