How to polish your car’s paint at home?

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

Polishing a car at home might sound complicated but with patience, you can make your car’s paint like new again.  If you want to save some money and remove those nasty swirl marks from the car’s paint, then keep reading this article and I will show you a step-by-step guide on how to polish your car.

There are products on the market that allow for one stage polish, meaning the particles that make the polish is designed to cut some clear coat but also leave the surface like a finishing polish. I am not a big fan of those products. Therefore, I want to share with you the three stages technic (compound, polish and wax), that would give you better results.


  • Dual-action polisher – this is your best friend, you can compound and polish the car by hand, but this will not be effective, plus it will take twice the time. Invest in a good DA polisher it will make the job much easier and enjoyable.
  • Polishing/Compounding pads– 3 to 4 pads per desired cutting power.
  • Compound, Polish and Wax- there are plenty of manufactures that offer products that will work well. Pick your desired brand and cutting power.
  • Clay bar kit/Chemical decontamination products.
  • IPA panel cleaner.
  • Microfiber towels.

Step 1: Wash the car

This step is a no brainer. Washing the vehicle is one of the most important steps before you even think about using a polisher on the car.

Taking your time in washing is important, you want to make sure the vehicle is completely clean, pay attention to all the crevices that have dirt in them. This will minimise your chances of getting dirt on your polishing pad due to the vibrations caused by the polisher, dirt might escape from under windows seals and other trim around the vehicle.

Use the two-bucket method and the correct equipment.

Read more: How to wash your car at home…

Step 2: Decontaminate the car’s paint

This step is a must procedure, as contaminates such as tar and iron are embedded in the paint and a regular wash will not remove it.

Why is this important?

If contaminated get stuck on the polishing pad, it will cause more damage to the paint by producing more swirls and deeper scratches.

A clay bar should be used on the paint to remove those contaminants or chemical decontamination.

Read more: How to decontaminate your car’s paint.

Step 3:  Compounding, Polishing and Waxing

As mentioned, a three-stage technic will give you the best results. This is time-consuming and might take 2 to 3 days if you are looking for a perfect finish.

You do not have to complete the whole car at once, you can do one panel at a time.

Do not wash or try to polish the car in the sun, if you don’t have a garage, do it in the shade.

Firstly, examine the paint with a LED light to inspect the condition of the clear coat.

I advise starting with the least aggressive compound first and decide on a more heavy paste if necessary.

The first mistake I made when polishing, was the number of pads I used. I advise having at least three to four pads of each grade. (heavy/medium cutting pad, polishing pad, soft pad.)

Pads tend to clog up with the polish you use and reduce their effectiveness. Always clean the pad after each pass with a brush or compressed air if available.


After examining the paint, choose the compound grade (heavy/medium/soft) you desire alongside the pad.

Note: Do not use a heavy cutting pad and compound on Japanese car manufactures. Their clear-coat is soft compared to other car manufactures.

Before you start, make sure you prime the pad, by spreading the compound on the pad evenly.

Once you start, do small sections at a time with 3 to 4 passes. Let the polisher do the work and do not apply too much pressure. Move the machine polisher slowly across the working area back and forth.

If you experience too much dust when compounding, you are using too much product, you should apply 3 to 4 small dots of product on the pad.

Spread the product on the working area and start the polisher at low speed until the product is evenly spread on the section. Then increase the speed.

Do not lift the polisher from the car’s body until it completely stopped. This will make sure the product is not spilt all over the car.

Do not let the compound dry on the panel, as soon as you are done wipe the residue off the panel.

After, examine the paint with a LED light and repeat the process if the results are not what you expected. Always use IPA panel cleaner to wipe down the residue left by compounding.

Do not panic if you notice a little haze in the paint, it will be removed by the second polishing stage.


In this stage, the polish will remove any haze caused by compounding and make the shine pop.

When polishing, a less aggressive pad should be used. In the same concept as compounding, the pad should be primed evenly.

This time around you can work on a larger area moving the polisher across the panel more rapidly following the same concept as compounding.

Again, do not let the polish dry on the panel. Wipe the panel with IPA panel cleaner after you have done.

The IPA cleaner will remove the residue proving a clean surface for the wax to adhere to the paint.


As a small layer of clear coat was removed, it is important to protect the newly exposed area.

Waxing can be spread on the whole car at once. I would recommend using a soft pad or apply the wax by hand using back and forth movement.

Allow the wax to dry and then wipe it off the car.

Now admire your work!

Don’t just wash your car, super shine it!


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