I think that deep down, regardless of how 'function over form' oriented we think we are, there is a little bit of a hard-parker in all of us - and there's nothing wrong with that. There isn't any enthusiast that can deny doing a double-take as they walk away from a parking spot, or feeling a sense of satisfaction when receiving a random complement. One of the most impactful ways to improve the look of any car is to have a clean paint job; however people typically think that you need to spend thousands of dollars on a re-spray to achieve this. Kaval Vilkhu from Make It Shine thinks otherwise.
We spent some time with him has he educated us about paint correction, and showed us how he can easily bring back a vibrant shine to the original 18 year old finish on this tired looking Acura Integra. A paint correction is the perfect alternative to repainting, as you get the look of a fresh paint job, without sacrificing OEM quality.
The very first step is to wash the car, getting rid of any mud, dirt, or dead bugs that managed to get in your way on your daily commute. Kaval uses a two-bucket method, with the first bucket filled with clean water and the second bucket filled with a soap/water solution. He dips the wash mitt in the soapy water first, and then wipes the car down panel by panel, always rinsing the wash mitt in the clean bucket before going back to the soapy bucket. This ensures the soapy water is always clean and contaminant free. Kaval goes the extra step and inserts special grit-guards (which are louvered floors) in both buckets. This attracts dirt particles and locks them to the bottom of the bucket, preventing them from floating around and sticking to the wash mitt. Of course, always make sure that you use soap that is intended for washing cars, that way you don't end up causing more harm than good. Once you're done washing all of the body panels, making sure to work your way from the top of the car to the bottom, you can use a waffle-weave microfiber drying towel to soak up the water. These towels are very absorbent, yet nice and soft to prevent scratching the paint.
Before beginning our correction process, we must first decontaminate the surface from any particles that are embedded in the paint. Kaval starts off by applying an iron decontamination solution with a spray bottle, which quickly dissolved a lot of hidden grime on what previously looked like a clean panel. He explained that a large amount of what we were seeing is actually embedded brake dust, which is likely caused from years of running race compound brake pads.
A quick pass with a clay-bar and clay-bar lubricant picks up whatever the iron decontamination left behind. The final step of decontamination is to go over the entire surface with some isopropyl alcohol. This removes any polymers in the clay-bar lubricant that may affect how the compound works.
The paint correction process begins by applying tape to any trim pieces, protecting them from staining or damage that may occur when working with a rotary polisher. Once that is done, it's time to start with some compounding. This is where majority of the paint defects (such as light scratches and swirl marks) are cured. Using a rotary polisher and an aggressive compound, a microscopic layer of paint is actually removed along with the defects. This is where the expertise of a professional becomes important, because the paint on every vehicle is different. A skillful detailer with a keen eye can tell what defects are fixable, what defects are permanent, how soft the paint is, and overall how aggressive they can go without causing any damage. Caution also needs to be taken at the edge of the panels, because that is where the paint is the thinnest.
Kaval only compounded the right side off the hood, just so we could see the difference that the compounding step of paint correction can make. It's amazing to see the gloss that can be restored, considering only moments ago this hood looked like a pink chalkboard!
Although compounding can revive a vehicles finish by removing swirls and defects, the abrasiveness of the compound itself can leave its own form of defects (which looks like a slight haze). This requires another step of correction, which is where polish comes into play. Polishing is a less abrasive form of compounding, and while it does not remove defects, it's aggressive enough to remove the haze that is left after compounding. After polishing, the correction process is completed with a finishing polish. If you think of paint correction like sanding wood, you start off with some coarse grit sand paper and work your way towards a smooth fine grit paper. The finishing polish is the finest of fine grit, leveling out your vehicles finish to the smoothest of smooth.
A wash followed by an isopropyl alcohol wipe is done to remove any polish residue and dust from the vehicles finish, prepping the surface for its final coating application.
The main purpose of applying a coating is to increase gloss and add protection. This is the step that gives you that 'wow factor', as well as prevents the swirls and scratches from slowly recurring. A good paint coating also makes the car easier to wash, and helps the paint stay cleaner for longer. Kaval recommended a CQuartz UK paint coating on our Integra, as it's known for its high gloss and extreme levels of protection - which is exactly what we wanted on a daily driven track car.
With the paint correction complete, it would be a disgrace to continue rolling on the stock wheels and tires, so they were tossed aside for some XXR's wrapped in Dunlop Direzza Z1's.
Photos do not do justice to the level of paint correction that this Integra has received, and in person this car not only looks 10 years newer, but if your run your hand across the finish, it's as smooth as glass. In order to keep it looking this good, you would just need to make sure that you wash the car regularly using the two-bucket method and a sheep skin wool wash mitt, as well as dry it with either a leaf blower or a waffle weave microfiber drying towel. Also make sure to avoid any automatic cloth car washes, or the coin-op's with that big old dirty brush
Taking on a project like this is not beyond the scope of the everyday enthusiast; however nothing beats the skilled work of an industry professional.