how to buff a car

How To Buff A Car And Make It Shine Like New

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Many people say that it is always what’s on the inside that matters. But if you’re a car enthusiast, you’d know that your car’s exterior is as important as the interior. Hence you need to learn how to buff a car.

Maintaining your car inside and out is necessary. After all, it’s probably one of your most treasured possessions. To own one, you need to shell out thousands of dollars.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to spend that much too on keeping it in tip-top shape.

One of the simplest and economical ways of protecting your car’s appeal is buffing. Most people that believe that buffing is just a fancy word for polishing, although it’s more than that.

Buffing is actually a process that removes the layer of dirt and scratches on your car’s finish. Part of the process is polishing your car.

After buffing, your car will look unrecognizable because it will have a brighter and glossier finish, as if it’s brand new.

Do-It-Yourself Buffing

You probably chose to buff your own car for two reasons. It’s either because it’s way cheaper than bringing it to a shop, or you simply want to learn a new skill.

More often than not, it’s the former. There’s nothing wrong with buffing and waxing your car, but remember that it’s no child play.

You need to put on a little work to bring back its former flair. We’re telling you that it’s not just pouring some chemicals on the surface.

buffing your own car

A Few Considerations Before You Begin

We’re not going to lie that buffing is a tedious job, and sometimes borderline dragging. It has a number of steps that can tire your arms and back.

So before you decide on doing it alone, you might want to consider these factors.

Paint Condition

Does your car really need to get buffed? If you spot some scratches and heavy swirl marks on your car’s paint, it’s a signal to buff your car.

You should also look into the hardness of the paint. The harder it is, the more potent compounds and polish will be needed.


Even though you’re avoiding huge expenses on professional service, you still need to shell out a few buck for the materials. You’d be needing specific types of cloth, wax and polisher to do the task.

Make sure you’re also ready to spend on buying what you need.


In most cases, buffing takes around 3 to 4 hours and it can be a good weekend project. If you don’t have this much time on your hands, better take it to a car shop instead.

Taking shortcuts is a no-no since it will compromise your output. Quality simply can’t be rushed.

Work space

Since you’re cleaning the whole car’s exterior, you definitely need a big work area. Make sure that your working space is in the shade, has a water source and electric outlets since you’ll be needing water and electricity for buffing.


Buffing a car is actually easy to learn. But it needs a certain level of skill so you won’t end up scratching and damaging your precious ride’s paint.

If you have zero knowledge and zero experience, you might want to start reading on how to do it. Plus it’s best if you practice on old and unused car parts before working on your vehicle.

How To Buff A Car

Step 1: Gather the materials and equipment

Before getting down and dirty buffing your car, the first step is to have all the needed materials for the job. Since you’re not bringing it to a shop, it’s best to have a complete set of tools for maximum results.

Here are the items you need:

  • Rotary buffer
  • Car wash soap
  • Car wax
  • Several foam pads
  • Water hose
  • Clean microfiber towels and gloves
  • Masking tape or Blue tape
  • Toothbrush

Step 2: Wash your vehicle

The first step in preparing your car for polishing is to wash it. Before anything else, make sure you’re staying in a covered yet open area.

Then, grab your hose and try to remove all signs of dust, and grease. To efficiently hose down all filth, go from top to bottom. Afterwards, use a trusted brand of car soap so that dirt won’t remain stuck on the paint’s surface.

Rinse it well to remove the lather build up in the corners of your car. Just let the water drip down, but don’t wipe it dry.

Step 3: Tape parts that shouldn’t be polished

Get your tape ready immediately after washing. Now, you have to cover all external car parts that don’t need to be polished before the actual buffing.

These include the headlights, taillights, window frames, and most other parts that are not painted.

You can either use masking tape or blue tape for protection from possible scratches or burns from the buffers. Blue tape is what we recommend since it doesn’t leave glue after removing it.

car buffing

Step 4: Hand polish your car’s exterior.

Get your polish liquid or paste then use your foam pads to apply them on your car. It’s best to use a foam pad rather than wool towels because they result to swirl marks on the car.

Don’t forget to apply a bit of pressure while you’re wiping so the surface can absorb the polish better.

Step 5: Use an orbital polisher for best results

If you want to buff your car the way professionals do it, you can use or buy an orbital polisher. There are many affordable models in the market that can give your car a lasting shine.

Using an orbital polisher is quite easy, but don’t neglect the manual or instruction book. Before you turn on the polisher, make sure that there’s a spoonful of polish on the machine head.

Then you can start glossing your car part by part. If you’re a rookie in buffing, we advise you to just take it slow.

You can spend a minute on each car part so that they get their fair share of shine. Expect that your car will be a bit damp after, so you’ll need to dry this with another microfiber towel.

Step 6: Apply wax on the car panels

Now that your car’s all dried up, waxing is the next step. And yes, you’ll be needing another microfiber towel for this.

Similar to polishing, you should wax the exterior little by little. We know that you’d want to give your car a facelift, but don’t place too much wax on the pad.

Or else, your car’s going to be sticky and messy. When applying and drying the surface, maintain the side-to-side wiping patterns.

Step 7: Check for chemical residue

After applying wax, check whether or not there are dabs of wax stuck in near the edges and openings. The moment you see remaining wax residue, grab your old toothbrush for extra scrubbing.

Since it’s smaller and thinner, it can reach every nook and cranny of your car.

Step 8: Dry the whole car

Now that there’s no chemical left on your car, you’ll need one last microfiber cloth for the final wipe. For consistent shine and cleanliness, it’s best to sponge of using a side-to-side stroke.

By doing so, you lessen the swirling marks of the polish and wax on the car that look so unprofessional. Now that you’re done, you can, at long last, remove the tape scattered on your vehicle.

Some Pro Tips For Newbie Car Buffers

Though car buffing is no rocket science, there’s always a smarter and easier way of doing things. Here are a few notes to keep in mind before you start the buffing and waxing stages.

Tip 1: Launder your microfiber towels and foam pads properly

These towels and foams aren’t your ordinary cleaning cloths. The good news is you can launder them in washing machines.

But you should never wash them together with your clothes. If you do, chances are the filth from the towels will stain your beloved garments.

Another rule is to avoid using softeners, conditioners, or bleach. These pads have special materials that might get affected with these strong solutions.Regular detergent is enough to decontaminate them.

Tip 2: Don’t mix buffing towels with pads

Buffing towels are very sensitive and tacky. If your buffing towels make contact with your pads, they will instantly pick up small particles or liquids attached to them.

When this happens, you have to replace your buffing towel with a new one.

Tip 3: Stock up on supplies, most especially the microfiber towels and foam pads.

As you’ve noticed, buffing cars requires multiple steps of washing, scrubbing, and drying. Once a foam pad is used with wax, you can’t use it for any other function.

When you start wiping, you’ll also notice that dirt accumulates and stays on the towels after cleaning 2 panels. GarageChief recommends that you use a new foam pad or towel after 2-3 car panels so your wax and solutions will take effect.

Tip 4: Never polish the car with too much chemical.

Always remember that your rotary buffing equipment are electrical tools. If there’s too much polish applied on the foam, your car’s paint might suffer from discoloration.

People who apply more than needed usually end up with burnt paint. Don’t make this weekend project of yours counter-productive, so try to use the chemicals moderately.

Start Buffing This Weekend

Giving your car a showroom look, spotless and shiny, doesn’t translate to expensive car services. With the help of innovative products and accessible information, you can service your car in your own garage.

Buffing is one way you can save on cash without compromising the appeal of your car. However, it doesn’t take just a single polish for instant and impressive results.

You need to dedicate a few hours of your weekend and work hard to make it happen. And as long as you follow the instructions and use the right products, you can say good bye to those filth and blemishes on your ride.


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