Last weekend at Tarn Aeluin, I slaved away for about 7 hours trying to get the shine back on my 2011 BMW X5. Results? Mediocre. Time to kick it up a notch with a set of Pinnacle products and a Porter Cable X424HD polisher from autogeek.net. My X5 is in decent shape, but with miles and shopping carts it has quite a few battle scars that simple clay and wax just can’t fix no matter how hard you try. Can my new tools help me out?
The Vehicle and the Problem
A few years back we went down to the Jersey shore. Great fun, salt, sand, sun…and a quick rain storm. By the time I thought about it the salt and rain combined to form serious water marks. At this time the car was only 2 years old and really these water marks were horrible.
Last weekend I decided to try again and get rid of these. Pinnacle Bodywash, Paintwork Cleansing Lotion, Meguiar’s Clay Bar, followed up by Klasse All-InOne, Klasse HiGloss, and Pinnacle Souveran Carnauba wax. That is a crap ton of work! The results were – meh – ok. 7 hours of work. From a distance everything looks ok, but up close there’s issues, check it out:
Those are some serious spots. You can feel them when you move your finger over them. I’ve tried everything to get rid of them, but I think the issue is that somehow the clearcoat was actually etched by the combination of heat, sun, salt, and rain. I did some reading up and it seems this is the case. There are three classifications of water spot damage and what I have is somewhere between type 2 and 3. The only way to fix this is with a polisher.
Picking a Polisher
I’ve always found the Pinnacle products to be great so I first turned to their sites at Pinnacle and www.autogeek.net for products and advice. They have a ton of great videos, links, and how-to articles. I also looked out at the obvious sites like Mothers and Meguiars. Consensus was that the Porter Cable X424HD Dual Action polisher/buffer was the best for someone like me (a non-professional with moderate experience). Autogeek (really, I don’t work there – lol) had a great deal for a kit that included all the basics so I went for that. They also had the HD version that has a very long cord.
This is a pretty nice kit that includes pads for a variety of tasks, some cloths, and a couple of different polishes. I tacked on the big jugs of shampoo and Crystal Mist. The kit came with the cutting pads I really needed: an orange closed cell light cut, a blue ultra light cut, and a red wax/sealant pad. The kit included Pinnacle’s Advanced Swirl Remover (also great for water spots) and their Finish Polish. Perfect – and a decent price.
3 Stages to a Better Finish
I have to admit that doing this makes me nervous. I’ve always been a manual “wax on wax off” guy. Using a machine to grind off clearcoat or paint is kinda scary. I’m going to approach this very carefully and go with the absolute minimum “cut” that works. I’ll start the whole process with a fresh wash of the whole car – remember I just clayed, sealed, and waxed last weekend.
Stage 1: I’m going to concentrate today on the front region of the car, where the water damage is the worst and most visible. I’ll start with the Pinnacle Swirl Remover and a CCS Orange pad. Running the X424HD at the 4 position I’ll apply the material in 2×3 foot rectangles. On the pad I basically squirted a circle of stuff around the edge, but about 3/4 of an inch in from the edge. Squirt the stuff on the pad and then apply the pad to the car and mush it a bit before turning it on – or you will splatter all over the place.
I went back and forth about 12 times, varying my pattern as described on various sites. I did go back over a few places, but the results were pretty encouraging.
That’s quite a difference! For the most part the spots are gone. I can still see some, but really this is quite a big improvement. The next step was to go up to Pinnacle Finishing Polish.
Stage 2: I used a blue CCS pad next that still had a finishing cut along with Pinnacle’s Finishing Polish. Pretty much the same procedure as before, with a lower speed on the X424HD. Pretty simple once you get the hang of it.
Stage 3 is of course ending this with Liquid Souveran wax applied with a red no cut pad. You can wax up a car in like 10 minutes and then buff it off – pretty sweet. the results are below. I am impressed. I had a buffer before – it sucked. This kit is amazing and my car is looking brand new – better than new. just amazing! Some final pics below. I was trying to show how all those spots are gone and there is absolutely zero swirl or scratch marks.
Liquid vs. the paste. I prefer the paste. Next time I might just go with the manual wax. Souveran goes on so easy and I think the paste might be better than the liquid. Hard to tell.
I’m very happy with this outcome. I’ll do the rest of the car tomorrow. Very easy to do and the buffer really did work quite well. Don’t push down on it, keep it moving, vary your patterns, and stick to small rectangles.