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Old 10-25-2021, 12:00 AM   #1
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cut & polish

In the Consumers R Us thread, I mentioned that I got a Rupes Bigfoot LHR 15 Mark III recently, which is a super nice random orbital dual-action polisher, and that I was waiting for pads, product and weekend availability to arrive. Pads and product arrived during the week and my time and the car were both available on Saturday, so, party!

The paint on the 2004 E46 325i I bought for my daughter early this summer was kind of on the rough side. Lots of scratches, etching, blemishes, chips, etc. Since I'd never used a polisher before, I figured it would be a good first car to see how it would go. Pics and maybe video later today or tomorrow, I hope.

Background & Summary

I've watched way too many Youtube videos in the past few months and had a pretty good idea of what my plan was going to be: Wash the car, clay it, wash it again, use an IPA/prep solution, mask trim, take paint meter readings, use the polisher, wash it a third time, check paint meter readings, and apply a sealant (funny thing: Sonax PNS goes on and comes off the E46 way easier than the Camaro). I also wound up cleaning the windows because they were filthy. I started at 9:30am and was finished, had the stuff all cleaned up and put away, showered, and sitting on the couch with a small snack and drink by the time Saturday Night Live started.

If I were to do it again tomorrow, I think I'd easily save at least two hours by it not being the first time, and taking too many pics. I probably also spent over an hour total doing other stuff (lunch, dinner, other 2 minute breaks, etc) throughout the day. Better lighting in my garage would also help a lot. I can't quantify the-surely-not-unsubstantial-but-unknown time I spent futzing with handheld lighting that I could have saved if I only had to move my head little instead. I also spent about 90 minutes applying masking tape and nearly 30 minutes removing it, so definitely time to save there.

The results are…mixed? The paint is definitely glossier and the paint looked pretty great in the sun today from 10 feet away. But, up close or in the garage last night with bright point lighting, The pre-existing etchings, blemishes, and heavier (but not that heavy) scratches were still mostly present. I don't know how much was me doing things wrong (moving too fast, not making enough passes, using too much or too little product, other bad technique) and how much may have been not using the appropriate product.


The products I got were all part of Rupes (relatively) new DA system. A little more than a year ago, they introduced DA Coarse, DA Fine, and two DA Ultra Fine compounds/polishes with matching wool and foam pads. Everything I saw about these, people were raving about how great they all were, so I figured that would be a decent place to start. What I haven't found is a comparison between DA Coarse and well known cutting compounds which makes it a little tough to set expectations.

The DA Ultra Fine products are polishes, with one being an all-in-one that also includes some fillers and a sealant or wax type thing. Neither have any real cut and the pads are only foam and really soft. The DA Fine is kind of supposed to kind of all purpose that has a good bit of cut and finishes nicely enough to not need a polishing step after. The DA Coarse has more cut and can finish well enough to not need a polish after for many paints, but some paints, particularly darker colors, will probably need a polish. Fine and Coarse each have their own wool and foam pads so you can tune cut (wool cuts more than foam).


I got a bottle of each product (well, there are two Ultra Fine products and I only got one) and six foam pads. Obviously, moving to a wool pad would be one change. My test spot was with the DA Fine product/pad and it clearly wasn't doing enough, so I went with the more aggressive DA Coarse. That left some holograms and a little bit of haze which I expected. So, I did the car again with the DA Fine product. I thought about using the Ultra Fine, but with the amount of defects still in the paint, I wanted to try to get a little more cut with the Fine. Like I said, the results are mixed.

It definitely looks better. Like I said, it's glossier…by a lot. Still tons of visible scratches that I would think should "buff out" and the etching, oh boy, the etching. If making the car look better mattered to me, wet sanding might be needed…or it may be so far gone that it needs a repaint. The goal was to learn and I think I learned that what I did yesterday didn't really work for something this rough. I do think what I did last night will be more than enough for the Camaro. I'm not quite sure where the RAV4 will fall. It's closer to the Camaro in terms of condition, but has some spots of concern.

What I'm wondering is if I want to get some wool pads and/or other product and try again on the E46 (or, better yet, find a body shop to give me a couple tossed panels that I can practice with).

Since the paint meter readings were essentially the same before and after, I imagine I still have as much clear to cut through, so it's not like I blew my chance with the car.

Oh, the polisher itself… it's a substantial unit. Everything about it feels great and like it was made to do this all day. I don't really have anything to compare it to, but it didn't feel particularly vibratey. It was louder than I would have liked (as in silent), but much quieter than expected. Other hand shapes might not have as much an issue, but, the one thing that feels like it could use some improving is the trigger lock button could be designed in such a way to make it a little easier to ensure it's pressed when holding at an odd angle.

Looking forward to getting better with this. Going through the process was pretty enjoyable. It would have been nicer if it was an eight hour thing rather than 14, but I do think the next time will be significantly quicker.
OH NOES!!!!!1 MY CAR HAS T3H UND3R5T33R5555!!!!!!1oneone!!!!11

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