DIY How To’s: Polishing Your Car for the First Time

Polishing Car

The more you use your vehicle the more it becomes susceptible to scratches, dents and other types of paint defects. This can affect the shine and overall look of your car but it can be easily fixed by polishing it.

This type of DIY auto repair may sound like something done by professionals but with the right information in hand, you can do it too. When done correctly, vehicle polishing can eliminate scuffs and rub marks as well as micro marring.

Micro marring is a collection of small scratches in the surface of the paint which are also known as spider webbing and swirl marks. Dust nibs, paint etching and orange peel can all be removed by polishing your car as well as, paint runs and sags.

You can also make stubborn spots of paint less visible and bring back the old shine of your vehicle.

Polishing vs Waxing

Although polishing and waxing are done in a similar way, they do not provide the same benefits. Car polishing is done in order to enhance the appeal of your vehicle and for maintenance purposes. Waxing is performed in order to provide the paint with a protective layer against fading and scratches whilst also making the car shiny.

Car polish comes in the form of sprays, creams and liquids whilst wax is basically a type of paint sealant. Wax is usually applied after you polish your car. Polishing is done when you notice scratches, paint spots or rust i.e when issues arise. Waxing is done about every 3 months in order to maintain a protective layer present on the paint.

How to polish your car


Before you start to fix auto scratches and nibs you’ll need to give your four-wheeler a good bath. For the best results avoid using dish washing soap or a sponge, instead use a soap made specifically for cars and a microfiber wash mitt.

This will help prevent the acceleration of the oxidation process which makes the paint become dull over time.

Wash your car section by section, starting with the roof to prevent water spots after the car has dried. Dry the car using an auto grade microfiber squeegee or cloth. It’s best to wash your car on an overcast day or in a shade away from direct sunlight.

Avoid washing your car on grass or dirt to avoid the vehicle sitting in a puddle of water afterwards.

Spray water all over your car before you use the soap in order to loosen and remove debris and dirt that is stuck on the paint. Start washing the wheels first in order to avoid harsh detergent from ruining your car’s paint.

This way you will wash it away if some of it lands on the paint when rinsing the wheels.

Polishing By Hand

In case you are not comfortable using a polishing wheel and have a lot of time on your hands then it’s best that you polish your vehicle by hand. This process takes a lot longer than using a polishing wheel.

You’ll need a bucket, microfiber towels, some polishing pads and of course, the polish itself. Put a small amount of the car polishing compound on the pad and start applying it in a circular motion.

Keep following the contours of your car and rubbing in the polish until it becomes almost transparent. If needed leave the polish to cure – check the packaging of the compound for this information.

You can check whether or not the compound has been cured by running your finger through it once it’s been sitting for the recommended amount of time. If it comes off clean then proceed to the next step, otherwise, it’ll need to cure for longer.

Once you’ve done that, wash your car once again and make sure to get rid of any polishing compound left on it. When you’re done, rinse the car thoroughly and dry it using the microfiber towels – start from the top and slowly make your way down.

Drying the car with microfiber towels is not only faster but it also prevents small spots of water being left on the paint.

Using a Polishing Wheel

The polishing compound should be applied on a wet polishing pad fixed on the wheel. The wheel should always be perpendicular to the surface of the car and you should do one panel at a time.

Once you get a glossy shine move on to the next panel and make sure you rinse the pad beforehand to remove the build-up of compound. You need to spread the polish with medium speed and apply constant pressure back and forth the entire surface of the panel.

Since the edge of the pad spins faster it means that there is less polish on it. You should be careful when polishing areas such as mirrors, emblems, washer nozzles and other complex contours since they are polished using only the edge of the pad.

Make sure you have other items near your vehicle covered as this process can become quite messy. Also, remember to use a softer pad and polishing compound if you have a dark-colored car and harsher compounds with tougher pads if your car has a lighter color.

Applying Wax

After you’ve dried your car thoroughly it’s time to apply a coat of wax. This is done using the pad that comes with the wax. Like polishing, waxing also needs to be done one panel at a time.

When waxing your car make sure it is not in direct sunlight and avoid using the same microfiber towel you used for cleaning and polishing your car. After the wax has dried, buff it out using a microfiber cloth the same way you applied the wax.