Car Care / Tech

Tech: How To Extend The Life Of Your Pads

Take care of your pads and they’ll take care of you. After receiving some customer feedback concerning pad life and how to extend it, we have come up with a few tips and tricks you can use to keep your pads humming along at full effectiveness and make them stay in top shape longer.

These tips focus on how you use your Random Orbital, how you use your car care liquids, and how to care for your pads.

Here we see one way extreme heat can damage pads. Note how the foam itself breaks down, not the adhesive between the foam and the hook-and-loop mounting surface.

Heat Is The Enemy

Generating heat and the cycling of heat can wreak havoc on your pads and cause them to breakdown. The damage caused by excessive heat can be seen immediately or develop over time.

Cupping of the pad face is also a sign of extreme damage. This deformation is also usually accompanied by deep pitting and pore breakdown in the foam.

The timeline is determined by a number of user behaviors as well as the type of pad you’re using. The type of pad refers to foam design and density. A waxing pad and correcting pad have much different foam pore structure and density which plays a role in its heating and/or cooling characteristics.

Here we see the difference in thickness between our BOSS™ foam pad (top) at 5/8″ and our one-inch thick standard foam pad.

The thickness of the pad also has a lot to do with heat generation. Our standard foam pad is one-inch thick and our BOSS™ foam pads are 5/8″ thick so each resists or generates heat and retains said heat differently.

Generally speaking, microfiber pads are more durable. Part of their durability has to do with how the pad’s layer of microfiber helps prevent the polish from soaking into the foam interface, clogging the pores, and creating heat. The BOSS™ Microfiber Fast Cutting Pad, which has no foam to break down is the most durable. It is also the most aggressive pad so it is not meant for every paint care scenario.

Too Much Pressure

Pressure generates friction and friction generates heat so minimizing the pressure you put on your Random Orbital is critical. This is why it is always smart to let the machine do the work. Pressure should only be used when absolutely necessary. In fact, most defects can be removed without exerting heavy pressure. Too much pressure actually slows pad rotation, which can steal away defect removing ability and lead to the generation of harmful heat that can break down the foam faster.

Too Much Product

The pad at left has too much product on it. The pad on the right has a more manageable amount in the nifty swirl pattern we like so much.

Pouring on the product wastes money and can cause the pores of the pad to clog and retain heat. You want to always evenly apply your liquid to the face of the pad. To start, you want to prime the pad with three or four swirls starting at the outer edge of the pad and applying toward the center. Once you’ve primed the pad you’ll only need an additional two or three drops of product when you need to reapply product as you work your way around the vehicle. Beyond pore clogging, adding too much product can add weight which also contributes to heat generation and increased vibration.

Clean Pads Are Happy Pads

Clean pads are better able to resist heat buildup and, most of all, clean pads retain their original effectiveness longer. Pad cleaning should be part of your process. Using a Pad Conditioning Brush, an Air Pulse Blow Gun, or other compressed air delivery method is a good way to release all the dried-up product in the pores and keep your pad face clean.

At left: Before cleaning you can see the clogged pores throughout the pad, especially the heavily affected areas that look pitted. At right: the same pad after cleaning. It has open pores that are consistent across the pad face and the foam has returned to its original state.

You should clean your pad every other panel or every panel, depending on how many passes you make per panel. Also note that clearcoats and single-stage paints can leave residue in the pad. Single-stage paints will color the pad, making it a bit easier to determine when to break out the brush, but they also require more frequent cleaning.

At left: A microfiber pad ready for a quick cleaning. Note how the fibers are flat and caked together. At right: Same pad post cleaning. The fibers are standing tall and ready to roll.

Microfiber pads signal when they need cleaning a little differently. Instead of clogging pores, the fibers on the pad face start matting up and laying flat. Cleaning will release the residue and restore the fiber’s fluffiness.

Using a Pad Conditioning Brush is easy. Set tool speed to one or two, apply light pressure, letting pad rotation do the work, and move the brush from the middle of the pad out. If you feel you need more cleaning power, turn the orbital’s speed up to setting four. As mentioned, compressed air can be used to attain the same pore-clearing clean. In fact, you will actually be able to see the pores come clean as you blast the pad. You can use both methods if you like.

Swap Your Pads

Although cleaning your pads during the detail allows them to run longer and stay more effective, it is still a good best practice to swap to a new/fresh pad every quarter or third of the vehicle, using at least two to four pads for the entire job. This is a great way to maintain the consistent performance of the pads and the consistent quality of your results. Ultimately your pads will stay in top condition as long as possible. Of course, none of these techniques are meant to supplant a thorough machine wash with our Microfiber & Foam Pad Cleaner.

We build our pads for the long haul. We expect them to last and, just like your car, they need some basic maintenance to keep running smooth. These tips will help you keep your pads lively and ready to answer the call to perfection. Happy detailing.

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