What Is the Best Way to Polish a Car?
August 14, 2017
Car polishing – also known as paint correction – is the process of removing scratches, streaks, and swirls by removing microscopic layers of paint using an abrasive compound. Essentially, polishing takes out layers of uneven, damaged paint to reveal the next, undamaged layer below the exposed layer, the end result of which, if done properly, is a “brand-new”-looking paint job. This is different from waxing, as wax merely “covers” the scratch; it does not get rid of it.
For car enthusiasts, polishing can be simultaneously one of the most satisfying and most frustrating aspects of car maintenance; properly-polished cars are definite head-turners, while sloppy polish jobs can leave more problems than they solve. And for enthusiasts who are just beginning their passion, it is really a question that requires more than a book or two to answer: What is the best way to polish my car?
Unlike some aspects of car polishing, where “best” is sometimes a matter of experience and personal preference, it is an absolute necessity to begin the polishing process by thoroughly cleaning your car. There is no other way around it: the best polishing jobs begin with an absolutely spotlessly clean car. Any amount of dirt or debris left behind on the surface of the car can mar the later stages of polishing; loose particles can scratch otherwise pristine surfaces and get embedded into the paint, which compounds your problems.
Hand Polish vs. Machine Polish
The debate of man vs. machine has been going on for quite some time and has encroached on every aspect of living imaginable, including car polishing. On one hand, proponents of polishing by hand maintain that while it takes more time and physical effort, there is virtually no danger of burning paint and the finish will last longer compared to cars that are machine-buffed twice a year. Proponents of this method have put forward the idea that by being less abrasive on the paintwork, the final product will be longer-lasting, and just as good as machine-polished cars. Just don’t forget to book a good massage for your sore arm and shoulder muscles after polishing your car.
On the other hand, proponents of machine-buffing maintain that traditional hand-polishing will never equal the results of machine-buffing, and with only a little investment in training and equipment, machine-polishing saves you tremendous time and effort, with more consistent results than hand-polishing and “accidents” reduced to a minimum.
While this is probably more truth than hyperbole, it is perhaps more applicable to commercial detailing establishments, where “time is money.” If you have the time, and certainly the passion for taking care of your car, doing it either way can be very rewarding. Many enthusiasts usually have one good-quality, entry-level polishing machine, but for polishing behind the door handle or the rim of the side-view mirror, nothing offers more control than five God-given fingers and a microfiber or foam applicator.
Random-Orbital Polisher vs. High-Speed Rotary Buffer
Choosing your first polishing machine can be a really daunting task. There are two general classes of polishing machines: Random Orbital (also called the Dual-Action) Polisher and High-Speed Rotary Buffer. For many years, the rotary buffer has been the mainstay of the car detailing industry. Its simple circular motion and high speed create friction and heat, which actually soften car paint. Because of this, it is able to remove the deepest scratches and create the best finishes. Many experienced detailers maintain that rotary buffers give the best results, but they can also cause the worst problems, especially in inexperienced hands.
The random orbital polisher, on the other hand, is a beginner-friendly tool that is recommended for most hobbyists and enthusiasts. Its oscillating and revolving motion mimics hand motions, albeit at far faster speeds. Because less friction is generated by the dual motion, paint burns are far less likely to happen in less-experienced hands. However, it is more difficult to remove deeper paint damage, and the finish may not look as good ones using high-speed rotary machines without knowledge of special advanced techniques. Despite this, most detailers would recommend a random orbital polisher as your first machine, as it gives you greater versatility and leaves a lot more margin for error than high-speed rotary buffers.
Whether working with random orbital or high-speed rotary buffers, it is recommended that you work in small sections at a time to focus on getting the right polish.
Liquid Compound vs. Paste Compound
Whether to use liquid or paste compound is largely a matter of personal choice. So long as you use the right compound for the right kind of paint with the proper polishing techniques, most liquid and paste compounds will yield similar results. Liquid compounds are a bit easier to handle and are more readily available, but ultimately it comes down to your own preference.
If you are starting on your passion for car detailing, the tips above give you a good start. But for best results, our Detailing Experts can certainly give you more information and first-hand knowledge gleaned through years of experience on how to best care for your car. Call DetailXPerts now for the best care for your car.