In this article, we're going to talk about car polishing and what it exactly is, so hopefully, by the time you're finished with this article, you will understand if polishing your car is a good idea and how it can make a difference on the vehicles you own.
Since the late 1800s, people have been searching for ways to keep their horse carriages & first iterations of the automobile looking their best – and from animal fat to plant-based formulas to furniture polishes, vehicles through the past century have truly seen it all. Now we've certainly moved on from animal fat and furniture polish, but the goal those products set out to accomplish still remains.
At the end of the day, our vehicles are an investment, and a lot of times can be a pretty expensive one. Whether you're an automotive enthusiast or just someone who likes to take care of their things, I think we can all agree that seeing & driving a clean car definitely gives you that extra boost of satisfaction.
Car Polishing: Understanding Your Paintwork
Firstly, it's important to understand that polishing your car and waxing your car are two different processes.
When you wax your vehicle, you're adding a layer of protection on top of the paint, but when you're polishing your car, you're removing material from the surface instead. We'll discuss why this is important a bit later in the article.
The paintwork on nearly all modern vehicles from all manufacturers made today is going to be comprised of 4 or 5 layers of product:
- The base/structure of the vehicle (typically steel or aluminum, but can also be fiberglass or carbon fiber on expensive cars)
- Primer – This will be the coat responsible for covering the structure to make it ready to receive a color; it is also responsible for corrosion protection (rust, water damage, etc.)
- Color Coat – the layer that covers the primer and either gives your vehicle the final color it will have or provides the base color for pearlescent color options
- Pearlescent or Mid-coat layers are generally comprised of a milky-looking semi-transparent coat that can contain different colors of metallic or pearl to give the appearance of a color change under specific lighting or can be tinted to accent the base color coat. The name "candy paint" has also been used throughout history.
- Clear Coat – this is the layer your car achieves the shiny gloss. It's responsible for "sealing in" and protecting the layers beneath from anything and everything the vehicle will see in its lifetime. (UV Rays, the elements, etc.)
- Modern advancements in automotive paints have created a "matte" or "satin" version of a clear coat that gives the vehicle a flat sheen instead of the high gloss reflective traditional clear coat – this clear coat can NOT be polished or corrected without performing a repainting process.
"Single-stage paint was also used at one point throughout history, and it's exactly what it sounds like – color and gloss in one layer. Primer is still used before applying, but it's a slightly different process."
What You Need To Know About Polishing Your Car
Knowing the structure of your vehicle's paintwork is essential because it helps you understand the best way to take care of it. Although it may seem like there are a lot of layers on your car, all of the layers collectively measure to be anywhere from 90-180 micrometers – around the thickness of a standard piece of paper.
Inherently over the life of your vehicle, there is a plethora of different contaminants that can scratch, dull, or even latch onto your clearcoat – this can cause your car to lose a lot of, or even something, all its original gloss & shine. This is because improper washing techniques, incorrect products, or just harsh driving conditions (dirt roads, snowy climates, etc.) can create microscopic ridges throughout your clear coat that don't allow the sunlight to evenly & properly reflect off the surface, which results in a dull or less than the desirable appearance of your vehicle.
"Polishing the vehicle is a way to restore the gloss of your car by removing a small amount of clear coat & removing the ridges or valleys that may be hindering the appearance."
The act of polishing can be performed by hand but is best accomplished via a machine like a dual-action polisher.
During the polishing process, you apply a compound or a polish to a microfiber or foam pad and apply it to the surface in circular motions – or the case of a DA polisher, at high speeds in circular motions. This creates friction that heats the clear coat & allows the abrasives in the compound or polish to begin removing little amounts of clear coat with each pass.
The result is scratch or haze removal by exposing a fresh layer of clear coat which allows the clear coat to act like one large magnifying glass to the color coat underneath – it will reveal a very high gloss finish along with a tremendous amount of depth in color.
Car Polishing Pros & Cons
Several things are worth praising when it comes to car polishing. Some of the benefits worth mentioning are:
- Maximum paint clarity and color enhancement.
- Brand new "showroom" car gloss.
- Restore dull paint with scratches and swirls to its former glory
- Creates the best surface possible for waxes, sealants, or coatings to bond.
- Having your vehicle professionally polished can yield excellent results without the stress of doing it yourself.
While these certainly are some notable benefits, some risks are associated with polishing your vehicle as well:
- A finite amount of clearcoat on your vehicle… polishing too many times, or more than is necessary, will result in a clear coat "burn," which will require your car to be repainted.
- The cost of professional vehicle polishing can be expensive depending on the size of your vehicle (ranging from $300 up to $1,000)
- The benefits of vehicle polishing can be short-lived without the proper care and maintenance.
- Learning how to polish your vehicle yourself can be difficult.
- The many different compounds and polishes can be confusing if you want to DIY.
Both lists are just an overview of how polishing can benefit or harm your vehicle's appearance, but it's not always as cut & dry as that. There are other factors to consider, such as paint condition, the age of the vehicle, the type of paint, if it has ever been repainted before, and many others that should play a role in your deciding factor.
Let's say, for example; you've got a classic 1962 Chevy Impala with factory Silver Blue paint or a 1958 Aston Martin DB4 boasting original paint, sometimes the risk of polishing the vehicle could be too high since damaging the paint in any way could drastically affect the value of the vehicle.
The Consensus on Car Polishing
Is it good to polish your car, and does polishing it make a difference?
The answer is yes, but only when it's done correctly and you fully understand its risks. So whether you are thinking of having it done professionally or giving it a go, I hope this article helped deepen your understanding of car polishing.
Can polishing damage your car? Also, yes, but only if done improperly or if you polish the vehicle too often/more than is necessary.
Fully recognizing both sides of the polishing "coin," so to speak, is critical – especially if you plan on trying it yourself. It truly helps you understand the pros and cons a bit more in-depth & helps lay out a guideline of cost vs. benefit that polishing your car would have.
Car Polishing Gyeon Quartz USA
Ultimately what we at Gyeon Quartz USA recommend is if you're brand new to polishing & or have never polished before, heading to a local junkyard and picking up 2-3 panels to practice on can not only help you hone your skills & gain experience, but it will also allow you to experiment with different manufacturer paint types, older vs. newer paints, single stage paints, and pretty much everything in between.
Head over to our social media profiles, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, to stay up to date on all things Gyeon, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel for product reveals, walkthroughs, and overviews. Until next time – cheers!