From the moment you leave the dealership, your vehicle begins to lose its new car shine. Sun, salt, road tar, and oxidation commence their cruel work of damaging the finish and dulling the paint. Following advice from car enthusiasts and detailing professionals, my husband recently purchased a buffer and polished his 2009 Honda Civic. The results were incredible!
If you’re ready to polish your own car like a pro, expect to spend six – eight hours and at least $200 dollars getting started. But not to worry, you’ll come out ahead in the long run as an exterior detail of this quality can run as much as $250. Once you’ve invested in a good buffer, you’ll be polishing your car for a fraction of the cost.
Purchasing a Polisher
There are three main types of buffers on the market: 1) Orbital, 2) Dual Action, and 3) Rotary. The orbital buffer doesn’t have enough power to remove scratches and the rotary requires a high level of skill to operate. This makes the dual action buffer the ideal polisher for the job.
My husband settled on the Dual Action 6″ Random Orbital from Griot’s Garage with an extra-long 25 foot cord. The 25 foot cord affords maneuverability around the vehicle without needing an extension cord. Griot’s Garage provides a lifetime warranty on their products, making this polisher an outstanding investment for car care aficionados.
Other Supplies You’ll Need
You can purchase these items online, at an auto parts retailer, or large box store such as Wal-Mart. I’m including the brands my husband used, but there are a variety of excellent products available.
- Foam polish pad and foam wax pad
- 3-4 good quality microfiber towels
- Rubber gloves
- Safety glasses
- Car wash — Armor All UltraShine Wash & Wax
- Clay bar system — Griot’s Garage Paint Cleaning Clay & Speed Shine
- Polish — Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze #9
- Wax — Meguiar’s Hi-Tech Yellow Wax 26
4 Steps to Polish Your Car
1. Wash — it’s important for your car to be clean and contaminant free before you put a high speed polisher on it.
2. Clay Bar — using a clay bar helps remove any micro-contaminants from the vehicle’s surface to insure a smooth, glossy finish. Rubber gloves will keep your hands from being covered in clay.
- Working one panel at a time, spray the panel and the clay bar with Speed Shine.
- Rub the clay over the entire area.
- At the end of each panel, wipe the section thoroughly with a clean microfiber towel.
Tip: After wiping down the car, you can tape off any non-painted surfaces you’d like to protect during polishing.
3. Polish — this step will remove minor swirls, scratches, and imperfections creating a deep shine and bringing out any pearl or flake. To remove deeper scratches, use a heavier cutting compound such as Meguiar’s #105 followed by Meguiar’s #205 polish.
- Apply the foam polishing pad to your buffer.
- Put five pea-sized dots of polish on the polishing pad.
- Working in no larger than 2 x 2 sections, apply the polish to the car by pressing the pad against the panel in several locations.
- To start polishing, set the speed of the buffer on 4-5. Press the polisher gently against the car and turn on.
- Work the area first horizontally, moving the buffer from left to right then dropping down to move right to left. Continue working in this zigzag pattern, dropping down approximately 50% with each pass.
- When you reach the bottom of the section, work vertically moving the buffer from the bottom of the area to the top and back down. Again, you will work in a zigzag pattern, overlapping each pass by 50%.
- Once you’ve completed a section, wipe the area thoroughly with a microfiber towel to remove any excess polish.
Tips: When polishing, put the cord of the polisher over your shoulder to keep it from draping across the vehicle and causing unnecessary scratches. Check out this excellent demonstration of the polishing technique from Auto Geeks.
4. Wax — this final step will provide a long-lasting protective finish over the polish, increasing the shine and luster of your vehicle.
- Change out the polishing pad for the wax pad and set the buffer speed to 1-2.
- Working in 2 x 2 sections, apply the wax in the same manner you applied the polish.
- Wipe down each section with a microfiber cloth to remove excess wax.
Tips: For a complete exterior detail, clean your tires, wheels, and moldings prior to waxing. You can also wax your head lamps, tail lamps, and exterior glass to provide a whole car protective finish.
That’s it — you’ve done it! Now it’s time to sit back, crack open your favorite beverage, and pray it doesn’t rain.
Thanks to her car-polishing husband, Tarissa Helms drives the suburbs of Kansas City in a very shiny white mini-van.