Wax, Buffing, and Paint Correction.

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Wax, Buffing, and Paint Correction.

The difference between these 3 terms and what they mean.

wax buff and paint correction

We will be educating you on these terms for a better understanding of what waxing, buffing and paint correction means in the Automotive Detailing Industry and why they all are something entirely different.

Although these terms get thrown around synonymously, there is a huge difference between them. Many people carelessly mention these terms without knowing what they are when it comes to ordering a detailing service for their vehicle.

Unknowing customers get offended when they are corrected and on the other hand, some customers know the difference but try to get away with grouping it all together in hopes of getting away with a lesser price.

Here’s an example;

A customer goes to a restaurant and says, “I want meat, vegetables, and starch.”.

The server responds with a very open reply of, “Okay what choice of meat? Chicken, beef, pork, fish, lamb or rabbit? What kind of vegetables?  Steamed, grilled, poached or fried vegetables or do you want tossed greens? What kind of starch? Potatoes, rice, noodles, poi, beans, tortillas, oatmeal or crackers?”.

The customer replies, “I don’t know, I just want a plate of food and I want it all at a good price!!”.

The poor server is then left with the task of having to patiently explain the menu, what the establishment serves and prices for expectations.

When this happens, biting your tongue and holding back witty criticisms are what’s done if you were that server. This point of view is what it looks like when customers vaguely say, “I want my car waxed.”, thinking that’s all they need as a “fix all” at one price. Truth be told, waxing is only the final touch and doesn’t necessarily take care of everything you might need.

Hopefully, this information will shed some light on these matters and help prevent future disappointments.




The term “Wax”  is defined as an application of the final touch after the vehicle has been washed and polished.

This step is like putting the icing on the cake and that means all the preparation work is done. Waxing does not remove water spots, oxidized paint, make the paint smooth or remove scratches and swirls.

However, it can hide a lot of minor scratches and light swirls by filling them depending on the grade and thickness of the wax but it’s only a temporary fix.

This is why most professional Auto Detailers recommend this as the last step or a maintenance procedure at best to keep the existing shine that’s already present on the vehicle.

A wax application may last up to 6 months if the product is of a high grade. Many other factors affect the longevity of the wax like the environment, the usage of your vehicle and the way you take care of it.

Driving your vehicle through automated car washes detrimentally affects the wax and might even remove it in just one visit. Hand washing with car wash soap (not dishwashing soap)

Spotbot cleanse is normally recommended followed by a quick wipe of an instant Detail spray of your choice for proper care.




Buffing is a verb, more like the action and actual movement of waxing and paint correction. Of the three terms mentioned, this one is vague and can be combined with many terms that enthusiasts and professionals use to explain its actions. For instance, here are examples of combined terms which buffing is paired with that we will gladly clarify.


Hand Buffing: this refers to rubbing wax, compound or clay bars on to a vehicle by hand with an applicator of choice to remove contamination, scratches and/or final wiping for gloss improvement.

Machine Buffing: this is similar to the term for Hand Buffing but done by machine for quicker and/or more improved results.

Orbital Machine Buffing: this type of buffing refers to the use of a particular machine also known as a dual action (DA) polisher. These machines are safe to use as it can apply waxes and compounds with minimal friction, therefore, having less chance of causing damage. An orbital machine buffer doesn’t have a direct drive system and will stop spinning if you apply a lot of pressure. It will then vibrate to continue polishing the subject area you’re working on. This tool is used on a wide range from beginners to professionals and produce outstanding results.

Rotary Machine Buffing: this type of buffing refers to the use of a heavy duty machine that has a direct drive system and will spin regardless of how much pressure you put on it. This is a tool that needs the training to use as it can cause a lot of damage if you aren’t careful.  Many professionals swear by using rotary buffers because it is the only tool that can reduce or even remove most types of paint flaws that hand buffing or orbital machine buffing can’t accomplish. Rotary buffers can accomplish work in more than half of the time of an orbital buffer and can produce near perfect results.

Single Stage Buffing: also known as 1 stage buffing or just a single pass of buffing for the vehicle.  As the first stage of buffing, it refers to the use of an aggressive cutting compound paired with a wool or foam pad.  This process removes heavy oxidation, some heavy scratches, scuffs, orange peel, bird dropping stains, heavy water spot etching and paints itself if you aren’t careful.

Double Stage Buffing: also known as 2 stage buffing or a vehicle that receives 2 passes of buffing.  As the 2nd stage of buffing, this step comes after the single stage buff and is used with medium types of compounds that work mostly with foam pads. This process removes medium to light oxidation, medium to light scratches, swirls, light water spot etching, light scuffs, wax and/or coating removal.

Triple Stage Buffing: also known as 3 stage buffing or a vehicle that receives 3 passes of buffing.  This process involves the use of fine compounds with fine foam pads to remove light swirls, holograms, minor scratches, haze, shadowing effects and wax. 3rd stage buffing also magnifies luster and is commonly used on darker colors for a more enhanced gloss which some professionals refer to as “Paint Jeweling”.

Clay Buffing: this refers to the use of a clay bar and lubricant used to smooth out the paint for bumps and contamination that regular washing can’t remove. This process is very important before the machine or hand buffing as it can remove embedded particles that may damage the paint.


Paint Correction

paint correction

This term is used to describe all buffing steps necessary to eliminate paint flaws, imperfections and create a glossy surface over the paint.

This process is accomplished by removing micron-thin layers of paint or clear coat from the surface to reveal a deep gloss that resembles flat water.

Sometimes not all scratches are removed because of how deep they may be but they may become less visible.

Very deep scratches known as Gouges that pass the clear coat and paint itself will still remain as the only correction for these flaws are to repaint.  

There are many misconceptions as to what an actual paint correction is and most times are misconstrued because of paint condition, customer’s expectations, a skill of the professional performing work,  material budget, the pride of service and/or misinformation. Oftentimes, paint correction comes at a premium price and customers always look for the best deal.

This may sound like a very complex equation to figure out but with homework and due diligence, the professional that suits your needs to perform this work can be found.

Paint correction done right will create that brand new luster of when you first saw your vehicle (if you bought it brand new or in similar condition).  For some people, it’s like love at first sight all over again and that’s why they pay to have it done.

Some people even think their car moves faster because it’s so shiny. Unfortunately, the only way to test that theory is if you have a masters degree in physics and aeronautical engineering with access to a wind tunnel to obtain this data as it’s only been proven on aircraft.

Regardless, countless professionals in the industry have exaggerated their work to be of this caliber after their self-proclaimed service has been done. Ludicrous claims like these are at your sole discretion of belief but as long as your vehicle looks 80 percent better, you got what you paid for.

We hope you now have a better understanding of this information and hope to do well to keep you entertained with our reading material.

Please enjoy and stay tuned as we will publish more for your inquisitions.


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