Office in Schiller Park, Illinois

Bring back the shine!

Three things cause a painted surface to loose it’s gloss:
1. Scratches
2. Oxidation
3. Lack of protection

Oxidation is a dulling of the painted surface. It usually occurs when the sun’s ultraviolet rays deplete the oil and resins in the paint. Scratches prevent light from reflecting evenly off the paint, which cuts down the gloss. This is called refraction. In order to restore the gloss, oxidation and scratches must be removed. Once the surface is free of oxidation and scratches and any swirl marks, (swirl marks are fine scratches caused during buffing), a wax or polymer sealant can be applied to protect the surface.


To remove medium to heavy scratches, you must buff the surface with a high speed buffer, cutting pad and buffing compound. If only light scratches and/or oxidation are present, buff with a less aggressive polish and a less aggressive pad.

The compound/polish should be gauged aggressive enough to correct the imperfections, but appropriate for the type of finish on the vehicle. In order to identify the type of finish, use an applicator pad and medium-duty compound. Rub compound on to finish in an inconspicuous spot on the vehicle. If the color comes off on the pad, you have an old conventional type finish, not protected with a clear coat. If paint is not present on your pad, you are working with a base/clear coat system type finish.

The thickness of the paint layer on an old conventional type paint finish is 3 or 4 mils thick (1 mil thickness = 1/1000 of an inch), more than twice the thickness of a clearcoat layer. So, you should use much less aggressive products on base/clear coat systems. With these new paint systems we seldom use compounds at all. The aggressiveness of most polishes is enough to solve all but the most severe paint problems and imperfections.

When compounding, use a white wool or yellow foam cutting pad. Run buffer no higher than 1700 to 2000 RPM. Wool pads run cooler but tend to create more swirl marks. Foam pads run hotter and enable quicker movement in the clearcoat. This is tricky and can easily score or scuff the paint. Use of a mil-thickness gauge is recommended, because not more than 0.5 mil of the total clearcoat paint should ever be removed !

Once the proper compound is selected, buff the vehicle as follows:

  • Painted surface should be cool, and out of the sun.
  • Apply moderate amount of compound, do not let dry.
  • Do not mix different buffing products!
  • Pre-moisten pad before use, especially foam pads.
  • Buff slowly in a shoulder-width area, moving the buffer side-to-side, length wise with the panel.
  • When applying, start with the roof, then, down to the hood, trunk, & sides. Remember to bend at the knees, not just at the waist.
  • Keep buff pad clean with pad spur, brush, or screwdriver.
  • Always keep buffing pad flat on surface, never buff on the edges.
  • Apply pressure evenly depending on product used.
  • Wipe off residue with clean, soft, lint-free cloth.


As the compound cuts away the oxidized paint layer and reduces the depth of deep scratches by abrading away their ridges, light circular scratches usually remain, especially on dark colors. These swirl marks can be buffed out with polish or glaze and the right pad.

A polish is a lotion containing mild abrasives. A glaze is a lotion containing resins (usually silicone) used to fill fine scratches, the indentations in the paint too deep for a polish to even out. The goal for each is to level out the painted surfaces in order to reflect light in a uniform manner, causing the naked eye to perceive a “deep, rich shine.” When polishing, run the buffer faster than compounding, about 2000-2500 RPM. Resins add lubricity and allow for higher buffer speeds. A green foam pad is usually recommended, but a yellow blended wool pad can also be used. Follow the buffing procedure guide lines discussed earlier.


Much confusion exists over differences between waxes and paint sealants used to seal the finish. Historically, a “wax” contained natural surface protectants such as carnauba wax, while a “paint sealant” contained synthetic polymers containing silicone, glycerin, and mineral oil. Waxes will do more to enhance the shine, while polymer sealants will usually last longer. Two things are for sure, however, either will do little to improve shine after the polish and/or glaze application, and both will protect the shine to last longer.

Today, there is less distinction between these products. Many waxes now contain polymers and many paint sealants contain some natural or synthetic waxes. In body shops, silicones which become airborne and settle on new paint, create a desperate situation commonly called “fish-eye.” Thousands of tiny imperfections in the paint depicting the description similar to the eyes of a fish over the entire paint job. This calamity can some- times completely ruin a paint job. Paint sealants used in body shops should not contain silicones. Finish Kare, Inc. products, as well as some other leading brands, enable the combination of resins and co-polymers to emulate the qualities of a silicone based product, thus making it safe for use in all environments including body shops.

Waxes and paint sealants contain resins which bond to the painted surface, forming a protective layer against sunlight, road grime and the elements.

The strength of the bond depends on the number and type of resins, and the condition of the paint.

Chemically bonding silicones can last up to 6 months or more, while physically bonding silicones, last from 1 to 4 months or more. Be sure surface is free of tar, grease, dirt, and other contaminants before applying the final finish. Neither wax nor paint sealant will adhere to dirty surfaces.

Seven steps to remember when applying a wax or paint sealant:

  1. Paint surface should be cool and out of direct sunlight.
  2. Shake container before and during use.
  3. Start on roof and work downwards, hood, trunk, then sides.
  4. Apply product lightly and evenly, using an orbital polisher or a moistened wax applicator pad.
  5. Allow product to dry to a haze.
  6. Remove with a clean, dry, soft microfiber, or terry towel or with an orbital polisher.
  7. Remember, when ever washing your newly “protected” vehicle, use a pH balanced car wash product and never household cleaners or dish soap that can strip the resins from the painted surfaces, dulling the finish & exposing the surfaces to the elements.