How To Polish A Car

How To Polish A Car

How To Polish A Car

Once you have learned How to Pick the Right Car Polisher Machine, you should know How to Polish a Car. For starters, some of these things might appear a bit extensive for you, or difficult, but with some practice, you will soon be able to get through it very easily. There are two different ways to polish your car:

  • Polishing by hand
  • Machine polishing

Ideally, a lot of people who polish their car will start by doing it by hand. This is in fact a good way for you to get firsthand experience, and learn the intricate details about your car. Once you get used to this, you can then advance to machine polishing, which is often considered a preserve for professionals.

Admittedly, you can get to do so much more within a shorter time period when you are using machine polishing than hand polishing. However, it is also understandable that most people do not have the funds, confidence or desire to jump into machine polishing just yet.

The good thing for those who love to polish by hand, is that modern polishing products have actually been improved from time to time, so you need a fair amount of effort to get the result you desire. In fact, if you know your way around your car and a few tricks here and there, you could achieve the same results as someone who uses Machine Polishing.

How to polish a car by hand

This is one of the easiest and the best ways of getting the best results when polishing your car. At the same time however, this alternative is also limited in the correcting possibilities.

We would not recommend working with anything other than medium abrasive polish especially if you have a dark colored car. If for some reason you do not get to work the polish properly, you could end up with a marred finish on your car, hence the need for you to be very careful when polishing by hand.

The following are the main items that you will need to do polish your car by hand:

  • Foam applicator pad
  • Car polish
  • Chamois cloth(s)
  • Detailing clay
  • Auto-specific detergent
  • Car sponge


  1. Wash the vehicle

Thoroughly wash your vehicle, getting rid of any contaminants and surface dirt. During this process, make sure you use a clean sponge or any auto cleanser that is appropriate, so that you do not scratch the car.

  1. Handle foreign material

Get some detailing clay and get rid of any foreign items that could be on the car. This includes anything that is unnecessarily stuck on the vehicle like tree sap or road tar. Before you use detailing clay brands, make sure you read the manufacturer instructions to get the right procedure for application

  1. Drying the vehicle

Allow the vehicle to air dry, or you can alternatively use car chamois cloth to do it on your own by hand. Before you proceed however, make sure that there are no foreign matter or lint that could have been transferred to the vehicle.

  1. Apply car polish

For this task, we recommend light abrasive car polish. Use a foam applicator pad to do this. Mild abrasives are often recommended for this purpose, because they can help you get rid of the marred parts on the painted surface.

Other than that, they also help you restore the perfect finish to your car, in the event that you were using sealant or wax application on it.

To apply the polish, use a fresh pad, and be very careful not to mix any products that you are using on the same pad.

  1. Sectional working

Carefully work the polish on your car, starting with a smaller section then spreading to other parts. Working with a small section first is often advisable, so that you can easily note any undesired results and act accordingly.

Use varied but overlapping strokes while working the polish. This way, the edges of any defects that are on the sub-surface will become rounded off evenly. Apart from that, it also allows the polish abrasive enough time to break down. As you work the polish on the car evenly, it will become increasingly transparent until you cannot see any traces of the polish at all.

  1. Buffing

Use a dry chamois towel to buff off the car. This is to get rid of any polish film residue that could be on the car. With that you should be good to go.

How to polish a car with a machine

There are two common types of polishers that are used for this task:

  • Rotary polisher
  • Orbital polisher

Orbital Polishers

These are by far some of the most popular polishers, particularly among those who are enthusiastic about car detailing. They are more popular because of the following reasons:

  • They are relatively easy to use
  • You are assured of excellent results
  • They do not damage your paint if you use them properly

These polishers oscillate in a circular motion, similar to the same you would use when polishing by hand, only that they are so much faster. It is for this reason that you have a lower risk of damaging paint or burning when using this polisher.

Some of the options you can consider include the following:

  • Cyclo polisher
  • The Porter Cable 7336 or 7424
  • Flex XC 3401 VRG

Rotary Polishers

These polishers are referred to as direct drive polishers, because the pad drives off the motor, at times creating a lot of heat in the process. They are commonly used by professional detailers.

Take note that if you are using this polisher at the wrong speed, you can actually cause a lot of damage on your car, hence the reason why it is often left to the professionals.


* Note: The procedure that is outlined in here works particularly for the orbital polishers.

  • Select a small test area on your car. Get the least aggressive pad & polish combo to start with. Remember that your choice here will be dictated by the nature of the imperfection you want to remove. If possible, use the medium aggressive polish and pad.
  • Completely work the polish on the vehicle. Get rid of any residue, check the work again and repeat the procedure, or use a more aggressive combination if necessary. For more aggression, you can either increase the pressure or speed, or use a cutting pad.
  • Having removed or reduced the imperfections on the body, switch to a less aggressive combination. This will help you remove any hazing that could have remained after using the aggressive polish.
  • Do this until you get the type of finish that you desire. You have now seen the best combination that will give you the results you want, so now you can move on from the test section to the rest of the car.

Importance of proper lighting

For most people who want to know how to polish a car effectively, you will notice that most do not often consider the importance of proper lighting. If you do not have the appropriate light setting, you might not be able to see most of the scratches or swirls that are making it difficult for your paint to shine.

Another reason why you would need to have proper lighting, is because it enables you to see whether the polish has been completely broken down.

For those who polish their cars indoors, halogen work lights are the best option. You should use either 500 W or 1000 W.

Do not go overboard with the lighting. You can find a good set that is inexpensive, but will still allow you to see all the defects on the body, and keep a close eye on the stages of the work as you break down the polish over the car.


Before we end this guide, perhaps two simple reminders that will help you out accordingly would suffice:

  1. Make sure you choose the type of polish carefully. Choose the polish type depending on the hardness of the paint on your vehicle. Perhaps you can refer to the owner’s manual for manufacturer-recommended specifications.
  2. While choosing to work the polish by hand could be a viable option, take note that buffing and polishing by machine easily increases the effectiveness of the work you are doing. This is because you are able to work the polish harder and longer onto your car than if you were doing it by hand.
  3. The importance of a test section while polishing, is that it allows you to know the right combination that will work for the paint on your car, without necessarily being too aggressive on it, or not using the appropriate aggression to get the job done.

Having gone through this guide, we do hope that you can now polish your car better than you always have. It does not matter whether you are using a machine for the job or doing it by hand, as long as you know what to do, and you do it well, you should be good to go.

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