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How to Buff a Car Like a Pro in Just 5 Easy Steps

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How to Buff a Car

Car owners should learn how to buff a car if they want their vehicles to look like it just rolled out of the shop. While it might sound like hard work at first, it’s quite easy to buff and polish your car like a pro. Not only will it save you money, but you can also be sure that your car is in good hands.

Why do You Need to Buff Your Car?

Buffing and polishing are so similar that a lot of people consider them to be one and the same. Knowing how to buff a car is important because it’s the best way of maintaining your vehicle’s appearance. And since the process reveals a fresh layer of paint, it keeps your car looking brand new while removing small scratches.

What do I need to buff and polish my car?

Preparing the necessary materials before you start will make buffing your car to go smoothly. Make sure you have on hand a pail of warm water, microfiber cloths, sponges, a buffing compound or paste, polishing pads and your buffing tool. While manually polishing your car is okay, using a good buffing tool is better.

How can you Buff and Polish like a pro?

Once you have everything ready, it’s time for the main event. Here’s how to buff a car like an expert:

  • Step 1: Wash your car thoroughly and get rid of all the dirt, sand and little particles. Everyone has their own way of doing this but experts recommend that you should start from the top and work your way down. Make sure that you also pay attention to those hard-to-reach areas.  Remember that the smallest particle can create new scratches. Dry the car thoroughly once done.
  • Step 2Put a mask on. Protect your car’s badges, headlights, moldings, pinstripes and taillights by covering them with masking tape. This will prevent them from being damaged, especially if you’re using a rotary buffer as the heat from the equipment can burn them or create scuffs.  
  • Step 3: Apply a good polishing compound directly on the car and spread it using a small section of cloth. If doing it manually, start the process by keeping the cloth flat and moving it in an up/down motion. Alternate with a left/right movement but keep it in a small area, like a 2′ x 2′ space. The same goes when using a buffing tool, except that you should be mindful not to focus on one spot as the heat can ruin your car’s coating.
  • Step 4: Wipe and inspect. Stop once the area has been buffed over. Wait a few minutes for the compound to dry and inspect it. Buff the area again if you still see any whorls, swirls or lines.
  • Step 5: Repeat. At this point, you can continue polishing your car until it becomes smooth and shiny again. Other owners opt to use a good car wax to fill in miniscule scratches and make the vehicle look sleeker. Bear in mind that it would take around 2 to 4 hours of manual buffing for the car to shine, so pace yourself accordingly.

Try these Tips and Tricks for Better Buffing


It’s not enough that you know how to buff a car. Learning how to take care of your tools and minimizing scratches are also integral to car maintenance. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Never mix your buffing pads or clothes. Once you’ve used a particular compound for a buffing pad, you can’t use it for anything else. It’s because you won’t be able to get all the compound out, no matter how much you scrub or wring it. Adding a different compound to it might cause swirl marks.  
  • Invest in foam pads. You should have a good stock of foam pads, especially if you’re serious about buffing your car. There’s a wide variety of buffing pads available, each with different Pores per Inch (PPI).
  • Keep the compound on the car, not on you. Never apply the compound on the buffing pad as this will cause the chemical to splash on the nearest surface, which includes you. Always apply the compound on the car’s surface first before activating the buffer.
  • The buffing pad and the ground should never meet. Do not set your buffer on the ground as this will cause the pad to pick up dirt and rocks. Once this happens, these minuscule pieces will act as abrasives on the car’s surface, leaving you back where you started.

Knowing how to buff a car can help keep your vehicle looking good and well-maintained. It can also save you a lot of money. However, it’s always a good idea to ask or defer to experts when it comes to other car concerns.

Is it better to buff or polish a car?

When it comes to polishing or buffing a car, there are pros and cons to both methods. Polishing a car uses abrasives to remove the clear coat, while buffing removes a thin layer of paint.

Polishing is often considered the better option because it leaves the car with a smoother finish. However, it can also be more time-consuming and expensive. Buffing is less time-consuming and usually cheaper, but it doesn’t provide as smooth of a finish.

Is it better to buff or polish a car?

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, so it really depends on what you’re looking for in terms of results. If you want a quick and easy process, then buffing may be the better option. If you’re willing to spend more time and money for a superior finish, then polishing is the way to go.

When Should You Buff Your Car?

When your car’s paint is no longer as glossy as it once was, or if you see chips and scratches in the paint, it’s time to buff your car.

Buffing your car will remove the damaged top layer of paint and reveal the fresh, undamaged paint beneath. This will restore the shine to your car’s finish and make it look like new again.

How much does buffing a car cost?

The price for buffing your car might vary depending on the area, but the typical price for an average-sized vehicle is between $50 and $150. Repair big vehicles like SUVs and trucks or for cars with highly damaged paint, the price may be higher, ranging from $175 to 275.

What Kind of Scratches can be Buffed out?

You can often buff out mild to moderately severe scratches simply at home. However, a professional should take care of a scratch as quickly as possible if it has penetrated your car’s primer or even the bare metal.

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