How to: Properly Achieve a Factory Finish

In the collision repair industry, the necessary steps required to achieve a factory-quality finish are often overlooked. To get that same finish, it’s highly recommended that any collision repair shop follows the same procedures found in original equipment manufacturer (OEM) facilities worldwide.

As a company whose paint correction system is found in several automotive, marine, aerospace, and recreational vehicle OEMs (like Fiat, Maserati, Kia, Hyundai, Mercedes, and Toyota), we recognize that even with the most sophisticated computerized spray/paint systems and debris-controlled spray booths, facilities are not free of contaminants, paint runs, and uneven or unmatched texture. It would be unfair to think that any collision repair facility would be able to effectively or financially stay within the same guidelines that OEM facilities do.

Even with their strict standards and guidelines, every automotive OEM facility requires a minimum number of steps on every gloss-painted exterior portion of the vehicle to achieve the factory finish, and every collision repair facility should be no different.

How to achieve a factory-level finish:

  1. With proper lighting, identify any defects in the paint o r clear coat (i.e. debris, drip/run, uneven texture, unmatched texture and/or fisheyes).
  2. Remove the above-mentioned defects with the appropriate refinish sandpaper. Use 3D sanding discs (p1200, p1500 and/or p2000 grits using either a D/A sander or by hand) for the most effective debris removal. Note: heavier grits may be needed to remove runs
  3. To achieve a higher gloss, a refining sanding step is performed with a wet p3000 sanding pad. This refines sanding marks from step 2 while reducing the buffing time in step 4 and provides a more level surface to enhance gloss.
  4. Using either a wool or foam pad and rubbing compound (we recommend 3D ACA X-tra Cut Compound #500), level the clear coat or painted surface until sanding marks are completely removed.
  5. Using ONLY a foam pad and polish (use 3D ACA Finishing Polish #520) level the swirl marks left behind from the compounding step until desired clarity or gloss is achieved.
  6. Finally, an additional process is needed to provide protection from the elements and extend the life of the paint or clearcoat. This achieved by using a D/A polisher, foam pad, and a glaze or wax, like 3D AAT Correction Glaze #505 is preferred.