How to Buff a Car
Time for more signal and less noise!

Tips on how to buff a car will deliver an endless amount of opinions. And in today's world of social media and the Internet in general, you will likely be following tips from a person with zero real world experience.

how to buff a car

YouTube in particular is now filled with countless wannabe detailers who do nothing more than repeat bad information from other "YouTube Detailers" while adding their own bad tips on the subject.

Of course this only makes your quest to learn how to properly buff a car even more tricky. The Internet has literally become a cesspool of bad information that has most of you chasing your tail trying to figure out the best way to buff your car.

How to Buff A Car:
What you need to know

If you have found this page frustrated and still questioning as to the best way to restore the shine and beauty of your car paint then there is still hope for you. You remain with an open mind with a thirst for knowledge.

I can work with that.

Since any search on the Intent will deliver up a mind blowing amount of opinions, I want to start with a quick bullet point list of the critical things you need to know when it comes to buffing your car.

Points that will be good news, and points that are critical to helping you achieve success:

  • A true beginner truly can polish their car like a pro
  • How to choose the best buffer as a beginner
  • How to polish any car with a single car polish
  • Why you need to stay away from rubbing compounds

"You are on information overload. You need more signal and less noise. I will be that signal for you."

I am going to begin with the essential basics you truly need to know, but without overwhelming you with too much information.

If you spend a little time now learning basic requirements, you will avoid frustration down the road.

How to Buff a Car:
Paint enhancement vs. paint correction

Chances are you have not only heard of these separate terms, but also do not understand what they are and why they are important to you and your car.

Paint Enhancement: The simple definition of paint enhancement is anything that will enhance the visual appearance of your cars paint. We will classify this as a temporary fix. And this can be as basic as removing the dirt off your car in the form of a car washing, to simply waxing your car.

As your mind is likely already connecting the dots, these are both temporary fixes that will make your car look better, but on a temporary basis. And washing and waxing your car is not new news to anyone, so I will be using this page to teach you the things you need to know on how to buff a car for lasting results.

Paint Correction: This is where we get into what are considered more permanent results. Creating more shine, depth and gloss to your car paint on a permanent level will require abrasives.

There are many types of abrasive technology that can be used in products, but most compounds and polishes rely on what is called Diminishing Abrasive Technology (DAT). It is abrasive technology that has been around for decades and is still the "go-to" type of abrasive technology used by virtually every company out there.

The problem is that while diminishing abrasives naturally make sense to most people, it is outdated technology. I will show you what I use professionally a little further down the page.

How to Buff a Car:
How determined are you?

This question really becomes the tipping point for most people. Buffing a car for temporary visual appeal is one thing, but buffing a car because you are chasing a true show car appearance will require far more commitment on your part.

Not to scare you away by any means, but everyone has different levels of time, money, and determination. I will address both options for you, but you need to know there is a difference.

The good news is that regardless of how you would label your level of determination, any true beginner can have success.

How to Buff a Car:
3 key factors you need to know

I have always operated by approaching most of life with a strategy of getting maximum results with least amount of effort. If you want to call this lazy, you can.

But since most people find themselves short on time, but long on desire, then I accept that many of you reading this would like to know the easiest way to buff a car while producing maximum results.

So this is where I will start:

  • Start with clean paint!

I know this likely seems like an obvious to you and you likely are thinking of traditional dirt, but this goes past just a basic car washing to remove superficial dirt.

This is where the clay bar or detailing clay comes into the picture.

Your paint will have bonded contaminants that will interfere with the polishing process. Normal car washing, waxing, and even buffing your car will not have the ability to remove the many forms of air pollutants that will stick and bond to the surface of your cars paint.

Unless you take the time to remove these bonded paint contaminants prior to buffing your car, not only will this affect the end results, but dramatically change your experience while you are buffing your car.

And by "change" I mean in a bad way, not a good way.

For the best car buffing experience and desired end results, your paint needs to be deep cleaned with a clay bar prior to doing any buffing of your car.

  • Don't polish your car by hand!

Yes, if you truly are a lazy person, the hassle and expense of buying a car buffer and buffing pads will seem like a hassle, but attempting to polish your car by hand will not only be a whole lot of work, but you will be missing out on the truly exceptional results that a machine car polisher can produce.

Random orbital car buffers have been developed to be as safe as safe can get, no longer do you have to worry about burned edges, swirl marks, or holograms.

I know there is a lot of people out there who think that using a buffer on your car can damage the paint or that polishing your car by hand is the safest way to polish your car, but this simply is not true...not any longer at least!

  • Choose the best car polish

One of the most important decisions you can make is choosing what I consider to be the best car polish on the market. For over 15 years it is what I have called my sure thing. In fact I relied on it so heavily in my professional world of detailing, I convinced the formulator and developer of this particular polish to let me invest in his brand.

The developer is revolutionizing the world of car polishes with his Single Product Polish. It was developed over 20 years ago, and is now being used by virtually every other polish company.

Of course the other companies are still using inferior formulations as they also continue to sell their line up of multiple compounds and polishes. I am of the opinion that wither these other companies are being less than ethical by continuing to teach people the multiple step polishing process, or their Single Product Polishes don't actually work.

The Only Car Polish You Will ever Need

CSI Ceram-X Car Polish 62-203-8 (8 oz) Single Product Polish (SPP) Superior Single Polish Replaces The Countless compounds/Polishes You Think You Need

How to Buff Your Car:
3 steps to buffing your car

Now that I have laid some important ground rules above, let me unpack the actual steps I can teach you on how to buff a car so you will be able to stand back once you are done and be proud of a job well done!

  • Don't worry!

I know...easy for me to say right! But if you do decide to take on the challenge of polishing your car, you need to relax and know that by using a random orbital polisher, and the exact car polish I recommend, you would literally have to deliberately try and damage your car paint.

And I am pretty sure damaging your car paint while buffing it is not your goal. Just know that it is seriously safe and even setting any random orbital car polisher to the maximum speed still would not damage your car paint.

But it will make it super shiny and glossy!

  • Too much of a good thing

My experience in teaching countless people just like yourself how to buff a car has taught me that most beginners think that more polish is a good thing. And by more I really mean too much.

For some reason most guys will put too much polish onto the buffing pad and then you have the problem of trying to manage too much polish. The last thing you need is to add further struggle to a process that will already have you filled with a healthy level of anxiety.

Start by reading the manufacturer's directions and go from there. Accepting that every situation will be different and you will need to make adjustments along the way.

Since the polish I recommend above is literally targeted after the professional world, it has limited directions on the labeling. Simply start with between 8-12 pea size drops on your polishing pad and go with that.(see picture at top of page)

  • How to eat an elephant

If this is truly your first time learning how to buff a car, then you can get overwhelmed easily. You need to break down each panel of your car into smaller sections to polish individually, until you have polished the entire car.

Most videos or car buffing tutorials will direct you to start with a 2' x 2' area of your car to polish. This is acceptable, but not a rule you have to keep. You can attack as small of an area as you are comfortable with, and then do slight overlapping as you move from section to section.

  • Seek the shade

Even though the car polish I recommend on this page is a very unique car polish that can work in direct sunlight on hot paint, it will always prove easier if you work on a shaded surface.

Even if the temperature of your car paint is hot due to hot weather conditions, a shaded surface is the recommended surface of your car in which to buff on. Your polish will last longer as you work, and you will be able to polish larger areas at a time if you choose to do so.

  • Burning an edge

Many videos from so-called experts will warn about polishing the character lines of sharp edges of your car in fear of burning the paint off these areas. While this is possible to do, it would be very hard to do if you do use a random orbital polisher and the car polish I recommend.

While you need to be a little cautious of these more vulnerable areas, you do not have to overthink this despite what all the fear mongering YouTube Detailers will teach you. These YouTube Detailers love to make any mole hill into a mountain. It makes them feel like an expert themselves.

  • Clean pad often

Depending on the type of buffing pad you choose (foam, micro-fiber, wool), the way in which you clean your pad will vary. Most of you will default to what I consider the pad of choice: a foam pad.

Don't overthink how firm or soft the pad is, just keep it clean as you work. This means you use a pad cleaning tool every time after your pad starts to build-up with excess polish.

This can mean cleaning your pad every two sections of your car you polish, or after every time you apply polish and you have polished even a single section. You will figure out what works best for the situation.

I prefer using a basic nylon pad cleaning tool (you can also use a basic tooth brush) to hold against my buffing pad while it is running to release the spent polish. This will also create dust, but this is a necessary evil to buffing a car.

  • Use micro-fiber cloths

In case you have been living under a rock for the past decade, there is this material called micro-fiber. And this material has replaced traditional cloths in virtually every sector of life and business.

Micro-fiber is superior to any other type of cloth and the cloth I recommend ONLY for removing your polish. After you have polished a section, you will need to wipe the polish off to either check your results, or simply to move onto the next section.

Not all micro-fiber cloths are created equal and there are endless varieties, but this is also an area you don't have to overthink despite what the o-called experts want to teach you. (remember they love to make mountains out of any mole hill)

  • Polishing is what creates shine and depth

At the beginning of this how to buff a car page, I discussed paint enhancement and paint correction. By using a polish with actual abrasives in it, you will be creating a permanent effect to your cars paint. 

Buffing car paint using some kind of abrasive car polish is the way to truly create depth and shine, while removing imperfections. While car wax has the ability to make any paint finish look better, it is temporary and will only hide so much in the way of imperfections.

Shopping for the best car wax with unrealistic expectations is not going to produce the lasting results that buffing your car will deliver. Too many people search in vain for the best car wax thinking that if only they find the "right" wax they can then avoid the discomfort of buffing their car. This simply is not gonna work!

How to Buff a Car Summary

how to buff a car like a pro

If you have made it this far down this page then you deserve a medal of glory! In today's world of instant gratification we are being trained to take short cuts.

Short cuts will only deliver temporary results at best, and actually create more work for you in the long run at worst.

I hope I have helped you in your quest to create a show car shine on your car with my tips that come from 30 plus years of professional experience.


Darren Priest

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