What Auto Detailing Pros Need to Know About Hard and Soft Paint

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A paint’s hardness will affect how a detailer removes scratches

Automotive detailing is all about making your client’s vehicle look its best, and there’s nothing that ruins the look of a vehicle’s perfect finish faster than a scratch. Professional detailers use their knowledge of paint and detailing techniques to effectively remove and buff away scratches in order to keep their client’s cars looking as close to flawless as possible. When it comes to removing scratches, though, one of the most important elements to consider is whether the paint is hard or soft.

Are you interested in becoming a professional automotive detailer? Read on to learn more about the differences between hard and soft paints.

When Auto Detailing, Hard and Soft Paints Require Different Techniques

While paint jobs may all look pretty similar at first glance, there’s a lot more going on than just the colour. Depending on the make, model, brand, and year a vehicle was manufactured, its paint’s hardness can vary widely.

As professionals with careers in the auto industry will tell you, paint hardness has a direct impact on a detailer’s ability to remove scratches. The harder a car’s paint is, the more difficult it will be to remove scratches. The softer it is, the easier it is to remove scratches, but the harder it is to create a completely flawless finish, since the paint can be altered so easily. Before you begin working on a scratch, it’s essential that you first determine if the vehicle’s paint is hard or soft.

Certain Car Brands’ Paints Tend to Be Harder or Softer

When auto detailing, the challenge with determining whether a car’s paint is hard or soft is that it varies so widely and unpredictably. While some vehicle brands do tend to fall on one side of the spectrum or the other, the paint’s hardness can be impacted by many different factors—including the factory conditions where it was painted. Higher humidity or temperatures can change the way paint dries, altering its hardness. This can create variations in paint hardness even in identical vehicles that were manufactured in the same year and factory.

There are some automotive brands that do seem to consistently have hard or soft paint. While you should never rely on these tendencies alone, and should always test for yourself, knowing which brands tend to be harder or softer is a good starting point for determining your client’s car’s paint hardness.

German-made and luxury brands tend to be on the harder side. This could include brands like BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen. Japanese car brands like Mazda, Nissan, and Honda, on the other hand, tend to be softer. In the middle of the spectrum, Aston Martin, Ford, Jeep, and Jaguar tend to be intermediate. Again, while this can serve as a valuable starting point, you should always conduct your own test to be sure of the paint’s hardness.

How to Determine Paint Hardness When Auto Detailing

So, how do you determine paint hardness? The best way is through cautious trial and error. Select a small area of the vehicle that is in a similar condition to the main areas you need to work on. Then, use a very fine-grained sandpaper to test how easily you can sand out the scratches. If you make no progress, gradually increase the grit of your sandpaper until one is effective. If you have to use very coarse-grained sandpaper, the paint is hard. If you can use fine-grained sandpaper with ease, the paint is soft.

Over the course of your detailing training and career you’ll gain plenty of experience working with different paints. As you encounter more and more vehicles, you’ll learn how to determine paint hardness quickly and efficiently, so you can provide your clients with excellent results.

Do you want to enroll in an auto detailing course in Toronto?

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