Get in the habit of giving your car a regular wax or polish and you’ll thank yourself later.
Regular car waxing will improve your vehicle’s look and prolong the life span of its paint. Learning how to wax and buff your car properly can save you a bunch of money over time.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
You’ll need an electric orbital buffer, which can be purchased for as little as $40 (a higher-end model will run you closer to $300). You can also use a high-speed angle grinder with a buffing wheel attachment for around $50 on the low end and $500 on the high end. Buffing pads start at about $5 each, plus you’ll need buffing compound. You can buy car polish, car wax, and microfiber cloths in kit form for $10 to $20
A high-speed angle grinder with a buffing wheel will give you the best result, but be warned: It requires practice to master the technique so you don’t unwittingly damage the paint. An orbital buffer is easier to use for the inexperienced, but it won’t be as effective—the rotational speed of the buffer isn’t able to strip back the paint as quickly. Deeper scratches and oxidation will require working the affected area for longer with an orbital buffer to achieve the same results as with an angle grinder.
Apply a generous amount of buffing compound to any heavily weathered or scratched surface. Buffing works by stripping away a fine layer of paint and exposing the fresh paint underneath, and the compound acts as a paint stripper. Waxing your car immediately after buffing will replace the protective properties of the original clear coat.
Spread the compound out evenly across the area with the buffing pad (while the buffer is not in motion) to ensure that the compound doesn’t splatter onto adjacent surfaces. Avoid getting the compound on chrome, rubber, or glass.
Turn the buffer on and work the area in circular motions, holding the pad completely flat at all times. Turning the buffer at an angle or applying too much pressure can burn the paint surface and cause swirling. Work one quarter of a panel at a time until you get a bright gloss. The surface should feel smooth and look new.
If the paint is in good condition and requires only some freshening up, follow the same method as above, but use car polish instead of buffing compound. You won’t need as much polish as you would buffing compound because polish can cover a greater area and will strip away less paint. Follow the process across the entire surface of the car until the paint is restored.
Buffing should usually be done once a year. If your car is stored in a garage and its paint is in good condition, use only polish rather than a compound. If you live in a coastal region and your car is stored outside, it may require more frequent buffing. This is due to the high salt content of sea air, which causes paint to oxidize faster than it would in an arid climate. Cars parked under trees will typically be covered in tree sap and bird droppings, which can also damage paint. Your car could require buffing two or three times a year in these circumstances.
Apply car wax using a clean buffer pad. Spread it evenly, gently pulsing the trigger of the buffer (instead of keeping the buffer turned on continuously). This will ensure that the wax doesn’t cake on the surface. Cover one-quarter of the panel at a time before removing the wax. Some waxes will require a set time before removal, so refer to the directions on the bottle. Use a microfiber cloth to remove the wax, using circular motions to achieve a high gloss.
Repeat the process across the entire surface of the paint.
Because it’s generally recommended that you wax your car every three months (but don’t buff every time you wax), car waxing is a good skill to have. Your car will look great, and your wallet will thank you.