I’ve always said that marketing is eventually going to destroy any consumer trust that remains today. It’s amazing just how many brands of car polish you can find on the shelves when you go to your local department store or automotive supply store. On Amazon, there are literally thousands of different kinds of car polish to choose from. However, the majority of these products are bottled crap with good packaging. The key to choosing the right car polish for your needs is to educate yourself on how these compounds work and become familiar with the contents of the polish. It is also wise to buy from the most reputable brands, as there are many small and newer brands out there that aren’t even fully aware of how their products work.
The Best Car Polishes on the Market
Below are some of the best-rated car polish products available for sale today. As you’ll see, most of these are meant more for enthusiasts and are non-abrasive. However, we also included some of the professional grade products as well. In the product details, I have stated what types of polish and scenarios that would be appropriate to use each.
I factored several things in while developing this list of the best car polish products. Some of these factors include reputable branding, contents and the quality of those contents, positive customer reviews, safety of use/safety of materials, cost and amount of value provided.
What does car polish do?
This is an extremely important question that you should ask yourself before you even begin to start shopping for a good car wax or polish. It’s truly amazing how many auto professionals don’t really know the full functions of car polishing. I’ve even talked to people that specialize in auto detailing that just think it’s a way to make a car’s exterior look better.
For most of my life, when I heard the term “car polish”, the image of a red bright and shiny car at an antique show is what came to mind. However, my mental image was really the result of a multi-stage exterior cleaning and finishing process. Polishing is simply one of the steps to this process, but it certainly is one of the most important steps.
Car polishing sometimes applies to a broad spectrum of meanings, but true exterior polish is a compound or solution made to correct or mask defects to the vehicle’s paint job, while also enhancing the gloss on the surface of the paint job.
As I mentioned earlier, polishing is just one of the steps and one of the solutions used to fully restore a beautiful car paint job. There are many other steps and chemical compounds that can aid in the process of achieving an amazing finish such as chemical paint cleaners, glazes, waxes and more! I’ll talk a little bit about some of these other compounds throughout the article, but for the most part, I’ll be focusing on polish alone. That said, there are many products available that offer some of these other solutions with the polish combined.
Why should you use car polish?
The most common reason to use car polish is ultimately to preserve the appearance of a brand new vehicle. Nobody buys a nice ride just to trash it and have it look unappealing to drive. Sure, this does happen quite a bit, considering that people don’t always have a ton of time and money to spend keeping their vehicle perfectly spotless and well-conditioned, but it’s generally nobody’s intentions. In most situations where the vehicle’s paint job becomes flawed, I think it’s the impression of the average vehicle owner that they’re going to have to spend a fortune to correct the issue, so they dismiss the possibility of ever correcting it.
It is true, though; many times it literally will cost a fortune to pay a professional to correct the finish of the vehicle – mainly because there are times that they will have to repaint a portion of the surface, if not the entire exterior, which is a lot of work. Sometimes, it isn’t really economically justified to do so. However, correcting the vehicle’s finish personally is, more often than not, affordable to almost anybody and is totally worth the investment! It should be a regular part of your car maintenance routine.
If you’re still debating doing the car polishing and finishing yourself, just think about resale value! This reason alone should be great motivation to get out and start polishing. I recently read an article about things that can be done to instantly increase the value of a car. The writers of the article conducted a study and found that by correctly cleaning and restoring the vehicle’s finish, the averaged used car increased in value by almost $2,000. Now during this study, they simply did one good finish before listing the vehicle for sale. They did not polish and wax the vehicles in the past. Just think how much more you could get for a car that had a finish that had properly been maintained throughout past ownership.
Besides resale value, one of the other reasons people polish a car is to keep a great appearance of their vehicle. There are tons of older model vehicles out there that truly look like brand new cars. My friend has a BMW that he keeps in perfect condition, inside and out. The BMW is actually a 2011 model. I had attended my friend’s child’s birthday party several months ago. While we were out there, one of his family friends came up to him and said “I see you bought a brand new BMW. When did you get that?” My friend stated that he bought it almost 7 years ago and they were truly shocked. I had always thought that my friend probably spent his entire Saturday cleaning his car, but after talking one night, he told me that he really only cleaned the interior for about 1 hour each week and then did about an hour or two of work on the exterior once a month. He also said that he has all of his own cleaning products and car detailing equipment, so he still spends less than he would taking his BMW to an ordinary car wash.
So it’s obvious that polishing your ride occasionally is entirely worth the investment of your time and dollars. But, there are other occasions where car polish can come in handy. Think of all the times you’ve gone driving down the highway and a truck in front of you is hauling rocks, which you don’t notice until boom! You hear and see one of those rocks fly out of the bed of his truck and nail your car, leaving a huge gash in your paint. This is another perfect scenario where car polish can help.
There are cases of sub-surface car paint defects where a quality car polish should be used. One of the most common types of sub-surface car paint defects is “Spider Webbing”. When most paint finishers refer to spider webbing, they’re generally referring to a defect where the paint displays what almost looks like scratches that look like they’re interconnected almost like a very dense spider web. These swirl marks are generally caused by incorrect or inconsistent washing techniques or by using the wrong types of cleaning brushes and materials. Traditional washing sponges are also said to be a big contributor to spider webbing because they do not provide an efficient way of lifting dirt particles/contaminants up and away from the paint. They simply spread it around which can cause micro scratches and may eventually lead to spider webbing. Don’t worry – almost all of us are guilty of this or ignorant of the correct washing techniques to use. It may be worth giving it a little research, though!
Another common form of sub-surface paint damage is water spots. For those that live in areas with a hard water tap source, it is always suggested that you use some type of spot-free rinse at the end of the wash. This is because there are many evaporating salts and calcium carbonate particles in hard water. When the water evaporates, these substances remain on the surface of the car’s paint, which causes water spots. If these water spots are left on the paint for very long, they can begin to destroy the paint below.
Other common paint defects include industrial fallout, oxidation, etc. Unfortunately, car polish alone cannot correct all sub-surface paint defects, but there are many cases where it does a great job masking the defects, which quickly takes years off of the vehicle’s exterior. A vehicle’s paint job typically consists of three different layers. At the bottom is a layer of primer. The middle layer consists of a layer of color paint. The outer layer of the vehicle’s finish is the clear coat, which is the thickest layer of all. Clear coats are made thicker than the other coats because it acts to be a buffer layer of protection. In most instances, the vehicle’s clear coat allows up to 25% to safely be removed throughout the lifetime of the vehicle.
There are different types of car polish available on the market. Some car care polishes are meant to correct the defects in the clear coat (and typically aren’t very abrasive at all). These types of polish are often referred to as “enthusiast grade”. On the other hand, some are actually meant to be used on the paint, which is often called “Professional grade”. Most of the time, you’ll probably be looking for the standard enthusiast grade polishes that are used on the clearcoat and not as abrasive as the other types that go lower towards the paint layer.
If you’re not a professional or if the defect isn’t very severe, I would recommend just using an enthusiast grade polish. Start out with this type of polish and go to a professional grade to go deeper if you need to. However, if you get to the point where you do not feel comfortable, it may be best to take the car to a body shop to at least get their quick opinion on if it should be done professionally or not. Of course, take into consideration that they’re going to want your business, so if they seem like there’s no way you should be doing that work you may want to give it some thought. However, if they say something along the lines of “Well, you could probably do it yourself, but you’ll have to watch out for this, this, and this…”, they’re probably just using tactics to intimidate you into hiring them for the work.
Often times, the enthusiast grade polishes are combined with a glaze or specialist car wax to offer an all-in-one solution. These types of car polishes are best for those without any serious paint defects that are simply looking to make their car shine and really stand out after a good car wash/cleaning. Car polish itself does not make a vehicle shine, but many of these all-in-one solutions that combine a wax or glaze are made to bring out the color more and give it a good glisten at the same time.
When should you use car polish?
Car polish isn’t typically meant to be used on a regular basis for maintenance procedures. Considering this, I would not recommend using a serious polish unless there is some type of serious paint defect. However, some enthusiasts will use a polish/wax combination a couple of times a year to give their car a little facelift. If the all-in-one solution offers a protective layer, they may use it 3 or 4 times per year. However, if the paint does not have any defects, it may be best just to skip the polishing step and go straight to a sealant, gloss, wax, or other protecting coat depending on your needs. Learning when and how to polish a car is quite a rewarding journey!
So there you have it! A list of the most useful car polishes on the market for 2018. Almost any vehicle owner can benefit from a good car polishing occasionally, and it should become a regular part of your car maintenance routine. With all of the new brands popping up (some good, some bad), and with the wide variety of situations where a polish is necessary, it can be extremely difficult to weed out the jewels from all of the bunks. Hopefully this list will prevent you from a bunch of trial and error that that can end up costing a fortune. The bottom line? If you’re going to polish a car, polish a car with one of these products!