Polishing your paint is the only way to remove paint defects, such as oxidisation, bird etching, scratches, swirls and water marks. Machine polishing is the most effective way and the most effective of machines is the rotary polisher.
I often use a Kestrel SIM 180, which is not an expensive polisher and has a good feature set. I also have a CYC EP800, which is a compact rotary about the size of a dual-action polisher and, with its low speed, perfect for quick jobs, small areas and large panels alike.
Personally, I found that polishing with a dual-action or orbital polisher took so long that all the fun came out of it and so took up the rotary more out of a desire to show off a kind of elite skill than anything since I was very happy maintaining good paint by hand.
I used to use the 3M Finesse-It III Paint Rectification System:
- 3M Finesse-It III Fast Cut Plus Polish (3M50417)/Green Pad (3M50487)
- 3M Finesse-It III Extra Fine Polish (3M80349)/Yellow Pad (3M50488)
- 3M Finesse-It III Ultrafina SE Polish (3M50383)/Blue Pad (3M50388)
Combinations of pad and polish and even a single drop of a different polish can make these products a most versatile set for all colours and paint types. I still regard the 3M Paint Rectification System highly.
For older cars in dire need of a basic clean-up, I tend to adopt the Meguiars Mirror Glaze range and Soft Buff pads:
- Megiuars #83 Dual Action Cleaner Polish
- Meguiars #80 Speed Glaze
For a newer style of polish which can achieve very fast clean-up of oxidised and weathered paintwork while finishing out to a crisp finish I am now using Scholl Concepts super-micro abrasive polishes:
- Scholl S3 Gold Edition
- Scholl S17+ Medium Cut & Finish
- Scholl S40 Anti-Swirl Finishing Compound
S17+ is pad dependant, capable of gaining a strong cut when used on firm pads yet delivering a light finishing with soft pads. S40 finishes out with a long potential work time, perfect for burnishing. S3 is reserved for new paint and has a very strong cut, but again, finishes out to a very impressive gloss on its own.
I use the Chemical Guys Hexlogic pads with these polishes: orange (2/7) for a strong cut, yellow (1/7) for the strongest, but usually green (3/7) to start out with or white (4/7) or black (5/7) on soft paint with S17+, finishing out with blue (6/7) and S40.
Because of the wide variation in cut that can be achieved by deploying different pads, I really like the Chemical Guys Hexlogic range:
- Yellow - Heavy Cutting Pad (1/7) ... equivalent of the 3M Green Pad (3M50487)
- Orange - Medium Cutting Pad (2/7)
- Green - Heavy Polishing Pad (3/7) ... equivalent of the 3M Yellow Pad (3M50488)
- White - Medium/Light Polishing Pad (4/7)
- Black - Finishing Foam Pad
- Blue - Glaze & Cleaner Foam Pad ... equivalent of the 3M Blue Pad (3M50388)
- Red - Ultra-Fine Finishing Pad
You can see that this range fills in some of the gaps in between the 3M range, especially the Orange Medium Cutting Pad which gives just that little extra bite above and beyond 3M Yellow Pad (3M50488) without stepping all the way up to the heavy compounding pads; also, the White - Medium/Light & Black - Finishing Pads, a good pair for softer paints.
Other machine-orientated polishes I adore for specific jobs are from Autobright:
- Autobright Top Line
- Autobright AB2
Autobright Top Line is a cut below most defect removing polishes and a cut above most finishing polishes making it a most useful product indeed for cleaning up newer and well kept cars - essentially, a pre-wax cleanser.
Autobright AB2 is simply a perfect finishing polish for machine use, filling the air with a gorgeous licquorice aroma and leaving the most deep finish you could imagine, with a long work time to really burnish in that finish. Imagine the finish jewelling away under the pad in your mind and as you lift the pad away ... it appears!
Pads? The corresponding coloured Chemical Guys Hexlogic White & Black pads work perfectly.
By hand, I have to recommend Autoglym Super Resin Polish - this is an all-in-one polish, which has a chemical cleaning action and can remove some oxidisation and water marks, a light abrasive and good filling agents for polishing and diminishing the appearance of swirling and light scratches and an acrylic sealant finish. For new and well kept paint that simply needs a little lift, I turn to Autoglym Ultra Deep Shine. Used as an all-in-one, this does just that - it delivers a deep shine, swirls filled and a layer of sealant left behind.
There is, of course, no reason why you could not use a finishing polish which will be rich in polishing oils, a dedicated swirl mark remover or even a pure polishing glaze:
- Meguiars ScratchX 2.0
- Sonus Professional Hand Applicator
For pads, I often simply use the 3M or Chemical Guys pads hooked onto a vectro hand strap but the Sonus Professional hand applicator has two firmnesses of foam for two grades of cut. When used with Meguiars ScratchX 2.0 to actually remove swirls, rather than mask them, the pad can be flipped over to the yellow side for a little more bite if necessary and back to the black side for improving the depth of finish.