I spent this weekend working on my car which is obviously nothing new to those reading this post but was chatting a fellow Autopian forum member via telephone and we discussed his new Griot’s RO polisher. He said how much he was enjoying it and told him I hope it proved as reliable as his PC 7424XP.
So I innocently asked him if his paint passed "the plastic bag test" since he was obviously polishing his car. He then tells me he's never done a plastic bag test so he immediately hung up the phone and went out into his garage. Of course, I get a call right back right back saying how horrified he was and that it sounded like he was rubbing his hand across sand paper. Not good. Even worse, he had OptiCoated the hood, front fenders and bumper of the car a few weeks ago and spent a good deal of time polishing and prepping the nose of the car. The OptiCoated sections are by far the worse in terms of bonded contamination. FWIW, none of this contamination is visible and cannot be felt with your bare hands. In fact to your bare hand, the paint fells great. I suspect it’s probably a blend of tree “sap” and environmental fallout which is very prevalent in New England that is the source of his problem, but hey - it's a daily driver. The horizontal panels are the worse of course, doors/vertical panels aren’t too bad according to my friend.
So we've been going round & round for several days about the necessity of getting the paint clean enough to pass the plastic bag test and what are the steps that will assure success. My friend is feeling dejected and frustrated that all his efforts were for nothing, that he's uncertain of what he's going to do going forward. For me it's an easy decision - paint needs to pass the plastic bag test. So please let me share with you my process but in the end, I think everyone decides whether this is important or not. But here's my bottom line, without having a perfectly clean surface, all your doing is sealing in the grit not to mention inhibiting the LSP to truly bond with the paint surface. And yes I know, the contaminates come back almost immediately if it's your daily driver-but I'll get rid of that the next time I seal the paint.
Though no scratchs, rids, or swirls were/are visible on my white A6, I didn't think it was glossy enough though, (which is another post entirely-haha) so here's was what I did:
Washed the car with Ultima Paint Guard Wash, Iron X for decon (these was more red on the ground then on the paint so I must question its value) and Wolfgang clay to get the worse of the contaminants off.
2-3 passes of Ultimate Compound using a LC tangerine hydro tech pad (pc speed @ 6) followed by 2-3 passes with M#205 using a fresh tangerine pad. (pc speed @ 5) This was also the first time I tried the KBM of pad priming & cleaning which really seemed to help matters immensely. I would strongly recommend giving it a try if you haven't done so already.
At this point the paint is looking fantastic but it still does not completely pass the plastic bag test which was shocking to me. Go back to the cabinet and grab some Wolfgang Paint Enhancer with a LC flat white pad and do a small test panel. Just so you know, applied the cleanser like I would a sealant since the paint was so clean. 2-3 moderate to quick passes (pc speed @ 5) did the job. Finally, molten glass. Cleansed the entire car and follow that with a IPA wipe. Surface is now perfect. Crimson pad (pc @ 4) with some DP Poly Coat Sealant w/bonding agent allowing it to sit for 2 hrs and then buff off by hand - wait overnight and do a second coat.
Whether you're doing a 1 or 2 stage polishing job, it's my belief that you will need to cleanse the paint as well. But as part of the Autopian forum discussion, it's been recommended that I switch my clay to Clay Magic Blue which should significantly help matters - which I've already ordered and is on the way. I can only hope that it works and eliminates the cleansing step, but that's yet to be seen and I'm skeptical. If anyone here has a suggestion on how to eliminate the contamination/grit with less work, PLEASE, bring it on!
Anyway, here are some shots of the car finished & grit free. And thanks Nick for all the help, couldn't have done it without you!!