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Buffing 101: How to Polish a Car Like a Pro for Beginners

Buffing 101: How to Polish a Car Like a Pro for Beginners

If you want to know how to look fit while driving, watch some videos of Vin Diesel flexing behind the wheel. But if you want to know how to clean your car, you have come to the right place.

Auto clear coat polishing scares the ever-loving-shit out of people who are just starting out with auto detailing. Even the lighter parts of the process, like “buffing,” can seem scary to some people when they shouldn’t.

The words “buffing” and “polishing” are often used the same way in the automotive world. But for the second one, you usually have to take off a paint protection product or a damaged clear coat. On the other hand, buffing is more about getting rid of leftover polishing compound and getting rid of things like swirl marks and surface haze.

But buffing is about much more than giving a paint job or chrome bumper a little shine. There are many different ways to finish the polishing process, and each one has its own way of being done and result.

So let’s review the basics of surface polishing, look at which parts of a car benefit most from buffing, and make a note of the parts that should be avoided. We’ll also talk about which tools will give the best results and give you some pro tips to help you turn that faded paint into a rich, glossy look.

What is buffing?

Buffing is a word that can be used to describe many different ways to polish a surface. Buffing is an important part of every auto body shop’s daily work because it is the second step in both the repair and surface protection steps.

But buffing isn’t just about making things shiny. It can also

Take off a polish or cutting compound that was already on.
Before reapplying a paint protection product that is old or damaged, lift it off.
Either way, buffing is often the last step in the process of taking care of or fixing paint, and it is usually a lot easier than, say, paint correction or claying the surface of a car.

WHEN DO YOU BUFF A CAR?

When you hear the word “buffing,” you might think of hot rod guys scrubbing their “lead sleds” with microfiber mitts. However, the process itself is not nearly as exciting as you might think. Most of the time, buffing is used on cars when they need to be fixed or replaced. The most common times to use buffing are in the following two situations:

SURFACE REPAIR

To fix automotive paint, you have to do a lot of hard work. Polishing and buffing are two of the most important steps. Polishing is the harder of the two methods because it involves using a power tool and a surfacing wheel to apply a series of polishing or cutting compounds to a painted surface. This lets any damaged paint or clear coat be slowly taken off without hurting the basecoats underneath.


Once polishing is done, buffing begins. During buffing, a clean towel or pad is used to remove any polishing or cutting compound that is still on the object. This not only cleans the area that was just polished so that it is ready for paint or clear coat, but it also helps show any damage that might have been missed during the polishing step.

SURFACE PROTECTION

Scratches, oxidation, and other damage to the paint on the surface of a vehicle are just some of the things that need to be fixed. To make sure that this kind of damage doesn’t happen again, a paint protection product must be used.


A new clear coat can only do so much, which is why many car owners and professional auto detailers use a product like ceramic coating to protect the car’s surface after the paint correction repairs are done. Buffing is used not only between fixing and protecting but also during the process of putting on a ceramic coating, and for good reason.


When a surface protector, like a ceramic coating, is put on a painted surface, a lot of the product bonds to or gets stuck in the surface it is protecting. What doesn’t stick to the surface is called “residual waste,” and it needs to be taken away. This is where the buffing step comes in.

But even though it might not sound too hard to rub a surface with a clean microfiber cloth, there is a lot of room for error in the buffing stage. If you take off the protectant too soon, it won’t form a strong bond or embed itself properly, which could lead to thin coverage and product failure.

If you buff a ceramic coating way too late, all of the leftover material on the surface will harden on top of the coating. This causes something called “streaking,” which, unlike that drunk guy running across the football field, won’t make you laugh out loud.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF POLISHING AND BUFFING

Since polishing is mostly about cutting into the clear coat of a car, it is important to know your limits. Some kinds of paint damage, like the three on the right side of the above graph, are all part of the clear coat itself. Everything on the left, on the other hand, goes a lot deeper, through paint, primer, and even bare metal.


If the damage is too bad, you can forget about buffing and polishing the paint yourself. Instead, you’ll need to hire a professional to fix it. It’s not easy to sand down to the damage’s source because you often have to reapply primer, paint, clear coat, and even body filler. Before the final polishing and buffing can start, this is often followed by a long process of color sanding.

On the bright side, if you have the kind of clear coat damage shown on the right side of our beautiful infographic, there are a few things you can do to make yourself feel better.


HAND POLISHING AND BUFFING

There is something to be said for the tried-and-true method of elbow grease and a beer. Modern technology has given us much faster ways to polish and buff, but there are still a lot of purists who insist on polishing by hand. Even though it takes a lot of work and time, buffing a car by hand has some benefits. Control and attention to detail are the best two.

So, if you want to take it easy and start with hand polishing, you’ll need these things:

Polishing and buffing pads: To spread the cutting compound over the surface, you’ll need some kind of polishing pad. Like most do-it-yourself detailers, you’ll probably choose a round, microfiber product that’s called a “one-and-done” detailing tool. So stock up and grab a stack, because you’ll probably go through a few before you’re done buffing.

Polishing and cutting compounds come in either liquid or paste form. They are full of millions of tiny “grit” particles that look like wet sanding when pressed against a clear coat. Polishing and cutting compounds come in different levels of coarseness, and it’s best to use them in order, starting with the roughest and moving on to the smoother ones.

Buffing Towel or Pad: Buffing is the last step in hand-polishing. It gets rid of the polishing compound. Hand buffing usually requires a clean microfiber towel or a very soft finishing pad, which is usually made of very soft foam.

ELECTRIC POLISHING AND BUFFING

On the other end of the spectrum, experienced detailers and people who are good at DIY tend to recommend electric polishers because they work much better. In this method, polishing pads, cutting compounds, and buffing pads are attached to an electric power tool. Even if the results are the same, the amount of time spent is much less important.


DIFFERENT TYPES OF BUFFING PRODUCTS

There are three kinds of products that can be used to buff: pads, towels, and cloths. The materials used to make all three products are either foam, cotton, or microfiber.

Foam applicators are usually only used to put things like cutting compounds and wax on the surface of a car. Cotton and microfiber buffing products, on the other hand, can be used to either put something on or take something off.


Buffing pads are used with either a hand-held buffing wheel or an electric buffing wheel. They attach to the face of the disc or wheel with Velcro or straps. There are foam, cotton, and microfiber buffing pads.


Buffing Towels: Buffing towels are things you can hold in your hand. They tend to be narrow in diameter and long. Buffing towels, which are almost entirely made of microfiber, are a rock star when it comes to getting rid of paint protection products and cutting compounds. A clean microfiber cloth of this degree not only prevents scratches and gets rid of tough residue, but its length also makes it easy to polish corners.


Buffing Cloth: When compared to the powerful buffing towel, buffing cloths seem like a pretty bad choice. But don’t let these little squares fool you. They are perfect for buffing hard-to-reach places where a bigger towel would be too hard to use. They are also the best solution for anyone looking for a simple way to buff.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we tell anyone who likes to do their own work to take their time and check it often. The purpose of buffing is to clean up a clear coat and make it shine, not to eat away at layers of paint protection. It’s like aftershave and lotion for cars, and if it’s done right, it can make the difference between a beautiful exterior and a really bad one.

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How to Handle a Car Accident

How to Handle a Car Accident

Matt was happy to get his driver’s license. He was looking forward to being able to go to the movies and see his friends on his own.

A few weeks later, Matt was going to visit his friend Mark. Matt was waiting at a stop sign two blocks from Mark’s house when he felt a sudden jolt. Someone had hit his car from behind. Matt started to feel scared, and his first thought was, “What do I do now?”

Car crash

Most of us will probably never do anything more dangerous than driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that car accidents kill more than 30,000 people and hurt more than 2 million people every year in the U.S.

Even if you try to drive carefully and defensively, it’s a good idea to know what to do in case you get into an accident. Crashing can be scary, but if it happens to you, here are some things to do:

Just take a few deep breaths to calm down. After a crash, a person may feel shocked, guilty, afraid, nervous, or angry. All of these feelings are normal. But if you need to calm down, take a few deep breaths or count to ten. The more calm you are, the better you’ll be able to deal with the situation. Now is the time to think about the accident and try to figure out how bad it was.

Make sure you and everyone else are safe. If you can’t get out of your car or it’s not safe to try, keep your seatbelt on, turn on your hazard lights, call 911 if you can, and wait for help to arrive. If it looks like the accident wasn’t too bad, turn off your car and get your emergency kit. Set up orange cones, warning triangles, or emergency flares around the crash site if it is safe to get out of your car and move around it.

If there are no injuries and your car can still be driven, try to move it to a safe place that doesn’t block traffic (like the shoulder of a highway or a parking lot). In some states, though, it is against the law to move your car from the scene of an accident. Ask the person who taught you how to drive what the rules are in your state.

Check to see if anyone is hurt, and report the event.
Check on everyone who was in the accident to see if anyone is hurt. This includes making sure you don’t have any serious wounds. Be very careful, because not all wounds can be seen. Call 911 or whatever number your state uses to call for help on the road if you or anyone else isn’t feeling well. For example, if you try to take pictures or write down details about the crash and start to feel dizzy or out of it, you should call for help. You should be ready to tell the dispatcher the following:

Who? The dispatcher will ask for your name and phone number in case the police need to contact you later for more information.
What? Tell the dispatcher as much as you can about the emergency, such as if there is a fire, a traffic hazard, a medical emergency, etc.
Where? Tell the dispatcher the exact location of the emergency. Give them the city, road name, road number, mile markers, direction of travel, traffic signs, and anything else you can think of to help them find you.
Keep talking until the dispatcher tells you it’s okay to hang up.

Even if no one is hurt, you can sometimes get the police to come to the scene of a crash if you tell them you need someone to help you figure out what happened and who’s to blame. But in some places, police won’t come to an accident scene if both cars can be driven away safely and no one is hurt. Make sure to file a vehicle incident report at a police station if the police don’t come to the scene.

Write down details about the driver.
Ask the other drivers involved in the accident to show you their licenses so you can write down their license numbers. Get their name, address, phone number, insurance company, insurance policy number, and license plate number. If the other driver doesn’t own the car, you should also get the name of the owner.


Make notes about the accident.
If the accident is small and you think you can explain what happened, try to take pictures and write down what happened. Notes and pictures of the scene could help the court and insurance companies figure out who is at fault. Find out the year, make, model, and color of the vehicles in question. Take pictures of the scene, including the cars and any damage, the roads, any traffic signs, and the direction each car was coming from.

Try to draw a diagram of the exact crash site and mark where each car was, what direction it was coming from, and what lane it was in. Note the date, the time, and the weather. If there were any witnesses, try to get their names and contact information in case one of the other drivers isn’t telling the truth about what happened.

You can do these things only if you think the accident wasn’t too bad (for instance, if the airbag did not inflate). If the accident is bad, you should call the police.

Even if you think you caused a crash, it might not have been your fault. Because of this, insurance companies say you shouldn’t take the blame or say you were at fault at the scene.

What came next
Even though the crash itself might be scary, it can also be scary to deal with what happens next. Some people may still be shaken up hours or days after a car accident. They might feel bad about what happened, especially if they think the crash could have been avoided. People who are close to the people involved, such as family members and best friends, can sometimes also have emotional problems. These are all normal ways to feel. Most car accidents are forgotten about after some time has passed, the car is fixed, and the insurance company is dealt with.

But sometimes, these feelings can get worse or last longer, making it hard for a person to live a normal life. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can happen after a terrible event that hurt or almost hurt someone. PTSD symptoms could show up right after the crash or weeks or even months later.

Everyone who feels stressed after a traumatic event does not have PTSD. Here are some signs to watch out for, though:

avoiding feelings or things that remind them of what happened.
feeling anxious, irritable, or angry all the time.
avoiding tests or procedures at the hospital
reliving the event over and over in one’s mind
nightmares or sleep problems

 

If you notice any of these things after a car accident, talk to a friend or family member you trust about what happened. Talk about what happened, how you felt, what you thought, and what you did during and after the crash. Try to do things you normally do, even if they make you feel uneasy. If none of these things help, ask your parent or guardian to take you to the doctor.

Other Issues on the Road
Lots of people have small problems, like backing out of the driveway and hitting the mailbox. Common problems like blowouts and breakdowns happen when cars hit mailboxes and other cars.

Weak Tires
When you’re driving, getting a flat tire can really shake you up. Make sure your tires aren’t too old and check the pressure in them at least once a month to avoid this.

If you do end up in a blowout situation, AAA has some tips to help you get through it safely:

Don’t worry, and keep your foot off the brake.If you stop too quickly, you might skid. Keep your eyes on the road ahead and a firm grip on the wheel. Put your foot off the accelerator and slow down slowly. Try to move the car safely to the side of the road. Let the car slow down before putting light pressure on the brakes. Stop the car by the side of the road, on the shoulder, or in a parking lot.

Set up your break-down area.Once you’re out of the way of traffic and off the road, turn on your emergency flashers to let other drivers know what’s going on. Set up your warning signs (cones, triangles, or flares) behind your car to let people know it’s broken down. If you know how to change your tire and can do it safely without getting too close to traffic, do it. If you don’t know how to change your tire and need help, call your auto club.

If you need help, ask for it.Automobile clubs can help 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Many people join so they can get help in an emergency. If your family is a member of an auto club, ask your parents if you can get a membership card. Call for help using a cell phone or a roadside emergency phone. While you wait, raise the hood of your car and hang a white T-shirt or rag out the window or from the radio antenna to let police officers know you need help. Don’t try to flag down other cars because it could be dangerous. You should only walk along a highway with more than one lane if you can see a business or someone who can help you nearby.

Don’t walk into traffic or get close to it.
when it’s finished. Take your car to the shop so a mechanic can check it out and see if it’s broken.

Breakdowns
If your car breaks down, stop it safely out of the way of traffic and as far away from the road as you can. Set up your breakdown site away from traffic. One big difference between flat tires and breakdowns is that you are more likely to be able to fix a flat tire. That’s why it’s smart to show the white cloth and call for roadside assistance or the police to let them know you need help.

If you can get your car out of the way of traffic safely, stay inside and lock the doors. If someone stops to help you, just open the window a little and tell them you’ve already called for help. Again, don’t walk along a highway with more than two lanes unless you can see help nearby, and stay as far away from traffic as you can.

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Basic auto maintenance tips

Basic auto maintenance tips

The cars of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s were much simpler and less complicated than the cars of today, which have more computer electronics, silicon chips, and complicated engines. But basic car care is the same for all kinds of cars and trucks, and it can help your car or truck last longer and last better.

The best part is that basic car care doesn’t require a lot of knowledge about cars or how they work. Your car will be safer and more reliable for you and your family if you take a few simple steps, check it often, and fix problems as soon as you notice them.

Regular checks

Even though it might seem scary, basic car care is often as easy as opening the hood and taking a look at the engine.

The first step in basic car care is to look at the outside. At least once every two weeks, check your tires to make sure they have the right amount of air in them. This should be done with a tire pressure gauge, but you might also find it helpful to look at the tires to make sure they look even and inflated.

Other visual checks that don’t require much knowledge of auto mechanics are the following:

Damage to the body and bumpers should be kept an eye on for insurance purposes.
leaks of oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, or other fluids Water can also leak under a car if it drips from an air conditioner.
Aside from normal diesel emissions or startup fumes, if there is smoke coming out of a car’s exhaust, the engine or fluid warning lights should be fixed as soon as possible before driving again.

Under the Hood

A lot of your car’s regular maintenance must be done with the hood open, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a mechanic. The most important things to keep an eye on and check regularly are:

How much and how clean the engine oil is
level of coolant or antifreeze (never remove the radiator cap while the engine is hot or warm).
brake and power steering fluid levels; transmission fluid and belts
Most engines have containers and canisters with fill-level lines that can be used to check the level of fluids. Make sure that the fluids are between the minimum and maximum lines. You should also keep an eye out for radiators and other tubes that are leaking or worn out. These should be replaced before they are pushed to the point where they will burst.

Other things to look out for in and around the engine are loose electrical or tube connections, worn or exposed wires, and loose or warped belts, which should be replaced right away. Some drivers find it hard to change their belts, but it’s an easy and cheap fix at a service station, so it might be worth going to your mechanic to make sure the right belt is put on correctly.

You should also keep an eye on the battery in your car and know how old it is. Batteries should be changed every five years or so, and you should have yours checked if your car won’t start when the battery is fully charged. At a battery replacement station, you can usually check for free to see how full your battery is and how much water is in it. Most car batteries also come with warranties that cover everything.

Changing the Oil

One of the most important things you can do for your car is to change the oil and oil filter.Some mechanics say that you should change the oil every 2,000–3,000 miles, but you can drive safely for longer. But you should change your car’s oil or have it changed at least every 5,000 miles, along with getting a new filter.
Even though your oil should be pretty clean, it should still have a dark color when it gets to your engine. You should keep your oil level between the minimum and maximum fill lines by checking it often. This is why you should keep some motor oil in the car so you can add more if you need to.
You can choose from different kinds of motor oil. Oils that are lighter, like 5W-30, work better in colder weather, while oils that are heavier, like 10W-40, work better in warmer weather. If your car smokes a lot or uses a lot of oil, you should probably use a heavier-weight synthetic blend motor oil.

Other Replacements and Maintenance

Other important parts of your car and engine that need to be taken care of regularly and replaced now and then are:

air filter, headlights, brake lights, turn signals, Wires and spark plugs, engine timing belt and windshield wipers

Most engine tune-ups include either work on the engine itself or work on the wiring, such as replacing the spark plug, cable, and distributor cap.

When it comes to regular car maintenance, the most important thing to remember is to take care of problems right away, like an engine knocking or other noises, and do your best to figure out what might be wrong before you go to the mechanic.

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