How To Polish A Car By Hand – Step By Step Guide

How to Polish A Car By HandIn this post, I will look at and answer the popular question of How To Polish a Car By Hand. The majority of readers and customers who ask about polishing their cars start off by learning how to polish by hand before moving to the more advanced level of machine polishing.

Although admittedly you can achieve more in a shorter space of time with machine polishing, the majority of enthusiasts of which you may be one either have not yet got the desire, funds or confidence to make that leap. Instead, desiring to get the best possible results from a little bit of “elbow grease”. Although with modern polishing products the amount of effort required to achieve fantastic looking results is becoming less and less.

How To Polish A Car – Swirls & Paint Hardness

The most common defects that make cars look dull and unloved can most certainly be rectified or vastly lessened by hand polishing. The most common of such issues being swirl marks, also known as spider or cob-webbing.

Minor swirl marks can be permanently removed from your paintwork by hand and depending on the hardness of your cars paint combined with the severity of the swirling will determine the type of polish you will need to end up applying.

Before we get into the detail of how to polish a car by hand, let’s look for one moment at the subject of your cars paint hardness. You may not have realised but there is a difference, depending on the manufacturer in the hardness of the paints they apply to their cars. In recent times there has also been a move away from solvent based paint systems to more eco-friendly water based ones.

Effect Of Paint Hardness On Polishing

You will also find a difference between regions, where different paint manufacturers may have more of a market share. Typically the Japanese are recognised and mainly having the softer paints than their European counterparts, particularly the Germans who are renowned for the use of harder paints on their vehicles.

However, the position is further confused with paints of an “intermediate” hardness, which many UK manufacturers have adopted.

So what does all this mean when looking at how to polish a car, especially by hand? Although more crucial when machine polishing the hardness of your paint when polishing by hand will mainly determine the amount of time and effort you will need to apply to get your desired results.

I could have typed out a table of paint hardness by manufacturer but with hardness even varying between models of cars and colours within the same manufacturer it would only be useful as a basic guide. It would also be no-use at all if your vehicle has ever been to the bodyshop for a full or partial respray. The best advice I would offer is to work with the paint you have in front of you. Start off with a less aggressive polish or swirl remover and if necessary work up to a more aggressive one and then back down.

How To Polish A Car – Step by Step

  1. Ensure your vehicle is thoroughly washed and dried
  2. Select your chosen foam or micfrofibre applicator pad
  3. If using a round pad apply a single spot of polish to the centre of the pad, approx the size of a 10p piece or US quarter. If using an oblong pad apply smaller spots the sides and middle of the pad
  4. Work the polish into the paint firmly and evenly across the area being polished. I recommend working in the same direction across the area but then changing the angle for each pass. i.e first pass up and down the area, second pass side to side across the area, third diagonally etc. Although some will say polish in circles I find that you are able to achieve a more even application using the same motion on each pass.
  5. Once the polish has been worked into the paint and only a light haze remains, buff off the remaining polish residue with a soft, plush microfibre buffing towel
  6. If you have needed to use a more abrasive polish or swirl remover I would recommend a final step down to a lighter one to give a finer polishing effect to your paintwork.

You should now be left with a vastly improved finish with either the swirl marks completely gone or significantly reduced. If you have more than light swirling or find that your paint is extremely hard to work with you may need to repeat above a couple more times to get your desired result.

Remember to apply your polish firmly and evenly across the area being worked. Do not “scrub” hard and fast in very small areas to avoid an uneven finish which can look even worse than the initial swirling. You are now ready to either apply a glaze and/or a car wax or sealant.

Video on Polishing A Car By Hand For Beginners

The saying goes that a picture paints a thousand words. However in the world of auto detailing and car polishing a video goes that extra 1000 miles to show you the steps and processes required to polish your car by hand. The following videos will hopefully give you the added details and polishing process to get your car gleaming.

Further Reading – Best Products For Your Car Colour

I hope this article has helped you in learning more about how to polish a car by hand. For your convenience I have listed a number of previous articles below which look at the best car polishes and waxes for different types of cars:

Article – Black, Blue Red and Darker Coloured Paints

Article – Silver, White and Lighter Coloured Paints

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