For many drivers, the vehicle is not just a mere object that transports them from A to B. Most car owners are more concerned with the care and maintenance of their car. Besides a regular car wash, vacuuming the inside of the car and dusting the dashboard, they also use car polish from time to time. There is a reason for this, it not only gives a shine to the paintwork but also conceals small scratches.

Why the need to polish the car?

If you polish your car regularly, you will not only enjoy a better maintained car but also increase the material value of your car. During polishing, the topmost, possibly slightly weathered layer of paint is finely removed and it exposes a new layer. It thus removes even fine scratches preventing rust formation and restoring the original shine of the car. However, polishing is not only worthwhile for optical reasons but a freshly polished car paint is more resistant to all weather and environmental influences. Even bird droppings are not easily etched into the paintwork. Although polishing is useful for car care in every respect, the correct design and technique is important to ensure that the desired effects do not quickly turn into disadvantages.

When is the right time to polish your car?

After a long winter, do you ever think about giving your house a spring clean? Your car could get the same, and the beginning of spring is the best time for it. If you want to polish your car, ideally choose a day when the temperature is between 18 and 25°C and the sky is overcast. If the sun shines strongly, it will cause the polish to harden too quickly, which will reduce its effectiveness. Minus temperatures are also harmful to the polish and therefore also to the paintwork. The time after winter is therefore particularly suitable for polishing your car because the road salt has very much added to the paint during the cold months.

As long as the salt is dry, it does not cause much damage. However, when it comes into contact with water or moisture, it can cause scarring on the clear coat. Therefore, ensure you dry your car thoroughly after washing or rain. If you have moisture in your car, repair it as quickly as possible. Moist salt that has gotten into the car, for example through mud on the shoes can also cause corrosion.

How do I prepare myself properly?

Before you apply polish to the paint, it must be clean down to the pores. You do not need a special cleaner for normal, weathered lacquer. Although such a cleaner will spice up a dull surface again, but because of its abrasive effect, you should be careful here. Experts recommend driving through a car wash instead of manual work. Professional washing protects the paintwork and is more environmentally friendly. When cleaning by hand, this is only enough to dissolve the dirt.

In addition, car washes use a complex system to remove substances that dissolve dirt and protect the paintwork which is not possible when washing at home.

The following applies to washing the car yourself: never in the blazing sun, but use plenty of water and regularly and thoroughly remove the dirt from the sponge so that the paintwork is not scratched further. After shampooing, rinse with clear water immediately so that no residue dries up.

If the dirt is hard, experts recommend pre-treatment with a high-pressure cleaner. The following applies here: Keep a distance of at least 30 centimeters between the paint and the pressure gun. Also, do not aim at one spot for too long.

What do I need to polish my car?

You don’t need more than a suitable polish, a polishing sponge or foam pad or application sponge to distribute it, some soft microfiber cloths and some patience. According to experts, avoid using polishing wool – if you have no experience with it, it will not bring the desired result. Also, do not use a wool pad on a new car. If you have everything you need, tape off plastic parts and windows.

How do I find the right car polish?

When choosing a car polish, do not be guided by full-bodied promises on the label or by price alone. Whatever is most expensive does not always work best. It’s worth looking on the Internet for current test results. You can find them, for example, on the pages of car magazines and automobile clubs.

Many combination products are available with which can clean, polish, and seal the paintwork in one go. In most cases they are sufficient. However, if the car paint is heavily weathered or if you want to remove scratches, choose a product that has been specially developed for use on old paintwork or for concealing visible scratches.

Some paint polishes contain hard wax such as carnauba wax. It seals the lacquer, causes water to bead up immediately and makes dirt less sticky. Other polishes incorporate so-called nano-particles, which are so small that they penetrate the pores of the paint and thus ensure such a smooth surface. Therefore, water and dirt cannot harm the treated surfaces for a long time, just like with a sealant.

How do I polish my car properly?

After you have cleaned it thoroughly, you can now start polishing your car. It is best to proceed in individual sections from top to bottom. So, start with the roof. You can also start by polishing the bonnet. The important thing is that the area you work on at once is not too large. When polishing, make sure you use the right amount of abrasive for your car: heavily weathered paint requires a high percentage, whereas a new paint requires a low percentage.

Apply the polish with the pad or application sponge and “massage” it into the paint with light pressure and small circular movements. Most products show visible signs when you can stop: Some become milky, others turn to dust.

After applying the liquid or paste, start polishing immediately, because the polish must not become dry. You can continue the treatment elsewhere as soon as the lacquer feels smooth by rubbing the surface with the outside of your hand. Repeat steps until the whole car shines in new splendor.

Polishing machine: how does it work?

Paint care by hand requires a lot of time. With a special car polishing machine, it is faster, and the result is better, especially with heavily weathered paintwork. However, these devices, which you can also borrow, require a certain amount of practice.

This is how you should proceed: Apply the polish to the polishing pad and moisten the surface with some water from a spray bottle. This way, the agent will spread more evenly on the paint.

Afterwards, move the machine in circular movements at medium speed over the entire lacquer surface. Make sure that you always supply the polishing sponge with polish and is moist so that the pad remains cool.

It is important not to let go of the machine, to apply only light pressure and not to remain in one place for too long. You should be careful when working on edges. This is where the danger of “polishing through” the paint is greatest.

What do I do if the dirt is stubborn?

The paintwork to which we apply car polish must be cleaned down to the pores. If stubborn dirt remains despite thorough washing, such as resin or tar stains, there is no way around using special chemicals. If the surface looks clean, but does not feel so when gently brushed over, it is best to get a cleaning clay bar to smoothen the surface and remove last remaining contaminants.

How can we polish out small scratches?

An unsightly scratch in the paint – that happened quickly!  If the scratch is larger and also affects the deeper layers of paint on the bodywork, definitely go to a specialist to have the scratch removed. You can also polish out minor damage yourself. However, the prerequisite for this is that the damage is only to the topmost layer of paint on the car. Clean the affected area thoroughly to prevent dirt or dust particles from causing further scratches during polishing. Make sure that the car is dry before you start the repair work. Now tape the surrounding area for protection. Use a polish or abrasive paste that does not contain too coarse abrasive particles. Apply the polish as evenly as possible and then finish with a soft towel.

How do I polish the headlights?

We should never treat plastic headlights with a normal car polish, as this can lead to damage and cracks in the plastic. Headlights made of glass or plastic are best cleaned with standard glass cleaners. However, make sure that the glass cleaner does not get on the polished paint, as this can cause stains. To avoid unsightly streaks on the headlight glass, polish with a soft, dry cloth. A special plastic care product should be considered if the headlights are already badly yellowed and the luminosity is reduced. You can get such a product from car accessories shops or well-stocked DIY stores.

How can I maintain the gloss after car polishing?

The car is polished and shines like new – but how can I keep it shiny for as long as possible? You have two options: you can seal the paint or cover it with a thin layer of wax that lets the rain drip off. There are special products with wax for this purpose on the market. They cover the paint and make it less susceptible to weathering and environmental influences. However, they require a certain amount of skill and are more suitable for care professionals. Wax does not have a very long “life” either, so the effect usually diminishes rapidly after the first car wash.

A synthetic sealant is better because it is polymer based and bonds with the paint and the surface. This protects the outer shell of the vehicle from UV radiation, chemicals, bird droppings, and insect corpses. Did you know that on a hot summer’s day with direct sunlight, a bird droppings blob eats into an unsealed paint surface after only 1 hour? After a while, an unattractive shadow remains.

What happens to the car paint when I polish?

The open pores of the topmost paint layer are closed by the abrasive particles in the polish, the paint is virtually “pressed” back into the damaged areas. Therefore, if the paint is terrible, you start with a car polish with a high abrasive content (coarse grain), then take fine abrasive paste (finer grain) and finally a finish polish with a fine grain. The hardness of the paint also plays a role here. Professionals therefore always test a polish on less visible areas first.

How often may I polish my car?

Experts advise polishing your car once or twice a year. Preferably before and after the winter. Not only will it keep your car shiny, but it will also prevent rust damage.

In the event of hail damage, first get a quotation from the garage. Change nothing on the damaged surface at first. Small dents often become more visible after polishing.

What are the alternatives to car polishing?

New advancements in paint technology makes polishing superfluous: Scratches disappear – thanks to a self-healing lacquer. Here, the uppermost layer of paint contains a new polyurethane mixture. It forms an elastic surface, which is why small scratches close themselves as soon as the paint is slightly heated. Just a few rays of sunlight are enough, but for deeper scratches you can use a hair dryer. However, only a few car models are equipped with it.