6 easy steps to stunning glasslike paint

Photography by David S. Wallens

Showing a car, whether at a national convention or even a local get-together? How’s the paint? It could use some love, right? 

Tim McNair at Grand Prix Concours has been helping us prep our Porsche 911 Carrera for its Radwood appearances. He has prepared some of the world’s finest cars and knows detailing isn’t our life’s work. He hooked us up with a plan that was within our means (meaning it’s fairly idiot-proof.)

[How driving 2 hours can take you back to 1984]

He also had us stick with the Griot’s Garage lineup, so we’d be working with compatible products that are easy to source. Figure about $20 to $30 for each product used. 

Step 1: Quick Detail

Notice that we’re not bucket-washing the car, since that just makes a mess. (This follows Tim’s usual M.O.) To remove any dust and dirt, we grabbed some quick detail and a clean, fluffy microfiber towel, squirting and wiping along the lines of the car.

Step 2: Clay Pad

A clay bar pulls out contaminants from the paint. Lubricate the paint with some quick detail and simply wipe the clay bar over the finish, again working with the lines of the car. Drop that clay bar, though, and it will pick up everything from the ground, rendering it useless. 

So we graduated to Griot’s synthetic clay pad. When necessary, just rinse it in the sink. 

After running the clay bar over each panel–you can feel the coefficient of friction between the pad and paint drop after each pass–we just wiped up any remaining product with another clean, fluffy microfiber towel.

After this step, our paint felt smooth–almost glass-like.

Step 3: Polish

Now to fire up that buffer. We started with a mild polish on a mild pad, but your mileage may vary. We figure it’s better to start on the mild side. 

Place the buffer on the paint and turn it on. Then, just buff each panel, again working with the lines of the car. Wipe off any excess with a clean microfiber towel and go to the next panel. 

Not only could we now see more shine, but we could feel the difference–our paint felt even smoother than before. 

Step 4: Fine Polish

Repeat Step 3 but sub in an even finer polish–and a tick faster buffer speed–for even more shine. Remember what we said earlier about the paint feeling like glass? We were wrong–now it felt like glass.

Step 5: Wax

Time to protect that rejuvenated finish with some wax, and Tim recommended Griot’s Liquid Poly Wax, a synthetic product that would hold up and deliver a deep gloss. 

Remember the misery of waxing a car back in the day? No more. We just wiped on the wax, let it dry, and then buffed off any remainder with a clean microfiber cloth. It was all surprisingly easy. 

Step 6: Ceramic Wax and Done

Tim has recommended Griot’s Ceramic 3-In-1 Wax for our daily drivers because it’s easy to apply and delivers a tough, long-lasting finish. Call this an optional step: After letting the wax sit for a day, we could then apply a coat of Ceramic 3-In-1.

The application process is easy: Spray the wax on the paint, spread it around with a microfiber towel, let the product dry, and then buff to a shine. Plus, the stuff smells good. 

So that was our total paint regimen. It sounds like a lot–six full steps–but in reality, everything went down and came off easily. You can do it over the course of a few evenings.

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aircooled MegaDork
4/27/23 7:59 p.m.

Considering the amount of orange peel in most factory clear coat, I would think the first step would be a nice color sanding.

Yes a buffer will eventually do that, but you are going to remove a lot more paint.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/28/23 9:31 a.m.
aircooled said:

Considering the amount of orange peel in most factory clear coat, I would think the first step would be a nice color sanding.

Yes a buffer will eventually do that, but you are going to remove a lot more paint.

You know, I haven’t had to do that yet. Plus not sure I’d want to do that myself. 

aircooled MegaDork
4/30/23 7:18 p.m.

It's not that big of a deal (you are using VERY light sandpaper), just stay away from the edges.  It's actually far easier to tell what is going on then with a buffer, when you dry off an area, you can see what valleys are left (valleys still shine, ex-peaks are dull).  It is a bit freaky to think you are sanding down the paint, but that is what the buffer / compound is doing also!

It will really make the paint look flat (not dull flat, but non-orange peal flat), because it is.  That is how you get those mirror finishes.  Obviously, no need if there is no orange peal in the paint, but most all do.

12/2/23 2:22 p.m.

If you have an old car, especially one you didn't own from new, I would be VERY careful in color sanding/wet sanding.  I did wet sand spots on a 1987 190E 2.3-16, but I had just had it repainted.  If it's a new car, sure, but anything with some age on it, I'd be careful


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