How to Avoid Polishing a Car

Polish, Buff, How To

The title of this article may throw you for a loop. I understand. When you see a car that has some issues, your first instinct may be to grab a tool and go fix it. The only issue with that is that you’re being extremely aggressive with your car’s paint when you do that. As a result of using your machine buffer, something going to give, and it’s likely going to be your paint.

You see, every time you put a machine buffer to your paint finish you’re cutting into the clear coat that is made to protect your paint. Polish too much or go too aggressive and you’re likely to remove more clear coat than is needed. This will leave your paint vulnerable and in need of a new paint job soon.

If you’re not polishing your car then you’re not getting all those marks caused by buffing. The most common marks caused by polishing are swirl marks, holograms, and buffer trails. These marks won’t appear if you refrain from polishing your car and you decide to take the alternative route in preserving your clear coat.

6 Alternatives to Polishing

1.  Paint Cleaner: Paint cleaner is a very effective product when trying to remove blemishes from the paint that were not removed in the car wash. Paint cleaner works chemically to break down contaminants like road grime, sap, and other organic blemishes.  The reason for choosing a paint cleaner is that by breaking down the blemish chemically, you’re going to be able to resist heavy scrubbing. It’s this scrubbing (even with a microfiber towel) that’s going to leave behind micro scratches.

2. Mineral Spirits: Mineral spirits is another great tool for removing blemishes from a car. It’s more aggressive than paint cleaner so I’d suggest using it only after paint cleaner has failed to remove all of the contaminant.

3. Paint Thinner: People may get a little concerned when recommending a little paint thinner, but in actuality it’s great for removing paint transfer from a vehicle. Sometimes you just slide against a pole in a parking lot or someone opens their door into yours and the damage isn’t enough to warrant going to the body shop, but getting the paint transfer off is likely a necessity. That’s really what’s making the damage stand out. Using a little paint thinner will wipe that right off without damaging the clear coat.

4. Glazes: Glazes are multifaceted products that work to correct many issues. Sometimes you’re going to get little micro scratches in the paint, whether it’s from leaning against it or your bag accidentally swiping across the paint. Glazes tend to have fillers in them and they do a great job in hiding those little scratches. Many times that’s all you need, it’s incredibly cheep and can be very effective. Also, other chemicals, like those mentioned above can leave your paint looking rather dull in those areas; a glaze can bring back that pop to your paint.

5. Sealants and Waxes: Keeping with the nature of Behind the Detail and our philosophy, being proactive and protecting your paint is the best way to avoid needing to polish your car. When you’re driving a brand new pristine car and not having to worry about swirl marks, the issues you run into are etching from acidic contaminants like bird droppings and acid rain. These kinds of issues ravage your paint when not properly protected. This etching can be a major call for a detail, so having a durable sealant and wax coating always on your car is highly effective in protecting against paint etching, fading, or staining. All of those reasons can drive someone to getting their car polished.

6. Proactive Care from Visual Contaminants: This may seem like a no-brainer, however, it fits in perfectly with number 5. These sealants and waxes are a durable protection for your paint finish, but you can’t expect them to do too much. You need to preserve your sealant like you do your paint. Accumulating water spots, bugs or bird droppings can eventually eat its way through the protective layers and into the clear coat. It’s just the nature of acidic chemicals. For me, I always have a bottle of detail spray and a microfiber towel in my car at all times. If I’m at work or driving and notice something on my paint, it takes but a minute or two to grab my stuff and clean the mess. Furthermore, keeping on a regular wash maintenance schedule is key to protecting the paint as well. Although that doesn’t mean going to the 7/11 automatic car wash, a hand wash will keep the paint clean and free of contaminants as your car sits and bakes in the sun throughout the week.

The whole idea is preserving your clear coat. We’ve noticed how there is the “anti-buff” community that will never allow a machine polisher to touch their car, but we also want them to know that there are things one could do to be proactive and even treat the paint without needing to buff.

Let the record show that I do believe it’s beneficial to machine polish a car every once in a while. I probably wouldn’t do it but every 2-3 years. But I definitely take these steps in between those three years.