How To Polish Your Car

Do you wish your car’s paint looked a little better? Maybe you’re missing the shine that it once had. Polishing is a tried and true way to make your paint turn heads.

A polisher is used on a car.

What is car polishing?

Polishing is the process of treating scratches and contaminants of your car’s clear coat by removing a small amount of it. Many scratches on your car are very shallow, so polishing away a small amount of the car’s clear coat is a way to treat them, essentially removing them. However, because your car has a limited amount of clear coat, you can only polish away so much. Polishing is not a way to treat deep scratches that go beyond the clear coat.

Reasons to Polish Your Car

There are two main reasons to polish your car:


Your car takes a lot. Every time you’re out on the road, your car is practically a target for whatever the environment can throw at it. From rocks being kicked up by other vehicles to dogs jumping up, there are unavoidable dangers out there that can scratch your car. Polishing is a way to treat all but the deepest scratches.


Contamination is a catchall term to describe other types of damage your car’s paint can suffer while on duty. Contamination can occur from things like tree sap, road tar, and more, and is unremovable by washing alone.

Polish is applied to a polisher.

Types of Car Polishers

There are different polishers that you can choose from. Some polishers may also be usable as a waxer or buffer.

Standard Orbit

These polishers simply orbit the pad. These are the cheapest polishers but don’t allow for much polishing power. They are more so used for applying waxes evenly.

Random Orbit

Random orbit polishers are a step above the prior. They orbit the pad, as before, but also allow it to spin freely on its axis. These are the recommended choice for beginners because they are the safest for your car’s finish.

Dual Action

These are another step upward. Dual action polishers are the choice of professionals, but they can be riskier for beginners. They work by orbiting the pad and spinning it on its axis forcibly.


The final type is warned against for beginners. Rotary polishers spin the pad alone. This can easily cut through more paint than you want.

Buffing vs. Polishing: What’s the Difference?

What’s the difference between buffing and polishing, if any? Simply put, polishing is generally considered a form of buffing. Buffing is a broad term that means: to rub something to improve its finish. Polishing, in car terms, is specifically referring to using polish to treat scratches and contaminants of the paint.

Car Polish vs. Compound

You may be wondering what the difference between car polish and car compound is. Compound is a substance that is used in the same way as car polish, but it is intended for more troublesome scratches and imperfections. Polish can be used casually to enhance paint’s finish and improve the shine. Compounding is reserved for intensive situations.

Car compound is more aggressive and is used for correcting more severe paint defects, such as deep scratches, heavy oxidation, and other stubborn imperfections. It is designed to remove a thin layer of clear coat to level the paint surface, like polish.

Car compound contains larger and more abrasive particles compared to polish. It is capable of removing a greater amount of clear coat and can leave visible scratches if not used properly. Due to its abrasive nature, compound should be used sparingly and only when necessary.

Car compound is applied in much the same manner as car polish. However, it requires more care and attention during application to avoid causing further damage to the paint.

Polish may be referred to as a type of compound.


Can I polish my car by hand?

Absolutely. Polishing by hand is good practice for beginners to get used to the process. However, most professionals only polish by machine.

Will a car polisher ruin my car paint?

It can if it’s used improperly. Random orbit polishers are the safest to use on a vehicle to prevent mishaps.

Final Thought

We hope that this article has helped you to understand polishing more and shown you that you can do it yourself. Cheers!