Tips for Avoiding Damage When Using Polishing Pads

Polishing pads are an essential tool for cleaning and maintaining the surface of any vehicle and keeping it looking its best. Beyond merely cleaning surfaces and adding some extra shine, a polishing pad can also be used to restore faded or scratched surfaces, buff away excess wax, and even remove stubborn dirt and grime that can be difficult to remove through regular car washing alone.

However, when used incorrectly or with improper technique, polishing pads can cause serious damage to the surface being polished. To ensure that you get the best results without damaging your surfaces, this article will go over the different types of polishing pads as well as some helpful tips you can use to avoid damage to your vehicle.

 Types of Polishing Pads

When it comes to selecting a polishing pad, there are several common types: wool, foam and microfibre pads. Each type of pad has a specific degree of aggressiveness (also referred to as ‘correction’ or ‘cut’) associated with its material.

  • Wool pads are a common choice for detailers using rotary polishers. They rank amongst the most aggressive types of polishing pads, with a high level of abrasiveness when applied to a surface. It’s always recommended to follow up a wool pad with a softer pad such as a foam finishing pad and a decent polish to remove any micro-scratches and blemishes left behind.
  • Foam pads are designed primarily for use on surfaces that only require a low level of abrasion to clean, making them ideal for finishing after using a more aggressive pad. There are different degrees to foam pad aggressiveness, with compounding foam pads being the most aggressive and finishing foam pads being the least aggressive.
  • Microfibre pads are a great all-purpose choice, as they offer both gentle cleaning action and good durability. As microfibre pads are a relatively new addition to the detailing industry, some detailers may find standardisation lacking. As such, if you’re planning on using microfibre pads, you may need to experiment to find the right ones for you.

Each type of pad is compatible with a rotary or orbital polisher. It’s important to always ensure that the pad you choose is the same or only slightly larger in diameter as the backing plate on your chosen polisher.

 Choose the Right Pad

The key to getting great results is choosing the right polishing pads for the job at hand. Begin by determining what level of abrasiveness you’ll need for polishing and select a pad with corresponding material. If you’re unsure, it’s best to err on the side of caution and choose a softer pad such as a microfibre or foam pad if you’re just starting to polish your vehicle yourself.

 Prepare Your Surface

Before using polishing pads, it’s important to ensure that the surface of the vehicle is properly prepared. This means cleaning the surface thoroughly with an appropriate cleaner for your vehicle’s paint type and making sure there’s no dust, particles or debris on the surface before commencing polishing. If the surface isn’t totally clean, your vehicle could suffer damage due to dirt and other hard particles being pushed into the pores of the clear coat.

Apply Even Pressure

When using a polishing pad, it’s important to apply an even pressure throughout your motion. Too much pressure can cause damage to the surface, while too little will result in sub-par polishing results. To avoid this, try working in smaller areas using short, light strokes rather than long sweeping motions that can cause excess wear on the pad itself. Always make sure to keep your hands away from any spinning parts of the machine, as these can cause serious injury if contact is made with skin or clothing.

 Cleaning & Maintenance

After each use, it’s important to clean your polishing pads in order to remove any dirt or debris that may have built up. This can be done simply by running the pad under warm water and wringing out any excess moisture. For longer-term maintenance, make sure to store your pads in a cool, dry place that’s away from direct sunlight.

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