Car polishing – everything you need to know


As any car enthusiast knows, maintaining the quality and finish of your car’s paintwork is absolutely vital. Even a tiny scratch has the potential to drive you crazy, and don’t even go there with knocking on the door. Car polishing is a key tool in the arsenal of anyone looking to keep their vehicle in top condition, preserving both its value and its own sanity, but when polishing your car you need to make sure to do the job properly.

Here we describe everything you need to know about automotive polishing, from how it works, to when it should and shouldn’t be used.

What is Polish?

Many people don’t realize that polish is abrasive and its purpose is to remove blemishes. With modern cars, you don’t touch the paint at all. In fact, the polishing process removes a very small amount of varnish, because it is the varnish that is damaged. A polish is designed to remove this damage, whether it is in the form of water marks, acid rain, fine scratches or swirl marks.

How clean should the car be before polishing it?

Ideally, the car should be clinically clean. This means decontamination to remove build-up of tar, insects and brake dust, followed by degreasing and pre-washing. These are all processes that will make polishing easier and improve the finish.

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Is there anything I need to do after using the polish?

Polishing is not a final process; you should not stop there because the paint then remains unprotected. Polishing is generally a preparation step before applying a carnauba wax or ceramic-type putty.

What is the difference between a wax and a polish?

Because it is abrasive, a polish should not be used regularly, only when you want to remove imperfections and thus improve the clarity of the paint and the depth of the gloss. A wax, on the other hand, adds a layer of protection to maintain that shine by preventing UV rays and natural contaminants from damaging the polish.

How long do polishing results last?

It depends on the protective coating used. For a carnauba wax, you are probably looking at two to three months depending on environmental conditions, property, and washing routines. If you opt for a ceramic sealer, this time is considerably increased.

Are there varnishes to avoid?

We do not recommend the low end of the market, as some varnishes contain fillers, usually chalk based, so what you are actually doing is fixing the problem, not fixing it.

Do you need a polisher?

For some flaws you don’t need to use a polishing machine – it’s an addition to the process – but using one will get better results and much faster!

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Are there different varnishes for machine and hand application?

Many of the best and finest hand varnishes can also be used with a machine. However, some varnishes are designed specifically for use with a machine only. The underlying principle is that the action of the machine breaks down the abrasives into finer and finer particles. As such, they would not be suitable for hand polishing.

What about polishing the classics?

You have to be more careful on a classic car that doesn’t have clear varnish. The paint will be much softer, so more caution is essential.

A final word of warning?

Beware of SMART repairs – if they weren’t done to a high standard, polishing could remove paint. You should also be aware that there are limits to what a polish can do – if the damage has passed through the varnish and paint, you will need a new spray.


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