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How To Cut And Polish A Car By Hand

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Many people would like to have their cars bright and shiny. To achieve this car paint must be polished and waxed to be shining clean. Unfortunately, taking your car in for a professional cut and polish can be very expensive. Many of us decide to do this job ourselves, by hand. Although it will take more time, ultimately you will achieve a sparkling clean, just like it is brand new and being washed for the first time. Here are some steps to help you learn how to cut and polish a car by hand.

How Paint Hardness Affects Polishing

Some cars are manufactured with hard paint while others come with soft paint. You should be able to determine if your car has hard or soft paint by doing a test spot. A test spot is simply selecting a small area of the vehicle and use sandpaper (very fine grained) to test how easy it is to sand out scratches. Learn more here.

The hardness of the paint determines how long the job will take and the effort that you will need to polish your car. When the paint is soft you should use a less aggressive polish compound, and the opposite is true on hard paint.

Let’s Get to Polishing

Washing car in the shade

Wash your car in a shaded area

You should first park your car in a shade before proceeding with any activity. The process of polishing a car can be quite messy. You should remove everything around you that you are not using and could be damaged by contact with the polishing compound.

After clearing the environment, wash your car using automotive soap. Use a soap that does not have wax or polish in it. Rinse your car with clean water using a hosepipe. Your car should be clean and relatively dry before starting the actual polishing process.

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Choose an effective pad and polish

The color and hardness of the paint on your car will determine the type of polishing compound and pad that you should use. In most cases, lighter colors are best polished by aggressive pads and compounds. As for cars with dark colors, a softer compound and pad would be more effective.

There are different brands of polishing compounds that come from various manufacturing companies. These compounds can be found in local auto parts stores. You should pick the one with the best quality and that your car paint.

Before starting you should tape parts of your car that you would not want the compound smeared on. Obviously, the tape can be removed after the polishing process is complete.

Apply the compound

Wet the polishing pad using clean water. Using the pad while it is dry may burn the paint on your car. It also should not be soaking wet. You should wring it and leave it damp throughout the process.

You can either apply the compound on the damp pad or directly on the surface of the body. So as not to waste the compound you should not apply much of it at a time. Too much of the compound can make your work look dull. It should be proportional to the surface of the body that you are polishing at a time. You should also read the instruction on the compound manual for best results.

Work the polish into the paint

Put the pad parallel to the body surface. You should use steady and constant pressure while working the pad evenly around the surface of the panel. You can either work it back and forth or you can do it in a circular manner. When you move the compound on the paint continuously, it will smear and then disappear leaving behind a shiny paint. Do not over-polish areas of your car. Over-polishing can lead to dullness. The same process should be done to all the parts of the car body.

Edges of the polishing pad are often in contact with less of the compound. Due to the constant back and forth, the edge may end up burning the coat. You should always be cautious and keen with the edges of the pad while working on the coat.

The compound will gradually build up on the pad making it gummy. It becomes difficult and ineffective using the pad in this state. You should frequently rinse the pad using clean water and make sure it is damp.

Wash and rinse the car

Once your surface is sparkling, you should put the pad and the compound aside and wash the car again. Use automotive soap to wash the car and make sure you wash away any remaining compound on the car. Before using any soap or water you can first wipe the car surface using a wet cloth. After washing the car, rinse it using a hosepipe or a pressure washer with clean water. Ensure you thoroughly rinse away soap or compound material on the car.

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Washing car with soap

Allow the car to dry

You can either give the car some time to dry, or you can dry away the water using a cloth. When drying using a cloth, gently wipe the car surface from top to bottom. This should be done with caution so as not to damage the paint. Ensure the car is completely dry before moving to the next stage.

Apply automotive wax to the car’s surface

Choose a suitable automotive wax for your car. While applying the wax, make sure your car is not under direct sunlight. The wax should come with a pad to use for application. Put a proportional paste of the wax on the pad, and then spread the wax evenly on the car. Do this with minimal pressure in a circular motion or you can choose to spread it back and forth. After application, remove the wax using a micro-fiber towel. Your car will ultimately be a lustrous clean and free of blemishes.


Polishing your car by yourself is quite a simple task. It saves you from the costs of machines and the hiring of professional people to polish your car. You can achieve satisfying results just by following the procedures we have outlined for you accurately. A word of caution though…this procedure can easily damage your paint. If you don’t feel completely confident in polishing your car yourself, it is always best to consult a professional.