Thanks for writing in and we look forward to welcoming you to the BigFoot family! The “21” is an excellent tool and will give you the ability to remove paint defects quickly while leaving behind a swirl-free, high-gloss finish. The benefits of its random orbital motion will greatly reduce the risk of damaging the paint. Start slow, learn to keep the pad flat, and let the 21 work for you, but choosing the right pads and polishing compounds is a daunting task. There are many options, sizes, names, marketing terms, and claims! When developing our polishing systems, RUPES has chosen a “keep it simple” philosophy of color coordinating the pad to the compound for an engineered system that works. Simply choose the level of cut you want, match the compound to the pad, and away you go. In the RUPES family of the colors, we use BLUE to code products designed to rapidly remove paint defects quickly or to remove significant defects such as scratches or acid rain damage. YELLOW is the code used to remove gloss-inhibiting swirl marks and create a high-gloss shine. WHITE is used for burnishing the surface like a jewel but doesn’t offer much ability to remove paint defects.
So how do you choose the right color? First I would suggest you set a goal. Are you trying to remove deep scratches or just give the paint a more vibrant shine? Are you doing “new car prep” on a relatively new vehicle with only minor surface imperfections? Maybe something in the middle? The biggest challenge for you as a newcomer is you won’t have the ability to visibly diagnose your paint, so an excellent way to get started is with one of our deluxe kits. Available for virtually all of our BigFoot polishers a deluxe kit gets you the tool itself as well as 250ml (about 8.5 ounces) of each of our polishing compounds along with 1 each of the corresponding foam pads, an apron, and a nice carrying bag. A kit like this will give you all the options you could possibly need and a chance to better understand what each of them is capable of. For your purposes, since you are considering the 21mm tool I would suggest either the LHR21ES/DLX or LHR21II/DLX kit (legacy version and mark II respectively)
With a selection of product and a goal in mind, it’s time for a test spot. Polish a small section of paint with the least aggressive process first (we typically recommend starting with the yellow foam and corresponding compound) and inspect the paint in good lighting. Did you accomplish your goals? If you did not remove all of the defects you have aimed to, increase the power of your polishing job by moving up a step in aggressiveness until you find a combination that delivers the results you are looking for.
When people first start polishing it can be a dangerous combination of inexperience and enthusiasm. Remember the paint on the automobile is finite and adding more paint is an expensive process. So what do you if you can see paint defects after a test spot with the BLUE components? Unless you have a knowledge of how much clear coat or paint is remaining on the vehicle or its history, I would suggest living with them. If you are happy with the shine, you are done. If you have a dark color, it might be a benefit to follow BLUE with either a YELLOW or WHITE step to enhance the gloss even more. How do you know? Always do a test spot.
When you are first starting out, I would recommend limiting yourself to YELLOW as your test product. Get comfortable with the tool, the pads, and the performance. As your skill and technique improve, and your experience increases, you can start when a more aggressive approach may be required before you even perform the test spot. After some experience and time, you may find a time when you desire even more cutting power than what you can achieve with the blue foam pad. In this case, the BigFoot Orbital Wool Pads offer a tremendous increase in polishing strength as well as other benefits. The wool pads are color coordinated in BLUE and YELLOW just like the other products, so you can choose the right option for you. The BLUE Orbital Wool Pad will remove paint defects very quickly, making an excellent choice for somebody who is working on a vehicle in really poor condition or a professional technician who requires speed and efficiency. The YELLOW wool offers the ability to remove moderate paint defects and often eliminates the need for a second gloss-enhancing step.
Polishing your own vehicles can be a rewarding and fun experience once you get the hang of it, so don’t let an early experience that doesn’t get you perfect results sour you on the process. Be patient and remember that like anything else you’ll get better as you get more comfortable with the technique.
Best of luck Chris, welcome to the family, and let us know if we can help further!
Todd Helme | Senior Technical Advisor, RUPES USA