Handnuffing tips with Meguiars M2 Fine Cut Cleaner - never did it - or take it to shop?

1999 Acura Integra 110k
I am debating handbuffing vs professional detailing for $170 (on Amazon local deal - whole car)

On Amazon - some people recommending this one - Meguiar’s SMAT product combo (M105/M205)

My concerns on handbuffing:

  1. I will not be using clay bar - just machine wash the car without wax and then apply the Fine Cut Cleaner - will it do?
  2. I am concerned I might rub with Fine Cut Cleaner and damage the paint - is it a possibility? What tips are there to ensure I do not do it?
    When I bought the car from a dealer 10yrs ago - they had done machine buffing - on one spot they almost went to the primer!

Amazon local deal has a 50% off whole car detailing for $170
These guys will use clay bar etc.
They will power wash engine - and interior.

I appreciate your thoughts and tips - I never did it or saw people doing it.

$170 for all that work, including washing the engine, that seems like a pretty good deal to me.

If you decide to do it yourself, doesn’t the product you intend to use come with instructions? Is there some ambiguity with the instructions or something? If you are concerned some product or technique might damage the paint, test it in an inconspicuous place first.

Whenever you rub the car w/anything, even a clean cloth, make sure the surface is clean as possible. Dirt for example contains sand, a sharp crystal, and you know what sandpaper does.

Why would you try to revitalize the finish on a on 16 year old vehicle?

If a simple wash and wax doesn’t return the finish, you’re wasting money.


Yes half price - whole car for $170
There is two produce M105/M205 - it is confusing as to which one to use - also not sure if it is a magic - you apply it and wipe it and done with it - in this process how does remove swirls?

I may be wrong but no one is going to power wash the engine compartment on any vehicle I own. I agree with Tester also.

The car will look really nice when the detailer is done. Much better than you and just Meguires M2. $170 doesn’t sound too bad to me. If you have the money and you really want your car to look better, go for it.

If you are hand buffing, unless you are a superhero like the Flash or the Hulk, you can’t rub through the finish. I wouldn’t waste my time if a wash and polish is all you intend to do, though. Don’t use the M105, it is an aggressive polish intended to buff after 1200 grit sandpaper. You must use a finer polish after this. It will not work correctly by hand. Same for M2. Use #02 for hand use. M2 and #02 will remove swirls IF the surface is clean. In other words, use a clay bar first.

Wash, clay bar, polish and wax. It will take most of a day to do right. Use the clay bar or you will likely get swirl marks in the paint. OR wash and use a one step cleaner/wax, a couple of hours and be done with it.

Before I make any suggestions, exactly what condition is this 16 year old finish in? If it’s lost it’s sheen and is on the way to “chalky”, you’ll go through what’s left of the paint in no time flat with anything abrasive, including polishing compounds.

Post the answer. It might cause some here to change their recommendations.

The paint is good - no spot fading or color distortion that you see in older cars - nothing like that.

I just had a drive through car wash and no wax - it exposes all the scratches etc. When the wax is on, it doesn’t show as much.

Besides it has accumulated some dirt - perhaps the wash above removed some - but clay bar seems to clean it well.

The paint has not lost much - but wear - and others scratching it when parking mostly - there might be some strange key scratches too. I have touch up paint from Acura.

Pay the guy. That stuff is designed for use with a buffer not by hand. Don’t have a buffer? Plus that is only one step. You need to follow with a swirl remover/fine polish and wax. If it is badly deteriorated, then a heavier cleaner or a rubbing compound should be used. I have a whole shelf of the various products depending on what I need and on my cars usually make three passes with the buffer and then the wax by hand. That’s what the detailer will do. And why in the world would you not use the clay bar first?? All that contamination on the paint and you don’t want to remove it first with clay and just grind it into the paint?? And machine wash? What does that mean? Running it through the car wash or using the car wash wand instead of a bucket with real car wash solution. Sorry but why bother if you don’t care any more than that?

Why would you try to revitalize the finish on a on 16 year old vehicle?

To get it looking like it’s not 16 years old anymore. Why wouldn’t you try that on a car you liked?

I’d pay the detailer to do it. I have yet to see a DIY detail job that looks as good as a quality professional using pro-grade equipment and chemicals. Or I guess I have but after hearing how long it took and how much work it was I wondered why the guy didn’t just pay someone to do it.

If your budget will accommodate a detailer, I’d recommend it.
If not, hand wash and dry it thoroughly and if your back will allow, use a brand name wax like McGuires with Carnauba wax in it. It’ll make a huge difference. I’d avoid the Fine Cut Cleaner simply because it’s abrasive. And the paint is, after all, 16 years old. I’m not an advocate of using abrasives on older paint jobs that are still in good shape. You can always go to abrasives if you’re unsatisfied with the carnauba wax.

There’s an old saying in machining and sheetmetal operations: you can always cut a bit more off, but you can’t put it back on once you’ve cut it off. I think that’s wise in working with an old paint finish as well; you can always go to an abrasive after, but if you use it first and regret it, there’s no putting the removed surface back on.

For the price you would be better off just to pay someone else to do it. By the time you factor in supplies and elbow grease as a DIYer it’s not worth the aggravation.
How well it comes out is debateable. If the dealer almost took it down to primer in one spot it’s quite likely the finish is not great in other areas also. That’s why someone using a buffer is never, ever supposed to let the buffer stop moving while it’s on the finish.

My suggestion is also to refrain from power washing an engine compartment. In the old days you could get away with this and the worst case scenario was poor running for a minute or so or a no-start due to moisture in the distributor cap or coil terminal. All easily resolved.
With modern electronics and a plethora of specialty vacuum lines attached with aged brittle plastic and so on I’d be very nervous about creating an expensive problem with powerwashing.

With a clear coat finish I can’t believe that you will notice that much difference when compared to just a wax job. Years ago, you could actually get into the pigment. I did notice the difference but also the damage after a car was polished. The damage is not worth it.

Your Integra has 16 years of washing and waxing without the clay bar. Many of the scratches, at least the finer ones, are likely a result of any buffing you’ve done in the past. If you think that buffing it out yourself will improve the finish, then take a day or two and do it right, as @Mustangman suggested. Otherwise, weather pay the detailed or let it go.

  1. How to tell whether the clear coat is intact?
    I am taking some photos - will glad to post a link if you like.

  2. I went to a detailer nearby (no promo there as there is steady customer flows) - he said they will buff the top of the car and hood only. The sides will only be polished. SO I asked what is the difference between the two - he said polishing will be less strong.

He’s a little mixed up. Buffing is the verb or the means. Polish is what is used with the buffer. You can buff with rubbing compound, various grits of polish from coarse to very fine, glazing, or even wax. He probably means that he uses a heavier polish on the flat surfaces than the sides.

Like I said, I do mine twice a year, usually three times around with the buffer and once by hand, and I’ve never taken the clear coat off yet. You are removing surface contaminants, haze, and small scratches that are already in the clear. This helps to ward off further deterioration of the clear.

Clear coat that becomes unattached to the base will have a whitish color. If you have any white, you have some bad clear areas that can’t be fixed with polish.

Ask the detailer exactly what he means by that. Ask him to describe exactly what he’ll do and what he’ll use to do it. Never be afraid to ask questions. Any honest detailer will be happy to describe the process to you. Any that won’t should be avoided.

From Wiki-

“Polishing and buffing are finishing processes for smoothing a workpiece’s surface using an abrasive and a work wheel or a leather strop. Technically polishing refers to processes that use an abrasive that is glued to the work wheel, while buffing uses a loose abrasive applied to the work wheel.”

The horizontal surfaces will be more polluted and damaged due to the sun and exposure to pollutants sitting on the surface. Hence the polishing operation which is the more aggressive treatment. They just buff out the sides with a very mild compound.

One of my co-workers took an older car in to be detailed as she was looking to sell it. I thought it was a tremendous waste of time and money until she drove it in to work afterwards. What a difference! It looked almost as good as new. The difference was very dramatic and this was a white car to boot…

1) I will not be using clay bar - just machine wash the car without wax and then apply the Fine Cut Cleaner - will it do?

Depends on what results you’re looking for.

2) I am concerned I might rub with Fine Cut Cleaner and damage the paint - is it a possibility? What tips are there to ensure I do not do it?

Yes, you can damage the paint with any polish if you don’t know what you’re doing. First off, you should not be using polish on the car unless you need to correct flaws in the clearcoat. If you see a bunch of thin-lined circles in the paint when the car is in the sun, then your car has swirl marks from improper washing and needs to be polished to get rid of them.

But polish works by removing a thin layer of clearcoat and leaving a smooth layer behind. If you polish too much, you will end up removing all of the clear coat and then you are stuck going for a re-paint which will be a lot more than $170. If you polish incorrectly, then you’ll put your own lines into the paint and have to do it all over again.

If your paint looks fine and just needs to be waxed, then use a normal wax on it rather than a polish. I usually recommend Meguiars Gold Class paste wax, which will take some elbow grease, but which will make the car look superb assuming the paint is in decent condition to start with.