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A precursor to any consultation, it's always incumbent upon me to ask the owner whether their vehicle had been touched prior executing any work. Since the modern clearcoat has become notoriously thinner over time, manufacturers are cutting corners by applying as little in exchange for excess profit. As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, any modern vehicle (one that was produced in the late 1980's onward) a typical layer of clearcoat is thinner than that of a post-it note. In the detailing world, this thickness equates to 2-3 mils (1 micron=1/1000 of a millimeter. Of course, I could create a tangential debate as to how much is realistically present, but more times than not, we're erring on the side of caution by mentioning 2 mils.

Now, by no means am I including aftermarket or custom paint jobs, so let's keep ourselves focused on the modern vehicle that comes fresh off of the assembly line from a "big ticket" manufacturer. When you visualize this and put it into perspective, you need to proceed with caution and ensure that your detailer is using the "least invasive" method in order to achieve your desired results. More importantly, that technician needs to be very circumspect and judicial with the way they approach your paintwork, regardless of whether your vehicle is new.

If you're a DIY enthusiast or one that is seeking the help of a professional, do your research and ask questions about what method your detailer uses when approaching paintwork. As part of my standard operating procedure, if any prospective client is inquiring about any form of an exterior detail, I always make it my business to employ the use of a paint depth gauge meter and a defect-finding flashlight.

A paint depth gauge meter will help any self-respecting detailer determine what can and what can't be done. In other words, if my reading shows that the clearcoat is too thin, or is on the precipice of entering dangerous territory, it's crucial for me to turn around and communicate that only x service can be performed. In rarer occurrences, I may decline proceeding with any form of work altogether. All too often, I'll have a conversation with a client only to tell me that another detail outfit, without any forethought, says "Sure, I can buff that out for you." This is a red flag. If this is the case, turn around and run in the opposite direction as fast as you can.

By no means am I targeting or singling out any particular business, but our objective is to preserve and maintain. Perfection comes in small doses, even when a client takes delivery of a new vehicle. While we strive for perfection, a 100% restoration of anyone's paintwork is often a far-fetched and highly-romanticized idea. Of course, we can push the envelope and remove other variables such as orange peel, deep scratches, uneven textures and others of the like, but what does that mean for the next owner? Ultimately, we're leaving an imprint of our work for the next generation of driver. At the end of the day, we never want to come face-to-face with an instance of "point of no return", where we end up burnishing through, thereby exposing the basecoat.

Below you'll find a set of tools that are recommended for the beginner and the professional. Of course, everyone's budget will vary, but overall this should serve as a brief guideline as to how anyone should approach paintwork in the near and distant future.

Professional-Grade Recommendations

Defelsko Paint Thickness Gauge

Speed Master Swirl Finder Detailer Light

DIY/Entry-Level Recommendations

ERAY Paint Coating Thickness Gauge

COAST G20 Inspection Beam Penlight LED Flashlight


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