Auto Detailing Glossary – Defining Processes & Terms of Car Care
Auto Detailing terminology can sometimes be technical, precise, and a lot to process.
To help consumers, OCDCarCare Los Angeles created an auto detailing glossary to define the most common auto detailing or car care concepts.
Afterall, you have a right to know what’s being done or talked about in regard to YOUR vehicle.
Wash, Car Wash
The removal of loose, or lightly embedded dirt particles and any other topical grime from the surface of a vehicle. Car wash types include: a traditional car wash with soap and water, a rinseless wash, and a waterless wash.
Decontamination (often called ‘Clay Barring’)
Processes used to remove above surface bonded contaminants, meaning anything clinging to the exterior of paint. These include: air-borne pollution, tree sap, road tar, paint over-spray, or industrial fallout. Decontamination is performed using a tacky technology such as; Traditional Detailing Clay or Synthetic Decontamination Towels.
*Paint Correction – what is this term i keep reading?
Paint correction (also known as paint polishing or buffing) is the process of permanently removing below surface imperfections from a vehicle’s finish. Additionally, this helps to restore the true paint color, depth, and clarity, and reflectivity to levels often better than factory new. These imperfections include: swirl marks or “spider webbing” (caused by improper wash techniques), fine scratches, water spots, bird dropping etchings, and holograms caused by improper use of a rotary buffer. Many budget detailers will fill fine scratches with a glaze. However, after 4-6 washes the glaze is gone, revealing the scratches thought to be removed.
► The only way to remove imperfections in a vehicle’s paint is with the process of paint correction. This means REMOVING defects from the paint’s surface, smoothing it out to a uniform level, across the entire surface. Once the paint has been corrected, scratches are gone for good. However, vehicles require proper wash techniques on regular intervals to maintain a fine finish over time.
* How do I know if my vehicle needs a paint correction?
Does the color look off — greyish?
Does the paint appear dull, cloudy, or does the metallic flex no longer show in direct sunlight?
Has your paint lost its high gloss or refelectivity?
Is your paint covered with layers of circular scratches?
If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, then your vehicle could likely use proper paint correction.
* Spider Web Swirl Marks & How They Alter Paint Properties
Have you looked at your car in direct sun and thought that the color looked off. Or that it looked like it was covered in a series of spider webs? These are actually circular shaped scratches caused by improper washing techniques. Many people still wash & detail cars with the old, circular, ‘wax on-wax off’ method. Rest assured, Mr. Myagi will get NOWHERE close to your vehicle under the watchful eye of OCDCarCare. These circular scratches alter the appearance of paint because they refract light, instead of reflecting it.
Because circular scratches always have a side directly bisecting your line of sight, reflecting a source of light; they will be much easier to see. [pictured below] However, this can be corrected with proper paint correction techniques. And the finish is maintained if the vehicle is washed with proper technique, which includes front to back motions. This methodology ensures that any micro scratches, from washing, will be uniform and in a single direction.
1-Step Cleaner-Wax a.k.a AIO [All in One]
A cleaner-wax is a product that does three steps in one process: cleaning, polishing, and waxing. A quality brand cleaner-wax, professionally applied, will help to restore a clear shiny finish but these types of products will NOT normally remove swirls and scratches. It will though minimize them and make the paint shine. A fairly strong cleaner-wax can remove very shallow defects such as swirls and scratches. However, removing swirls and scratches is best done with a dedicated compound or polish using a 2-step or 3-step approach.
*2-Step Process – Polish & Protection
A polish and wax will remove a majority of the shallow paint defects like swirls, scratches, light water spots and light oxidation, Also, it will help restore paint to a better looking finish overall. A polish & wax approach requires a specialist to use run a polisher over the paint which requires more time than a one-step cleaner-wax.
► Step 1 – Machine polish each square inch of each panel and then carefully wipe the polish residue off the surface.
► Step 2 – Application of a wax, paint sealant, or ceramic nano coating by hand or machine to the surface. These procedures are much more labor intensive, requiring much more time, concentration, and experience.
* A note about paint polishing:
The key to quality results when machine polishing, is passing the polisher [with the appropriate pad for the job] over the surface at a controlled pace and pressure. Moving a polisher too quickly over a surface, will not remove the surface imperfections. Instead it will have little impact, resulting in the same results as only using a one-step cleaner/wax. This is the point in the process where most mickey mouse detailing work takes place– moving a rotary polisher too fast over the surface in an attempt to reduce buffing time. This will not allow the machine to refine the surface properly, often creating Holograms in the paints surface. Drive down any busy highway and, in any given day, you will see the buffer trails from holograms.
► 3-Step Process: Compound, Polish, & Protection
A three-step process: 1) Compound, 2) Polish, and 3) Protection is an advanced procedure. It will remove a majority of all below surface paint defects except very deep defects which are past the clear coat level and are into the color coat.
* Step 1 – Compounding: Each panel is carefully compounded to remove shallow defects and the majority of heavier defects. After completion of each panel or section, the compound must be carefully wiped off. Using a gentle microfiber towel is best to avoid scratching. Because some paints are so soft that even light friction from a towel wipe may leave visible scratches.
* Step 2 – Polishing: Paint is polished to maximize gloss and clarity. Typically a much less aggressive pad and product are used to polish panels. Polishing is the final step, refining more aggressive compounding step to remove smaller imperfections and da haze. Sometimes, the polishing phase may require 1-3 steps, depending upon the level of finish required.
Polishing prepares the paint for application of a wax, paint sealant, or long-term protective ceramic nano coating. Because compound and polishing use products that have carrier oils in them, that polish residue must be fully wiped-off to promote optimal bonding. Therefore before an LSP is applied, all carrier oils need to be removed.
* Step 3 – Protection: A Protective Nano Coating, Wax, or Synthetic Sealant is used to seal the paint from the elements. The LSP [last stage product] is determined by the needs and wants of the client. Sometimes a combination of these three or all of the above will be used to ensure proper longevity and beauty. This is what we call the sexy step!
* Deeper Paint Defects
While the majority of paint defects can be removed from a vehicle surface, sometimes defects are too deep for removal. This type have completely broken through the clear coat. Or they are so deeply embedded within the clear coat that to remove them would completely jeopardize all clear coat protection in the affected area. However, even though these deeper paint defects cannot be removed, they can often be greatly improved and sometimes almost impossible to find.
To remove these deeper defects a combination of in-depth paint correction or light sanding may be required.Please note that certain conditions, such as: paint chipping, clear coat failure, or extremely deep scratches (think key marks) that cannot be corrected with a paint correction processes alone. A high calibur detailer will educate during a vehicle inspection and inform you of defects that will be either impossible to remove, or those that can only be minimized with specialized corrective services.
* Factory paint is t h i n
Factory clear coat on most new cars is around 2 mils thick. That is thinner than a Post-it Note or a Dollar Bill. If too much clear paint is removed in an effort to remove a deeper defects, the clear coat could be compromised. This is why it is wise to always consult a highly trained & knowledge professional auto detailer to remove defects from factory paint. The last thing anyone wants it so try to do it yourself and have an expensive “OOPS,” moment.
* Car Waxes
Car waxes contain some type of natural or man-made protection for vehicle surfaces. Not all “waxes” contain Carnauba wax, the most well-known ingredient used to make a car wax. Premium quality Carnauba waxes create a warm, deep shine and may last up to 3 months on a vehicle. It’s a good practice to re-apply wax to maintain protection and appearance quality of the finish before all of the previously applied wax has completely worn off.
►► Remember: PROTECTION, PROTECTION, PROTECTION!!
* Synthetic Paint Sealants
Synthetic paint sealants are man-made replacements for car wax. Premium automotive sealants last longer than traditional waxes. However, they should still require reapplication on a regular schedule to maintain proper protection and, of course, quality aesthetics.
* Protective Paint Ceramic Nano Coatings
Automotive Protective paint coatings (also known as: Nano Coatings, Ceramic Coatings, or Glass Coatings) last longer and protect automotive paint and surfaces better than both car waxes and synthetic paint sealants. Coating technologies add protective value with durable long term protective layers which cross-link (bond) directly to paint.
Not all coatings on the market are created equal. While some coatings offer increased scratch, chemical resistance, and uv protection some do not. Some Protective Paint Coatings may also have hydrophobic qualities that assist in repelling water and dust. There are many paint coatings on the market and they are definitely not all created equal. So always take the time to research any coating you may be considering for your vehicle.
NOTE: Paint coatings which offer a more robust protective barrier to painted surfaces. Many are considered professional grade since they require more expertise to apply and may only be available to auto detailing professionals. Also, in order to ensure optimal bonding and the highest degree of finish, paint surface must undergo a proper and thorough paint correction in preparation for application of professional ceramic nano coatings.