Deatailer Education - January 2008

Advanced Polishing Systems:
One-Liquid Polishing
By Ed Terwilliger

They said it couldn’t be done, but it has. From concept to perfection, it only took 10 years and is now ready for all paint finishes. From sand scratches to micro scratches to finished show car shine, you can now use a single liquid product — that’s correct only one liquid product — to produce a magnificent finish in every circumstance.

Until now the method of polishing paint typically involved using three different products with three different pads. That meant a separate clean up after each process to eliminate all of the previous products, and not contaminate the next step. This takes time, lots of time, and since time is money, eliminating steps and saving time equals money in your pocket.


The single-liquid systems on the market today — I know of seven — use several technologies in the chemical blending process including nano technology. A one-liquid system is a uniquely engineered product that adjusts the aggressiveness of the cut for defect removal by pad selection instead of product selection. A more aggressive pad will remove larger defects and a less aggressive finishing pad will remove finer scratches and achieve a final, high-luster, scratch-free, show-car finish.

These systems are simple to use. There is no cross contamination of compound and polish to worry about, no cleanup in between buffing operations, and confusion over which product to use is reduced. This saves time and gets results with fewer steps, fewer products, and less labor. Efficiency is greatly improved, and the process offers the same results as a quality multi-liquid system.


How is it possible? The concept is simple: Eliminate as many variables in the paint polishing process as possible. Eliminate the clean up steps between each of the buffing operations that use a different product. Eliminate the technician’s selection of which product to use. Eliminate the hassles of training new personnel by using just one product. Eliminate the use of multiple pads. In some cases, only one pad is needed, which means you have eliminated two pads and two polishing steps. When used properly, some one-liquid products will eliminate the need to use conventional compounds, polishes, glazes, or swirl removers.

So what’s next, how do you go from scratches to scratchless? That’s easy. Use a wool pad for the most aggressive cutting action and use a soft-foam finishing pad to eliminate swirls. Use in-between pads as needed. Depending on the degree of imperfection you are trying to get rid of, two will generally do and in some cases one pad can do it all.

Most of these systems were designed for the paint-and-body-shop industry for use on fresh paint to eliminate 2000 grit or less sand scratches in top-coat (clear-coat) sanding. It is also important to mention that today’s paints have a “user-friendly” window of opportunity for effective polishing, usually within 72 hours of application. After 72 hours the paint becomes more difficult to work with. Another feature of some of these new polishing systems is that they work even after the “window” has passed. Some systems work faster than others. Some only work on fresh paint, and some will remove 1000 grit sand scratches. You will have to do your homework in order to find the one that is right for you.

I have been working with these new systems for some time now and I would strongly recommend that you investigate them for use in your own operation. I have greatly reduced my completion time and efforts when doing complete paint polish jobs. Now that I have eliminated most of the various compounds, polishes, swirl removers, and glazes, not to mention all the pads that were labeled for specific products, I have room for other items in my supply cabinets.

May the shine be with you.

Ed Terwilliger is detail and recon instructor at Cypress College in Cypress, CA. He has been an educator for over 36 years, at both the high school and community college levels. For the past 20 years, he has taught automotive detailing and reconditioning. Ed has been actively involved in association activities for many years and also operated his own automotive refinishing, customizing, and restoration business for over 12 years. You can contact him at (714) 504-1557 or via e-mail at


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