How Often Should I Polish my Car? (Quick Answer)

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Car paint can benefit greatly from being polished.  It will restore the shine and increase the value of the car.  But you can damage your paint if you do it too often.

What Does Car Polish Do Anyway?

  • Polish is designed to remove some clear coat and smoothen down your paint and restore its shine.
  • Compound is more aggressive the polish and would cause paint to cut faster.
  • It also depends on the pad you use.  The softer the pad the less cut it has.

Dont confuse polish with wax

Polish and compound are abrasive.  Polish is not the same as wax. Wax and sealant are paint enhancers and protectors.  You can wax your car as often as you like.  Spray waxes are especially awesome.  Check out my favorite waxes here.  

How often should I polish my car by hand?

In most cases, applying polish by hand wont wear away paint and clearcoat very quickly.  When you think about it.  A machine polisher moves thousands of times faster then a human hand.  So it will ware paint away faster.

You could apply Meguiars Ultimate Polish once a month by hand if you wanted.  It acts as a filler so you can apply a wax on top of it.

Meguiars Ultimate Compound has a heaver cut so you probably should use it once or twice a year.

Be extra careful polishing old and classic cars

Single stage paint is something you may have heard of.  Its just as it sounds.  Just paint on bare metal.  Its very thin and can be very soft too.  Its usually found on classic cars.

New cars have an outer layer of clear paint called clear coat.  This is much tougher than old single stage paint.

When you polish single stage paint your pad will turn the same color as the paint because some paint comes off.

Effects of pad selection

The harder the pad the more paint it will cut.  The rule of thumb is, use the softest pad that will give you the results you want.

Paint thickness measuring

You can buy a device that measures the thickness of your paint.

You would compare the thickness of the paint around the door jams to the thickness of the paint on the door or hood to see how much it has been polished in the past.  Most professional detailers will use a paint thickness measuring gadget.

Its also great to use when buying a used car because you can use it to tell if any panels were repainted.

Effects of type of polishing machine

A Dual Action polisher or Random Orbital will be safer to use then a rotary polisher.

Rotary polishers can cut unbelievable fast and if you leave it on one spot for too long you can do a lot of damage.  Including heat damage and cutting too much paint/clearcoat.

Only a pro detailer who has many years of experience should use a rotary machine so they can get the job done faster.

The fastest way to burn through clear coat

Probably the fastest way is to wet sand the paint.

Sometimes weekend DIY detailers will try to remove the orange peel effect from their new car.  Results could be a disaster because of the speed it cuts though clear coat.  Its should be left to the pros if it needs to be done at all.

There’s a youtube channel where they specialize in removing the orange peel effect from supercars.  

The cleaner your paint is the better

Washing before you polish is a must.  But there can be other contamination on your paint that won’t come off in the wash.  

This contamination will affect your polishing.  It could cause scratches as the bits of contamination break off and dig into your paint.  This means more polishing is needed which further wears away your clear coat.

Also, any old wax / sealant / sio2 still left on there will mean you need to spend more time polishing certain sections of the car.  Other sections of the paint might not have any protection which means you should spend less time polishing those sections.  So the best thing to do is use a product like Adams strip wash to help degrade the old protection.  

But you should also clay your car.  Read more HERE.

Also, use and iron remover like Carpro Iron-X to dissolve iron particles and a tar remover like Carpro Tar-X.

Last but not least, a panel wipe protect will remove further oils and contamination.  Popular products are Carpro Eraser and Gyeon Prep.


If you are using a light hand polish you can do it once a month.  If you are using a heavy cutting compound and a machine polisher you should do it as little as possible.  Once a year at the most.

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