Auto Polish
Understanding the Essentials

best auto detailing tips

Are you the ADD type and looking to cut to the chase and find out which auto polishes I use specifically in my professional auto detailing business?

This auto-polish link will take you straight to the bottom of this page to see what I use and recommend professionally. Otherwise keep reading and become part of the select few of society called the "informed"...

Like so many areas of car care and auto detailing, auto polish is a topic filled with hundreds of choices and as many opinions! In an effort to help you become an informed consumer first, this page will help lay a foundation with which to help you make informed decisions. From manufacturers of car polishes to car and detail forums filled with wannabe experts, there is no shortage of opinions. The reality is that most people lack even enough experience or education to even ask the right questions. I find myself overwhelmed by mounds of choices and endless opinions myself; and this comes from someone with decades of professional experience.

Car Polish, Car Wax, Rubbing Compound?

auto polish

It is hard to come to buying decisions when terms and labels are forever interchanged and misused. What one person calls car polish, another may call rubbing compound. The industry is filled with so much ignorance, it is hard to reach any conclusions that will help you get to where you want to be. See how many of the following terms you have heard and ask yourself if you know the difference:

  • Auto polish
  • Rubbing Compound
  • Car wax
  • Sealant
  • Glaze

Understanding the Basics

Let's break this area of car polish into bite sized pieces that will help you in the future whether you are trying to find the best car wax or the best auto polish.

Misleading Advertising and Marketing

In order to fully understand this convoluted topic of auto polish, car waxes, and so forth, it will be helpful if we first understand the "nature of the beast". And the nature of the beast is that big manufacturers have 3 basics goals:

  1. Sell you products.
  2. Separate you from you and your money.
  3. Increase company profits.

Upon closer inspection you will realize that these 3 goals are really one and the same. For this reason, big companies simply use whatever method will work to sell you more and more "stuff"....more car wax, more auto polish, more whatever, whatever, whatever! Notice that educating you as a consumer does not even make that list!

At a level, most manufacturers really prefer you to remain ignorant. This way they can prey on your ignorance in order to sell you more product. And the reality is that there exists an unwritten rule between manufacturers; "To keep you as a consumer as ignorant as possible" so as to not ruin it for any of them.

Car Wax

We will start with car wax since this is the area of most concern to more people.

  • Car wax serves 2 basic purposes: protection and visual enhancement.
  • Car wax can either be formulated using mostly natural ingredients like carnauba, or using synthetic ingredients at which point it is generally referred to as car sealant.
  • It can come in a paste, liquid, pump spray, or aerosol.
  • Manufacturers will claim durability that will last anywhere from 1 week to 1 year depending on formulation. Generally synthetic sealants will claim the longest durability times.
  • Natural car wax formulations will generally claim best in visual performance.

Polishing a Car

car polish tips

The term "car polish" will be used in many different ways by many different people. Experience has shown me that when people use the term auto polish or car polish, they are usually referring to some form of car wax with a little polish in it as some sort of all-in-one wax and polish.

Polishing in its most simple definition can be defined as using anything, any product, any technique to restore or create a "shinier" or "glossier" appearance. And "polishing a car" can include, but not limited to the following:

  • Applying a coat of wax or sealant to add some level of shine or gloss.
  • Using a car polish that contains no abrasives and uses chemicals to "clean" away superficial dirt and contaminates while restoring some added level of shine.

Paint Correction and Blemish Removal

In order to actually remove, repair, or restore paint permanently, it will be required to use a polish or compound that contains actual abrasives. There is no limit to the type of abrasives that a manufacturer might formulate into their compounds and auto polish. But the fact remains that it must contain some form of abrasive(s) that will actually remove flaws, blemishes, and other paint defects through the use of manual application or machine application of polishing.

The idea is to remove blemishes and scratches by scratching them away with big scratches that are then followed up with smaller and smaller scratches; eventually you will have scratched your way to a surface that appears flawless to the unaided eye.  The reality is that there are thousands of scratches present on your paint. But through the use of car polishers, polish pads, auto polishes, and technique, the person doing the polishing will create what is called a uniformed scratch pattern.

This uniformed scratch pattern is essential for two very important reasons:

  • Makes the paint surface look flawless to your eye.
  • Creates a uniformed surface that reflects light (natural or not) evenly, thus creating that "wet-look" and true show-car shine.

Auto Polish with Cleaners

Many products will be labeled as a car polish and have no form of abrasives in it. These polishes have what are referred to as cleaners in them and are labeled as a polish only in the form of chemical "cleaners" but contain no actual form of true polish or abrasive material. These chemical polishes are products that have added ingredients that use solvents and other chemicals that are designed to break down and remove certain layers of oxidation or dirt; and I don't mean the kind of dirt that washes away when you wash your car. You can see how complicated and confusing this area of car care can quickly become.

Darren's Recommendations

Like so many other areas of car care and auto detailing, I could overwhelm and bury you with a thousand choices as to the best auto polish. But since my goal is to simplify, not complicate, I simply offer suggestions based on these 3 common requirements:

  • Products I know will deliver excellent results.
  • Products that are easy to get.
  • Products that are priced economically.

For this reason, when it comes finding basic car polishes that fit into the category that most people consider when looking for a quality auto polish, I offer the following categories and suggestions:

Cleaner Waxes and Polishing By Hand

Most people are short on time and a cleaner wax that can be applied by hand will be the winning combination for the majority of people (any of the cleaner car waxes below can be applied in any manner you choose: hand or machine. Since neither of these products contain any actual abrasives to them, over-polishing will not be of concern here as many people will ask how often do they need to polish and/or wax, and can I polish and/or wax too often.

  • None of these products contain abrasives that actually "polish". This means you could apply as often as you like.
  • All these products perform the "polishing" or "cleaning through chemicals, not abrasives. This means gloss will be restored and enhanced, but true paint correction is not going to happen with these products.
  • The reason these are called cleaner waxes is that they are cleaning the paint, rather than polishing the paint. But since most people misunderstand what true polishing actually is, they lean towards simple, easy, and basic.
  • Cleaner waxes are a great place to start for any beginner.
  • Even among the professional world of auto detailing, the rule is that you start with the least aggressive/least invasive strategy first, then move up from there based on your expectations and the results a particular product is either delivering or not delivering.

Zymol Z503A Cleaner Wax

Zymol Z503A Cleaner Wax - 16 oz.

  • Internationally acclaimed world-class shine and protection.
  • Gentle, safe, mild cleaning and petroleum solvent free.
  • Unique one-step cleaner/wax combination derived from a 120 year old German formula.
  • Top rated cleaner wax with Amazon reviews.

Mother's California Gold Cleaner Wax

Mothers 05500 California Gold Brazilian Carnauba Cleaner Wax - 12 oz.

  • The All-in-One cleaner wax I grew up using on my first cars.
  • Still a popular product due to its ease of use and trusted brand name.
  • For anyone looking to combine some cleaning ability with lasting protection.
  • Contains heat resistant carnauba wax for a long-lasting shine.
  • Top rated Amazon reviews.

Meguiar's A1214 Cleaner Wax

Meguiar's A1214 Cleaner Wax - Paste - 11 oz.

  • Easier to use than traditional Carnauba wax.
  • Meguiar's reputation; Meguiar's quality.
  • Cleans, shines, and protects in one easy step.
  • Can be applied by Hand, Orbital, or Dual Action Polisher.

The polish below contains actual abrasives and therefore is appropriately labeled as a polish. This can be used by hand or with machine. Once again, I could bury you with hundreds of choices; to the point of inaction. Since this is one of the actual polishes I use professionally, I am sticking to this one simple solution when it comes to choosing a quality car polish that is mild and ideal for any beginner.

Darren's Top Pick for Professional Grade Auto Polish

best auto polish

Just as an added note, there are many polishes out there that will perform at a professional level, the problem is that you will read one review after another, or listen to one expert after another and find yourself in one or both of the following:

  • You hear/read opinion after opinion and you are frozen in anxiety, fear, and frustration not knowing which auto polish to choose, or.....
  • You have listened to far too many "experts" and now you have a garage self full of car polishes and yet here you are, still looking for the nest "best auto polish".

What You Need to Know

Due of all the bad information floating around the many car forums and life in general, let me add some additional key points for clarification:

  • No product is truly a polish unless it has some form of abrasives to it.
  • You will be very limited to how much "polishing" or paint correction you are able to do without the use of an auto polish with some form of abrasives and the use of a car buffer of some sort.
  • If you are just beginning and thinking of attempting to learn how to use a car polisher for the first time, I recommend starting out mild and working up from there.  This link just below is the ideal place to start if this is your first go at a car buffer.

Car Polishing for Beginners

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Auto Polish