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The Detailed Service

What is wet-sanding?

When we 'wet sand,' we are carefully shaving off a microscopic layer of a paint surface using abrasive sandpapers/pads and water. We do this in order to leave a 'flat,' mirror-like surface, completely free of imperfections and with unparallelled gloss levels. Take a look at this video for a start-to-finish demonstration of the process. The same car can be seen on our website here.

Wet Sanding / Colour Sanding

Wet sanding has been around for decades. Years ago, the same process we use today was called colour sanding because automotive paints were single-stage (primer and a colour coat) and, when the finish faded from ultra violet radiation (UVR) exposure, sanding off the oxidized paint (thereby exposing the underlying fresh paint) would bring back the original surface colour. If you're wet sanding a single stage paint you'll see the colour of the paint in the water as you sand. If you're sanding a clear coat finish the water will be a whitish colour, as the sanded particles of clear coat lacquer are whitish or opaque.

How Long Does it Last?

Wet sanding is permanent. Unlike any wax/sealant it will not wear away after a period of time. No product on the market will produce the same result as wet sanding. There is no comparison. Something to also consider; your manufacturer's warranty is not affected.

Why Wet Sand?

Sometimes the only way to remove or lighten a heavy imperfection is by sanding the paint surface. This can be a fast and effective way to remove a heavy scratch or scuff, if you are skilled and very careful. On the other hand, this method may lead to a trip to the spray booth if you are over enthusiastic and not aware of when to stop!

Another reason people come to us for wet sanding is to create a flawless, show car finish over the entire vehicle. A finish that is completely clear and/or defect free. A wet sanded finish offers exceptional depth, clarity, gloss and shine.

In order to create these characteristics, the paint must be completely flat and free from any orange-peel as well as any other above/below surface paint defects. When we use the term "flat" to describe paint we don't mean as in a 'matte' or 'low gloss' finish, we mean the surface is completely flat like a piece of glass. When the finish is completely flat, it will reflect crisp, clear images like a mirror with no distortion; this is referred to as D.O.I. or Distinction of Images. To get an automotive finish completely flat or level, the paint must be sanded flat and then buffed to a high gloss.

During the process of wet sanding we are actually "shaving" a microscopic layer of clear coat off the paint surface, eliminating any imperfections along with it. The process therefore can remove scuffs or marks, however it's also used to eliminate:

  • Runs or Sags

These are beads, droplets, larger globules or "curtain effect" in the paint finish on vertical surfaces. This is caused by paint mixture too slow (hardener, thinner), viscosity too low (too thin), paint applied too thick, paint technician application error etc.

  • Dry Paint

Granular texture normally with no gloss at all, this defect is usually limited to small areas. Commonly caused by spraying too fast, air pressure too high, spray gun too far from surface etc.

  • Orange Peel

One of the greatest imperfections. Due to new paint technologies, many new vehicles can suffer from this bad paint finish, otherwise known as orange peel. Orange peel is the name given to a slightly rippled effect on the paintwork... similar to what you find on an orange.

There are other differing factors that contribute to causes of orange peel, but normally it's as follows: when a vehicle is sprayed at the factory, the build up of multiple wet layers of paint combined with the spray guns pushing out a lot of air cause the airstream to leave a visible rippled effect finish. Think of these ripples like waves, consisting of peaks and troughs on your paintwork surface. A highly experienced wet-sander is able to carefully shave down the peaks to the level of the troughs, which means that the orange-peel is fully removed without reducing the thickness of the clearcoat from its original lowest point at all.

On our Facebook page we recently demonstrated how little lacquer the process removes, taking only 8/1000 of a millimetre off of an Audi A3, or only 6/1000 of a millimetre off this BMW M3. These are typical examples.

  • Dirt/Dust Contamination

Usually small, irregular particles in the paint film caused by foreign matter (e.g. dust/dirt) which can occur in different sizes, shapes, types and patterns.

  • Silicone Marks

Marks/defects that are caused by contamination of oil, grease, silicone and wax products still present on the sub surface before applying the fresh paint. The defects are what looks like perfect small dots, also known as "fish eyes" in the trade.

  • Blend Lines

Blend lines in paint are where the original paint meets the new fresh paint, a technique is used to overly thin down the paint (lacquer top coat) at the location of the join area, which in turn results in a poorer finish with time around this area. This technique is widely used within the smart repair industry as it's not normal to paint entire complete panels.

In many cases wet sanding can be more effective than trying to machine correct (polishing /compounding) these imperfections out . Wet sanding will not create the heat associated with machine correction if carried out correctly, and will be less aggressive than machine correction, but special care and measurements must be taken throughout the entire process. If done correctly, wet sanding will actually remove LESS lacquer (top clear coat) than heavy machine correction (as done in body shops).

Key Factors

All imperfections in a paint surface are different and different methods will be used to remove or lighten them. Skill level, knowledge and expertise will determine if the problem can be fixed or improved without refinishing the area. You would not choose to sand something that may be removed by the use of clay or light polishing. On the other hand you would not try to polish out a deep key scratch. Machine correcting the area may be an option if the scratch is not too deep, but it's important to remember the heat and friction it will be creating and the aggressiveness of both the buffing pad and the compound used. Sometimes this method will rub through the paint quicker than wet sanding.

The colour of the car will often determine how bad a scratch appears and therefore how well it can be repaired. Clear coat will always look whitish in appearance when it is scratched. The two key elements are how deep is it and what colour the vehicle is. A scratch on a black car will always look worse than on white because of the background or the basecoat. A scratch on black will have to be sanded more deeply to totally remove it.

Some people say factory finishes do not have enough clear coat to sand and that you will not have enough protection if you sand. If the lowest point of the clear coat is enough to protect the car, then should you sand to that point and no further your car will look its best and still be protected. The secret is to not sand any more than the lowest point of the clear coat. See illustration below:

Orange Peel

Paint Thickness, and Paint Thickness Gauges (PTG's)

At KDS, before any wet sanding is carried out, the entire vehicle's paint thickness (including the layers of primer, base coat (colour) and clear coat) is measured with a digital paint thickness gauge, also used throughout the process. Removing just 8 - 10 microns (out of an average 110 – 140 microns) results in maximum effect. Orange peel, swirl marks, mild scratches, bird stains etc. will be completely removed from all types of paint.

A common question we're asked is about the potential to remove 'too much paint', with arbitrary paint thickness values being thrown into these discussions. Part of the reason your car is so safe with us at KDS is that we take exceptional care to thoroughly assess the situation before we begin with any abrasive processes (machine polishing or wet-sanding). No job will be attempted if there's a chance of of it compromising the integrity or longevity of your paintwork.

However...

The panel in this album shows original paintwork from a big-name German manufacturer, and demonstrates quite clearly that their own tolerances are pretty wide. At the stationary laser point (as a reference) there is 136 microns of paint thickness, but it varies over a 50 micron range on a single panel alone. We take great pride in achieving the best possible results while only removing the smallest amount of paint, much less than other detailers we have encountered. It's a specific skill mastered over more than two decades of experience, experimentation and self-testing. So bear in mind: with our wet sanding procedures we're talking about a few microns here or there, against the fact that original paint can be so wildy uneven in the first place.

If you require, KDS can produce a report to show you (the customer) the depth of paint before and after the paint correction process is complete, also detailing any repair work previously carried out on your vehicle.

The gauges we commonly use are the PosiTector 200/6000.

The PosiTector 6000 measures paint on any metal, including steel and aluminium, popular choices given many cars have both steel and aluminium. It automatically recognizes the material and takes a measurement. The PosiTector 200 is a multiple layer depth gauge being able to show the paint build in distinct layers on ALL surfaces including carbon fibre and plastic.

 

How much does it cost?

We offer 4 wet sanding packages to suit your budget :

The packages below are inclusive of the necessary machine polish correction time after wet sanding has taken place. This includes the end results as per our KDS silver paint correction packages

  • Pre-selected wax/sealant is applied
  • Door shuts waxed for added protection
  • Door seals and rubbers cleaned and protected
  • Interior glass cleaned
  • Exterior glass cleaned
  • Tyres cleaned and dressed with a long lasting tyre gel
  • Exterior plastics dressed
  • Paintwork checked with 3M sunlight and 2 other light sources
  • Final inspection to make sure your car meets our high standards

Bronze Wet Sand

This will reduce the orange peel effect by partially wet sanding the tops (bonnet, roof and boot lid if applicable) of your vehicle. A big difference with a more affordable price tag.

Time taken : 30-50hrs (7 day booking)

Price from : Small: £975, Medium: £1075, Large: £1245, X-Large/4x4: £1475

 

Silver Wet Sand

As a bronze but we will partial wet sand the whole car to reduce the orange peel and make your paint look considerably glossier, with a deeper depth of shine

Time Taken : 40-70hrs (7-14 day booking)

Price from : Small: £1245, Medium: £1475, Large: £1825, X-Large/4x4: £2395

 

Gold Wet Sand

We will completely remove the orange peel on the top panels (eye line panels) and partial wet sand the rest of the vehicle. A very popular choice with our customers.

Time taken : 55-90hrs (min 14 day booking)

Price from : Small: £1600, Medium: £1900, Large: £2400, X-Large/4x4: £3000

 

Platinum Wet Sand

This is the one if you want absolute perfection and KDS can produce this. This is the pinnacle of detailing: for the ultimate finish, this is the one to choose. We will completely wet sand the whole car using four different grades of sanding paper, going right up to all the edges and thus removing all orange peel from the entire vehicle before machine polishing back to reveal a flawless mirror finish.

Time taken : 140-200hrs (min 21 day booking)

Price from : Small: £2600, Medium: £3300, Large: £3900, X-Large/4x4: £4700

 

Bespoke Wet Sand

We also offer a per panel service, which is useful if a panel on your car has been repaired and needs to be wet-sanded in order to better match the finish of adjacent panels.

Prices start at £150+VAT per panel.

Prices from...

£975 - £4700

Time: 30 - 200 hours

Please see text below for full pricing