How to Buff a Car Without Destroying Your Paint

Whether you have a luxury car or just a simple vehicle for getting around town and going to work, keeping your car in shape is very important. While some things might require the help of an expert, there are plenty of other things you could use yourself.

The simple fact is, any car can suffer damage as it’s exposed to UV rays, heat, rain, snow and pelting sleet over the years. This can be very hard on your car’s finish. In addition to the elements, mud, sand, dirt and other particulates can result in scratches on your car. We’ve all been at the grocery store parking lot and moved the carts away from our cars right?

Buffing your car can go a long way to protecting your car and removing minor scratches. With that said, let's look at how to properly buff your car...

Just What Is Buffing?

The process of polishing or buffing is usually interchangeable, since they are part of the same process. More accurately, polishing a car is one of the multiple steps you take when buffing that car.

This can either be with a high-speed buffer operated by an expert or with a circular buffer you run across the surface. A professional technician can do a much faster buff and if you find you have scratches all over your car or any other imperfections in the paint, buffing can help to solve this problem.

Usually, these problems lie only on the outer painted surface, which means that effectively buffing the surface can remove the layer that is damage to uncover a beautiful, new surface lying just below it. In addition to the improved appearance, the process and buffing your car can extend the lifespan of the finish.

Steps in Buffing a Car

To start with, you’ll want a good polisher and a high-quality car polish. You’ll also likely want a high-speed or orbital buffer. The buffing can be done by hand but it's a lot of work so using the high speed one makes your life much easier.

Choose the Right Spot

Before you start the process of buffing your car, you’ll want to position it somewhere convenient and out of the sun. Many people overlook this very important consideration and simply start buffing their car wherever they last parked it. This is a mistake. Choose a place out of the sun and the elements. Keep in mind that this is going to take a while.

Thoroughly Clean Your Car

It’s absolutely essential to remove any dirt or dust from the surface of your car before you start the buffing process. That way, you’ll avoid causing additional scratches that could result if you’re grinding dirt into the surface. This also makes it easier to see scratches, swirl marks and any other problem areas that may be on your paint.

Fill a bucket with soapy water and use it to scrub down the car with a sponge. Always start at the top of your car and work your way downward. Starting from the bottom is self-defeating, since any dirt you wash off from the top will just run down the sides. Use big, circular strokes with the sponge. Finally, thoroughly rinse off the car and make sure to fully dry it using microfiber towels.

Decide What You Want to Use for Buffing

You’ll need to decide whether you want to use a compound or a polisher for buffing your car. Generally, if your car doesn’t have deep scratches and marks, it’s best to use a polisher. But if the damage is more serious, a compound might be a better option.

Choose the Buffer to Use

Next, you’ll want to decide the type of buffer you’ll use. In some ways, the most efficient option is an electric buffer, which is essentially a kind of high-speed polishing machine. This is the best choice since it can do the job much easier and quicker – not to mention better than you could do it by hand.

However, if you’ve never used one, make sure to start in an inconspicuous area where you can get used to the feel of the buffer. In the wrong hands you can damage your paint so ensure you’re comfortable with the tool before moving to noticeable areas on your car.

An excellent alternative would be an orbital buffer, since it’s more forgiving. While it may require a little more effort, it also gives you more control than you would if you were using a high-speed model.

Start Buffing

When you’ve chosen your tool and materials, you’re ready to buff! Make certain that your car has fully dried. Use a high quality towel to dry up any wet spots. Then – following all of the instructions that came with your product – start applying either compound or polish. You can use a small amount at first, since you can apply more later if necessary.

With the firm grip on the buffer, start buffing the car surface with even, consistent, circular movements. Do this gently, keeping a tight grip on it to minimize the chance of any mistakes that could damage the finish of your car. Keep buffing until you get the shine you’re looking for and you’ll be good to go!


Buffing your car is something you may choose to do a few times a year to ensure you’re not letting scratches persist. Avoid overdoing the buffing since it's a more aggressive approach to car cleaning that does remove small layers of clear coat each time. You only want to buff enough to remove the scratches and then move on. If you’re working with an older car that already has defective paint, consult a pro first.

And if you need paint, glass or body work in Tracy or surrounding areas, feel free to give us a call. We’ll give you a free estimate and always deliver the best service.