Originally Posted by Detailed Image
Great questions and thank you for the positive feedback.
I am a big fan of claying a new vehicle, I recently responded to the poll posted on claying a new vehicle so I'll copy over my response.
To really maximize your results with detailing, knowing about the proper process and techniques will take you further than the products you are using. Once you understand what each step of the process is trying to achieve and how to do it correctly, you can properly decide on which products will best fit your needs, budget and most importantly, meet your detailing objectives.
In my eyes, there are roughly 12 processes that your exterior can undergo.
Washing & Drying - This is an important step to master because this is the foundation of any detail. This is also the process in which most imperfections are added to your paint, so take the time to research the proper washing and drying techniques.
Waterless Washing - This is a great step to learn if you do not have access to a hose on a regular basis. It works great for people who reside in apartment complexes and mobile detailers.
Using a Clay Bar - This step will help further remove surface contamination that was left behind during the wash stage of the detail. It properly preps the surface for the next steps.
Compounding - This step is used to correct paint with severe defects. Only use this step as a last resort after other, less aggressive methods have been tried and failed. You will almost always leave a haze or marring behind with this step which will need to be corrected by polishing or finishing the paint. You are removing part of the clear coat during this step.
Polishing - This step will take care of most imperfections, like light swirls, water marks, light surface scratches, etc. You are removing a minimal amount of clear coat during this step.
Finishing Polishes - This step will remove any hazing left behind from a more aggressive polish or a rotary buffer. This is when you diminish swirls and other imperfections to a minimum and the gloss and depth really jumps out. You will typically remove a tiny bit of the clear coat during this step.
All In One Products - This step is used to save time by combining some cleaning or polishing characteristics along with some form of protection. While the results are not quite as good as doing the steps separately, these products save time for people looking for great results in less time.
Glazes - Glazes typically have oils and clay in their formula in order to help fill in and hide imperfections. This is only a temporary solution as the fillers will wash out over time.
Sealants - This step adds a barrier of protection that typically lasts 3 - 6 months. A majority of sealants are easy to apply and remove, while giving off a reflective, mirror like look. These products are usually created in a lab.
Waxes - This step will add protection that typically lasts 2 - 8 weeks. A benefit of waxing is you add depth and dimension that sealants are unable to achieve. This is commonly used at car shows to really give off the wet look.
Spray on Protectants - This step usually enhances either a sealant or wax and is often used after a wash and dry during a maintenance step.
Quick Detailers - These products often have light cleaners in them and are great for removing a light dusting after performing a full detail.
Getting to know each step of the detailing process will really help you grow and learn when and why you are performing a detail on your vehicle. This is especially important if you plan on detailing for other people. It will save you a lot of time and you will best meet the customers needs by understanding what happens during each step of the process.
After you really understand what is going on, the products used are just the finishing touches. Once you start looking at the higher quality brands of detailing products, when used correctly, they will yield great results. Some products look better on certain colors, some will be more durable, some interior will give off more gloss or more of a matte look, etc. We all come to have our favorites and go to products over time.
Golden Rule - Prep work is the key to any quality detail. This means removing as much contamination as possible and removing as many imperfections in the clear coat as possible (while doing it safely of course). Prep work occurs during washing and drying, using a clay bar, polishing and glazing.
As far as Zaino vs OTC products is concerned. I think the biggest thing you would notice is longer durability of the protection offered. Zaino is always noted for its durability and recently have made some of their products easier to apply and use. If you vehicle is heavily swirled, Zaino may not be the best option to take, as they only have an option or two that actually remove imperfections. Other steps, such as Z5 fill in and hide imperfections.
I hope this gives you some insight on caring for your new vehicle and what options are available to you when it comes to choosing what processes your vehicle can undergo.
If you have any questions on anything presented, please do not hesitate to ask.