THE LAYERING GAME
Whether you're a seasoned detailing veteran or a die-hard car enthusiast, the process of layering products can unfortunately open up the door to confusion. Unfortunately, anyone these days can introduce a new product into the market and the consumer will be drawn to it like bees to honey. It's for this very reason that I chose to cover a few talking points concerning the application of various detailing products for your paintwork. When it comes to applying vehicle "make-up", there's a rubric that one should follow so that you're reaping all the benefits and rewards out of your products. Below you'll find a step-by-step guide on how to apply your arsenal of detailing goodies.
1. Assess your vehicle's paintwork for any defects ( i.e., swirl marks, topical scratches, deep scratches, orange peel, oxidation, water-spotting, etc.)
2. Choose a trusted compound to "level" or "shave off" any blemish. Logically speaking, a compound is considered to be "liquid sandpaper", or an abrasive that cuts into the paintwork, which in turn will eliminate or "level" any imperfections. One should note that each category of compound is weighed differently than the next. Choosing the appropriate compound will ultimately affect the final results of any given paint restoration, and will invariably determine how you can or cannot take care of your paintwork in the near or distant future. As I articulate to all of my clients, using the least invasive method will preserve your vehicle's finish, so be sure to choose the least aggressive method to achieve your desired results.
3. Traditionally speaking, a polish will remove any residual haze that was left during the compounding stage, therefore restoring the gloss-like aesthetic that your vehicle originally once had. Please take note that a polish, in essence, is still a form of an abrasive. While it may be tempting to apply an additional layer of polish, you're still "eating" into your existing clearcoat. For the sake of this article, too much polish can have adverse effects on your clearcoat. At the end of the day, your vehicle's paintwork has a shelf life. Of course, I'll elaborate on this subject in another dedicated article.
4. Depending on your personal preference, it's always recommended to apply additional "cosmetics" to your vehicle, whether that be in the form of a (.i.e., traditional glaze, carnauba wax, spray wax, paint sealant, si02-based sealants/ coatings of any description, etc.) There is a hierarchy or relative order to applying these additional cosmetics, so please take note of which product(s) get applied first.
5. If desired, a glaze applied on top will act as a "filler", which in turn will only artificially make any light imperfections invisible. Conversely, you can always opt for a legitimate form of protection (.i.e, waxes, sealants, sio2-based products, coatings, etc.) For additional eye-popping results, professionals often layer multiple products for added protection and eye-pleasing results. Even though waxes and paint sealants are considered levels of legitimate "protection", it's always best to apply your most substantial form of protection first as this will serve as the strongest foundation to any other supplemental cosmetics, which in turn will maximize the protective elements that your initial form of protection provides. You wouldn't build a house on a weak foundation, and the same concept applies to your paintwork or virtually any other surface on your vehicle. The only exception to this rule is if you're dealing with any form of a coating or a highly-concentrated ceramic, glass, or dare I say any graphene coating counterpart. Any product other than a dedicated maintenance solution will only weaken the protective properties, which in turn will render your coating useless. If you do opt for any form of a coating, be sure to choose a maintenance solution that coincides with that particular coating. In other words, be sure to couple a coating with its compatible maintenance solution. All too often, I come across other professionals touting the combination of a coating with a maintenance solution that clashes with one another. I don't subscribe to this train of thought, as the manufacturer knows what's best. Follow their lead and trust their recommendation(s).
6. If you're of the DIY persuasion and possess a classic or show car-worthy ride, I always tend to favor a light application of either a quick detailer or superficial glaze prior to showing. In this way, you'll add an extra dimension of gloss to your paintwork, and will yield high marks at your next car show once judging begins. Preferably do this in an enclosed environment, because the potential of inducing more imperfections into the finish greatly increase. If possible, execute this the night before. Of course, if you want to yield the best results, then reach for a long-term solution of any coating. There are other variables to consider when addressing any classic or fully-restored rarity, but that will be addressed in another dedicated blog.
7. If your vehicle already possesses some form of a coating, less is more. On a periodic basis, dedicated maintenance solutions are recommended to preserve the resiliency and molecular structure that already exists on the surface. Of course, there's always a rubric to follow depending on the manufacturer, but at the least, a light application of your maintenance solution should be executed once every 1-1/2 months, perhaps more depending on the provider. Be sure to cross-reference verifiable data from your installer.
8. Yes, it's possible to have "too much of a good thing". This all too common aphorism falls under the category of applying a traditional carnauba/montan wax, or any form of a paint sealant. In my professional experience, no one should ever feel the need to apply more than 2 coats of any given level of protection at any given time. This is when the "less is more" comes into play. Once a third or fourth application gets applied, the vehicle will actually produce a dull or slightly opaque appearance. Diminishing returns will follow, causing that warm glow to subside, which inevitably leads to frustration and disappointment. Don't detail harder, detail smarter.
9. Following this step-by-step guide will help to ensure the highest level of success for your vehicle, and will hopefully introduce a systematic rubric in your overall car care regimen. Remember, your paintwork has a life expectancy. Preserve it.