How to Buff a Car

Over time, your paint gets faded and dull, losing some of that new car shine it had when you first got it. Your car’s paint is exposed to environmental elements that cause the finish to pit, corrode, chip, and fade. It can be from things like Acid rain, Aging, Bird droppings, Sand and dust wear on the clear coat or Sun’s UV rays.

Your car’s paint is covered in a clear, hardened substance known as a clear coat. That clear coating protects the actual paint from being bleached by the sun or from being damaged by other elements. The good news is that your clear coat’s appearance can be restored.

The restoration process for restoring the shine to your car’s paint job is known as buffing. When you buff your car, you are not trying to repair deep scratches or blemishes but rather are trying to restore a full, overall shine on the vehicle. You can buff a car from your own driveway, and here's how:

How to buff a car

  1. Gather the correct materials - You will need the following to properly buff your car: Bucket of warm water, Buffing compound (recommended: Meguiar’s M205 Mirror Glaze Ultra Finishing Polish), Buffing or polishing pads for tool, Car wash soap, Microfiber cloths, Power buffing tool (recommended: Meguiar’s MT300 Pro Power Polisher), Road and tar remover and Sponge or wash mitt.

    washing a car with soap and water

  2. Rinse car - Rinse loose dirt from the car with a hose or pressure washer. Wet the entire surface.

  3. Mix car wash soap - Mix car wash soap in a bucket of warm water according to the soap’s instructions.

  4. Wash the car fully - Starting at the top and working your way down, wash your car using a soft car wash sponge or a car wash mitt.

    car being rinsed with pressure washer

  5. Rinse and dry the car fully - Rinse the soap off the car with a pressure washer or hose, getting all the suds off the car. Then wipe the car dry with a microfiber cloth.

    wiping off bugs stuck to a car

  6. Remove any stuck on substances - Soak the corner of a cloth in your cleaner and wipe vigorously on the stuck-on spots.

  7. Wipe the cleaner off - Using a dry, clean cloth, be sure to wipe the cleaner completely off.

  8. Re-wash your car - Following the previous steps, re-wash your car and then re-dry it. Then park in a shady spot.

  9. Apply buffing compound - Apply your buffing compound to the surface of your car. Work on one panel at a time, so apply compound to only one panel. Use a clean, dry cloth to buff your car.

  10. Smear compound - Put your cloth on the buffing compound and smear it around to start. Work it on in large circles with light pressure.

  11. Buff paint - Buff your paint with the compound in small circles with moderate to heavy pressure. Press firmly to work the extremely fine grit of the compound into the clear coat.

    Tip: Work in a pattern so you can be sure the whole panel is buffed.

  12. Dry and wipe - Stop when the panel is completely buffed over once. Wait for the compound to dry, then wipe it off with a clean, dry cloth.

  13. Inspect your work - Inspect for a uniform, shiny finish on your paint. If you can see swirls or lines easily, re-buff the panel again. Repeat as often as you need to achieve the high-gloss, uniform finish you desire.

    Tip: Allow 2-4 hours to manually buff your car to a shine. Because it takes a great deal of effort, plan to take a break after every 30 minutes or so.

    can panel showing smudges

  14. Repeat - Repeat for the rest of the painted panels on your car.

  15. Assemble the buffer - A power buffer or polisher can be used to buff your car to a bright, glossy finish. Put a buffing pad on the power buffer. Make sure the pad is designated for buffing or polishing. It will be a foam pad, usually around five or six inches in diameter.

    Warning: If the polisher is left too long in one spot, however, it can overheat the clear coat and paint underneath, possibly cutting through the clear coat or discoloring the paint. The only correction for burnt paint or clear coat is to repaint the entire panel, so always keep the buffer moving.

    power polisher with pad facing up

  16. Prep the pads - Prep the pad by applying buffing compound to the pad. It acts as a lubricant, protecting the foam of the pad and the paint on your car from damage.

  17. Set the speed - If there is a speed adjustment, set it to a medium or medium-low speed, roughly 800 RPM.

  18. Apply compound - Apply buffing compound to a painted panel. Work on one panel at a time to ensure complete coverage without missing any spots.

  19. Smear compound - Place the buffer’s foam pad against the buffing compound and smear it around a little.

    buffing pad on power polisher

  20. Make full contact - Hold the tool so the buffing pad is making full contact with the paint.

    buffing a car in side to side motion

  21. Turn on buffer - Turn on the buffer and move it from side to side. Use a wide, sweeping side-to-side motion, covering the whole panel in buffing compound. Work over the whole surface using moderate pressure, overlapping passes with the buffer to ensure areas aren’t missed.

    Warning: Always keep the buffer in motion while it is turned on. If you stop, you will burn the paint and clear coat.

    Tip: Don’t remove all of the buffing compound from the paint with the buffer. Leave a little on the surface.

  22. Wipe down - Wipe the panel down with a clean microfiber cloth.

  23. Inspect - Inspect for a uniform sheen to the whole panel without lines from the buffer. If there are dull spots or you can still see swirls, repeat the procedure. Do as many passes as you need to get a uniformly shiny surface.

  24. Repeat - Repeat on the rest of the panels.

By following these steps, you will find the process to be very simple. For all of your other car troubles, or if you have any questions when installing tire chains, don't hesitate to call a mechanic today.


Next Step

Schedule Oil Change

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Oil Change. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Oil Change reviews

Excellent Rating

(21,777)

Rating Summary
20,456
847
179
87
208
20,456
847
179
87
208

Greg

22 years of experience
47 reviews
Greg
22 years of experience
Ram 1500 - Oil Change - Phoenix, Arizona
I really appreciate the time Greg took to answer all my questions and thoroughly explain what was working as expected and recommended repairs. He didn't try and upsell me on anything other than the immediate recommended services, and alerted me of the 15 safety recalls my truck currently has. Very professional, efficient, and knowledgeable. Would highly recommend.
Lexus LC500 - Oil Change - Tempe, Arizona
Informed me correctly that tires on a Lexus LC500 does not need tire rotation and yet YourMechanic.com recommended it more than once and sent a technician before him to rotate my tires for which I was charged.

Nazareth

27 years of experience
193 reviews
Nazareth
27 years of experience
Jaguar XJ - Oil Change - Covina, California
First time using YourMechanic and I was extremely satisfied with the service. Nazareth was very friendly, punctual and professional. I definitely will continue using his services on my vehicle. Thank you Nazareth!
Ford Escape - Oil Change - Whittier, California
Nazareth was on time, very friendly, very courteous, and professional. Nazareth ensured all my questions were answered and ensured the car was good to go via a test drive.

LAVELL

27 years of experience
100 reviews
LAVELL
27 years of experience
Honda Accord - Oil Change - San Francisco, California
Lavell was extremely friendly and professional, and even showed up early and finished early. Would happily recommend him to anyone looking for a mechanic.
Buick Encore - Oil Change - Oakland, California
Another home run! Really appreciate the flexibility regarding my service appointment. Due to my work schedule I desperately needed a late appointment. So grateful my car is receiving top shelf professional service. Replaced a oil pan drain plug that was seriously damaged and stripped by a competitor that will NEVER get my business again! All services were quickly completed. Thank you so much for another great experience with my.... Your Mechanic Lavell 5 ⭐️ Service consistently.

John

27 years of experience
777 reviews
John
27 years of experience
Nissan Pathfinder - Oil Change - Friendswood, Texas
John was extremely personable and explained everything. Showed up on time and made sure everything was working right before he left. Couldn’t have a better mechanic to rely on.
Kia Seltos - Oil Change - Houston, Texas
Arrived early, was super nice, had the job done in no time. Was able to find his way around my new with no problems even though he hadn't worked on that type before. Will be requesting him for future maintenance.

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

Tips for Taking Care of Your Exhaust System
Your Your car’s exhaust system might not be the first thing you think about when it comes to engine performance or personal safety, but it should be pretty high on that list. Your engine combusts fuel and air in order...
How to Maximize the Value of Your Vehicle
As As soon as you buy a new car, its value starts to decrease. The ultimate value of your car is a combination of its age, mileage, and overall condition of your vehicle. Luckily, you have control over two of...
How to Increase the Lifespan of Your Suspension
Car suspension is under constant load. Check your tire alignment, shocks and struts, and steering system to make your suspension system last longer.

Related questions

My car makes a very odd beeping noise, what gives?

Hi there. This is most likely a service reminder indicator chiming. Take note of any messages on the display panel. It could also be the seat belt reminder chiming. This could be due to the belt being unfastened or the...

What does the Intelligent Key™ battery discharge indicator mean?

Your Intelligent Key™ is a critical element to operating your car, but it does require a little bit of maintenance. The most important tip for owners is to make sure the battery is replaced. Without a good battery, they key...

My car has done 37,500 miles service but it only has 33,300 miles, what kind of maintenance do I need?

The maintenance reminder system is not strictly mileage based. If 12 months elapse, without an intervening re-set, the light will come on simply because the engine oil should be changed at 12 months even if the 7,500 mileage interval for...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com