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  1. #1
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    1-Step vs 3-Steps

    1-Step versus 3-Step Process by Hand

    This is a quick comparison of the kind of results you can get from using a one-step Cleaner/Wax, (also called an AIO or All-In-One product), as compared to a multi-step process using a dedicated compound, followed by a dedicated polish followed by a dedicated finishing wax.

    For this write-up, I needed an older daily driver with a thrashed, swirl-out clear coat finish. While black cars always work the best I found a medium colored 1998 Saturn SW2 with lots of swirls and scratches.

    For this comparison I'm going to use Meguiar's ColorX, a strong non-abrasive one-step cleaner/wax for one section and for a second section I'm going to use a 3-Step approach using Ultimate Compound, followed by SwirlX, followed by NXT Tech Wax.

    For the one-step section I'll apply the ColorX twice, working the product over the paint firmly using Meguiar's Even Coat Microfiber Applicator pad. In most cases you would let a cleaner/wax dry before removing but because I'm going to apply it twice, the first application will be wiped off immediately and only the second application will be left to dry. In essence, I'm using the first application of the cleaner/wax like I would use a paint cleaner to really clean the paint. Since I'm going to follow this with a second application there's no reason to let the first application dry as the second application will simply remove any protection ingredients deposited in the first application. Since I'll be stopping after the second application, I'll let the second application dry.

    For the multiple-step section I'll use Ultimate Compound and apply it aggressively twice, followed by SwirlX applied firmly to start with and then lessening my pressure towards the end of the application of this product. Then I'll follow this with a thin coat of NXT Tech Wax.

    After letting both waxes dry sufficiently, we'll wipe the dried reside off and then pull the car out into the sun and snap some after shots.

    Before even doing this I can tell you what you're going to see.

    The ColorX side will still have a lot of swirls and scratches but the paint will be more clear and as a result you'll be able to see the color of the paint as well as the metallic flakes. It will also be smoother and thus glossier.

    The Multi-Step side will look much better, there will be a dramatic reduction in the amount of swirls and scratches and the clarity, depth and shine will be better.

    The point of this is that in most cases you'll always get better results when working on a neglected finish by breaking up the polishing process into dedicated steps. That is using a dedicated swirl and scratch remover to first remove the below surface defects. Follow this with a less aggressive product to further refine the results achieved by the first step, and then afterwards locking in the shine with a protective coating of wax or paint sealant.

    While the multi-step approach will yield better end-results, the one-step approach will still dramatically improve the appearance of the paint. It's important to note that both approaches are great for car owners who want to do-it-themselves, that is restore the finish on their car's paint.

    Some people only want to do one step after the washing and drying their car, especially if their car is a daily driver and that's completely understandable.

    For others however, they may be willing to invest more time and energy into their car's finish in an effort to get better results.

    So this isn't a write-up about pitting one approach against another approach, it's simply meant to to show what a person can expect from the two different approaches when it comes to restoring a nice finish on a daily driver car, truck or s.u.v.


    Lets begin...

    First we wiped the car clean and then clayed the paint on the hood. The car was actually washed yesterday by the owner so the dirt you're seeing on the clay is dirt and other air-borne contaminants that were bonded to the paint.

    The film or stain you see on the surface of the clay is actually the film or bonded contaminants that were removed during the claying process.





    Here's our candidate car, a 1998 Saturn SW2

    The owner is a young man and says sometimes he slides across the hood like Bo Duke from the "Dukes of Hazard"





    The finish is completely filled with swirls and scratches.





    Here's our two sections, both are about a foot squared




    The lower section will get two well-worked applications of ColorX. When working on a neglected surface you want to only work a small section at a time and use your product heavy or wet to have plenty of chemical cleaners on the surface as well as diminishing abrasives to give you some cleaning and abrading power.



    After the second application we'll let the coating of wax remain on the surface to dry while we start working on the upper section.



    For the upper section we're going to apply Ultimate Compound twice and just like the cleaner/wax step we're going to use the product heavy or wet to insure their's plenty of abrasives and chemical cleaners on the surface working for us to restore the paint.



    Now we're applying the SwirlX, look at the reflection of the light next to the applicator pad, you can already see that the Ultimate Compound has removed a majority of the swirls and scratches and restored a clear, smooth surface. The SwirlX will now refine these results to an even higher level.




    The below photo came out kind of dark but at this point I've finished working both sections and am just waiting for the NXT Tech Wax to dry.




    We've removed the wax and pulled the car out into the sun, the swirled side is the before side or section of paint closest to the windshield



    We've moved in such a way to place the sun on the after side, this is the multi-step section. You can see there's a HUGE difference. There are dramatically less swirls and the clear coat is now clear again so you can see the metallic flake under it.








    This is the ColorX section. You will still see lots of swirls and scratches but the paint is now clear so you can see the color of the paint and the metallic flake under it. ColorX isn't supposed to remove all the swirls, that's the job of a compound, it's supposed to do a good job however of improving the finish with just one or two well worked applications which it did in our comparison.









    And here's our test car, I've moved the Post-It Notes to the side because I shot a video using my iphone and I wanted to capture the swirls in the paint next to the sections we worked without the Post-It Notes in the way.




    And a parting shot... just another day at Autogeek.net!
    Mike Phillips
    Director of Training Autogeek & Marine 31
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  2. #2
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: 1-Step vs 3-Step Process by Hand

    Video Results

    Video results inside the Autogeek Garage


    Video results taken outside in the sun



    Products Showcased
    ColorX
    Ultimate Compound
    SwirlX
    NXT Tech Wax
    Even Coat Microfiber Applicator Pads
    Pinnacle Detailing Clay
    Cobra Indigo Microfiber Polishing Cloth


    Mike Phillips
    Director of Training Autogeek & Marine 31
    IDA Board Member - Certified Detailer - Skills Validated Detailer - IDA Recognized Trainer
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  3. #3
    Senior Member HighEndDetail's Avatar
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    Re: 1-Step vs 3-Steps

    Thanks Mike for taking the time to do a write up, and post it.
    Ed

    Moderator/Consultant for Autogeek.net


    To achieve excellence, excellence cannot be rushed. Technique is just as important as the product used.
    While my approach takes more time, the results are far superior.



  4. #4
    Senior Member GMC83's Avatar
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    Re: 1-Step vs 3-Steps

    A really great One Step is Meguiars D-151 PRC when used with the rotary or D.A. I really like using it on my G110.

    Its pretty impressive how much correction you can achieve with a one step product like ColorX , M06, M66, and D151 when used either by hand or the D.A.

    Nice writeup and video, Mike.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Buckskincolt's Avatar
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    Re: 1-Step vs 3-Steps

    Wow I'm learning a lot thanks to MP and AGO! Your work and well written articles are very much appreciated!

    I didn't think an AIO would do that much. Do you think the results would have even been greater with the AIO if you would have applied it with a RO and say a White pad?

    Is XMT 360 considered one of the better AIO's? No wax wars please!
    "Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration." Lincoln's First Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1861.

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  6. #6
    SELF BANNED ASPHALT ROCKET's Avatar
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    Re: 1-Step vs 3-Steps

    Mike, did you do an IPA wipe down to see what the hand application really did? After a wash you are going to be back to square one.

  7. #7
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    Re: 1-Step vs 3-Steps

    Great review. I am a three step guy for life.

  8. #8
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: 1-Step vs 3-Steps

    Quote Originally Posted by ASPHALT ROCKET View Post
    Mike, did you do an IPA wipe down to see what the hand application really did? After a wash you are going to be back to square one.
    No. Should I?

    Just so I know where you're coming from, are you saying 2 well worked applications of Ultimate Compound, followed by one well worked application of SwirlX did nothing and that if I strip the finish the paint will look the same as it did before I worked on it?

    Are you saying that 2 well worked applications of ColorX did nothing and that if I strip the finish that the paint will look the same as it did before I worked on it?

    Just want to clarify what you're asking and why.


    Mike Phillips
    Director of Training Autogeek & Marine 31
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  9. #9
    Senior Member loudog2's Avatar
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    Re: 1-Step vs 3-Steps

    I can assume he is asking to see if any of the polishes are hiding the swirls.

  10. #10
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: 1-Step vs 3-Steps

    Quote Originally Posted by loudog2 View Post
    I can assume he is asking to see if any of the polishes are hiding the swirls.
    I've been doing this long enough to know what he means. I can document posting how-to information on the Internet back to 1994.

    Read my follow-up questions very carefully because I choose my words very specifically.

    I want to know if he's implying no level of real improvement was made, as in no paint at all was removed. You see he wrote,

    Quote Originally Posted by ASPHALT ROCKET
    After a wash you are going to be back to square one.
    That's a pretty blatant statement which to me is stating to EVERYONE that there was no real improvement, that the results shown are 100% the results of merely filling in the swirls, not removing them and I want to make sure that everyone reading this understands what he means if he's going to post something like that.

    I'm not going to spend the next 20 to 30 years posting to this forum and have someone assert that every time I post a before and after picture that all that was done was the swirls were filled, not removed.

    I can guarantee you with the Ultimate Compound that paint was removed, the surface was leveled and a majority of the shallow swirls were in fact removed and I don't have to chemically strip the paint to prove it every time I work on a car because someone posts something like what he posted. With the ColorX, with 2 well-worked applications, some paint was removed but of course not to the degree to which UC accomplished but I never claimed that, in fact I claimed just the opposite.

    I hope I reading too much into ASPHALT ROCKET's assertion, but I'm just going by the words he posted. And again, read my follow-up very carefully.

    Been through this too many times and over the years it's taught me to write very carefully and choose my words very specifically. Others might not, but I do and If I can't back it up... I don't post it. And if I do post it, I'm completely open to anyone that wants to challenge what I posted.


    Mike Phillips
    Director of Training Autogeek & Marine 31
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