When it comes to paint correction, the products I choose will vary depending on the car I’m working on. A pad or polish that works on one paint job might be totally ineffective on another so there’s no “go-to” setup here. It’s important to read the paint and come up with an individual solution to get the results you’re looking for.
Now with that said, these are some of the most common products that I’ll use to polish a car.
Long Throw Dual Action Polisher
I wanted to have as much cutting power as I could get in a DA machine so I went with the long throw (21mm) Griot’s Garage Boss polisher and took it a step further by converting it down to a smaller backing plate for 5″ pads. This increases the cutting ability but also means that residue will build up quicker, requiring the pad to be blown out with compressed air more often.
In practice, I’m not so sure that the smaller 5″ pads cut that much better and I’ve noticed that this does throw the balance of the machine off a bit. I might consider swapping back to 6″ pads for all vehicles rather than just the large ones.
Short Throw Dual Action Polisher
Griot’s Garage GG6
This is an older model that I converted to a 3″ backing plate for use in smaller areas. The short throw also means it will do a better job of finishing down delicate paint because the movement is less turbulent. In those cases, I’ll swap to a large 6 or even 7″ pad to help control residue and be gentler.
This model isn’t sold brand new anymore but the Griot’s Garage G8 would be a good substitute.
Small Dual Action / Rotary Polisher
This is a pretty expensive tool for such a small polisher but I do use it in tight spaces often. It can be used with either a dual action or rotary movement depending on how you set it up. Battery life is great and they include a spare battery that you can have waiting on the charger for uninterrupted workflow.
Some people complain that the iBrid Nano is underpowered and lacks heavy cutting ability. Honestly, I can understand why they say that. I’ve had times where I’m just not able to get scratches out, even with a 1″ microfiber pad. When that happens, I find that switching to the rotary mode will give me the power I need. Of course, that also creates plenty of holograms but those are easy to take care of in the next step of polishing.
Getting into all the intricate areas of a car or bike to keep the correction tight is one of the things that separates a fantastic paint correction from a mediocre one. Why did I choose the less popular short neck option? To me, pad flatness is very important when polishing. The leverage of the longer neck will multiply any angle you put on the machine so I’d rather keep it short.
This Scangrip Sunmatch is a great handheld light for double checking your work. I wouldn’t use this as my only light source when polishing a car though. I’ll actually be making a video and/or article about building DIY paint correction lights soon so stay tuned for that.
Paint Depth Meter
I’m the first to admit that I don’t trust paint depth gauges 100%, no matter how expensive they might be. But it’s always a good idea to know the most about a vehicle’s history before polishing it so I added this one to my arsenal. This Extech unit is inexpensive but it still gets the job done.
I feel like the proper way to use this is to look for trends in the numbers rather than caring about the number itself. If all the panels of a car are fairly consistent with their reading and 1 fender measures 3x higher, I’m going to investigate further to see if it’s been repainted.
Before and during polishing, I tend to use a 50/50 mix of isopropyl alcohol and water mixed in a spray bottle. It’s super cost effective and it’s strong enough to strip any wax or polish left behind.
If I’m done the correction and about to apply a ceramic coating, I’ll use Gtechniq Panel Wipe. This stuff is no joke – in some ways I find it a bit too strong so I reserve it just for this use. It does glide easier than alcohol which helps to avoid putting fresh scratches or rub marks into the paint before coating.
I was curious about this compound a couple years ago, so I decided to buy a bottle. Meguiar’s markets this product as part of their DA Microfiber line which is geared more towards the hobbyist detailer. I expected it to be very user-friendly, but offer “hobbyist” level results.
That’s not the case. While it’s certainly easy to use and creates next to no dust, the results are far better than I expected. I’ve put it to the test many times to see what it’s truly capable of, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Everything from removing leftover sanding marks in aftermarket paint jobs to correcting rock hard paint on a German car gave me great results.
I used to have M105 listed here but I honestly haven’t touched it since trying M100. This is a pretty aggressive compound but it’s also easier and cleaner to work with than M105. It was originally formulated to be used with a rotary polisher although it works really well with dual action machines too. Combining this product with a microfiber pad and the Griot’s Garage G21 polisher will slay nearly every scratch, swirl, and defect that can be removed safely. This isn’t necessarily for beginners though.
If I could only use one polish or compound, this would probably be it. M205 is incredibly versatile and can be used in many situations.
For a finishing polish, it offers quite a bit of bite when you want it to. Combine it with a more aggressive pad and you’ll be surprised at what it can dig out. It’s also gentle enough that I can refine paint down to a mirror finish without needing a finer “jeweling” step. Sometimes I add a drop of it to give my compound of choice a bit of extra lubrication. You can even dilute it down with water to make it less powerful for extremely soft paints. I love this stuff.
All-In-One (AIO) Polish
I believe this has since been rebranded as 3D Speed now. This is a great product if you want to polish and protect in one single step. It’s also quite possibly the easiest product you can use with a machine polisher. I’ve literally polished an SUV in the direct sunlight with it. Even in those extreme conditions, the excess polish wiped off effortlessly.
HD Speed is a mixture of their finishing polish and their paint sealant. The reason we refer to products like this as an all-in-one is because you can polish and protect your paint in one single step. It’ll remove minor defects like light swirl marks and help to fill in the deeper stuff. When you wipe it off, your paint is left protected with a sealant. You can top it with carnauba or spray wax if you want, but it’s fine on its own.
HD Speed isn’t going to replace a proper paint correction. If you want to fix defects in your paint, you need to compound and polish it. If you just want to bring back some deep gloss and shine while repairing minor defects, this stuff is fantastic. It’ll certainly bring the gloss out of your paint, even if the deeper scratches remain.
Assorted Cutting/Polishing Pads
The pads I use during a correction vary depending on the paint itself but I’d say the most common ones I use are Meguiar’s Microfiber cutting pads and Rupes yellow foam finishing pads. I have an assortment of these and others in 1″, 3″, 5″, 6″, and 7″ sizes.
Cutting and polishing pads are really a matter of preference and there are tons of great options out there. It’s best to find some that you know how to get good results with and become an expert with them.
I love these little bite size sanding blocks. These come in really handy for sanding random isolated scratches (R.I.D.) so that you can buff them out with your polisher easier. I also use these a lot for headlight restorations because it makes it easy to get tight into the corners when sanding.