What Is The Difference Between Polishing And Buffing A Car?

Polishing and buffing are essential for restoring and preserving car paint. Detailers can accomplish both of these tasks with little effort. But if you’re simply a curious car owner, you might be wondering about the difference between polishing and buffing a car!

The difference between polishing and buffing a car has to do with the amount of paint removed. Polishing a car usually uses abrasives to remove the clear coat on your vehicle, eliminating scratches. Buffing, on the other hand, removes a very thin layer of paint, reducing nicks.

What Is The Difference Between Polishing And Buffing A Car?

Here, we’ll clarify what it means to buff and polish a vehicle. We’ll also explain whether or not either of these procedures may cause damage to your vehicle’s paint. Keep reading to learn the difference between polishing and buffing and how to do each at home.

What Is Polishing a Car?

Polishing a car is the process of removing the top layers of protection from your vehicle with a chemical solution. The solution works gently, ensuring that the color remains safe.

Because car polish is abrasive, it can eliminate paint-level flaws. Since it’s the clear coat that’s affected, the polishing process removes a very minimal amount.

You can remove watermarks, acid-rain etching, fine scratches, and swirl marks with a polish.

However, if your car no longer has a clear coat, be cautious when polishing the exterior — the paint is softer and more likely to experience damage.

Over the years, manufacturers have made significant headway in the polishes available on the market. The abrasives in newer formulations progressively get smaller when you work with them. Thus, the car polish has a more refined and progressive effect.

What Is the Average Cost of Getting a Car Polished?

A professional polish will range in price from $50 to $200 based on the type of vehicle, the shop performing the polish, and the degree of detail selected.

On the other hand, polishing your vehicle alone will save you a lot of money.

You can anticipate spending up to $100 to complete the job on your own from home.

Is Polishing Bad for Car Paint?

It is possible for polishing to damage a vehicle, but this is exceptionally rare and unlikely.

Hand polishing your car with a fabric applicator is unlikely to cause your paint to burn. Unless you’re incredibly rough and apply tremendous pressure, it’ll take an extremely long time to damage the paint with polish.

On the other hand, polishing with a machine can result in damage, especially if the detailer uses rough pads and substances while adjusting the polisher to the highest setting. In this case, polishing can lead to chipping.

If you plan to get your vehicle professionally polished, meet with the detailer and ask the following questions:

  • What kind of surface preparation are you going to do before polishing?
  • What degree of abrasiveness does the polish have?
  • How will the polisher be applied?

How To Polish a Car at Home

Thoroughly clean your car before polishing it. The cleaning includes decontamination to eliminate tar and build-up, followed by degreasing and a pre-wash. Each of these processes helps improve the finish.

After that, you can polish your car at home using the following steps:

  1. Begin by hand-washing your car in a shaded area. Rinse thoroughly but don’t dry the vehicle.
  2. With a clean, damp cloth, spread a moderate amount of polishing compound.
  3. Spread the polish in a circular motion and at a medium pace.
  4. Maintain steady pressure and work your way across the entire vehicle’s surface.

Polishing isn’t the closing step when detailing a car, as it leaves the paint still unprotected.

In most instances, polishing is a preparatory step before applying a wax or sealant.

Related article: Can You Use An Orbital Sander To Polish A Car?

How To Maintain Your Car’s Shine After a Polish

Wash your car on a routine basis to maintain the shine created by the polish. In other words, allow no more than four weeks between washes.

Dirt, tar, and other particles will become trapped in your car’s paint over time, and the longer you keep these, the more difficult they’ll be to remove.

It’s a good idea to wash your vehicle with car soap only. Never use regular dish soap or detergent, as they can strip the waxing off car paint and damage the coating.

Try to remove bird droppings by the next day. These droppings contain substances that have the potential to leave scratches and stains behind. Additionally, avoid actively rubbing and scrubbing the area. Hose it off instead.

What Is Buffing?

Buffing is comparable to polishing, except that it removes a thin coating of paint from the surface of body panels, thus eliminating cracks and scratches.

As a result, you’ll have a gleaming paint coat on your car’s exterior.

Buffing is a multi-step procedure. Once the paint is flat, microscopic cracks remain, meaning you have to polish them off.

Then, to achieve the highest shine, you need to cover the remaining slight scratches with a glaze.

How Much Does Buffing a Car Cost on Average?

Buffing your vehicle usually costs between $150 and $300.

You’ll need to check with your detailers to determine whether they’ll glaze the car after the buff.

Buffing takes at least two hours, but some detailers need 24 hours or more to complete the service.

Related: How Long Does It Take To Get a Car Detailed?

How To Buff a Car at Home

To buff a car, you need:

If you find significant damage to your car’s paint, it’s best to use a foam pad and swirl remover. For these scratches, set your machine’s speed to one of the fastest possible levels.

In comparison, you can use a finishing glaze and a foam pad to remove mild to moderate oxidation, water etching, and typical swirls.

Follow these steps to buff a car:

  1. Park the car in a shaded area.
  2. Fill a bucket of soapy water and use a sponge to clean the car. Always begin at the top of the vehicle and work your way down.
  3. Allow some time for the vehicle to dry thoroughly.
  4. Begin buffing the car’s surface with even, circular motions. Perform this task carefully, maintaining a firm hold on the buffing machine to avoid making any errors that might ruin the finish.

Continue buffing until you achieve the desired shine.

Should You Buff or Polish Your Car?

You should do a complete detail twice a year. Polishing and buffing are a part of this process. However, you can perform a refresher detail every three months, including polishing and waxing.

When you buff and polish your car is entirely up to you. If you find minor bruises on your car that you want to erase, you should polish them. Buff the vehicle for deeper cuts.

Avoid over-buffing the car since this is a more vigorous method of cleaning that does strip tiny layers of paint each time.

If you’re working on an older vehicle, find a specialist first to ensure you’re using the proper techniques.

Never machine polish your car unless you intend to remove swirls and bruises. A car’s paintwork typically can’t be machine cleaned more than once a year.

It’s critical to read the instructions and test on a small area before using any form of buffing compound or polish. Each ingredient is unique and will have a different effect on your car’s color.

Final Thoughts

If you want your vehicle to look brand new, consult a nearby detailer. However, if you just want to add some shine to your car, it’s more cost-effective to do the job yourself.

Cheers, tools owners!

Hi there! My name is Jack and I write for ToolsOwner. I have a passion for everything related to tools and DIY projects around the house. You often find me in my workshop working on new projects.