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Car Polishing: Your Frequently Asked Questions Answered

Thinking about getting your car polished? If it’s not something you’ve done before, you probably have a number of questions about what it involves and whether it’s worthwhile.

Here, car polishing supplies specialists Slim’s Detailing answer five frequently asked questions to help you make up your mind.

Is polishing good for my car?

Polishing is good if the paintwork of your car is showing any signs of marking or deterioration. These can range from obvious scratches and chips to much fainter swirls and marring. The purpose of polishing is to correct any such defects. So if you want your car looking its best, whether that’s for personal pride or to protect its resale value, then yes, polishing is a good idea.

Care has to be taken, however, as done incorrectly, polishing can end up damaging rather than fixing up your paintwork.

How does polishing work?

Polishing involves using an abrasive substance to physically alter the surface of a material for the purpose of buffing out any defects. When it comes to polishing the bodywork of your car, you’re talking about altering the surface of the paint to smooth over scratches and marks.

The paintwork on your car is thin to start with, and most polishing focuses on the very uppermost layers. So we’re talking about quite a delicate process, which is why you have to take care you don’t do more damage than good. Most car polishes (the abrasive liquids you apply to the surface) have only a very light ‘cut’, meaning they are only mildly abrasive and won’t go down far into the paint layers.

Should I polish my car myself or take it to a pro detailer?

That depends on several things, including your confidence in being able to do a good job, how much time you have on your hands, and how visibly damaged your paintwork is. Polishing is quite a laborious task, especially if you don’t have a polishing machine. You might have to apply two or three different grades (or cuts) of polish to get the results you want. Each one has to be applied and rigorously buffed out.

The greatest care needs to be taken with deeper scratches. These need the heaviest cut of polish, which carries the highest risk of damaging your paintwork. It may be that deep scratches need filling and wet sanding before polishing, a much more demanding process that you should leave to a professional.

But if you’re simply looking to return your car to that pristine ‘showroom’ look and the paintwork is still in good nick, it’s worth having a go yourself with light cut polishes.

What are the main steps in polishing a car?

As said above, polishing takes time to do properly. Before you start, you should always wash, rinse and dry your car thoroughly to remove all dirt and debris. You don’t want this left on the surface as it will end up getting cut into the paintwork. It’s also advisable to remove any debris or contaminants that have become embedded into the paintwork, either using special tar, bug and iron removing cleaners, or a clay bar to physically lift away contaminants.

Once you are ready to polish, always start with a fine cut compound (an alternative name for car polish). The idea is, you only want to cut into your paintwork as far as you need to smooth over the defects, and no further. If you finish with that compound and you can still see marks, move onto a heavier cut. Repeat until you are happy with the results – although, as mentioned above, be careful about using the heaviest cut polishes.

After you’ve finished polishing, you need to clean your car again thoroughly to remove all traces of the polish. You might want to use a special pre-wax cleaner to do this. Then, to protect your hard work, apply wax or a sealant. Wax will also give your car an attractive glossy shine, but sealant will provide longer-lasting protection.

How often should I polish my car?

Because polishing involves physically altering the surface of your paintwork, you should be cautious about overdoing it. The more you polish, the more microscopic layers of your paintwork you remove. Eventually that will make your bodywork start to look tired and worn. Polishing once a year, or every six months at most, should be enough to combat general wear and tear and keep your vehicle looking in good nick.

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Written by Marcus Richards

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