How To Polish a Car Like a Pro! The DIY Guide

VD February 02 2022

Matt and dull paintwork can quickly be brought back to a high gloss with polishing. Our article explains what to do and what to watch out for.

Structure of the car paint

The car paint protects the sheet metal from environmental influences, but it has to take a lot. Stone chips cause minor damage, the sun bleaches the paint, bird droppings, insect remains and tree sap attacks the top layer of paint.

This damage can be remedied by regularly polishing the car. The paintwork then shines again, is better protected against environmental influences, and is easier to clean. 

Preparing to polish a car

There are two ways to polish the car: by hand or by machine. However, it is not only about the polishing itself but also about the right preparation and follow-up. Let’s take a look at the correct procedure.

Step 1: Wash the car

The first step is a thorough car wash. But even if the sheet metal dress sparkles and flashes at first glance, it still has to be subjected to special cleaning before it can be polished – by hand or by machine.

Step 2: Choose the right place

Do not polish in the sun. The polish dries faster here and can leave unsightly marks on the paintwork. A sheltered place, such as a garage or carport, is best for polishing the car. There is also no risk of new dirt flying onto the clean car with a gust of wind.

Step 3: Mask off plastic and rubber

Before you start polishing, all plastic parts should also be masked off carefully. Otherwise, they could accidentally be polished and then appear blank or even white.

Choosing the right polish

The stronger the polish, the greater the risk of holograms being polished into the paintwork. In case of doubt, inexperienced users prefer to opt for the weaker version and polish individual areas a little more frequently. The polish should match the paint, so with red paint, it is best to choose a polish for red paint. 

Depending on the condition of the paint, it is advisable to first sand with a coarser polish, then polish with a finer polish. 

Hand polishing step by step

1. Apply the polishing paste to the pad, sponge, or cotton. If you have a pad or sponge that has not yet been used, use a little more polish at the beginning so that it is evenly distributed on the surface.

2. Distribute the polish evenly over the area to be polished. Never apply the polishing paste directly to the sheet metal!

3. Work on the paint with small circular movements under light pressure. Alternatively, the pad can be moved in a cross line. This means that the polishing pad is first moved horizontally and then vertically over the paint in small movements.

4. Over time, the polish will become translucent as the abrasive particles break down. Further polishing has no effect.

5. Remove polish residue with a polishing cloth.

6. Then degrease the surface, for example with a special isopropanol cleaner. control the result.

7. If necessary, repeat.

Manual car polishing is advisable for beginners because you can feel better with your hand whether the pressure you are applying is correct. In addition, detailing corners and edges can be done better in this way. 

At the same time, polishing by hand takes a lot of time and energy. If you want to polish your whole car, you should plan several days for the work involved. It's best to start with the roof and gradually work your way down.