How to polish your car


One of the most basic car detailing services that will make your car look as good as new is polishing the bodywork. However, you don't always need to use the services of professionals in order to achieve a stunning, shiny finish to your car. Read our article and find out how to polish your car yourself, and which tools to use.


One of the most basic car detailing services that will make your car look as good as new is polishing the bodywork. However, you don’t always need to use the services of professionals in order to achieve a stunning, shiny finish to your car. Read our article and find out how to polish your car yourself, and which tools to use.

Polishing your car by hand – Key steps to ensure the best results

Successfully polishing your car by hand involves three essential steps. First, thoroughly clean the car to remove dirt and grime. Next, choose appropriate polishing tools, like a soft pad and low-abrasive paste. Finally, carefully polish in a circular motion, focusing on small sections and maintaining consistent pressure. Ensure you work in a suitable environment, avoiding direct sunlight and dust for optimal results.

Step 1: Thorough Cleaning – Begin by thoroughly cleaning your car

Before embarking on the polishing process, it’s imperative to thoroughly clean your car to ensure optimal results. This step is crucial as it removes dirt, grime, and any contaminants that could potentially cause scratches during the polishing process. Begin with a gentle but effective car wash soap, paying special attention to areas with stubborn dirt or grease. Use a microfiber wash mitt to gently cleanse the surface, starting from the top and working downwards, to avoid dragging dirt across the paint. Rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residues. For tougher spots like tar, sap, or bird droppings, use a clay bar, which can safely lift these contaminants without damaging the paint. Ensure that the car is completely dry before moving on to polishing, as water droplets can interfere with the polishing compounds and affect the finish. This comprehensive cleaning not only prepares the surface but also helps in achieving a smoother and more consistent polish, enhancing the overall appearance and longevity of your car’s paintwork.

Step 2: Selecting Your Polishing Tools – Gather your polishing essentials

After such preparation, you can go ahead and get your polishing tools. You will need three things to do so:

To be on the safe side it is best to start working with a soft pad and a polishing paste with a low abrasive formula. Bear in mind that improper tools (such as a pad that is too hard) could cause damage to the paintwork!

Step 3: The Polishing Process

After applying the paste to the pad, polish the paintwork in a circular motion, maintaining the same amount of pressure. It is best to work on small fragments one by one. You should also pay attention to the condition of the pad. If it is worn out, it should be replaced. Polishing a car by hand requires not only a lot of patience and concentration, but also the right conditions. It should not be carried out in sunny or dusty places, and a stable temperature and humidity are also recommended.

Polishing your car paintwork

Polishing a car will not only make the paintwork have a nice shiny finish, but will also remove small scratches or damage. Below we present the most commonly used tools for this purpose, as well as the most common accessories.

Polishing your car after painting

Polishing is the final stage of painting a car. The repaired parts should look the same as the rest of the bodywork. In such cases, use a rotary polisher with rotation stabilisation. Professionals do not recommend using angle grinders for this purpose.

Polishing your car with an angle grinder

So what can an angle grinder be used for? In the case of polishing, an angle grinder is primarily used to mechanical remove signs of corrosion. This requires the use of sandpaper. Bear in mind that angle grinders used at high speeds can even destroy the sponge.

Polishing car scratches

Varnishing is not always necessary to get rid of scratches. If the clear coat layer has not been cut, polishing should be enough. You can get rid of minor, superficial scratches on your own, polishing them by hand with the use of polishing paste. If the damage has reached the deeper layers of the paint, then unfortunately you will need to visit a professional paint shop.

Car polishers

Car polishers are designed specifically for polishing car paintwork. There are two basic types of such equipment:

Both types have their pros and cons. Rotary polishers distribute the paste evenly, but also generate more heat, which can damage the surface. Working with them also requires more skill. Orbital polishers, on the other hand, are more delicate on the paintwork and therefore may not be able to cope with larger scratches.

For each model, the key parameter to control is the speed, which should be suited to the type of work. Too low a speed will prove insufficient, while too high a speed will be dangerous for the paintwork. You should also pay attention to the power. Comfort of use is also important, as polishing your car can take a while, so it should not be too heavy and should not vibrate to strongly.

How to polish a car with a polisher

We already mentioned how to prepare your car for polishing in the first part of the article, where we discussed polishing by hand. Once the car has been properly cleaned and the chosen elements have been protected using tape, you can start the process of polishing it. Start with a small, hardly visible piece of paintwork. If the scratches disappear it means your test was successful and you can continue to polish the rest.

Try to use the polisher in a linear motion. Each fragment should be polished several times – from top to bottom and then right to left, and then degreased. Isopropyl alcohol is most often used for this purpose. After you have finished polishing, you can protect the paintwork from damage by using natural wax.

Car polishing paste

Car polishing paste is one of the necessary products you should use to restore the paintwork on your car. There are several types intended for different use. You should first of all consider your needs (getting rid of scratches or only improvement of the overall appearance of your car) and check the condition of the paintwork. Your experience and skills are also important.

An important parameter of polishing paste is the cutting power, on which the intended use depends. There is no specific car polishing paste that will be good for restoring all kinds or paintwork. The following division is generally used:

How much will polishing your car cost?

In 2023, the cost of polishing your car in the UK can vary widely based on several factors, including the size of the vehicle, the condition of the paintwork, and the level of service chosen. For a basic polish using off-the-shelf products and DIY effort, you might only need to invest in the cost of materials, which can range from £20 to £50. If you opt for professional services, the prices can start from around £100 for a standard polish on a small car and can go up to £500 or more for high-end services on larger vehicles or those requiring extensive work, such as paint correction or ceramic coating applications. It’s also important to consider the geographic location, as prices in major cities or affluent areas might be higher compared to rural locations. Remember, while cost is a significant factor, the longevity and quality of the polish, as well as the expertise of the professional, should also be taken into account to ensure your vehicle receives the best care. For an additional fee most car detailing workshops also offer interior cleaning, such as upholstery impregnation, ozone treatment, etc. 

How to polish your car yourself

If you enjoy DIY and like looking after your car then you could polish it yourself. This can be a good idea if you intend to remove minor scratches or just refresh the appearance of the car’s paintwork. To remove deeper scratches, it is probably better to go to a professional provider of such services. If you do decide to polish your car yourself, you will need the right accessories: a polishing pad, a handle, polishing paste and cloths, preferably made of a soft microfibre. Polishing paste will also be necessary if you use an electric polisher.

Regardless of what type of equipment you intend to use, remember to properly wash your car beforehand. Polishing your car in unfavourable conditions (too much sunlight, wind, dust, etc.) could affect the quality of your work or even lead to unintentional damage to the paintwork.

If you run a professional or home workshop and work with various types of material (metal, wood, concrete), drills, electric drivers and other practical accessories will also come in handy.

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