View Full Version : Dealing with crazy hard paint or, Don't believe everything you read on the Interwebs!

Michael Stoops
Apr 2nd, 2012, 09:23 AM
OK, as Admin of MOL I don't normally post threads of projects that I work on when I'm "off duty" but I thought this one was different. You see, we often read on this and other detailing forums about how hard the paint on certain types of cars is or isn't, how frustrating it is or how easy it is to work on. Yet it seems that we always find a major contradiction to those anecdotal accounts, and this case was indeed just that. But not in a good way!!!

For example: We regularly hear about how crazy hard the paint on C6 Corvettes is, yet at a Saturday Class a couple of years ago we were presented with a very bad bird dropping etch mark that the owner had struggled to make any progress with. We knocked it down with two passes of Ultimate Compound and a W8207 foam pad on a G110v2, which tells us that the paint on this car wasn't all that terribly hard. You can see evidence of this here. (http://www.meguiarsonline.com/forums/showthread.php?44870-Pictures-from-August-21st-2010-Saturday-Open-Class) Another brand we often hear of with crazy hard paint is Audi, but again we've seen factory paint on these cars to be pretty darn easy to correct, even with some serious defects in the paint. Specifically, the 2011 TT that was horribly swirled by the dealer yet we cleaned it up beautifully, and very easily, with the same process as noted above. You can see that here. (http://www.meguiarsonline.com/forums/showthread.php?51205-Pictures-from-July-23rd-2011-Saturday-Open-Class) We had a similar situation with a 2011 S5 a few months prior to working on that TT. So, a couple of examples of cars notorious for extremely hard paint where we've encountered examples that were anything but. Those are nice situations to have because you end up getting the job done much faster than you thought you would, based on those preconceived notions about the paint. Mercedes Benz is also mentioned frequently when discussions about "hard paint" come up, yet we've worked on plenty of M-Bs with very workable, and even fairly delicate, paint.

But what happens when the opposite situation confronts you? When everything you've read said the paint is a breeze to work on but the car sitting in front of you just doesn't want to respond, no matter what? Case in point: we've heard that the 3 Series BMW (E90, fifth gen models) in non metallic black is a piece of cake to work on, and we've even seen the E90 3 Series owned by MOL member "smack" (AKA Mike) in Las Vegas and it looked darn near flawless. He tells us that he achieved near perfection with nothing more aggressive than SwirlX on a G110v2. That's a very mild process, and it tells us the paint is far from hard. Knowing what the paint looked like before Mike corrected it, we know that paint is very easy to work with. And we've heard the exact same thing from others with similar late model 3 Series BMWs. But the one we had to deal with on Saturday had what proved to be some of the hardest, most correction resistant paint we've ever encountered.

So, after that long intro, here are some shots of the car before and after correction, along with a description of how we got to the end result.

Let's start with the easy part first (as it turned out) - the wheels. The owner had picked the car up at the dealer the day before after having some mechanical needs dealt with, and the dealer washed the car. The wheels were reasonably clean, but not what they could be, so a little Wheel Brightener was called for. You can barely see the lug bolts hidden in the caked on brake dust in the bolt holes.

OK, that was simple.

Now for some claying following a wash. This was pulled from just half of the small trunk lid.

In the garage under diffuse light, the car doesn't look all that bad.

But throw some light on the center of the hood and this is what you get. That's not pretty at all. Remember, going on what we've read online about the relative hardness of this paint, this still didn't seem like it was going to present a huge challenge.

The trunk lid. Yep, that's pretty swirled, but the Interwebs will tell you this paint is pretty easy to correct, so no worries, right?

The driver's side front fender. Pretty indicative of what the entire car looked like.

And then there was this: the owners swears she did NOT place her purse on the hood and then drag it off, but someone sure did something similar to create these horrible scratches!

Now here's where things got interesting, then frustrating, and then kind of fun.

Obviously the deep scratches on the hood would require some wet sanding to remove, if they could be removed fully, but getting a feel for the paint first was more important than just busting out the sanding discs. Saving the sanding process for a bit later, we started with the anecdotal evidence of easily workable paint and did a test spot with Ultimate Compound, a W8207 pad, and the G110v2. A solid 5% reduction in swirls was all that resulted. Hmmmmm........ that's no good; looks like a step up to the DA Microfiber System is in order. After all, the DAMF System just loves hard paint. So, some D300 and a DMC5 microfiber pad and.............. not much. :( Wow, that was unexpected. Maybe if we really put some serious pressure on the tool and work a very small area? OK, better, but "better" is a relative term and at this rate it would take 3 or 4 days to correct the car since the progress was still really, really slow. So, ditch the D300 and throw on some M105. Nope. Oh, sure, it was still "better" but the goal was not a 50% reduction in the swirls. Seriously, look at those pix above! Remove half of that mess and you've still got a mess. That's just not going to be acceptable. And just what the heck happened to all this talk about this paint being such a breeze to work on??????

To paraphrase Chief Martin Brody in the movie "Jaws" - you're gonna need a bigger hammer!

If nothing on the DA is even close to getting the job done, that means a step up to the rotary is in order. So, out came the rotary and a foam polishing pad to start. A little M105, dial in about 1400 rpm, and get to it. OK, progress. But still not a lot. Come on!! Seriously??? What is BMW using in this paint - diamond dust?? Enough of stepping up incrementally, let's just pull out all the stops - wool. 1800 rpm. M105. Go for it! (In case you can't tell, this is the where the little bit of frustration came in to play!!)

Now, there are other things to think about when reaching for that level of power:

you're going to make a bit of a mess, and that will take extra time to clean up.
you're going to have to follow with an intermediate step to remove any light holograms that might come about from the wool pad
knowing (now) how stinkin' hard this paint is, you start to wonder how difficult it might be to remove any holograms that might show up
you have no clue at this point whether you're going to have light holograms (easy enough to deal with, hopefully) or if the paint is going to respond badly to the wool/rotary and hologram like the Haunted House at Disneyland, which would be no fun at all to deal with on this crazy paint

But, as luck would have it, this crazy paint didn't like the wool pad at all. It didn't like the WWHC7 Wool Cutting pad from the So1o line. It didn't like the W5000 double sided wool pad. It didn't like the Purple Foamed Wool pad from Lake Country. Apparently this paint has an aversion to sheep. :huh1 Oh, the wool pads, all of them, removed the swirls without leaving any noticeable holograms, although it was a bit difficult to tell that for sure because the wool left a huge amount of very fine, closely bunched little swirls of its own. Wool gave the paint an amazingly horrible uniform grayness from a distance, and up close it looked like you hadn't quite pulled out all of your sanding marks - except there were no sanding marks at this point! Speaking of sanding, remember those scratches on the hood? Those need to be sanded to remove, right? But you then need to remove the sanding marks, and at this point that doesn't sound like any fun at all.

There is one thing left to try, however, and that is a foam cutting pad on the rotary with M105. Technically a step backward in aggressiveness from the wool pads, at least it shouldn't (fingers crossed) cause the super fine swirls that the wool did. Having encountered that situation before on other cars, at least it was a positive in this mess of negatives (fingers crossed :chuckle1). Now, that foam pad may not cut quite as fast as a wool pad, but it can create a whole bunch of heat a whole lot faster than the wool pads will. So how aggressive to go? A test spot (yep, another one) at 1400 rpm looked good. Really good. At 1800 rpm it was great, as long as a bit more pressure than normal was used. But pressure on a foam cutting pad spinning at 1800 rpm on a rotary can be a very dangerous thing. Easy to avoid, right? Just move the pad a bit quicker. But that can lead to nasty holograms. OK, then, move a bit quicker but keep that pad super flat to the paint? Sure, piece of cake. :laughing

But you know what? It worked. And it worked like a charm. It was one of those "Bingo!!" moments when everything just came together. The paint looked darn near crystal clear in one go. It was like a switch was flipped or some magic door was opened. It was nutty. But it worked.

Of course, there was still the issue of those scratches on the hood. So, out came the Unigrit 1500 grit finishing disc and a foam interface pad on the G110v2, followed by a Unigrit 3000 grit finishing disc. The scratches were almost completely gone, but there was no sense in going totally overboard here since paint thickness readings showed that this was about as far as you should go. Removal of the sanding marks revealed almost total removal of the scratches, so now it was time to attack the whole car and get this job done.

So then, the process ended up being this (minus all the test spots and experimentation, of course!):

M105, W7207 foam cutting pad, rotary at 1800 rpm
wash/dry (lots of dust from the M105)
M205, W8207 foam polishing pad, G110v2 at speed 4
Gold Class Carnauba Plus, W9207 foam finishing pad at speed 3 on the G110v2

The final results? Are you still reading this? Hopefully you're learning something, too!

Here's that corner of the hood that had all those nasty scratches.

Look really close and you can just make out the deepest remnants of those scratches. Sometimes you have to draw the line and just stop. Not everything can be safely corrected and you should never feel bad about leaving something behind, especially when removing the defect means severely compromising the overall long term health of the paint. Total paint removal in this area was between 0.3 and 0.4 mil and that's pushing it.

The center of the hood, throwing some auxiliary lighting on it.

The trunk lid.

And two views of the whole car, all finished up and back to what a black BMW should look like.


So, the moral of the story is, just as the title of this thread says, "Don't believe everything you read on the Interwebs!"

:teachAs a detailer you need to be able to think on your feet; you need to be able to read the paint; you need to be able to adapt. The more cars you work on, the more challenges you're going to be faced with. Develop your skill set, never stop learning, and never stop thinking about what's happening. Take your time and respond to the challenge, don't just react. The net result, at the end of the day, is a car with beautiful paint and the satisfaction that you overcame a difficult challenge and still obtained the result you were after. A project like this, exhausting as it, should leave you feeling really good about your abilities instead of just really annoyed at how much of a pain in the backside the project was.

Apr 2nd, 2012, 10:26 AM
Wow, what a story.

Absolutely amazing write up, Mike. :notworthy

Probably I would have thrown a towel after a wool cutting pad and recommend a fresh paint job on that car. :chuckle1

A lot can be learned from this article how tricky car paints can be. Great points about limits on full defect removal without sacrificing a clear coat protection.

Apr 2nd, 2012, 10:29 AM
Definitely a good read. I wasn't even thinking about thinking ahead like you were, for example, when thinking how hard it would be to remove holograms or sanding marks. This is a good reminder to always think ahead of time, no matter what you're doing.

Apr 2nd, 2012, 11:29 AM
Great stuff Mike! I think much of the "vehicle X has hard paint" came about a number of years ago, when we only had go to products like M83/M80. On my vette those products would leave pigtails and a slightly hazing finish. M80 at slow speed got rid of most. Since then Meguiars has done an amazing job of creating new products like M105/M205 and the microfiber system (Thank you Jason!) which makes paint correction easier.
I think the main lesson to learn from your write up is....Practice with test spots and there is not just one combination that works on vehicle X. You need to have lots of tools in your arsenal and don't be affraid to experiment.

Markus Kleis
Apr 2nd, 2012, 11:55 AM
Great thread. I have had so many of these moments it isn't even funny. This is why I always bring my full arsenal when working on a car for the first time - you never know what you will run into.

Apr 2nd, 2012, 12:27 PM
Amazing write-up Mike!!! I can't believe that you were able to incorporate a lesson into a detailing show off thread!! You documented the process very well and showed great before and after shots. It's like I'm reading a very well written novel.

Oh yeah, great job on the E90 too!!! The paint looks so slick!

Apr 3rd, 2012, 04:41 PM

Thank you for taking the time to write up this extraordinary experience. It created mixed feelings. One, an "oh wow" even Mike experiences unusual and difficult paint corrections and two, "oh no" similar to what Greg said, I'd been calling the owner and breaking some bad news and feeling pretty inadequate. Not having the experience, tools or supplies to perform an adequate correction.

Lately I was beginning to think I could envision my work flow by examining the swirls. Soft, almost fuzzy swirls would mean a delicate clear coat and hard, pronounced swirls that looked like scratches cut in glass with a diamond would mean a hard clear coat. So products and procedures on test spot would be based on this preliminary evaluation. But no....

Once again the master has shown the grasshopper, all is not as it may seem. Thanks for this excellent visual lesson.

Apr 11th, 2012, 02:48 PM
What the heck Mike???!!!! This has gone against everything I have learned of Jet Black on a BMW. Both of my black BMW's clean up really well with of the shelf products such as UC, SwirlX, and UP. I cant believe the curveball this car threw at you.

This is a great lesson that should be stickied for all to read.

Michael Stoops
Apr 12th, 2012, 03:36 PM
I cant believe the curveball this car threw at you.

After having seen how gorgeous your car looked when we met at Barrett-Jackson in Vegas a couple of years ago, and knowing that you got it that way with just SwirlX (and knowing what it looked like when you started!) it came as a huge shock when even the DAMF System did very little to correct this car. And people wonder why we make so many different products!!!!

Apr 13th, 2012, 11:09 AM
Thanks for sharring Mr.Mike... Very useful sharing indeed..
Now i have much muuuuuuch more to learn :)

Apr 29th, 2012, 09:31 PM
this explains a lot. i have a customer with a 740i, and i have absolutely hated her paint. she has a few scratches that are just to the point where i did throw in the towel and simply explained to her a repaint type correction may be needed. very similar to this story, and of course black in color. i did use foam wool on rotary even, and it honestly didnt even look all too touched until i waxed.

Jun 26th, 2012, 06:40 PM
when u fail try try again, and again, and again, and again, and again .. ..... i love it ridiculous write up! THANKSSSSS

Jan 21st, 2013, 08:21 PM
I had one a few weeks ago, 98 M3, and was having a hard time getting the paint to respond. Mike knows I am not a rotary guy, D/A only for me. Test spots and different products and different pads ( I even called the 800 number trying to be not recognized and Nick guessed who I was right off the bat (failure on my part ). Went through a reality check with Nick. What got me over the hump was some new cutting pads. I ended up tossing my older pads and life was good again. Not to say I'm glad you had a tough time or anything, But I sure feel better now that a pro has confessed that they sometimes have a hard time also. LOL TNOG is coming soon!!!!!!

Top Gear
Mar 4th, 2014, 10:51 AM
Reading this thread again, and great write-up! I have the same problem of hard paint. On a test spot, I've done up to 12 passes with the PC DA at around 4 with MG Soft Buff 6.5" burgundy cutting pad, Ultimate Compound and/or ScratchX, to no avail. It's like I did nothing at all but remove the wax. Since my perma-swirls have built up to look like the starting shots above, I'll be trying M105 with the PC DA speed setting maxed out ;)