Car Care Glossary
by Paul Gasparola and Angela Brown
Professional Detailers Association

· Abrasive: Natural or synthetic particles (grit or media) found compounds, cleaners and sandpaper which cut the paint surface to remove imperfections.

· ACGIH: American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists.

· Acid: A substance below 7 on pH scale. Cleaning products containing acids must be used with care. Follow the directions on the label and use safety equipment.

· Acid Rain: Rain contaminated with acid compounds from various sources. May cause damage to automotive finishes and glass.

· Adhesion: How well a product bonds to the surface to which it is applied.

· Alkaline – Alkalis: Substances above 7 on a pH scale classified as being caustic. Caustic compounds are used in cleaning products such as soap. Cleaning products containing alkalis must be used with care. Follow the directions on the label and use safety equipment.

· Appearance Reconditioning: The cosmetic restoration of a vehicle to a like new condition.

· Basecoat: The foundation paint layer of the basecoat / clearcoat automotive finish. Specifically the layer of densely pigmented paint (color) applied over the primer coat.

· Bath Tubber: A slang term used referring to a manufacturer who mixes his own chemical products in large drums or "bath tubs". May be of low price and poor quality.

· Biodegradable: A product capable of being broken down into usually stable compounds through natural forces such as sunlight, bacteria or enzymes.

· Blushing: New paint finish turns milky or cloudy shortly after polishing. Solvents have not finished evaporating from the paint. Wait 30 days to rebuff.

· Body Shop Safe: A generic term used to refer to products for the body shop which contain no silicone or compounds that interfere with the painting system.

· Buffer: A piece of equipment used by skilled technicians to apply products to a vehicle. Reduces the time spent, and improves the quality of work performed

· Buffer Marks: Circular marks which remain in the paint when abrasive cleaners or compounds are used. Comprised of unevenly distributed oils and or scratches also called swirls and wheel marks.

· Buffing Compound: A strong cleaning substance which may contain grit designed to remove severe oxidation or other major finish imperfections from painted surfaces. Not all buffing compounds are compatible with all paint finishes (such as clearcoats) and must be used carefully or not at all.

· Burn: To unintentionally scar or remove paint from a vehicle by machine (exterior). Damage to the surface by fire (interior).

· Burnish: Polish with a tool to make the surface smooth or glossy by friction; increase distinctness of image by smoothing the paint.

· CAS No.: Chemical Abstracts Services registration number.

· Checking, Cracking, Crazing: Paint looks like shattered glass. Paint dries out and loses its elasticity. Repeated extreme temperatures cause the paint to expand and contract and pulls the pint apart.

· Chemicals :A term of categorize a group of products (i.e. polishing, chemicals, chemical cleaners, cleaning chemicals).

· Citrus: A cleaning agent of similar chemical composition to oranges and lemons (d-limonene). Also a fragrance added to cleaners or air fresheners.

· Cleaner: (paint) A product that contains a mild abrasive for removing light oxidation, scratches and minor Banish imperfections. Usually less aggressive than rubbing compound, and offers little or no protection.

· Cleaner/Wax: A product which removes light to medium oxidation and scratches from the paint surface and leaves a protective coating. Commonly known as a “one step”.

· Clearcoat: A thin transparent layer of paint (may be enamel or lacquer based) applied over a pigmented layer of paint (base coat) to provide a deep, rich, shiny finish.

· Combustible Liquid: Any liquid having a flash point at or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

· Compound: A harsh abrasive product designed to remove heavy surface contamination and deep scratches. Reduces paint thickness quickly, with minimal effort. Will leave visible scratches (swirls) in the paint finish, which may be removed by machine application of a cleaner, polish or machine glaze.

· Concentrate: A product that requires thinning with an appropriate water, solvent, thinner, etc.

· Conventional Paint: Traditional way of finishing automotive surfaces. Generally recognized as a lacquered, acrylic, enamel and acrylic enamel paint finishes. Multiple colorcasts of paint are applied over the primer with no clearcoat application.

· C – Polymer: A chemical compound of two polymers which are compatible and stable when joined.

· Cosmoline: A heavy grade petroleum by-product of paraffin applied to automobile exteriors as a protective coating during transit. Requires special chemicals and procedures to be removed.

· Cutting Pad: A wool or synthetic blend pad with twisted fiber strands that resemble shag carpet or course foam pads typically used to compound or clean the paint surface.

· D.A. Polisher/ Sander: Dual Action rotates with a double elliptical movement.

· D.O.T.: Department of Transportation. Government agency which regulates the transport of goods.

· Degradable: A product capable of being broken down through exposure to heat, moisture, sunlight or other chemicals. Resultant products of degradation may or may not be stable.

· Detailing: To clean, item by item, each minor part of a vehicle until the desired results are achieved.

· Detergents: Cleaning products for auto interiors and exteriors with different chemical formulations as the active cleaning agent. Differentiated by thickness and cleaning ability.

· Dilute: To reduce by thinning with appropriate reducer, water, solvent, thinner, etc., in accordance with directions.

· Dressed/Dressing: The application of a coating applied to vinyl, leather, plastic and rubber to protect or make shiny.

· Durability: The power of long term resistance to decay or change.

·Dwell Time: A time in which a product is encouraged to remain in an active state during application. During cleaning a product may be required to sit or dwell for several minutes before being rinsed.

· E.P.A. : Environmental Protection Agency. Government body which helps protect the environment. Has jurisdiction over the manufacturer through the end user of a product.

· Emollient: A substance designed to add moisture or increase softness. Found in hand cleansers or leather and vinyl conditioners.

· Emulsion: The suspension of a solid or liquid within another solution preventing it from settling to the surface.

· Enamel Paint (acrylic enamel): type of O.E.M. paint used for man years.

· Exposure: An employee subject to a hazardous chemical, in the course of employment, Trough any route of entry (inhalation, ingestion, skin contact or absorption).

· Extractor: A machine used to clean carpets and cloth seats. Applies cleaning solution in fan spray and removes moisture and dirt with vacuum action. In car washing, a machine used to spin dry towels.

· Fabric Protector: A product applied to cloth seats and carpets which repels moisture and food soils allowing textiles to be cleaned easier.

· Fallout: Contamination which settles out of the air onto automotive finishes and imbeds itself into the paint, such as industrial stack fallout, aircraft fuel and volcanic ash.

· Finishing Pad A combed wool pad or soft foam pad used from the final buffing step to minimize swirl marks.

· Fish Eye: Complications which occur during repainting when paint is repelled from a spot due to the presence of grease, oil or silicone on the paint surface.

· Flammable Liquid: A chemical that has a flash point below 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

· Flash Off: Dwell time for solvent to evaporate from the paint surface.

· Flash Point: The temperature at which a product, when heated, will release a combustible vapor.

· Foam Pad: A round foam disk made of various designs and textures for cleaning, polishing or sealing paint.

· Glaze: When machine applied, imparts a glossy appearance by burnishing and coating the paint surface. Used by hand to coat the surface and hide wheel marks. The degree of protection will vary.

· H.M.I.S.: Hazardous Material Identification System. A system of numbers, symbols and letters which give information about health, flammability, reactivity and personal protection for chemicals and products.

· Hazardous Chemicals: Products or chemical components that pose a health risk to the user if used improperly or if proper safety equipment is not used. READ MSDS for each product you use. Warnings are normally written as if hazardous product were at 100% solution.

· Haze: State where a product (such as wax) is dry on the surface and appears dull or milky. A dull film caused by imbedded dirt, oxidation or scratches on the paint surface.

· Hi Tech. Paints: Clearcoat and urethane paint finishes

· IARC: International Agency for Research of Cancer

· IDLH: Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health

· Industrial Fallout: Airborne pollutants from heavy industry or railroads which settle onto automotive surfaces and become embedded in the finish. Gradually the particles oxidize and appear as dark specks in the paint. Requires special products and procedures to be removed.

· Lacquer Thinner: A solvent combination used to thin lacquer or acrylic paints.

· MSDS: Material Safety Data Sheets. Standardized sheet which systematically describes a product and its chemical components. Manufacturers and distributors are to provide customers with an MSDS sheet for every product they buy. Distributors should also have a full set of MSDSsheets in their warehouse and in delivery vehicles.

· Metallic Paint: A type of automotive finish which contains metallic flakes that produce a glittery appearance.

· Metering System: A system which mixes chemicals with water as they are dispensed.

· Mottling: Paint color appears streaked, with light and dark areas. Cause, heavier film thickness in some areas that in others. Excessive wetting of some areas when painted. Uneven disbursement of the metallic in the paint.

· Multiple Step Process: When three or more polishing steps are required to properly process the painted surface of the vehicle. Example, overspray on paint may require sanding, compounding, polishing and sealing.

· OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Government agency which sets standards for workers' safety.

· Oil: Viscous liquids of natural plant and animal oils which are mixtures of terpene and simple esters or mineral oils which are mixtures of hydrocarbons, used in paint and auto polishes.

· One Step: Polishing a vehicle with one product that both cleans and seals at the same time.

· Orange Peel: The nubby rough appearance of paint; looks much like the texture of an orange skin, surface lacks clarity or reflected image. Caused by paint applied too dry, resulting in poor flowout.

· Orbital Buffer: A mechanical buffer with a pad that travels in ellipses instead of rotating on a fixed axis. Used when waxing to simulate the movement of the human hand.

· Original Finish: The paint finish applied by the manufacturer (O.E.M. finish).

· Overspray: Substance such as paint mist that settles out of the air onto automobile surface appearing as tiny specks.

· Oxidation: Chemical substances within an automotive finish that collect and bond with oxygen molecules, causing the paint to become dry, dull and faded. Condition may be remedied by using suitable polishing materials.

· Pad Washer: A mechanical device used to remove accumulations of compounds and cleaners from buying pads. Uses water spray and spur action while the pad is on the buffer.

·Paint Cleaner: A product that contains mild abrasive used from removing oxidation, light scratches and minor surface imperfections from the paint surface. Normally less aggressive than rubbing compounds and offers little or protection.

· Paint Film Thickness: Measure of the amount of paint on the vehicle. Also known as film build, and is measured in millimeters or thousandths of an inch.

· Paint Sealer: A protective product applied by hand or machine to automotive paint, which coats, seals and protects the surface. Normally contains silicones to maximize durability.

· Paint Burn: To unintentionally scar or remove paint from a vehicle by machine.

· PEL: Permissible Exposure Limit.

· Petroleum Distillates: Compounds that are derived from crude oil through the refining process.

· Petroleum Solvents: Liquids, derived from crude oil through the refining process, capable of dissolving other substances.

· pH Scale: A 0-14 scale to determine the nature of water soluble chemicals. 0-6 Acidic; 7-8 Neutral; 9-14 Alkaline-Caustic.

· Polish: A product normally applied by machine polisher to produce a smooth, bright and glossy paint surface. May remove swirl marks, minor surface imperfections and light to medium oxidation. Also known as a swirl remover.

· Polishing: Term is often used to describe the action of using a machine to buffer wheel a vehicle.

· Polishing Pad: A wool or foam covered disk that attaches to a machine polisher or buffer, for application and removal of cleaner and sealers on painted surfaces.

· Polymer: A naturally occurring or synthetic substance consisting of a large molecule formed by smaller molecules of the same substance with a definite arrangement. Used in the production of durable waxes and polishes.

· Polyurethane: A catalyst type of paint known for exceptional durability.

· Pressure Washer: A mechanical device that steps up city water pressure of 50-60 psi to 500-1200 psi or more. A system used to clean surfaces with cleaning solutions under pressure.

· Pre – Wash: First step in preparing a vehicle for detailing, be removing dirt, tar, etc.

· Procedure/ Processing: To put through the steps of a prescribed method of application techniques.

· Professional: A person fully educated, trained and skilled in all aspects of his profession.

· Primer: Material applied to the surface to seal, fill scratches and improve adhesion of paint.

· PSI: Pounds per Square Inch. A measure of air and water pressure.

· Quality: Degree of excellence or relative goodness of work performed.

· RPM: Revolutions Per Minute. The number of complete turns made in one minute.

· Rail Dust: Small, metallic particles attributed to railroads, which settle onto automotive surfaces and become imbedded in the finish. Gradually, the particles oxidize and appear as dark speckles in the paint. Requires special products and procedures to be removed. Also known as industrial fallout.

· Resin: A synthetic or naturally occurring polymer.

· Respiratory Distress: A physical condition caused by inhaling toxic vapors, characterized by shortness of breath, inability to breath, dizziness and sometimes unconsciousness. This condition requires immediate medical attention.

· Sealer/Sealant: A protective product applied by hand or machine to an automotive paint, which coats, seals and protects the surface. Normally contains silicones to maximize durability.

· Shine: To brighten or increase luster of polishing. Highly reflective gloss.

· Silicone :Any group of polymerized semi-inorganic compounds comprised of silicone items, oxygen and possibly organic compounds. Characterized by high resistance to heat and water. Silicone adds durability, lubrication and enhances gloss. Silicone can create complications during repainting in body shops. Non-silicone products are preferable for body shop applications.

· Solvent: A substance, usually liquid, that dissolves or can dissolve another substance.

· Spur: A small hand held tool with spoked wheel, used to clean a buffing pad of accumulation of wax or polish.

· STEL: Short Term Exposure Limit

· Surfactant: A compound which helps lift substances from a surface so they may be removed. Usually found in cleaners to improve rinsing.

· Swirls: Circular scratch marks in the paint surface caused by abrasive buffing products, heavily contaminated polishing pad or poor buffing.

· TCC: Tagliabue Closed Cup. A test used to determine flammability of a product.

· Technician: A laborer skilled and knowledgeable of the duties he is to perform.

· Teflon: Non-stick coating applied to cooling pans at over 700 degrees F. Teflon powder may be used in polishes, waxes and sealers as a leveler to ease application and removal of excess material.

· Throw Off: Product which is thrown from the surface or tool due to centrifugal force. For buffing, this appears as tiny speckles of product on other surfaces.

· TLV Threshold Limit Value

· Transit Coating: A protective coating applied to auto exteriors prior to transportation to prevent damage to the exterior surfaces. Requires special removal procedures.

· TWA: Time Weighted Average

· Two Step: A term to describe the process of cleaning or polishing the paint surface followed by a separate finishing application of durable coating of wax or sealer.

· Ultra Violet Rays: A component of ordinary light which cannot be seen by the human eye. Deteriorates automotive surfaces by causing fading, cracking, peeling and discoloration. Some products contain ingredients that guard against UV damage.

· Urethane Paint: A catalyst paint known for exceptional durability.

· Water Based: A product whose primary liquid ingredient is water.

· Water Soluble: Characterized by the ability to mix completely in or with water.

· Wax: A natural or synthetic product that protects the paint. May be in paste or liquid form or for application by hand or machine.

· Weathering: The change or failure in paint caused by exposure to weather.

· Wet Sanding: A procedure of simultaneously sanding and rinsing an automotive finish to remove imperfections. Regarded as complicated and should only be attempted by professionals.

· Wheel Marks: Circular scratch marks in the paint surface. Also called buffer marks or swirls.

A few comments on PH. A chemical product with a PH of 7 is considered neutral. Below 7 the product becomes acidic. The following are general PH levels of some detail products:

© 1999 Angela Brown and Paul Gasparola