Post a picture online of a wrecked car or basket case restoration project and some wit will inevitably comment that “all it needs is a bit of T-Cut”.
Polishing pastes have been an essential part of every car enthusiast’s cleaning kit for generations. They act like a very fine sandpaper in a bottle, with tiny fragments of an abrasive held in a liquid. When it is applied to bodywork it removes a tiny amount of the paint’s surface, polishing it back to a uniform shine. It’s a little like peeling a carrot, removing the rough and dirty outer layer to expose the fresh food underneath.
Cutting and polishing pastes are typically used to revive paint which has gone flat after being exposed to the sun or which has been aged with tiny scratches caused by washing, grit and general wear and tear. They can also be used to blend in new paint by matching the textures, or remove minor scrape damage from roadside thorns or careless parking.
But which will come out as our top cut?
To see which is the best, we subjected seven cutting pastes to a series of trials, applying them by both hand and using a dual rotary polisher machine fitted with a fresh medium foam cutting pad.
In each case the polish was worked for 30 seconds and excess was removed using a microfibre towel.
The first test was on newly-applied paint on our 1984 Land Rover to see if it could bring a shine to our rattle-can finish and blend the old and new coatings. We then tried them on dulled original paint on the same car.
To test how they coped with more modern finishes, we attacked typical hedgerow scratches along the side panels of a 2016 Nissan with a metallic colour and thicker topcoat of lacquer.
Koch Chemie H9.01 Heavy Cut Compound – Winner
It’s not particularly cheap and has a tricky name, but we really liked the no-nonsense Koch Chemie. It was just the right consistency and went onto our panels smoothly, with an easy-to-use (and not lose) cap and squeezy bottle which ensures you don’t waste any of the precious fluid.
The difference made with a little rubbing was immediately apparent on the rough new paint, and it ripped through to a shine on the weathered panel remarkably quickly too. We also liked that it didn’t seem to dry out to a powder even when worked hard using the machine, preventing extra damage from occurring from lumps in the machine pad.
The instructions insist the H9.01 is only designed for use with a machine, but it was effective when applied by hand too.
The only drawback compared to the more expensive Angelwax is that it doesn’t offer any extra protective coating, but the H9.01 was a better all-rounder in all the tests.
Anglewax Enigma A10
There’s a reason the bottle of Angelwax looks a little ‘careworn’ in the pictures – it has been well used as it’s a product we really like. The words ‘ceramic infused’ on the label or any car care product inevitably mean it is more expensive, and there is no doubt that it takes some faith to splash out £35 on a bottle of polish when you can get seven bottles of the Simoniz – or an entire mini-valet at a hand car wash – for the same amount.
But it really works well and requires very little effort. Even applying it by hand brought up the old, tired paint with minimal rubbing and using a few passes with the machine created a shine which hadn’t been seen since the car rolled out of the factory. It didn’t make such a noticeable difference to rough rattle can paint or the Nissan’s new clearcoat but the scratches still disappeared easily.
Yes, it’s expensive but a little goes a long way and it saves time and effort. It doesn’t have the all-round ability of the Koch-Chemie on new paint, but on dull and tired finishes it was unbeatable. Maybe put a bottle on your present list next birthday.
Simoniz Scratch and Swirl Remover
There’s no denying the value offered by the Simoniz products. This was one of the largest bottles in the test, yet it was the cheapest. We actually managed to find it for even less in Tesco with a Clubcard deal, but the price quoted here is the ‘normal’ amount.
The liquid struggled to make much of a difference on our newly-applied paint, even with the help of the machine polisher, but did cut through to a shine relatively quickly on our old, dulled panel. It did well on the Nissan’s damaged clear coat too.
It needs to be kept moist though, as it can dry out if left too long on the machine’s pad.
Unlike some of the other products here it doesn’t claim to be anything other than a cutting paste, so you’ll have to add a layer of wax separately to keep the paint protected after using it. We liked the no-nonsense formula, and the price.
Like Hoover, Transit and Sellotape, T-Cut is a product which has become a generic name for its type. The retro can seems to make the most of this ‘original’ heritage, and the tin is usefully more resistant to splitting open when it inevitably falls off the car and onto the drive – as we discovered. Just remember to fasten the lid too.
If you have had a bottle for years, the smell and colour of the liquid will be very familiar. What might be a surprise is how watery it seemed when you have a ‘fresh’ bottle. The scent, while familiar, is also a little overpowering at times.
The cutting performance was good though, especially on our old paint. In fact it was a little too aggressive in places so we went easy with the machine polisher to avoid wearing through the top coat. You need to pay attention to make sure it doesn’t dry out on the fast-spinning machine pad too, or you could cause damage.
T-Cut Color Fast
Unlike the original T-Cut, the Colour Fast claims to have ‘3-in-1’ ability which takes away the surface layer of paint, fills scratches with a coloured compound and then applies a layer of protective wax.
There are 10 colours to choose from and we found a grey which matched both the Land Rover and the modern metallic of the Nissan. It goes on to the paint easily but it struggled to ‘bite’ on our new paintwork. With some elbow grease it did manage to bring a shine on the dull paint and seemed to work reasonably well on the Nissan’s minor scratches too, but we are not convinced the colour of the liquid actually made any difference. Trying it on a patch of the Land Rover’s white roof paint didn’t change the colour or fill the scratches with grey, so we remain sceptical.
On the plus side, it’s good value and smells less offensive than the original T-Cut.
Black Diamond Fine Compound
As the name might imply, this Black Diamond Liquid is aimed at providing a finer finish rather than cutting deep into the paint. For this reason the Compound simply didn’t seem to have the ‘bite’ of some of the more aggressive formulas on the Land Rover’s rough paint. However, it did much better on our more modern Nissan’s minor scratches, rendering them invisible even with the hand polishing.
To be fair, there are two other grades of Black Diamond (Coarse and Medium) which would undoubtably have made more of an impact on our rougher paint, and you could actually buy all three for less than the price of the Angelwax – and you’d have enough to last you a lifetime of polishing. On its own though, this Fine Compound is only really good for the final finishing on paint which is already near to perfect.
Turtle Wax Scratch Repair & Renew
The label says the Turtle Wax uses “precision platelets” as part of the formula to remove paint swirls, and that it leaves behind a layer of wax once you are finished. When compared to some of the other ‘premium’ products here, the price of £8 for 200ml doesn’t seem too bad either, although it does look pricey next to the more common T-Cuts and the like.
But we weren’t very impressed with the results when used on the Land Rover’s new paint and it took a lot of elbow grease to get the original, flat finish to a shine too. It seemed to cope much better with the Nissan’s minor clearcoat scratches which would suggest it is designed for more modern paint. We think there are better options though.
The best cutting paste for you will largely depend on what you need it to do and how much you are willing to spend. The Koch Chemie and Angelwax are expensive enough to put the occasional user off, but we’d be tempted to put them on our birthday list as they do such a good job and take a lot of the effort out of getting a decent finish.
If you can’t quite stretch that far and only need to remove a few light marks from undergrowth, the Simoniz is great value and smells nicer than T-Cut.