The Zen of Buffing Your Car

Car buffing is an excellent way to extend the life of your car. It doesn’t matter how many times you wash or wax, your car’s exterior gradually loses its overall appearance. Paint naturally wears away and environmental conditions have an impact that can’t be corrected with weekly washes.

Also referred to as detailing, buffing car paint invigorates the original paint layer, ensuring your car stays shiny and looking as new as the day it was purchased. It is a very sophisticated form of polishing that includes removing unwanted layers of elements that have settled on the vehicle’s paint, leaving an unseen blanket of components which prevent the true shine from coming through. Buffing cars will reveal the original layer hidden by element exposure and the compound you apply will recreate the almost new look we want.

1There are three basic buffing techniques for a car buff.

Manual: Many DIY-ers love getting their hands dirty. It’s actually not as time-intensive as you might believe. The only drawback is it is difficult to get that even finish with a manual buffing. This approach can also end up not lasting as long as other methods.

Orbital: This process utilizes a buffer and doesn’t require as much compound for an effective finish. It’s believed to be the process for the non-professional. DIY-ers have used orbital buffers and found themselves saving money while still getting an impressive shine.

High Speed: This is the most popular choice. The high speed production is the best for removing scratches. It does require a deft hand and many professionals do not believe it’s a process a layman should tackle, though many have to successful results. But you can have all the right tools and still create more damage than anything.


Knowing how to buff a car begins with understanding the major tool. Buffers use a rotating wheel to remove unwanted layers on the paint and to apply a compound that brings out the shine of the paint.

The top car buffers heat the coating sitting on top of the paint, creating a viscous liquid. This substance will dissipate and fill in scratches and blemishes. You then use a polishing substance (a car compound) designed for specific colors and models.

3Buffing a Car Yourself

Start with a hand washing of the vehicle in a shaded area. Avoid sitting under anything (like a tree) that could drop debris on the vehicle. Rinse the car but don’t dry it. Take your car paint buffer and place a slightly damp, clean pad on the wheel. With a moderate amount of compound on the body paneling, use the wheel on medium speed to distribute the compound evenly. Spin the pad parallel to the surface to minimize those dreaded swirl marks found in bad buff jobs. Rinse off the pad with a hose frequently to avoid saturation or gumminess.

Wash and rinse the car again and dry. Now apply a wax coating carefully masking any swirl marks and imperfections. Take care that it remains an even coating. A medium speed is probably best here until you have a better handle on how to buffer a car. As the wax dries, clean the windows and interior. You can now remove the wax using a microfiber towel. Touch up chips and lingering scratches.

Buffing prolongs your car’s finish and enhances resale value. It will remove minor scratches and other blemishes. The process should only be done two or three times a year while you regularly wash and wax to maintain the appearance.