The Importance of Buffing Your Car

By Charles Hopkins Published 07/6/2006 | Auto and Trucks

Okay, you already do a good job cleaning your car. You run it through the car wash a couple times a month. On the occasional Saturday afternoon, you get out the hose and some cleaner and do the job yourself in the back yard. So what is the point of buffing your car?

Over time, the finish on cars begins to dull and weather. This is true even with cars that have been painted and then had the paint job covered with a clear coat sealant. While washing does its bit to keep the car looking nice, it does nothing to prevent the gradual erosion of the clear coat seal; a vehicle left out in inclement weather all through the year will have the paint job deteriorate even faster.

When you look at a paint job that has dulled, what you are actually looking at is the worn top layer of the paint itself. Underneath that worn top layer is a gleaming finish just waiting to be uncovered. That is where the buffing comes in.

When a car is buffed properly, the top worn layer of the paint job is being lightly abraded and removed; the result is a paint job that once more appears shiny. In order to buff the paint job successfully, it is important to not be in a hurry, and to be sure to use the proper tools.

First, go to your local auto supply store and purchase a very fine rubbing compound. If your car has been made since 1992 or so, chances are the paint job was sealed with a clear coat layer and you most likely still have some residue of that on the body of the car. Should you have an older vehicle, there should also be compounds in stock that will work as well. The idea is to use the rubbing compound to remove any lingering layers that separate you from getting down to the paint that still has the gleam to it. 

Just as when you wash the car, be sure to use rounded even strokes to apply the compound. You want to coat to be evenly applied, leaving no chance for you to do anything that get down to the paint that still looks good. Keep in mind that buffing with too much pressure or with uneven strokes will result in your paint job showing circular designs or spots where the color is thinned or off altogether. The compound is an abrasive and must be used according to the instructions that come with it. Also remember to use a cloth that is recommended for buffing or purchase a buffing glove. The material will be constructed as to not have the tiny hooks that make up many standard types of cloth products, such as towels. Those tiny hooks can make mini-scratches in your now unprotected paint job and derail your goal of a paint job that looks like new. 

If you suspect that you will not be able to do this job yourself, do not hesitate to take your car to a professional car detailer and pay for having the job done properly. It is much less expensive to have a car buffed by a pro and then have a professional wax job put on the car than to have to pay for a new paint job to hide your mistakes.