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This guide will help you choose the best polisher for every detailing job. Different polishers are designed to accomplish different tasks. To perform the full range of paint correction and maintenance tasks, you may need more than one type of polisher.

  1. Why polish the car?
  2. When is the right time to polish the car?
  3. How do I prepare myself properly?
  4. How do I polish my car properly?
  5. How can I get the shine after car polishing?
  6. What happens to the car paint when I polish?
  7. How often can I polish my car?
  8. What are the alternatives to car polishing?
  9. How much does a car polish by a professional cost?

How to choose the right polisher

Why polish the car?

If you polish your car regularly, you will not only enjoy a better maintained car, but also increase the material value of your car. This is because during polishing, the topmost, possibly slightly weathered layer of paint is finely removed and a new layer is exposed. Even fine scratches are thus removed, preventing rust formation and restoring the car’s original shine. But polishing is not only worthwhile for optical reasons. A freshly polished car paint is more resistant to all weather and environmental influences. Even bird droppings are not easily etched into the paintwork. Even though polishing proves to be useful for car care in every respect, the right finish and technique is extremely important to ensure that the desired effects do not quickly turn into disadvantages. On these pages you will find valuable tips for correct polishing and sustainable car care.

When is the right time to polish your car?

After a long winter, do you ever think about giving your house a spring clean? Your car could probably use it, and the beginning of spring is the best time for it. If you want to polish your car, ideally choose a day when the temperature is between 18 and 25°C and the sky is overcast. If the sun shines strongly, it will cause the polish to harden too quickly, which will reduce its effectiveness.

Minus temperatures are also harmful to the polish – and therefore also to the paintwork. The time after winter is particularly suitable for polishing your car because the road salt has very much damaged the paint during the cold months.

By the way: Especially in winter you should not wash your car too often. As long as the salt is dry, it does not cause much damage, but only when it comes into contact with water. If you have moisture in your car, you should repair it as quickly as possible right now: Moist salt that has gotten into the car, for example through mud on the shoes, can cause damage.

How do I prepare myself properly?

Before polishes can be applied to the paint, it must be clean down to the pores. You do not need a special paint cleaner for normally weathered paint. Although such a cleaner will spice up a dull surface again – but due to its abrasive effect you should be careful here. Experts recommend driving through a car wash instead of doing it by hand. Professional washing protects the paintwork and is more environmentally friendly: only around 15 liters of fresh water are used per car. When cleaning by hand, this is only enough to dissolve the dirt.

In addition, car washes use a complex filter system to remove substances that dissolve dirt and protect the paintwork from the water that runs off, which is not possible when washing on the open road.

The following applies to washing the car yourself: never in the blazing sun, but use plenty of water and clean the sponge regularly and thoroughly to remove dirt so that the paintwork is not scratched further. After shampooing, you should rinse with clear water as soon as possible so that no residue dries on.

If the dirt is particularly hard, pre-treatment with a high-pressure cleaner is recommended. The following applies here: Keep a distance of at least 30 centimeters between the paint and the pressure gun, do not aim at one spot for too long, and keep the tires off, otherwise permanent damage is pre-programmed.

What do I need to polish my car?

You don’t need more than a suitable polish, a polishing sponge or foam pad or application sponge to distribute it, some soft microfiber cloths and patience to visibly embellish your car. According to experts, you should avoid using polishing absorbent cotton – if you have no experience with it, it will not bring the desired result. If you have everything you need, stick on plastic parts and windows now.

How do I find the right car polish?

When choosing a car polish, you should not be guided by full-bodied promises on the label or by price alone. Whatever is most expensive does not always work best. It is worthwhile to search the Internet for current test results. You can find them on the pages of car magazines and automobile clubs, for example.

Combination products are often offered that allow the paint to be cleaned, polished and sealed for a long time in a single operation. In most cases, they are sufficient. However, if the car paint is heavily weathered or if you want to remove scratches, you should choose a product that has been specially developed for use on old paintwork or for laminating visible scratches.

Some paint polishes contain hard wax such as carnauba wax. It seals the paint and causes water to bead up immediately and dirt not to stick. Other polishes incorporate so-called nanoparticles that are so small that they penetrate into the pores of the paint and thus ensure such a smooth surface. Water and dirt can then remain on the treated surfaces for a longer period of time, just like with a sealant.

How do I polish my car properly?

After you have cleaned it thoroughly, you can now start polishing your car. It is best to proceed in individual sections from top to bottom. So start with the roof. You can also polish the hood first. It is only important that the area you work on at once is not too large. When you polish your car, make sure you use the right amount of abrasive for your car: heavily weathered paint requires a high percentage, whereas a new paint requires a low percentage.

Apply the polish using the pad or application sponge and “massage” it into the paint with light pressure and small circular movements. Most products show you when you can stop: Some become milky, others disintegrate into dust.

Afterwards, you should start polishing immediately, because the polish must not be completely dry. To do this, you will need a microfiber cloth which you guide over the treated surface with moderate pressure against the previous polishing direction.

You can continue the treatment elsewhere as soon as the paint feels smooth by rubbing the surface with the outside of your hand.

Repeat steps 1 to 3 until the whole car shines in new splendor.

Car paint care with the polishing machine – how does it work?

Paint care by hand requires a lot of time. With a special car polishing machine, it’s faster and the result is better, especially with heavily weathered paintwork. However, these devices, which can also be borrowed (and should not be equated with a drill with a polishing attachment), require a certain amount of practice.

This is how you should proceed: Apply the polish to the polishing head cover and moisten the surface with some water from a spray bottle. This way, the agent is distributed more evenly on the lacquer.
Then, the machine is moved at medium speed in circular movements over the entire lacquer surface. Make sure that the polishing sponge of the machine is always sufficiently supplied with polish and moist so that the paint is sufficiently cooled.

It is important not to let go of the machine, to apply only light pressure and not to stay on one spot for too long. You should be particularly careful when working on edges. This is where the danger of “polishing through” the paint is greatest.

What do I do if I have stubborn dirt?

Paint to which a car polish is applied must be clean down to the pores. If stubborn dirt remains despite thorough washing, such as resin or tar stains, there is no way around using special chemicals. If the surface looks clean, but does not feel so when gently painted over, it is best to get cleaning clay to which even the last particles of dirt will stick. A sealant lasts longer than wax

How can small scratches be polished out?

An unsightly scratch in the paint – that happens quickly! If the scratch is bigger and the deeper layers of paint on the bodywork are also affected, you should definitely go to a specialist to have the scratch removed. You can also polish out minor damage yourself. However, the prerequisite for this is that only the topmost layer of paint on the car, the clear coat, is damaged. First clean the affected area thoroughly to prevent dirt or dust particles from causing further scratches during polishing. Make sure that the car is completely dry before you start the repair work. Now tape the surrounding area for protection. Make sure that you use a polish or abrasive paste that does not contain too coarse abrasive particles. Now apply the polish as evenly as possible and then finish off with a soft terry cloth.

How do I polish the headlights?

Plastic headlights should never be treated with normal car polish, as this can lead to damage and cracks in the plastic. Headlights made of glass or plastic are best cleaned with standard glass cleaner. However, make sure that the glass cleaner does not get on the polished paint, as this can cause stains. To avoid unsightly streaks on the headlight glass, polish with a soft, dry cloth. A special plastic care product should be considered if the headlights are already badly yellowed and the luminosity is reduced as a result. You can get such a product in car accessory shops or well-assorted hardware stores.

How can I maintain the gloss after autopolishing?

The car is polished and shines like new – but how can I keep it shiny for as long as possible? You have two options: you can seal the paint or cover it with a thin layer of wax that lets the rain run off. There are special products with wax for this purpose on the market. They cover the paint and make it less susceptible to weathering and environmental influences. However, they do require a certain amount of skill and are more for care professionals. Wax does not have a very long “life” either, which means that the effect usually fades rapidly after the first car wash.

It is better to use a sealant because it is polymer-based and bonds with the paint and the surface. This effectively protects the outer shell of the vehicle from UV radiation, chemicals, bird droppings and insect corpses. Did you know that on a hot summer’s day with direct sunlight a bird droppings blob eats into an unsealed paint surface after only 1 hour? Then an unattractive shadow remains.

What happens to the car paint when I polish?

The open pores of the paint are closed by the abrasive particles in the polish, the paint is virtually “pressed” back into the damaged areas. If the paint is very bad, you should therefore start with a car polish with a high abrasive content (coarse grain), then use fine abrasive paste (finer grain) and finally a finish polish with fine grain. The hardness of the paint also plays a role here. Professionals therefore always test a polish on less visible areas first.

How often can I polish my car?

Experts recommend polishing your car 1 to 2 times a year. Preferably before and after winter. This not only maintains the shine, but also prevents rust damage. Please also remember this:

If you want to remove rust, you should first clean the car only on the affected areas and not immediately polish it.
In the event of hail damage, first obtain a quotation from the garage. So do not change anything on the damaged surface at first. Small dents often only become visible after polishing.

What are the alternatives to polishing a car?

A new development makes polishing superfluous: Scratch marks disappear – thanks to a self-healing lacquer. In this case, the top coat of paint contains a new polyurethane mixture. It forms an extremely elastic surface, which is why small scratches close automatically as soon as the paint is slightly heated. Just a few rays of sunlight are enough, and for deeper scratches you can use a hair dryer. However, there are currently only a few car models that are equipped with it.

How much does a car polish by a professional cost?

Of course you can also have your car polished. You can get a simple paint care from about 200$. This includes a manual top wash to remove tar and flash rust, the windows are cleaned and the paint surface is intensively polished and sealed. Rim cleaning is included with many suppliers. Paint care with nano paint sealing is available from around $300. For particularly large vehicles such as SUVs, vans or transporters, there is usually a surcharge of 25%. If you want to polish by hand at home, you have to estimate about 25$.

David Muench (Carnes Mechanical)

David Muench (Carnes Mechanical)

Hey, I’m David. I’ve worked in a cars store for 6 years. I write reviews and guides, helping people to choose the most suitable technicals and best product for them. I’m happy to finally share my knowledge of the industry here, on CarnesMechanical.

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