Polishing DIY | Vital Car Care

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Polishing DIY

SOOOO...Swirls and light scratches got your vehicles paint looking dull and you want to tackle this yourself?

Well let’s talk about what that takes!
You have 4 methods polishing methods to choose from in your detailing adventure

We will be talking about a couple of these polishing techniques. Not enough to give you everything you need, but enough to give you the confidence to tackle your own vehicle!

First, we will assume you understand that hand polishing only going to give you a little more than you have been able to do up to this point. The hand polishing straps and innovative tools like the Haxter nano tool allows for simplicity. You can take a nano pad, 4" or even 6" polishing pad and use your favorite polishing fluid to achieve results not as easily reproducible with just a microfiber towel!

Dual Action Polishers have been a resoundingly popular first step for many to give exceptional results with minimal risk to your vehicle's paint all in a reduced amount of time over hand polishing. Your more powerful Rotary polishers, on the other hand, pack a punch, a lot of heat, and take a considerable amount of time to master. Then you have your in-between options with Forced Action DA or the more popular Long Throw DA polishers.

So what is a Dual Action Polisher?

Wonderful question! A Dual Action Polisher, or DA for short, has a pad that spins on a center spindle, and this spindle spins along an eccentric shaft. This action gives it the "jiggle" found in traditional "orbital" polishers that you find at your local parts stores. DA polishers allow for the spin of the pad to work in conjunction with the jiggle to reproduce a pattern that does not spin in a single direction for any length of time which drastically cuts down on the heat and danger of polishing. A rotary polisher, on the other hand, spins entirely in a single consistent rotation and is able to build up a tremendous amount of heat.

DA polishers are great tools, however, they can't do everything. Your deep scratches and sanding marks might be minimized by going over them with a Dual Action, but they will not go away. Rotary might be the answer, but in the hands of inexperience this can lead to "Burnt" paint where you actually polish entirely through the clear coat.

Now let's look at what we need to tackle most cars!

Tools you will need:


Available at most auto parts stores, generally skipped over in favor of Beginner DA

Beginner DA

Porter Cable 7424XP

CG Torq X

Griot's 6"

Rupes iBrid Nano1.25"" Multi Style Nano Polisher

Advanced DA

Rupes 15ES5" Long Throw DA

FLEX 3401 VRG5 3/4" Forced Action DA

Rupes LHR75E3" Long Throw Polisher

FLEX PE 8Kompakt Rotary Polisher

Rupes LH19EBigFoot Rotary Polisher (Pre-Order)

FLEX PE 14-25" Rotary Polisher

Backing Plates

Polishing Pads

Types of pads:

Cutting Pads

this is a rough pad, it aids in the gradual removal of the clear coat surrounding the swirl you are trying to remove. The higher the “cut” the more it takes off…this you have to be careful of!

Light Cutting Pads

this is a basic all purpose pad which will remove light swirls and can also be used for pre wax cleaners, fine polishes, and cleaner waxes.

Polishing Pads

this is for the polishing step (as you guessed) which is for those pre wax cleaners, polishes and cleaner waxes that don’t have any abrasives.

Final Polish Pads

A very soft pad great for applying wax, glaze and any final buffing

Finishing Pad

Very fine pad used to buff or apply glazes/sealants/p>

Miscelaneous Accessories

Lambs wool leveling pad and bonnets: Lambs wool pads help level the clear on very pitted and damaged paint (not for the novice). Bonnets are used for final buffing when placed over the soft lambs wool pads.

Polishing Fluids

Cutting Compounds

Cutting compound consists of an abrasive suspended in a paste. Like most abrasives, it comes in various grit sizes dependent upon how much matter is to be removed. It is used on automotive paintwork to cut through (abrade) oxidized paint or to polish out scratches in the paintwork. True compounds do not break down so will leave behind a "haze" commonly referred to as "DA Haze" or most commonly seen "Buffer Trails" and require additional steps to achieve shine

Light Cutting Polish

Cutting polishes consist of finer abrasives, though typically in lesser quantity than compounds, and are suspended in a paste. Many cutting polishes engage a diminishing style abrasive, these clusters start out closer to compounds and then by breaking down become a finer and finer grit. It is used on automotive paintwork to cut through (abrade) oxidized paint and then polish out to a clear finish.


Polishing fluid is a fine abrasive used to revive finishes. These polishes do not remove material like its "cutting" counterparts but rather "rounds" the edges to a smooth even finish. Polish steps are vital to ensure a lusturous and glossy shine is achieved

Final Polish

Final polish or a finishing glaze can be used as most of these fluids contain protectants, gloss agents, or other fillers and produce even more refinement to the optical clarity of the vehicle paintwork.

Jeweling Polishes

Jeweling polishes are becoming popular again due to Ceramic Coatings. What was originally the last step for a rotary procedure, is now becoming popular to bring out even more depth, gloss, and protection to a ceramically coated vehicle. When used in a multi-year system can be used to even out top coat and prep for reapplication of sacrificial top coats.

Miscelaneous Accessories

With polishing fluids, there area ton of useful accessories that can work along side of them to bring out different results. From Primer Polishes and All-In-Ones to heavy cut compounds or marine grade fluids

Now that we've gotten that out of the way…. How do I polish out swirls and scratches? You’ve learned a lot thus far…now let’s take this knowledge and apply it what we are trying to do…make your car look better!


  • Use the cutting/light cutting pad when applying a compound/swirl remover solution. Choose a light cutting pad and fine swirl to start for those light to moderate imperfections and a heavier cut pad and swirl remover for those nastier swirls/scratches. But, always use the lesser first
  • Prime your pad with a quick mist of quick detailer. Then apply the compound in three nickel sized spots around the outer edge of the pad. Place the pad on the paintwork and spread in a 2’ x 2’ area.
  • Turn the polisher to 2/3 and spread your compound thin and evenly to start the compounding process. Then up the speed to 4/5 to activate the compound and start removing those swirls
  • Move in an alternating pattern (figure 8, up down left right, side to side) to “hit” the swirl/scratch to knock down the edge to even out the clear coat.
  • When the compound begins to dry, turn the machine off and lift the pad from the paint and buff the residue off with a soft microfiber towel to see your results. If you have a halogen light look at the reflection of the light, if it no longer shows the swirls you’re in good shape. If the light looks distorted still with all the swirls reapply compound and repeat steps 2-4 until you reach the desired level of smooth.
  • It isn’t necessary to compound your entire car. The compound is for those trouble spots and sections with lots of swirls. Compounding slllooowly removes clear coat and should not be done all the time!


  • Use a polishing pad with a finishing polish or pre-wax cleaner. This takes the paint that you just compounded (along with the rest of the car) and restores the shine to the dull paint
  • Spritz your pad with water/quick detailer and apply polish in 3 nickel sized spots around your pad. Spread with the machine off then turn on to lowest setting to evenly spread polish
  • Turn the machine on to about 4-5 and polish just like you did the compound in the alternating pattern in the 2’ x 2’ pattern
  • When polish begins to dry turn off the machine and lift to wipe the area clean with a micro-fiber towel to admire your nice clean sheen of freshness.


  • Use the finishing pad to apply your favorite wax or sealant.
  • Apply product to pad and work in the same side to side on a low 2/3 setting on the polisher. Depending on the product you can either apply to the entire car or section by section. This step alone takes no time at all and beats out hand polishing for the normal DIY guy.
  • Buffing, you can either do this by hand to remove the wax or use a microfiber bonnet over a lamb’s wool leveling pad.
If you practice you will start to see the wonderful benefit of using a DA polisher and the awesomeness that this hobby/pastime/lifestyle can achieve

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