Compounds, Polishes, Sealants & Waxes – Oh No! Part 1

2020 Black Type R Ready to Roll After Polishing!


Can anything be more confusing than the stuff that marketers want us to put on our cars’ paint?  Rubbing compounds, paste waxes, polishes, detailing spray, ceramic, graphene, the list is endless.  Let’s break it down.

If your car was manufactured after 1992 it most likely has two stage paint.  Which is actually three stages:

  • Stage 1 – primer coat that goes on the sheet metal
  • Stage 2 – a color coat, the actual color of the paint and
  • Stage 3 – a clear coat, that takes on the UV rays, bugs, bird droppings, acid rain, car wash brushes, etc.

This clear coat is about the thickness of Saran wrap and is what most compounds, polishes and waxes are designed to be applied on.

Compounds & Polishes

Think of these products as ultra fine sand paper.  “Cutting & Rubbing Compounds” are used with mechanical polishers and a cutting pad to take out noticeable paint swirls, bird dropping damage and other defects in the clear coat.  Some people call this process “Paint Correction”.  This process will remove most of the swirls and scratches but cause the clear coat to lose its luster.  That is when you move on to a “Polish”, again using a mechanical polisher with a polishing pad to restore the finish to a rich, deep shine.

USE EXTREME CAUTION, never use a compound or polish in the sun or on hot surface – you will risk burning through the clear coat which can only be repaired by having the panel re-sprayed.  Our favorite product line for compounds and polishes is Meguiar’s.  M105/110 for cutting and M205/210 for polishing.   Although there are many quality brands.

Just remember all the work you are doing is on the clear coat and not the color coat.  Any scratches that catch your fingernail are more than likely through the clear coat and are very difficult if not impossible to repair without having the panel re-sprayed.  Next article will discuss waxes, sealants and coatings.

Jim runs Frontenac Detailing and is a Certified Detailer.

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