How to Polish a Car

If your finish has lost its factory shine, polishing can an easy way to restore it back to looking new. After watching a Refinish Network polishing video, many users are left wondering what they need to replicate what’s been done. So here is a list of product choices that can help you get up and going!

Polishing is accomplished by gradually refining scratches to become smaller and smaller, until you’re left with a high gloss finish. While you may come across some single step systems, the most effect ones will require multiple pads and compounds. Polishing pads are best paired with specific compounds as a certain firmness is required, depending on the what polishing step you are on.


Polishing Systems

Here are a few great choices that include most components shown in our polishing videos.

This Presta kit includes all required compounds (polish), pads, and required backing pad for attaching to a polishing machine. It also contains a wax for protecting your finish, a detail spray for removing compound splatter and quickly shining up a panel, and a detailing cloth.

The 3M system has been used in several polishing videos and is one of the most popular in the industry. This kit contains the required compounds and pads, with a detailing cloth. You may also require 05718 Perfect-It Back-Up Pad to attach the pads to your polishing. Some polishers will include a compatible 7″ hook & loop pad.

Farecla is another option, another polishing system with a very good reputation in the automotive industry. This kit is similar to the 3M kit, a 3 step polishing system that contains a wax for added protection. This kit includes the required polishing pad adapter.

Polishing Machines

The most common type of polishing machine shown in Refinish Network videos are known as “rotary polishers”, the spin in a circle and have the most aggressive cut. We have also used “dual action polishers”, they are safer for use on edges and are less likely to create holograms (swirl marks) but will take longer to bring up a shine. Dual action polishers are better suited when no sanding is required.


The Dewalt and Makita electric polishers are the workhorses of the industry, proven to last time and time again. If you want to save some money, feel free to try something else at your own risk.

If you’re looking for dual action machines, a few choices above. You can also use pneumatic (air powered) polishers if you prefer.

Polishing Accessories

There are a few other items you may require depending on what your polishing objectives are. To remove larger defects from the clearcoat, you will require fine grits of sandpaper. Generally speaking, 1200 is the coarsest sandpaper you would want to use when polishing. You can do the sanding wet or dry and either by hand or machine.


We have several great videos that demonstrate correct polishing steps and techniques, the most current one can be found below: