3 Answers To What Is Car Polishing?

Showiung blue car example of what is car polishing

To answer the question "What is Car Polishing" we have to look at exactly what the word POLISHING means.

As defined in many dictionaries Polishing means:

Make a surface smooth and shiny by rubbing it


Improve, refine and add the finishing touches to...

These two quotes really do sum up what polishing is, as the term is often confused with "Waxing" when it comes to Car Polishing.

POLISHING is to Shine WAXING is to protect. Shine first then cover with a wax coat to protect.

Car Polishing Improve and Refine

These are the main benefits of Car Polishing and the process attains this by removing the hairline scratches and blemishes than detract our eyes from seeing the depth of shine from a cars paintwork.

Let me explain. When light is deflected from a cars bodywork to your eye your brain recieves that information and makes the judgement of how shiny it is.

If all the light travels straight to your eye the brain sees a deep, luxurious shine.

Scratches and light or light scratches!

If however there are scratches on the surface, as seen on the rather extreme picture below then light is deflected of at different angles therefore it does not rach the eye directly and presents your brain with information that the surface is dull.

Therefore, the whole purpose of polishing is to remove these scratches and swirls to allow all the light to travel directly the eye and give the brain an image of a deep shine.

1. What Is Car Polishing- Microfiber Cloth

For these imperfections to be removed we can take action on a few more words from our original definition:

Make a surface smooth and shiny by rubbing it

To do this we are first going to need a good quality cloth to apply the polish to the surface. It is worth baring in mind that there are different grades of microfiber cloth, each being more suited to a different task within the realm of car detailing.

What Is Car Polishing microfiber cloths to use

For "Polishing" you would want a relatively short pile cloth, as if the length of the pile is too long they simply drag over the surface and do not have the firm contact needed for the polishing action.

Remember we are trying to remove a layer of the paint coat here that contains those light deflecting scratches. Therefore, we really need the abrasive qualities of the polish to work, hence why we need a stiffer shorted pile microfiber cloth.

You can use a rotary polisher for this stage. As it can be quite tiring on the hands and arms particularly if the surface scratches are deep and numerous. This will also decrease the amount of time needed to complete this part of the process. And we all want our car to be a real head turner as quick as possile don't we?

If you dont it by hand you ideally need a 80/20 or 70/30 grade towel. These figures represent the ratio of polyester to polymide within the microfibers. The same grade would be needed on a rotary disc to apply the compound. A good kit for all these needs is the Amber and Hitch 6 inch polishing kit

2. What Is Car Polishing- The Compund Polish

Next we need to select the most appropriate polish for the job. This can be done by making a detailed visual inspection for the paintwork to decide on how severe the scratches and swirls are.

The greater the amount of damage the more abrasive the first polish will need to be as it will need to cut through the depth of the scratches.

If there is alot of damage you are best starting the car polishing with a Compound Polish, as these are the most abrasive. The increased abrasive qualities will have the power to cut through the scratches and quickly wear down to the new clear coat layer (Clear coat is the paint coats applied on top of the paint.

Typical Polishing Compounds :

Meguiars Ultra Cut Compound
Example of Cutting Compound
VSS Scratch and Swirl Remover

Bottle Of VSS scratch and swirl remover to show what to use as a medium swirl remover

Once the surface has been refined with these coarse coumpounds it is then ready for the second polishing stage. With the deepest scratches now being removed it is time to remove the finer scratches and swirls left by the compounds.

3. What Is Car Polishing- The Finishing Polish

This is an easier job but is the proicess that gets the real "Polished Shine".  It is easier is the respect that we do not have to apply so much force to ensure the product does its work. These fine swirls are just light blemishes but really do deflect the light from our eyes. So, this stage is vitally important in obtaining our deep shine.

What Is Car Polishing showing what can be achieved

Here we switch to a finer abrasive grade polish as all we want to do is remove the fine swirls and leave a smooth clear coat. Ideally we would want to start with a fine grade and finish with an even finer grade.

These types of polish are known as "Finishing Polish" or "Pre Wax Cleaner". As the latter one states they are used as a final stage before using the wax or sealent coat. That way we have prepared the surface for maximum shine before sealing in and protecting that shine with the final wax coat.

Typical Finishing Polishes

Sonax Perfect Finish

Best Swirl And Scratch Remover bottle of Sonax Perfect Finish

3M Cleaner Wax
9 Best Swirl and Scratch Remover bottle or 3M One Step Cleaner Wax

What Is Car Polishing Conclusion

So, I now hope you understand the theory and practice behind the process of car polishing. You now know:

  • How we perceive shiny paint
  • Why scratches and swirls detract us from seeing deep shine
  • How to remove the deep initial scratches
  • The final stage of creating that deep lasting shine.

If you follow this rountine you as assured the best possible shine from you car paintwork.

Please be aware that you will need to wash your car thoroughly before starting any step of the process. As if there are any granules of dirt or grime left on the body work the polishing process will only creat more scratches and swirls as the grit it dragged across the surface

Finally take you time to inspect the car before you start to decide when to polish. You can then decide on the amount and type of polishing that is required.