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How To Polish Your Car And What You Need To Do It Right

A car being hand washed

You take pride in your vehicle and its appearance. But you don’t want to spend a fortune at the car wash every week. The answer is good, old-fashioned DIY — do it yourself. Washing’s easy — what we’re going to talk about is what comes after the wash — how to polish your car.

Gather the Right Supplies

First is supplies. Some good, high-quality polishing cloths are a good investment. If you’re really in it to win it, you could even buy a power polisher. Think orbital sander, but with a soft polishing pad where the sandpaper would be. In fact, if you already have an orbital sander, all you need is to swap in that soft polishing pad — you’ve got a two-in-one tool there. A good detailing rig or creeper seat can help you apply polish to your car and save your back in the process, too.

Take It SlowCar wash

A good, high-quality polish is next on the list. You’re looking for a polish that will remove the dirt that’s too tough for the wash to remove, and one that will take off (but gently) any layer of oxidized, sun-faded paint. And, if you’re doing this by hand instead of using a power polisher, easy application is important, too.

Go gently, however you do it. The abrasives in polish that help you unlock your vehicle’s luster can also shorten the life of your paint if you’re too aggressive, or polish too often. Done right, a polish is a once-a-year kind of thing, with weekly to monthly washes (depending on how and where you drive and park your car) and a fresh wax (to keep the shine and protect the paint) every 90 days or so.

Remember the Details

But how to polish your car actually goes beyond the body and its paint. If you stop there, you’re only halfway finished. Any chrome trim needs to be polished — preferably with a polish formulated specifically for chrome. Same goes for your wheels. A good tire glaze will make your rubber look as new and as fresh as the rest of the car. And glass cleaner is a must — windows, mirrors, headlamp covers, everything. Essentially, you’re giving your own car a thorough detailing — without giving someone else $100 or more to do it. And you’ll feel the pride every DIYer feels when you’ve made your car even better.

Check out all the chemical products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to polish your car, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Mike Hagerty View All

Mike Hagerty is an automotive journalist whose work has been featured on radio, TV, in print and online since 1997. He's the Publisher and Editor of, and contributes car reviews to the Los Altos Town Crier and Previous outlets have included KFBK and in Sacramento, California, the ABC television affiliates and Hearst-Argyle and Emmis radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona; AAA magazines for Arizona, Oklahoma, Northwest Ohio, South Dakota and the Mountain West and

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