Detailing Glossary – A Guide to Terms Used in Vehicle Detailing

Abrasive: Natural or synthetic materials in a polishing compound to remove scratches and imperfections on paint or clearcoat by abrading the layer.

APC: All Purpose Cleaner, such as G3 Pro Multicleaner, suitable for cleaning the interior upholstery and trim through to engine bays, wheel arches etc.

Applicator: Used to apply compound, sealants and waxes by hand or machine – usually made from foam, wool or microfibre.

Backing Plate: The removable plate on a polishing machine which an applicator pad is attached to by velcro. Backing plates come in different sizes to accommodate different pad sizes.

Beading: Small balls, or beads, of water that form on a paint surface caused by protective hydrophobic coatings such as a wax or sealant.

Carnauba: The hardest natural wax, from the carnauba palm in Brazil, used mainly in paste waxes to provide a protective coating providing water beading and enhanced gloss. Naturally a yellowish product, multiple layers on a light coloured vehicle can diminish clarity.

Ceramic Coating: A liquid polymer that creates a semi-permanent layer of protection on top of the paintwork.

Clay: Using a clay bar or clay mitt is rubbed across lubricated paintwork to physically remove stubborn, bonded contaminants such as iron, tar, tree sap leaving paint feeling smooth and ready for further restoration or protection.

Clear Coat: Applied on top of the base coat, to provide gloss and protection. On older vehicles (pre-2000) you may find the paintwork is only a single stage i.e. no clear coat.

Contamination: Particles on your vehicle’s surface including natural contaminants such as bugs, bird droppings and tree sap to industrial contaminants such as iron, exhaust particles and brake dust.

Compound: Used in detailing terms to suggest a more aggressive polish for significant defect removal. A rubbing compound would typically need to be followed by a second step – whether a less aggressive pad or polishing compound to refine the surface.

Contact Wash: Washing the car making physical contact with the surface with a wash mitt. The aim is to remove as much grit and grime from the surface ahead of making contact with the vehicle which could result in particles being rubbed across the surface.

DA/Dual Action Polisher: Also known as a random orbital, a Dual Action polisher, spins the backing plate in a circular motion combined with an off-centred fixing creating very small circular motions – similar to that of hand polishing.

Detailing: Thoroughly cleaning a vehicle, typically with an element of paint correction, via glazes or abrasives, and protection via ceramics, sealants or waxes, to bring the vehicle to an as new or better than new condition.

Fillers: Temporarily hide minor imperfections such as swirls providing a quick finish that will diminish over a few weeks. G3 Pro products such as Scratch Remover or Cut & Wax provide a permanent finish.

Foam Lance: Recommended for applying snow foam, a foam lance provides an adjustable dilution ratio and fan spread applying foaming products such as snow foam or G3 Pro Multicleaner.

Wash Mitt: Used for washing a vehicle in place of a sponge. Made from Lambs Wool or microfibre, the longer pile of a wash mitt draws dirt particles further away from the surface compared to a sponge.

Glaze: A non-abrasive coating, which uses oils to temporarily fill minor imperfections and enhance gloss. Unlike a wax, a glaze is breathable making them suitable for application to fresh paintwork which may still have solvents gassing off.

Grit Guard: Vents which sit at the bottom of a bucket, designed to trap dirt and grit rinsed off a wash mitt and prevent them from being picked up again.

Hazing: As the solvents in a wax which help make the wax easier to apply evaporate, the film of wax on the surface turns white, or hazes, as the liquid content lessens. Once hazed the surface is ready for buffing.

Holograms: Microscopic surface damage, sometimes called buffer trails, caused by uneven surface abrasion when using compound which results in a holographic appearance on the surface.

Layering: Applying multiple coats of a product(s) to give the desired effect. Multiple layers of wax can help increase durability. Layering a wax over a sealant can add warmth and gloss to a glassy, durable sealant.

Marring: Minor surface damage typically caused by claying the surface. The physical, abrasive nature of using clay to remove contaminants, can cause lines of imperfections in the same direction. A light polish will typically resolve the issue.

Microfibre: Synthetic fibre cloths developed for drying, applying and buffing the vehicle surface with the minimal of damage.

Orange Peel: A wavy texture seen within the paint is orange peel. At best this can be removed with a cutting compound. In more severe cases wet sanding or even a re-spray will be needed to remedy the issue.

Rotary Polisher: A polishing machine that spins the applicator pad at a given RPM, without the additional movement of a DA.

Sealant: A typically synthetic protective coating for a vehicle that provides more durable protection than a wax with the advantage of coating glass (except windscreen) and trim too. Apply a sealant before a wax.

Sheeting: Another water behaviour exhibited by protected paint surfaces, resulting in the water running off in sheets, rather than forming beads.

Single Stage Paint: Prior to 2000s vehicles were typically finished without a clear coat on top of the base coat (the coloured paint). Polishing single stage paint you will see paint transfer to the pad, which is normal but, as always, be mindful of any paint depths that you have available to work with.

Snow Foam: Unlike a car shampoo, snow foam is designed to be sprayed on the surface via a foam lance and left to dwell. Snow foaming a car softens and loosens dirt to remove as much as possible ahead of a contact wash.

Swirl Marks: Light scratches seen in the surface under sunlight, or the lights at a petrol station can cover the paintwork. Caused by poor washing techniques and improper tools

Two Bucket Method: Also known as a safe wash, using one bucket for the shampoo solution and another bucket for rinsing the wash mitt in between shampoo applications. This reduces the amount of dirt, removed by the wash mitt, being reapplied to the vehicle causing paint damage.

Water Spots: If left to dry on the surface, as water evaporates, mineral deposits can be left behind, bonding to the surface requiring removal via a clay mitt.

Wax: Available in liquid and paste formats, waxes can be natural – containing carnauba, synthetic – containing man-made polymers or a hybrid – containing both. A spray wax is a quick way to top-up protection without the intensive re-application of a paste wax.

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