How to polish a car

Make your car look shiny and new with a car polish and wax. Read on for helpful car care tips.

Updated

car polishing waxing

Car waxing and polishing is an important part of caring for your vehicle. It helps to prevent environmental wear and tear, and with a good car polish and wax, you can really make your vehicle look fresh and new. However, for the uninitiated, car polishing or waxing can seem a bit daunting, and there are some very particular things you need to be aware of from the outset to avoid damaging your paintwork. Read on for helpful car care tips!

When it comes to getting your car gleaming all over, there are a couple of tricks you can use to buff it up to a high shine. Get utterly streak-free windows by swapping a regular cleaning cloth for a scrap of newspaper: just spritz your chosen product on and buff it off with the paper. You can also optimise your polishing efforts with good old-fashioned chamois leather. This entirely unabrasive, absorbent cloth is great for drying a car off without damaging the paint. 

How to Polish a Car

Before you use car wax, polish. You will need the following materials:

  • A polishing sponge or soft cloth
  • Metal car polish and plastic car polish (or a product that works for both).
  • (Optional) additional polishing tools

First, you’ll need to make sure which parts of your car are plastic or metal. Many modern cars have features that look like polished metal, but which are either chromed plastic or metal that has been painted and then covered with a “clear coat” to reduce the chances of rusting or scratching.

  • If you’re not sure if a particular part of your car is metal, then dab some metal polish onto your sponge or cloth and lightly apply it to the area you want to polish.
  • Inspect your sponge or cloth. If the surface is actually polished metal, you’ll see a distinctive dark grey residue. Otherwise, you’re dealing with a clearcoat. Do not use metal polish on clearcoat. It will cause it to erode, causing problems later on.
  • Once you’ve worked out what bits of your car actually are metal, either use an electric polishing device (you can find these in specialist car care shops or online) or old-fashioned elbow grease to distribute your car polish.
  • Remember to thoroughly polish your headlights and indicators with plastic polish. This will remove the layer of dirt that often settles on headlights after prolonged use.
  • Remember to mask nearby areas when polishing the headlamps. This will prevent the polish from damaging or removing paintwork.
  • Remember to polish your wheel hubcaps, either with specialised wheel cleaner, or, if you know the surface is real metal (using the trick described above), actual metal polish.

Car Waxing

Once you’re done polishing, the car waxing can start. Car waxing used to be a rather torturous process, demanding the use of paste based, hard-to-shift carnauba wax over a period of what felt like several days. However, modern car wax can be applied and removed with ease.

  • Remember to check the manufacturer’s guidelines as to what products you can and can’t use with your particular car.
  • If your car has a clearcoat (use the test above to determine), make sure you only use a product that is explicitly marked as being suitable for clearcoats. Non-suitable products are often too abrasive and may damage the surface.
  • There are many variants on standard car wax from different suppliers. Some waxes have been developed specifically for different colours of bodywork. This is particularly useful for black cars, on which regular wax may leave white streaks unless fully removed.
  • If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, or are just performing a touch up, you can substitute car wax for a detailing spray. This approach will keep your car protected.
polish a car

Originally published