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How to polish a car

Love it or loathe it, cleaning your car is a necessary part of car ownership. Not only can tending to your vehicle’s exterior smooth out any imperfections in the paintwork and make things nice and shiny, but it can also extend the lifespan of your bodywork too. 

Whether hand-polishing your motor or keeping things fresh with the assistance of a machine, there’s much more to polishing your car that perhaps first meets the eye. To avoid unwanted scratches, spills and troublesome streaky spots, we’ve put together a must-read guide on how to polish your car, so grab your sponge, a bucket and read on below. 

First things first...

So, how do you polish a car by hand? Before you get carried away with your car maintenance kit, you should always wash your vehicle first. 

Grab the garden hose or a bucket and rinse the bodywork thoroughly to remove any dirt, following this, you’ll need your trusty sponge and some car shampoo to get rid of grime. Rinse off your soap and finish things off with a microfibre cloth and you’re all set to get polishing!

Polishing a car by hand

By far the most popular (and economical) means of polishing a car is by hand. This might mean applying some elbow grease and a little perspiration on those warm, summer days, but the rewards and sense of accomplishment are second to none and most definitely worth the effort. 

Pick your chosen car polish and apply a small amount to your cloth, foam pad or sponge. It’s best to apply the polish in small sections, concentrating on one area in a circular motion and following the contours of your vehicle’s bodywork. 

Continue to work in the polish until it’s barely visible to the eye; this method does take time, but the added benefit versus a machine polish is that you’ll be able to reach places by hand that a machine cannot. Some polishes may need to be left to set in for a certain amount of time, you’ll know when this time is up by running your finger across the bodywork – if it comes away clean then you’re all set! 

Next, you’ll need to finish up by buffing away the excess polish residue, making sure to turn the cloth to a clean area so as not to rub in more residue. 


Polishing a car by machine

Whether rented or owned, a car polishing machine can save you tons of time and effort, but it’s vital that you read the manual before letting it loose on your paintwork. Use to high a setting or apply the wrong amount of pressure and you can very quickly cause some damage. 

To polish your car with a machine, first, apply a good amount of car polish to the pad and spread it onto the area of bodywork that you’ll be working on before turning on the machine. Once on, it’s important to keep the buffer level to achieve the right amount of pressure and coverage; work in small sections as you would by hand, and buff the polish until it’s clear. 

How to wax your car

Once you’re happy with your polish, it’s always recommended that you wrap things up by adding a protective layer of car wax to your vehicle’s bodywork. 

This wax layer will seal your freshly polished paintwork, protecting it against dirt and grime and even adding some extra shine too. Using a microfibre cloth (no, not the same one you’ve used for your polish) firmly spread the wax in circular motions across the bodywork, again following the contours of the car.

Leave the wax to work its magic for up to ten minutes, after which time you should start to see a dull haze appear on the bodywork – this will let you know that it’s time to ‘wax off’. 

Using another clean, good quality microfibre cloth, you should again employ circular motions across the wax to remove residue and simultaneously buff the bodywork.


You should now be all set to make the most of those sunny days by correctly giving your motor some much-needed TLC. For more motoring advice and how to’s, head on over to our blog page