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Glossary of Detailing Terms

Abrasive - Natural (silica) or synthetic (aluminum oxide) used in compounds and cleaners which cut the paint surface to remove imperfections.

ACGIH - American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists.

Acid - A chemical substance below 7 on a pH scale. Cleaning products containing acids must be used with care, following the directions on the label and using safety equipment.

Acid Rain - Rain contaminated with airborne acid materials. Can cause damage to automotive paint finishes and glass.

Adhesion - How well a product bonds to the surface to which it is applied.

Alkaline-Alkalis - Substances above 7 on a pH scale classified as being caustic. Caustics (sodium hydroxide) are sometimes used in cleaning products such as engine degreasers, etc. Cleaning products containing alkalis must be used with care. Follow the directions on the label and use safety equipment.

Appearance Reconditioning - The cosmetic restoration of a vehicle to a like new condition.

Basecoat - The color coat of a base-coat/clear-coat automotive finish. Specifically the layer of pigmented paint applied over the primer coat and usually measures about 1 mil.

Bath Tubber - A slang term used referring to a chemical manufacturer who mixes their own chemical products in large drums or “bath tubs.” Usually low priced and poor quality.

Biodegradable - NB – there is no actual legal definition or universally accepted test for Biodegradability. It commonly refers to organic material generally derived from living matter capable of being broken down into Hydrogen, Carbon Dioxide and less complex organic compounds through natural forces such as sunlight, bacteria or enzymes.

Blushing - New paint finish turns milky or cloudy shortly after polishing. Caused by the solvents not evaporating from the paint. Wait thirty days to rebuff.

Body Shop Safe - A term used to refer to products to be used in a body shop which contains no silicone or materials that can cause fish eyes and paint finish problems.

Buff Marks - Circular scratch marks in the paint surface. Also called buffer marks or swirls.

Buffer - A tool used by skilled technicians to apply products to a vehicle. Also referred to as a high speed buffer or rotary buffer.

Buffing Compound - A chemical which contains abrasives designed to remove severe oxidation or other major finish imperfections from painted surfaces. Not all buffing compounds are compatible with all paint finishes (such as clear-coats) and must be used carefully by skilled technicians.

Buffing Spur - A small hand held tool with a spoked wheel, used to clean wool buffing pads of the accumulation of compound and/or polish.

Burn - Remove paint from a vehicle using a rotary or high speed buffer.

Burnish - Polish with a tool to make the surface smooth or shiny by friction; increase a loss of the paint by smoothing.

CAS No. - Chemical Abstracts Services registration number.

Ceramic Clear-Coat - A paint that contains microscopic ceramic fillers in the formulation that gives the clear-coat a harder and more durable finish.

Chemicals - A term to categorize a group of products. i.e., Polishing Chemicals, Chemical Cleaners, Cleaning Chemicals.

Citrus - A cleaning chemical that uses d-Limonene as the solvent.

Cleaner (paint) - A product that contains a mild abrasive for removing light oxidation, scratches and minor finish imperfections. Usually less aggressive than rubbing compound, and offers little or no protection.

Cleaner/Glaze - A product which removes light to medium oxidation and scratches from the paint surface and leaves a protective coating. Commonly known as a One Step.

Clear-Coat - A thin transparent layer of paint usually applied over a pigmented layer of paint (base coat) to provide a deep, rich, shiny finish. Most vehicles have 1.5 to 2.0 mils of clear coat.

Color Sanding - Another term for what is called “Wet Sanding.”

Combustible Liquid - For DOT transportation, a liquid having a Flash Point higher than 100ºF and less than 140ºF.

Compound - An abrasive product designed to remove heavy surface contamination and deep scratches. Can reduce paint thickness quickly. Can leave visible scratches (swirls) in the paint finish.

Concentrate - A product that requires thinning with an appropriate reducer, water, solvent.

Conventional Paint System - Refers to a single stage paint finish, either recognized as lacquer or enamel. Several color coats of paint are applied over the primer with no clear-coat application.

Co-Polymer - A chemical compound of two polymers which are compatible and stable when joined.

Cosmoline - A heavy grade petroleum by-product applied to automotive exteriors as a protective coating during transit of vehicles. Requires special chemicals and procedures to remove.

Checking, Cracking, Crazing - Paint looks like shattered glass. Paint dries and loses its elasticity. Extreme temperatures cause the paint to expand and contract and pulls the paint apart.

Detail Procedure/Processing - To steps followed to complete a detail job.

Detail Technician - A skilled and knowledgeable detailer in the art of detailing.

Wool Cutting Pad - an aggressive 100% woven wool pad that is used with a compound to correct a major paint finish problem.

Foam Cutting Pad - A less aggressive foam pad that is used with a compound to correct paint finish problems and clear-coat finishes.

Dual Action Buffer/Polisher - An electrical or pneumatic tool that has a clutching mechanism attached to the spindle assembly that provides a smooth shifting motion between random orbital and rotary by applying force to the tool.

D.O.T. - Department of Transportation. Government agency which regulates the transport of goods.

Degradable - A product capable of being broken down through exposure to heat, moisture, sunlight or other chemicals. Resultant products of degradation may or may not be stable.

Detailing - To clean, each area part of a motor vehicle until the desired results are achieved.

Detergents - Cleaning products for auto interiors and exteriors with different chemical formulations as the active cleaning agent. Differentiated by thickness and cleaning ability.

Dilute - To reduce by thinning with appropriate reducer; water; solvent; thinner; etc. in accordance with directions.

Dressed/Dressing - The application of a coating applied to vinyl, leather, plastic and rubber to protect or make shiny.

Durability - The power of long term resistance to deteriorations or change.

Dwell Time - The time in which a product is allowed to remain in an active state on the surface. Many cleaning products require a dwell time to work properly.

E.P.A. - Environmental Protection Agency. Government agency which protects the environment. Has jurisdiction over the manufacturer through the end user of a product.

Emollient - A substance designed to add moisture or increase softness. Found in hand cleaners or leather or vinyl conditioners.

Emulsion - Commonly a mixture of two incompatible liquids where one exists as finely dispersed particles with the other.

Enamel Paint - Type of automotive paint used by auto manufacturers and collision repair shop. Sprays shiny.

Exposure - An employee subject to a hazardous chemical in the course of employment, through any route of entry (inhalation, ingestion, skin contact or absorption)

Extractor - A machine used to clean carpets and fabric seats. Applies cleaning solution in a spray and removes moisture and dirt by vacuum suction. In car washing, a machine used to spin dry towels.

Fabric Protector - A product applied to cloth seats and carpets which repels moisture preventing staining.

Fallout - Contamination which settles out of the air onto automotive paint finishes. Such things as airborne industrial fallout, aircraft fuel and even volcanic ash.

Foam Polishing Pad - A soft foam pad that is used with a swirl remover/polish to either remove buffer swirls or polish and smooth the paint finish.

Fish Eye - Paint finish problem which occurs during painting when there is a presence of grease, oil or silicone on the paint surface.

Flammable Liquid - A chemical that has a flash point below 140 degrees F.

Flash Off - Dwell time for solvent to evaporate from the paint surface.

Flash Point - The temperature at which a chemical will combust.

Foam Pad - A round foam disc made of various form textures for buffing, cutting or polishing paint.

Glaze - A body shop safe swirl remover or polish. It is considered body shop safe because it contains no wax or silicone.

H.M.I.S. - Hazardous Material Identification System. A system of number, symbols and letters which provide information about health, flammability, reactivity and personal protection for chemicals and products.

Hazardous Chemicals - Products or chemicals that pose a health risk to the user if used improperly or if safety equipment is not used. READ MSDS for each product you use. Warnings are normally written as if hazardous product were at 100% solution.

Haze - When a chemical product such as wax/sealant dries on the surface and appears dull or milky. A dull film caused by imbedded dirt, oxidation or scratches on the paint surface.

Hi-Tech Paints - Refers to base coat/clear coat systems, tri-coats, fluorine clears, etc.

IARC - International Agency for Research of Cancer

IDLH - Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health

Industrial Fallout - Airborne pollutants from industry which settle onto automotive surfaces and become degrade in the finish.

Lacquer Paint - Any of the various clean or colored synthetic coatings made by dissolving nitrocellulose or other cellulose derivatives together with plasticizers and pigments in a mixture of volatile solvents and used to impart a high gloss to surfaces. Also defined as a glossy, resinous material, such as the exudation of the lacquer tree, used as a surface coating.

Lacquer Thinner - A highly flammable solvent used to thin lacquer or paints and to clean various items on the vehicle.

Matte Finished Paints - Any paint that leaves a flat, non shiny finish such as that used on side mirrors, etc.

MSDS - Material Safety Data Sheets, which describes the hazardous ingredients in a chemical, safety measures, first aid procedures, etc.

Metallic Paint - A type of automotive paint that contains metallic flakes producing a glittery appearance.

Metering System - A system that automatically dilutes concentrated, water-based chemicals with water.

Mottling - Where the paint appears streaked with light and dark areas. Caused by heaver film thickness in one area over others.

Multiple Step Process - Where three or more steps are required to properly correct the painted surface of the vehicle.

OSHA - Occupational Safety and Health Administration. A government agency which sets standards for workers safety.

Oil - A viscous liquid of which are mixtures of terpene and simple esters or mineral oils which are mixtures of hydrocarbons, used in paint and auto polishes.

One Step - A process where the paint is corrected, polished and protected in one step. Or, a chemical product that corrects, polishes and protects.

Orange Peel - The nubby rough appearance on paint; looks much like the texture of an orange peel; surface lacks clarity of reflected image.

Orbital Buffer - An air or electrical tool with a pad that travels in ellipses instead of rotating on a fixed axis. Used when waxing to simulate the movement of the human hand.

Original Finish - The paint applied by the manufacturer (O.E.M. finish)

Overspray - Substance such as paint mist that settles out of the air onto automobile surface appearing as tiny specks.

Oxidation - Chemical substances within an automotive finish that collect and bond with oxygen molecules causing the paint to become dry, dull and faded. Typical of single-stage paint finishes.

Pad Washer - A mechanical device used to clean buffing pads of compounds, cleaners , waxes, etc.

Paint Burn - To literally remove paint from a vehicle due to the friction generated by a rotary buffer.

Paint Cleaner - A product that contains mild abrasive used for removing oxidation, light scratches and minor surface imperfections from the paint surface. Normally less aggressive than rubbing compounds and offers no protection.

Paint Etching - Damage that can occur to a paint finish when an acidic substance rests on the surface “eating” into the paint.

Paint Film Thickness - The measure of the amount of film on the vehicle. Measured in mils which is thousandths of an inch.

Paint Sealant - A protective product applied by hand or machine to automotive paint, which coats, seals and protects the surface.

Paint Thickness Gauge - A magnetic or electronic instrument that measures the film thickness (primer and paint) on a metal vehicle surface (typically ferrous metal.)

PEL - Permissible Exposure Limit

pH Scale - Is a scale from 0-14 to determine the acidic or alkaline nature of a chemical. 0-6 is Acidic; 8-14 is alkaline, 7 is considered neutral. The lower the number the more acidic a chemical, the higher the number the more alkaline or caustic the chemical.

Petroleum Distillates - Compounds that are derived from crude oil through the refining process, capable of dissolving other substances.

Petroleum Solvents - Liquids, derived from crude oil through the refining process, capable of dissolving other substances.

Polish - A chemical formulated to produce a smooth, bright and glossy paint surface. It can also remove swirl marks. Can also be called a swirl remover.

Polishing - Term if often used to describe the action of a rotary or dual action buffer to remove swirls and/or smooth the paint to a high gloss finish.

Polisher - Another name for a rotary or dual action buffer.

Polishing Pad - A sheepskin or foam pad that is used with a rotary or dual action buffer to remove swirls or smooth the paint.

Polymer - From the Greek word “poly” meaning many or the “mer” meaning units. For example, “polyurethane.”

Polyurethane - A catalyst type of paint known for exceptional durability.

Pressure Washer - A machine that uses a piston pump to increase water pressure to a psi of 500 to over 3000. Used to clear engines, wheels and wash and rinse vehicles.

Pre-Wash - First step in preparing a vehicle for detailing, by removing dirt, tar, etc.

Professional - A person completely knowledgeable, trained and skilled in all aspects of their profession.

Primer - Material applied to the surface to seal, fill scratches and improve adhesion of paint.

P.S.I. - Pounds Per Square Inch – a measure of air and water pressure.

Quality - Degree of excellence or relative goodness of work performed.

RPM - Revolutions Per Minute – number of complete turns made in one minute.

Rail Dust - Small metallic particles that can settle on the horizontal surfaces of automobiles which become embedded in the paint. As the particles oxidize/rust they appear as orange specks on the paint. Requires special products and procedures to be removed. Also known as industrial fallout. (IFO)

Resin - A synthetic or naturally occurring polymer.

Respiratory Distress - A physical condition caused by inhaling toxic vapors, characterized by shortness of breath, inability to breath, dizziness and sometimes unconsciousness. This condition requires immediate medical attention.

Rinseless Wash - A chemical characterized by its ability to require little or no water to rinse off the vehicle.

Sealer/Sealant - A paint protection chemical applied by hand or machine to an automotive paint that coats, seals and protects the surface. Normally contains amino-functional silicones to increase durability.

Shine - To brighten or increase luster of a paint finish.

Silicone - Any group of polymerized semi-organic compounds comprised of silicone items, oxygen and possibly organic compounds. Characterized by high resistance to heat and water. Silicone adds durability, lubricity and enhances gloss. Silicone can create complications during repainting in body shops. Non-silicone products are preferable for body shop applications.

Solvent - A substance, usually liquid, that dissolves or can dissolve another substance.

STEL - Short Term Exposure Limit

Surfactant - A compound which helps lift substances from a surface so they may be removed. Usually found in cleaners to improve rinsing.

Swirls - Micro scratches in the paint surface caused by to abrasive a buffing pad; compound or faulty buffing technique.

TCC - Tagliabue Closed Cup – test used to determine flammability of a product.

Teflon - A fluoropolymer patented by DuPont that is used in waxes and sealants to provide protection on paint finishes.

Throw Off - Chemical product that is thrown from the surface or buffing pad by force. Often appears as tiny speckles of product on other surfaces of the vehicle.

TLV - Threshold Limit Value

Transit Coating - A protective coating applied to auto exteriors prior to transportation to prevent damage to the exterior surfaces. Requires special chemicals and removal procedures.

TWA - Time Weighted Average

Two Step - A term to describe the process of polishing the paint surface followed by a separate application of a durable costing of wax or sealant.

Ultra Violet Rays - A component of ordinary light which cannot be seen by the human eye. Deteriorates automotive surfaces by causing fading, cracking, peeling and discoloration. Some products contain ingredients that guard against UV damage.

Urethane Paint - A catalyst paint known for exceptional durability.

Vapor Steamer - A device that uses a small boiler to generate steam up to 200 degrees+ that is then used to perform a number of cleaning functions.

Water Based - A product whose primary liquid ingredient is water.

Water Soluble - Characterized by the ability to mix completely in or with water.

Waterless Wash - A chemical that can clean a vehicle without water. It is sprayed on and wiped off.

Wax - A natural or synthetic element used in chemicals to protect the paint.  (i.e. carnauba wax)

Weathering - The change or failure in paint caused by exposure to weather.

Wet Sanding - A procedure of simultaneously sanding and rinsing an automotive finish to remove imperfections. Regarded as complicated and should only be attempted by professionals.

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