ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT… CAR POL­ISH

There has been an ex­plo­sion of new car pol­ish es on the mar­ket in re­cent years. Here’ s a guide to what they are for and how to use them by Bob Harper

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POL­ISH, WHAT IS IT?

Many peo­ple don’t re­alise that pol­ish is abra­sive and its pur­pose is to re­move de­fects. With mod­ern cars, you’re not touch­ing the paint at all. In fact, the pol­ish­ing process re­moves a very small amount of the clearcoat, be­cause it’s the clearcoat that gets dam­aged. A pol­ish is de­signed to re­move that dam­age, whether it be in the form of wa­ter marks, acid-rain etch, fine scratches or swirl marks.

HOW CLEAN DOES THE CAR HAVE TO BE BE­FORE POL­ISH­ING?

Ideally the car should be clin­i­cally clean. That means de­con­tam­i­na­tion to re­move tar, bug-squash and brake-dust build-up, then de­greas­ing and then a pre-wash. These are all pro­cesses that will aid pol­ish­ing and en­hance the fin­ish.

DO I NEED TO DO ANYTHING AF­TER I’VE USED THE POL­ISH?

Pol­ish­ing is not a fi­nal process; you should not leave it at that be­cause then the paint re­mains un­pro­tected. Pol­ish­ing is typ­i­cally a prepa­ra­tion stage be­fore ap­ply­ing ei­ther a car­nauba wax or a ce­ramic-type sealant.

WHAT’S THE DIF­FER­ENCE BE­TWEEN A WAX AND A POL­ISH?

Be­cause it is abra­sive, a pol­ish shouldn’t be used on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, only when you want to re­move im­per­fec­tions and in turn im­prove the clar­ity of the paint and the depth of shine. A wax, mean­while, adds a layer of pro­tec­tion to main­tain that gloss by pre­vent­ing the likes of UV and natural con­tam­i­nants from dam­ag­ing the clearcoat.

HOW LONG DO THE RE­SULTS OF POL­ISH­ING LAST?

It de­pends on what pro­tec­tive coat­ing is used. For a car­nauba wax you’re prob­a­bly looking at two to three months de­pend­ing on en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions, ownership and wash rou­tines. If you go for the ex­pense of a ce­ramic sealant, that time­frame is sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased.

ARE THERE ANY POLISHES TO AVOID?

We’d ad­vise against the lower end of the mar­ket as some polishes con­tain fillers, typ­i­cally chalk­based, so what you’re ac­tu­ally do­ing is fill­ing in the prob­lem, not cor­rect­ing it.

DO YOU NEED A MA­CHINE POLISHER?

For cer­tain de­fects you don’t have to use a ma­chine polisher – it’s an add-on to the process – but by us­ing one you will get bet­ter re­sults, and much faster!

ARE THERE DIF­FER­ENT POLISHES FOR MA­CHINE AND HAND AP­PLI­CA­TION?

A lot of the bet­ter and more re­fined hand polishes can also be used with a ma­chine. How­ever, some polishes are de­signed specif­i­cally to be used with a ma­chine only. The prin­ci­ple be­hind this is that the ac­tion of the ma­chine breaks down the abra­sives into finer and finer par­ti­cles. As such, they would not be suit­able for hand pol­ish­ing.

WHAT ABOUT POL­ISH­ING CLAS­SICS?

You need to be more care­ful on a clas­sic car that doesn’t have a clearcoat. The paint will be a lot softer, so ex­tra cau­tion is key.

ANY LAST WORDS OF WARN­ING?

Watch out for SMART re­pairs – if they’ve not been car­ried out to a high stan­dard, pol­ish­ing could re­move the paint. You should also be aware that there are lim­i­ta­tions to what a pol­ish can do – if the dam­age has gone through the clearcoat and the paint, you’ll need a re­spray.

‘You need to be more care­ful on a clas­sic that doesn’t have a clearcoat. The paint will be a lot softer, so cau­tion is key’

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