How to Polish a Car

To polish your car, first do a thorough cleaning, then apply the correct polish, and use a polishing pad to get your car looking sharp. Read this guide on polishing and cleaning your car to learn the specifics.
Written by Brady Klopfer
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
Polishing a car is exactly what it sounds like: you polish the paint to bring out its best qualities and make the car truly shine. There’s a huge difference between a polished vehicle and a non-polished one, and we’re here to walk you through polishing a car by hand.
Whether you have a sports car, a commuter sedan, or a minivan, keeping your car looking well cared for gives you a sense of pride. It's also more fun to get into a car that looks like it just came out of the dealership—and to be seen in such a car, too.
Polishing a car is an essential part of keeping your vehicle looking its very best. If you just want to keep your car clean, you can wash it. But if you’re interested in making your vehicle look sharp and perfect, then you’re going to want to learn how to polish and wax a car.
Read this guide by
car insurance
comparison shopping and broker app
to learn how to polish your vehicle’s paint, polish aluminum wheels, polish aftermarket headers, and polish car glass.
Let Jerry find your price in only 45 seconds
No spam · No long forms · No fees
Find insurance savings

How to polish car paint

The most important part of your car to polish is the paint. That’s what will keep your car turning heads. Polishing your paint can take a little while, but it’s not an incredibly complex process.
Start by parking your car in shaded area. You don’t want any direct sunlight on your vehicle or the polish won’t work correctly.
Next, clean your car with soap and water, being sure to rinse thoroughly afterwards. Cleaning your car is necessary, because it keep debris and contaminants from getting worked into the body of the car while polishing.
Once the
car is clean
, attach a polishing pad to the polishing wheel. You want to use a soft pad and compound for cars with dark paint, and a stronger pad and compound for vehicle with light paint.
Get the pad damp, apply the compound, turn on the wheel, and begin polishing the paint. Move the wheel back and forth in one spot until the polish disappears, and the paint looks shiny, then move to the next portion, while making sure to overlap. As the compound builds on the pad, rinse it off and start fresh.
Once you’re done polishing, be sure to rinse the car again and then wax it.

How to polish aluminum wheels

Polishing aluminum wheels is just like polishing paint.
The only difference is you need to use metal polish and a wool pad on the polishing wheel. Otherwise, follow the same process as when you polished the paint.

How to polish an aftermarket header

When polishing an aftermarket header, you need to start by removing it and giving it a very thorough cleaning.
After cleaning with a rag or large brush, use a toothbrush to get into the nooks and crannies and really get the header clean.
To be extra thorough, spray the header with brake cleaner and wipe it down. Be sure that the header is entirely dry.
Next, spread metal polish over the entire header and begin to sand it with 1000 grit sandpaper, replacing or cleaning the sandpaper as it gets dirty.
Once you’ve polished the entire header, clean it again, dry it off, and reattach it to the vehicle.

How to polish car glass

Polishing car glass is the same as polishing car paint. The only difference is you need to use glass polish and polishing pads that are designed for glass. Using a standard pad and compound won’t hurt your glass, but it won’t be strong enough to actually get the job done.
When using glass polish and a car glass polishing pad, set the polishing wheel to the lowest setting. The rest of the process is the same as polishing car paint.
Polishing your car is pretty easy and affordable, and you can get all of the supplies at your local auto shop. After you’re done polishing your car, you can follow
our guide to detailing the interior
to make sure your vehicle is beautiful inside and out.
Haven’t shopped for insurance in the last six months? There might be hundreds $$$ in savings waiting for you.
Judith switched to Progressive
icon savingsSaved $725 annually
Alexander switched to Travelers
icon savingsSaved $834 annually
Annie switched to Nationwide
icon savingsSaved $668 annually
Are you overpaying for car insurance?
Compare quotes and find out in 45 seconds.
Try Jerry

Easiest way to compare and buy car insurance

No long forms
No spam or unwanted phone calls
Quotes from top insurance companies
Find insurance savings