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The Enhancement Detail -
13 min read Thursday 31 March 2022

The Enhancement Detail

Just about any vehicle can benefit from a simple polish and hard wax enhancement detail

It's true that not every vehicle out there will need full paint correction, in fact, any professional detailer will tell you that it's not advisable to perform multi-stage compounding and polishing on a regular basis, you'll want to leave some clearcoat to polish when it's actually needed once, or maybe twice a year, right? One of the golden rules of paint correction is that, if your paintwork doesn't need it, just don't do it!

It's also true that, nowadays many enthusiasts know how to wash their vehicle without inflicting heavy swirl marks, so enhancing paintwork becomes more of a case of removing light, day-to-day defects along with any oxidation that may have crept in, lightly refining surfaces to level the finish and bring back that better-than-factory shine.

This is why a periodical single stage enhancement is always beneficial, especially at this time of year when the rain has stopped (fingers crossed), and you can easily get out there with your machine polisher. After all, sometimes a simple enhancement, over just a few hours, is all that's required to push your paint to an amazing level of refined beauty. And the good news is that we can help you with a triple whammy of kit bag essentials that can get you there and make your paintwork sparkle for the summer - Tripple All-in-One Polish, a speciality hard wax from our Signature Collection, and of course our DPX Dual Action Polisher.

Here's how it's done by the pros, answering all those common questions along the way…

First, what is an all-in-one polish?

Tripple is denoted as an "all-in-one'  because it contains other elements in the formula that gives it characteristics that go beyond that of a traditional polish or compound. In other words, it will perform different tasks in addition to fine-cutting and refining paintwork.

In this way, Tripple uses abrasives to lightly refine and restore clarity, as you'd fully expect. But, it also contains deep-cleansing solvents, helping it to clean away oxidation (a key cause of faded paintwork). Along with glazing agents and an infusion of carnauba wax to help fill light swirling, obscure defects to the eye, and leave behind a layer of wax protection. Because of the way this formula combines all three elements it not only enhances paintwork through cleaning, polishing and protecting, but does the job in a single application.

How does Tripple enhance paintwork?

Aside from cleaning away any oxidation and actively glazing blemishes, Tripple is capable of removing fine swirling, wash marring and other defects, refining paintwork through abrasion. This is the more traditional side of the product. As a polish or a compound, it uses abrasive particles to level down the entire surface around the defect until the bottom of the defect is reached, essentially making the blemish disappear. In this way it removes scratches and swirls indirectly - the principle of all paint correction processes.

For more on different kinds of polishes and compounds, and how they work, see our in-depth article - All Car Polishes Explained.

Can I polish with Tripple by hand?

Most compounds are made up of abrasives that are relatively difficult to break down fully, and this is why they require a machine polisher to work them through in a timely manner. You can liken the microscopic abrasive particles in these products to large, jagged rocks which cut away at the paint or clearcoat. As you polish these large rocks are smashed together, breaking them up and rounding off the edges, eventually making them more like small pebbles which won't cut the paint anymore. When it stops cutting this is when the product is fully worked through. Technically speaking of course, you can break these abrasives down by hand, but it will take a long time and a lot of energy to do so effectively. So, the only practical way is by utilising the power of a machine polisher.

Tripple is different because the special diminishing abrasives it contains break down more easily than those in traditional compounds, and this is what leads itself so well to hand polishing - you don't need a machine to effectively force the process along. So yes, you can hand polish with Tripple if you choose to, and you'll get great results. 

So, why use a machine polisher with Tripple for this sort of full body enhancement?

Well, apart from the fact that it takes away most of the elbow grease, it's a great way to get fast, consistent, professional results. The mechanical action of your machine will be equal on each panel over the whole vehicle. Machines don't get tired, and they won't be tempted to cut corners, so, if you're looking for the speediest, most consistent results, it makes using your DPX a no brainer. Another of the advantages of using a dual action machine polisher of course, is that there's increased safety over a rotary polisher with regards to heat build-up. Basically, our DPX and MPX dual action machines make it almost impossible to burn through paintwork. With a machine you can also tailor Tripple to your own needs through what pad you use. In many cases we'd encourage you to utilise a soft Revitalise No:3 Pad as this gives a great enhancement. But, that's not to say that you can't use a slightly more aggressive combo, by utilising a medium Revitalise No:2 Pad, for maximum performance to remove slightly heavier swirls. As with so many aspects of detailing, you easily can adapt the combo you use for specific situations.

If Tripple contains carnauba, why use a hard wax on top?

In this case it's all about getting even better results in terms of gloss and durability. First of all, the protection offered by Tripple lasts for around a month, which is great, but because hard waxes have more solid wax content, a layer or two of a hard wax will last even longer. Illusion Show Wax for example (which we'll be using later) contains 48% Brazilian carnauba, giving up to 3-months of protection from the elements. And it can also be topped up on periodic maintenance washes.

For many however, using wax is just as much about adding extra gloss to the paintwork. A hard wax does this in a different way to a polish because it contains no abrasives. Where your polish will mechanically cut away at the surface to smooth it out as much as possible allowing light to bounce back more uniformly to your eye. Even polished surfaces aren't flat on a microscopic scale, if you zoom in close enough, you'll see that these surfaces are actually full of ridges and ruts, less than an unpolished surface for sure, but even so. What a wax does is leaves a physical layer that further levels the surface by filling in the recesses, not unlike smooth plaster over a rough wall. This new super smooth top layer, levels the optical finish, meaning that it allows the light pass through and bounce back even more uniformly without being diffracted in different directions, making the surface appear slicker, wetter deeper and glossier.

If you layer up your hard wax for a couple of coats, this compounds the effect for an even deeper, shiner look. And there's also the bonus that the smooth surface created gives grime and water nothing to cling on to, so instead it beads off, or sits on top without touching your paintwork, making the vehicle easier to clean during maintenance.

The idea here is that, once you've polished exterior paintwork with Tripple, you'll not only get more protection from a hard wax, but ultimately it will look and bead better, too.

Which Signature Wax should I use?

Although we have durable show waxes like Desire, Illusion, Essence and Fusion, which differ in terms of price, carnauba content and extreme durability, but will look amazing on all paint types, we also have hard waxes that have been developed for specific uses. Soul for example, is engineered to be highly reflective, making it the ideal choice for light colours. Passion is designed to enhance vintage paint types and Spirit is just the job for bringing on the sparkle with metallics. So, sometimes the hard wax you choose for your vehicle will simply come down to the paint finish, and of course, your personal preference.

The Half Day Enhancement

As always, the best way to demonstrate is to do the job ourselves, but finding a car that could benefit from a relatively quick enhancement isn't exactly difficult. Everything from show cars to daily drivers can take advantage here… even cars that have been corrected in the past. We pulled in this Mk1 Golf which was in decent condition, only suffering from a few light swirls and a little oxidation, and set to work bringing back some immaculate shine.

The Wet Work

Obviously, it's worth stating that any vehicle being polished should be thoroughly cleaned, decontaminated and dried before you break out the polisher. Don't worry though, the wash and decon stages are included in your half a day timescale. Start early and you'll be done by lunchtime - or maybe you can just have yourself a relatively easy afternoon of detailing?

Either way, these pre-polishing stages are as important as during any other detail. The key is to perform your wet work safely, without inflicting any defects that will take more work to polish out, being sure to flush out awkward areas, like shuts and panel gaps, along the way to make sure that any grit or grime isn't going to be blown out and interfere with your polishing later.

In short, it's crucial to follow the correct procedures, starting with wheel cleaning (here we're using Imperial Wheel Cleaner), followed by pre-wash with Citrus Power Bug and Grime Remover and Avalanche Snow Foam to remove the most harmful grit and grime, before your 2-bucket wash with Lather Car Shampoo.

Decontamination

Carrying out a full 3-stage decontamination to eradicate the embedded and bonded contaminants that washing alone can't remove is also as vital to the success of your enhancement. The reason why is because this is where potentially damaging particles, such as ingrained metal shrapnel and bonded mineral deposits, are chemically or physically removed. As you can imagine, these sort of contaminants whizzing around on your polishing pad at high RPMs isn't going to be great for your paintwork, so we remove them first to take away the risk inflicting damage later.

Using Iron Out Contaminant Remover to dissolve metal particles, followed by ObliTARate Tar & Glue Remover for oil-based stains and sticky residues, and finally claying (with a Clay Bar and Glide Clay Lube) to physical pull out common mineral and protein deposits, is essential to prepare the surface for polishing. For a rundown of the full 3-stage decontamination process, see our guide - How To Safely Decontaminate Paintwork.

Once you've finished the wash and decon, and the car is completely dry, you can mask up any rubbers, handles, grilles and badges that are at risk of coming into contact with your polishing pad, and start your paintwork enhancement.

Polishing

As we said it is possible to give Tripple a little more polishing performance by switching up from a soft to a medium foam pad. After a little testing, because of the light swirling on this car, that's the direction we decided to take. For maximum gloss, softer pads are best, for more performance slightly harder pads will give more bite. In our case, we'll be adding loads more gloss with a wax later anyway, but what's most important is that the application process is exactly the same on any vehicle:

  • First apply 2-3 coin-sized drops sized drops to your pad.
  • Working on an area of approximately 18 x 18-inches (around 9 times the size of your pad, square), set your DPX to the lowest speed setting. Start the machine while the pad is in contact with the paint to prevent slinging, and quickly spread the product around the panel, getting as even coverage as possible.
  • Work the Tripple through using slow, overlapping passes, increasing the speed up to setting 4-5, and using moderate pressure. Keep the DPX moving at all times but do this slowly, around 2-3cm of movement per second is about right. Keep working the product until the residue starts to turn clear.
  • Back the speed setting down to the lowest for one more pass, this time using very light pressure. This finishes off the working through process allowing the products to refine down to flawless. Don't forget to stop the polisher while it's still in contact with the paint.
  • Leave the residue to haze over a couple of minutes, and then remove with a fresh Microfibre Work Cloth. The results will be immediately obvious, but it also pays to check your work with a light source as you go, especially when polishing indoors. Our Swirl Spotter Detailing Light is designed specifically for this task.
  • Once you're happy that your section is complete, move onto the next one, until the whole vehicle is finished.

Note: for tighter areas and for cleaning and enhancing awkward door jambs, shuts, fiddly bumper parts, small pillars and under doorhandles, Tripple can be used as a hand polish and applied with a microfibre cloth, Polish Pad or Microfibre Applicator.

Protection

We've chosen Illusion Show Car wax this time around for a dripping wet look… something extremely fitting for this type of car. To make the most of any of our Signature Hard Waxes though, we recommend application with a soft foam applicator, like our Waxmate XL or Wax Spot Pad (with our Handi Puck Applicator), which have both been designed to fit inside the pots perfectly.

Just a quarter turn should coat your applicator enough for a whole panel, any more and you'll be buffing most of it straight off, wasting your wax. The goal here is to spread the layer as thinly and evenly as possible, and the best method is usually to "leapfrog' panels. This means start on the first panel, applying your wax all over in small even circles. Then, while your first panel is initially curing and giving the wax enough time to bond to the surface, complete a second panel, before going back to the first to buff away any wax residue. Finally fold your cloth and then buff the panel to a high gloss shine. You can then move on to waxing your third panel, before going back to buff the second panel and so on, repeating the process over every inch of paintwork.

As for the actual buffing, at the very least use a brand-new microfibre cloth, but for the best results we always recommend utilising our Micro Tweed Microfibre because the special pockets in the tweed weave help to trap residues and prevent wax clogging.

For those who are (rightly) layering their wax for even more protection and gloss, always wait for at least 3-hours between coats, so the wax layer can cure and fully harden, allowing the next wax layer to bond on top.

Finishing

So, that's the paintwork enhanced and fully protected, but it goes without saying that it always pays to add in a few finishing steps here to finish your vehicle to perfection. After all, you don't want any minor imperfections drawing the eye and detracting from your now beautifully enhanced paintwork, right?

Whether that's cleansing the interior with the deadly combo of Total Interior Cleaner and Hide Leather Cleanser, restoring matte plastics with Revive Trim Dressing, or polishing up brightwork, tailpipes and wheel lips with Mercury Metal Polish, what you do next will always depend on the time you have available and how far you'd like to take your detail.

At the very least though - simply to finish off the all-important "full-detailed' look - we'd always recommend dressing your tyres with Satin Tyre Crème or Gloss Tyre Dressing, followed by cleaning your glass inside and out with Crystal Glass Cleaner. Both extremely quick and easy processes, which can make more difference than to the overall finish you might think.

So, this is what can be achieved with just a couple of hours of machine polishing with Tripple and protecting with a wax - one of the all-time great single stage enhancements. We think you'll agree that the results speak for themselves… and it was all pretty easy too, eh?

For much more on the art of machine polishing you can check out our article - The Basic Guide to Machine Polishing.

 


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