The day before the debacle I spent a fair few hours giving the car an in-depth decontamination as it was quite dirty following a bout of wintery weather and this included being TFR’d to cut through the heavy grime and break down any protective product residues that may have been sitting on the surface, snow foamed and soaked to soften up the dirt and draw it out from the various nooks, crannies and panel gaps, gently contact washed with a soft mitt to safely remove whatever loose stuff remained, then fallout ‘removered’ to dissolve any iron particles lodged in the lacquer of which there was a small amount, tar ‘removered’ to eliminate any unsightly brown speckling on the Rebel Blue paintwork and finally clay-towelled to ensure the surface was as smooth and contaminant-free as possible.
After after having done all that then, Sod’s law it rained the entire 10 mile journey over which meant by the time I arrived the car was covered in crap again and while I should have at the very least pressure washed it down to remove the fresh layer of dirt as it only takes one stray particle to jeapordise the polishing process, if I was to capture adequate footage for the video just didn’t have the time, plus I couldn’t have the car going on the living room laminate sopping wet so had to settle for a good spritz and thorough wipe down with a detail spray and drying towel instead, which was far from ideal and something I obviously wouldn’t recommend doing prior to properly polishing a car but such is life.
The detail spray wipe down obviously left some protective product residue behind that I’d worked to remove the previous day, so I followed that with some Menzerna Control Cleaner to ensure the panels were completely residue-free so I could see exactly what I was dealing with in terms of undisguised defects.
Utilising both a Scangrip I-Match 2 headlamp and a 1000 lumen cree led Nitecore torch, I then confirmed that the paintwork was light to moderately swirled with some deeper random scratches so decided the aim of the game was to try and remove as much of that swirling from as much of the paintwork as possible with a single stage machine polish in a single sitting while in addition perhaps reducing the deeper defects a tad – a tall order? Perhaps, but I am pretty tall and apparently God loves a trier.
Now, while I know there’s plenty of other great polishes and compounds out there I generally favour Menzerna products and their Medium Cut 2200 or ‘Power Finish’ as it used to be called is my usual go to, combined with Chemical Guys Hex Logic medium cutting pads which have always seemed to do well for me. On newer or very lightly swirled cars I’ll opt for Menzerna’s 3 in 1 Polish instead which still offers some cutting capabilities but also guarantees a really nice slick and protected finish.
After quickly running some blue 3M tape over the exposed window rubbers and trim then, I set about test polishing a section of the bonnet to see what kind of improvement could realistically be achieved. Four or five blobs of Medium Cut polish were initially applied to a fresh Hex Logic pad before being dabbed over the surface, spread across it at low speed then slowly worked into it at full.
It’s probably worth mentioning upfront that this was never intended to be a professional polishing tutorial but rather just an opportunity to share some footage of me giving my own car a once over with a machine in between tending to other people’s. I’d initially envisaged a video comprehensively illustrating a complete machine polish and and subsequent protection but it was naive of me to think I’d be able to achieve that all by myself while also trying to film the process.
In hindsight I should have just focused on getting say the bonnet, roof and wing truly corrected then explained how I’d replicate that off camera for the rest of the car. Still, if you pick something up while watching great but otherwise don’t take everything said and done here as gospel as there’s practices I probably wouldn’t recommend you copy like not washing your car first or working in someone’s living room for but it is what it is, so enjoy the rough Rebel Blue restoration or seek your kicks elsewhere I guess!
Now, I’ve stubbornly stuck with the Flex simply because it’s more suited to the single stage polishing I generally undertake. Its forced rotation helps ensure a decent level of cut while its orbital action can still achieve a fairly well refined finish and the interchangeable backing plate system is also a big benefit as it eliminates the need to carry multiple machines. Yes it’s been around a while and is a big old brute to keep in check, especially when working at awkward angles to try and stay out of the way of a camera but it’s served me well, represents the best of both worlds and so for the moment at least isn’t going anywhere.
Following a thorough buff and residue removal then, you can see that when compared with an unpolished section, the vast majority of swirls had now gone and it was pretty much just deeper surface pitting that remained which was there to begin with but just appeared more apparent now the surrounding scratches had been removed. As unsightly as they may look under the light, to the naked eye they really aren’t that prominent and in my mind at least are just something you have to accept inflicting the front end of a daily driven car of this age.
So now that I knew what kind of improvement could be achieved with this particular machine, pad and polish combo, the plan was to replicate it for the rest of the car taking it a section at a time and checking my work with the Control Cleaner, I-Match 2 and Cree led torch as I went.
With a single stage machine polish like this I’m generally looking to achieve around a third to half of the cutting capabilities of a dedicated compound and the same again of a finishing polish with everything in between in one go. Obviously without dedicated compounding or refining stages I’m going to miss some of the heavier marks and not quite be able to achieve a super-crisp, highly refined finish but damn good results can still be achieved in a single step with the right polish, pad, machine and of course technique.
There were a few panels of newer paint on the car like the roof for instance which had been re-colour coded blue from black and while you should never assume newer lacquer will respond the same as original paint, you can of course keep your fingers and toes crossed that it will and thankfully here the recently repainted panels did seem to respond similarly, which meant less faffing to achieve the same results.
Once I felt I’d captured enough footage of the larger areas being machined I took advantage of the Flex’s switchable backing plate system to accommodate a smaller 4 inch spot pad for some of the tighter areas like the rear spoiler and while from this particular angle it might look a bit sketchy as the diameter of the mated spinning backing plates is actually slightly wider than the pad itself, I’m pretty used to dealing with this setup now but it is probably worth me trying to source some tapered spot pads which would help extend the face of them beyond the diameter of the backing plate.
A Nano iBrid would also be a great addition for tighter areas and is definitely an essential piece of kit for anyone offering full correction or complete machine polishing of the entire car but I don’t realistically have the time in one day to iBrid the Nano out of all the nooks and crannies so either hit them with the four inch spot pads as best I can or just get at them by hand after the main panels have been seen to.
Once the frustrating realisation that there was no way I was going to get the whole car properly polished on or off camera had set in, I finished up with a basic bizz over the chunky plastic sills and while they certainly looked better for it, being in close proximity to the ground there was a few heavier marks and scuffs inflicting them that needed more than a single stage polish but I wasn’t going to attempt that while laying on the floor like a hobo, so it’ll have to wait until I can either get the car jacked up and secured appropriately or make use of the pit in the same mate’s garage who owns this living room.
After recording what I hoped was enough footage to put be able to put something acceptable together then, I decided to quickly protect the parts I had managed to give a decent polish with a quick wax to prevent them from going back outside in the nippy winter weather completely naked. Unfortunately I didn’t have the remaining battery life or memory card storage to properly capture that though so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
So the not so final results were definitely a distinct improvement and pretty much represented exactly what you can expect from a single stage machine polish. Most, if not all of the light and moderate swirls were now gone with just the odd deeper scratch or pitting mark left and to the naked eye the paintwork also now looked a lot smoother.