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  1. #1
    Super Member Dr Oldz's Avatar
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    Aug 2010
    NE PA
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    Cool How many pads?: Discussion!!

    Hello all!

    I wanted to give some thoughts on pad usage and have an open discussion so please chime in here.

    I always keep an open mind as far as detailing is concerned and I like to observe others in their process, learn and adapt to what is best for me. When I first joined this forum, I remember a post by Mike Phillips showing a car he compounded with pictures of the tools, buffing liquids and pad he used. All was on par except he used about 7 pads. 7 Pads???? I thought that was crazy. I was using 3 or 4 tops. I remember his post about cleaning on the fly and thought to myself, well he has an unlimited supply of pads and he is just doing this to save time. Well saving time was exactly what he was doing but not for the reason of an unlimited supply of pads.

    As my process bettered, I found myself using more and more pads per detail. As most of us do, we prime the pad first. So changing pads more often means more priming and this more buffing liquid used. Secondly changing pads often means we need to have more pads. Let’s be honest here, pads are not cheap. It’s easier to buy 4 or 5 than it is a dozen. Then there is the flip side....

    A fresh pads simply cuts/performs better since it isn’t saturated. As pads get saturated, it requires more passes to accomplish what a fresh pad would, costing more time. Time is money if you are detailing to make a profit. Pads simply last longer if you do not saturate them and abuse them over time also.

    With buffing liquid technology getting better and better, I see a lot more products that require no priming or very little priming.

    I often see the question on the forums “how many pads?” My answer is 2 part. If you are detailing for a profit, then 10-12. If you are a hobbiest, as many as you can comfortably afford.

    To summarize: More pads = initial investment can be steep. Faster results. Better results. Long run savings on pads not wearing out as quick. Amount of product to prime pads is negligible but you will use more. More pad cleaning but easier sonce they aren’t as dirty and saturated.


  2. #2
    Super Member
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    Re: How many pads?: Discussion!!

    When I started, I viewed the call for more pads as a marketing ploy - "You need more pads so we can sell more pads, so we can take more of your money". I did my first 4 or 5 cars with two pads each, only changing pads because when I went to clean on the fly, I couldn't start the polisher up without the pad flying off because it was heavy with product.

    As I started figuring things out (a bit on my own, but a lot more because of the help I get here), I started doing two things: I decreased SIGNFICANTLY the amount of product I used, and I started swapping pads way more often. I'm up to 10 for a mid size car now. I use 1 one the roof, 1 on each front door, 1 on each rear door and rear quarter panel, 1 on the trunk deck and rear end of the car, and 2 on the hood, although I also use each of these pads on the front fenders. In addition, I usually use two 3" pad for the A pillars, more intricate areas around the rear of the car, and the entire nose of the car. I do also use pads that I am getting ready to swap out on the glass.

    When I made the switch (well, maybe more a migration), I did so reluctantly. I had the pads already, so it wasn't a cost thing. I didn't want to wash that many pads. And to be fair, washing 10 pads is tougher than washing two. But each pad is easier to wash now, they come cleaner (part of that is cleaning technique improvement I learned here), and although I have no documentation to prove it, I believe the pads are going to last longer. And the extra time I spend washing pads I got from the reduction in time I spent polishing.

    Is 10 too many? Maybe. But I already own them (I need a few more medium cut Microfiber pads), so it's not costing me anything, and perhaps its saving me. I get better results. I don't fight with heavy pads all the time. And I've yet to be hit in the face with a pad that probably weighed close to a half a pound spinning off my polisher just before I put a brush to it (some learning experiences are best painful!). Let's just say it works for me.

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  4. #3
    Super Member Firehouse Mike's Avatar
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    Feb 2014
    Olympia, WA
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    Re: How many pads?: Discussion!!

    I will use 6-8 pads on say a standard size sedan. I'll give the pad a spritz of a detailer spray and put 4-6 dots of product then go for it. I've been doing this for years and have Griot's pads (all I use) that are 4 years old that look and perform like new. Saving money on pad replacement for sure.


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  6. #4
    Super Member WaxMaster1's Avatar
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    Jul 2015
    Central Florida
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    Re: How many pads?: Discussion!!

    I remember back in the late 80s using a Cyclo with 2 or 4 pads for an entire car (mind you, this was before I was the WaxMaster) and I remember them getting soaked to the bone. Took a lot longer to do a job and I didn't have this wonderful internet to give me tips. Nowadays I'll use about 6 pads on a car for an AIO. I can't count how many pads I have, but my strategy is something like this, everytime there's a sale going on I'll grab a few extra pads, well, usually some type of 6 pack of pads. Then, it doesn't feel like you're buying them all at once. So my takeaway is, more pads does make it easier to do a job, not to mention, swapping them out often helps reduce the heat you would build up and ultimately helps the pads last longer.

  7. #5
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Jun 2009
    Stuart, Florida
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    Re: How many pads?: Discussion!!

    I'll chime in....

    In a perfect world, for any heavy correction step using any orbital polisher and foam pads, you would have one pad per panel.

    A 2-door car = 9 pads
    A 4-door car = 11 pads

    Of course you can do it with less but the big picture is more pads is better.

    Switching to clean pad maximizes the tool you're using.
    Switching to a clean pad maximizes your time because you are removing defects more effectively.
    Switching to a clean pad makes your pads and backing plates last longer overall.

    Dry foam rotates better than wet foam.

    I've seen experts try to claim a foam pad on a free spinning orbital polisher doesn't have to rotate in order to remove swirls (remove paint) and I simply won't argue with these guys. If they want to spend 10 years correcting one car I say go for it.

    Here's something I wrote back in 2015

    How many pads do I need to buff out my car?

    And here's another article I wrote showing a picture that tells the story...

    How many pads do I need to buff out a 1948 Willys Jeepster?

    And for everyone reading this thread into the future, for the last 4-5 years, everytime I detail a car, in my write-up I purposefully take a pictures showing not only the tools and products used but all the pads used....


    1965 Cadillac - Original Single Stage Paint - Slam job by Mike Phillips

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  8. #6
    Super Member Paul A.'s Avatar
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    Dec 2007
    Tampa Florida
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    Re: How many pads?: Discussion!!

    Great thread! This question does come up a lot and there are great answers with supporting information posted here already.

    I have increased the number of pads I use to cut, buff and polish a vehicle over the years and now follow the principles stated here. I have accumulated a huge number of pads from AG over the years and can grab a fresh, clean pad frequently. The point about easier cleaning and durability of the material I have seen firsthand. It is much easier on the pad and the subsequent cleaning when it is not saturate and overextended.

    One of the tricks I do, like mentioned above, is to do "blacks" and glass at the end of that pad I've been using before tossing it in the waiting soapy wash bucket. Pillars, trims etc that may inevitably soil the foam is done just before I change out to a fresh pad.

    I mention the waiting soapy wash bucket. I like to toss my used pads into a soapy solution to keep them wet before thoroughly cleaning after the job. For those that are dirtier than others, I'll spritz some APC on them and rub them out a bit before soaking.

    I have some LC Hybrid pads purchased as soon as they came out (a few years ago) that are almost as clean as when they were new. Yes, they cost money and I like to keep my equipment as long as I can.

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  10. #7
    Super Member fly07sti's Avatar
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    Sep 2013
    SF Bay Area, Cali
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    Re: How many pads?: Discussion!!

    I totally agree with more is better. Main reason being that it extends the life of the pad. Not having it soaked with product and it not being subjected to excessive heat for long periods of time. As a by product, it makes the buffing process a little quicker as you’re not having to stop and thoroughly clean/dry a pad. Ya it costs a little more up front, but you save immensely over time. I am the same with MF’s. I don’t want to have to worry about not having enough to complete a vehicle or having to overload them with product.

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  12. #8
    Super Member Belo's Avatar
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    Jul 2014
    Rochester, NY
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    Re: How many pads?: Discussion!!

    probably also fair to note that it depends on what you're using the pads for. compounding and heavy correction work requires more than an all in one. When I started out I used 2 polishing pads and now I'm up to 4 for a car and I can't swear there's a big difference but it is somewhat noticeable.

    I'm not a pro, but I suggest just like paint correction, that you may want to see what is the smallest amount you can get away with. Less cleaning of pads and whatnot. idk... haha
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  13. #9
    Super Member dlc95's Avatar
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    May 2013
    Rochester Hills, Mi
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    Re: How many pads?: Discussion!!

    There are a lot of variables, and I tend to break it down as to what process I'm doing, and what type of pad - which is usually foam or microfiber.

    Another consideration is the type of buffing liquid, and it's lubricant.

    Let's say I'm compounding with my green B&S foams. I like to take 8 with me, but rarely use more than two to four. Especially with compounds like Meguiar's Ultimate or M100, as they tend to dust away more when cleaning with the brush. Another thing I do with those pads is monitor, and balance the moisture level in the pad. I do this by simply touching the surface. This dictates now much product I need for reload - which is typically one or two drops. I do this because a slightly dry pad cuts better. The foam loops are better able to cut at the paint, and because these liquids are so wet, and the pad so "airy", I don't need to use so much product on reloads. Initial pad dressing is done with four drops around the outside circumference. With a thicker product, like FG400 I have to minutes my reload amounts a little more closely.

    Microfiber I usually use two. Meguiar's released their DA microfiber correction system to be used with two pads per step, so when I tested it, I found that to work well for me. I use a brush to fluff up the fibers, and sometimes wipe them off with a microfiber towel periodically to help remove a lot of the stuck on build up.

    The old Rupes blue microfiber pads are a lot more difficult. Moisture has to be maintained. Those tools have the potential to create a lot of heat, and in the past I've "cooked" compound into the pads that they were almost impossible to clean. Today I find that shorter cycle time, and moderate arm speed helps keep the heat at bay, which allows for easier paint cutting. Another thing with these pads is that you have to reload inside, between the vents, and at the edge, otherwise if you keep reloading the circumference, the center of the pad will dry out. The Meguiar's pad wasn't as prone to this. The new version of the Rupes microfiber pads is VERY similar to Meguiar's, and I'm actually really starting to like them.

    Black B&S foam pads are what I use for cleaner wax. Same rule applies regarding moisture content, for the same reason. I like very little moisture in the pads. They are moist, but not soaked. I use my cleaner waxes like polishes in that whatever abrasives are in the formula, I'm going to try and get the most out of them even though my goal is to "wax" the paint. Again, I'm diligent about pad cleaning, and it especially applies here. I've tend to see build up accumulate around the leading edge circumference of these pads more than with compounding. I believe this is from the stickier nature of the wax in the formula, where a compound will want to release this stuff in the form of dust particles.

    One step polishing is very similar to my cleaner wax process. If I use a dedicated medium polish like Menzerna PF2500 I will pick between my more aggressive or less aggressive foam pads depending on how much correction I go for. If I use a dedicated finishing polish like M205, I'll use the more aggressive pad (Green b&s, or Cyan LC hydro). I've also had good luck with M205 and Ultimate Polish using microfiber finishing pads as well. I prefer foam when I can though. Still my most used at this time is the Rupes original yellow microfiber, and their Keramik Gloss.

    Finish polishing. Usually two or three pads. This step is very critical for me. This is where I have to be very conscious of not only pad residue, but particulates in my pad brushes from previous steps - which are more aggressive, and dust build up in the pad from the polishing step. I've recently started using a dedicated pad conditioning brush for finish polishing, and they all get cleaned at the end of a job. The same sort of rules apply as far as dressing goes, but I tend to like a well moistened pad for finish polishing. Not "full face primed", but healthy reload dots. M205 and Ultimate Polish are very "wet" products, and stay moist beautifully, where I need to stay on top of my Menzerna SF4000 (3500 now). I use pretty low speeds for this process which helps keep things from drying out.

    Sealant/Wax application. One pad for this process. It never gets saturated. A nice thin layer is all I need.

    For me, It's all about the cleaning process..

    Then there are the Rupes foams.....

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  15. #10
    Super Member Kamakaz1961's Avatar
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    Tustin, CA
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    Re: How many pads?: Discussion!!

    I use as many pads as I can when the need arises. Sounds weird, however, on average I am using 4 to 5 pads of each step on a regular sized car. So on average 4 to 5 Orange Foam Pads for correcting (Lake Country Pads), 4 to 5 White Foam Pads and 1 Red or Gold Pad for sealant and one for wax (if I seal and wax).

    But the Guru Mike is right, the more pads the easier getting the detail done.
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