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A Beginner’s Guide to Machine Polishing

Alright, people, ever looked at your motor and thought it could do with a bit more sparkle? Well, you’re in the right place. Today, we’re diving deep into the world...

Alright, people, ever looked at your motor and thought it could do with a bit more sparkle? Well, you’re in the right place. Today, we’re diving deep into the world of machine polishing. Whether you’re a beginner or you’ve dabbled a bit, this guide will help you get your car looking mint. Grab a brew, and let’s get cracking!

What’s Machine Polishing All About?

Machine polishing is all about using a machine to apply compounds to your car’s paintwork, getting rid of scratches, swirls, and other blemishes. It’s like giving your car a bit of TLC to get it looking its best.

Different Types of Machines

1. Rotary Polishers:

  • Pros: Powerful, quick results.
  • Cons: Can be tricky for beginners, higher risk of burning through the paint if you’re not careful.

2. Dual Action (DA) Polishers:

  • Pros: Easier to use, less risk of damaging the paint.
  • Cons: Slightly slower than rotary polishers.

For a beginner, I’d say go for a DA polisher. It’s more forgiving and still gets the job done nicely.

Understanding Compounds

Compounds are the creams and pastes you’ll be using to polish the paint. Here’s a quick rundown:

1. Cutting Compounds:

  • Use: Removing deep scratches and heavy oxidation.
  • Note: These are the most abrasive, so use them carefully.

2. Polishing Compounds:

  • Use: Getting rid of light scratches and swirl marks.
  • Note: Less abrasive than cutting compounds.

3. Finishing Compounds:

  • Use: Giving your paint that final, glossy finish.
  • Note: These are the least abrasive.

The Process – Step by Step

1. Prep Your Car:

  • Wash It Thoroughly: Start with a good wash to remove dirt and grime. Use a quality car shampoo and a microfibre wash mitt.
  • Chemical Decontamination: Use an iron remover or tar remover to get rid of any bonded contaminants. Spray it on, let it dwell, then rinse off.
  • Physical Decontamination (Clay Bar): Lubricate the surface with a clay lubricant and gently rub the clay bar over the paint. This will pick up any remaining contaminants, leaving the surface smooth.

2. Choose Your Compound:

  • Start with a polishing compound if you’re a beginner.
  • Apply a small amount to your pad.

3. Pad Selection:

  • Cutting Pad: Use with cutting compounds for heavy defects.
  • Polishing Pad: Use with polishing compounds for minor scratches and swirls.
  • Finishing Pad: Use with finishing compounds for a high-gloss finish.

4. Get Polishing:

  • Attach the Pad: Secure the appropriate pad to your DA polisher.
  • Apply the Compound: Dab a few pea-sized drops of compound onto the pad.
  • Spread It Out: Before turning on the machine, spread the compound on the paint to avoid splattering.
  • Polish: Set your DA polisher to a low speed to spread the compound, then increase the speed to work the polish into the paint. Use a back-and-forth motion, overlapping slightly with each pass. Don’t press too hard – let the machine do the work.

5. Check Your Work:

  • Wipe off the residue with a clean microfibre cloth.
  • Inspect the area in good lighting to see if the defects are gone. If not, you may need another pass.

6. Finish Up:

  • If you’re happy with the result, switch to a finishing compound and pad for that extra shine.
  • Use the same technique, but with less pressure and fewer passes.

Watch Out for the Heat

One thing to keep an eye on is the temperature of the panel you’re working on. If it gets too hot, you could end up burning through the paint. With a DA polisher, this is less likely, but it’s still something to be aware of. Here’s how to avoid it:

  • Keep the Polisher Moving: Don’t stay in one spot for too long.
  • Check the Panel Temperature: If it feels too hot to touch, give it a rest.
  • Work in the Shade: Direct sunlight can make your paint heat up faster.


There you have it, a detailed guide to machine polishing. It might seem a bit daunting at first, but with a bit of practice, you’ll have your car looking like it just rolled out of the showroom. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there, give it a go, and let your car shine like a diamond!

Got any questions or tips of your own? Get in touch with us at


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