How to Buff Car
Fact vs. Hype

Any search on how to buff car will deliver up a mind numbing amount of results! Most of which will be written by people hired to write about this very confusing topic.

People with literally zero real-world experience who simply "borrow' information from other writers who have "borrowed" information from yet other "ghost" writers.

how to buff car

This mean you are likely trying to figure out the best way to buff car based on the bad information you are being fed from your neighbor and the bad information that circulates the Internet.

Which brings me to the point of this page. Helping you unlearn the bad, and learn the useful and effective ways to buff your car so you have a fighting chance in your corner of the universe.

How to Buff Car:
Question and answer

Specifically what I want to do is go through all the bad ideas floating around this topic and suck the life out of them so you can go away being a fully informed car owner ready to polish your car as a beginner, yet producing professional grade results.

Because I am willing to bet that the paint on your car is currently at an unacceptable level of shine, gloss, and depth. And you now that creating that show car shine is gonna require you to buff your car.

What is the Best Way to Buff a Car

Even though this is not exactly the beginning when I teach guys like yourself how to buff car, it is generally where beginners like yourself start their questions.

The best way to buff a car is using what is called a random orbital car buffer. These buffers are as safe as safe can get and even a true beginner can use one of the machine polishers with complete confidence of buffing a car like a pro, without doing any damage to their car.

There are many choices on the market and I offer up my top rated car buffers to help you through the decision process.

Why Should You Buff a Car

Despite what your understanding is, buffing a car using car polish with abrasives in it is actually what will create that show car shine.

The abrasive technology found in the right car polishes is what will allow you to remove paint defects and create the depth, gloss, and shine that can only be achieved using abrasives to polish your car paint to perfection.

Applying the best car wax is important for protection and will add a level of shine and gloss, but car wax alone will only improve the appearance of your cars paint at a very minimal level.

How to Buff Car:
Last car polish you will ever need

CSI Ceram-X Car Polish 62-203-8 (8 oz) Single Product Polish (SPP) Superior Single Polish Replaces The Countless compounds/Polishes You Think You Need

  • The exact car polish I have used for over 15 plus years as professional
  • What I call my "sure thing" (can be used on any paint, any color, and condition)
  • Say good-bye to the hyped up compounds and polishes that require multiple compounds and polishes due to inferior technology and formulation
  • The original single product polish (go from heavy defect removal to a swirl free finish with a single polish)
  • Can be used in direct sunlight on hot paint

Is it Safe to Buff a Car

Yes! Regardless of all the horror stories guys with no experience keep repeating, buffing a car is not only safe, but the only way you are going to create a true, show car shine.

There are plenty of car polishes on the market that promise amazing results, but the vast majority of these car polishes are made with silicone and fillers that give the appearance of very shiny paint, but do very little to actually remove paint defects and polish your car paint for permanent results.

buff a car safely

Most of the horror stories being told out there are based on improper use of what is called a rotary car polisher. I recommend using a top rated random orbital car buffer.

These buffers promise to deliver a completely worry free car buffing experience so any beginner can produce professional grade results with no fear of damaging your ca paint.

How Often Can You Buff a Car

The real question should be how often should you buff a car, not how often can you buff a car. Learning how to buff car should include understanding the car buffing process.

In understanding this process, the question will naturally be answered for you. The two main points you need to understand when learn how to buff car are these:

  • Abrasive technology found in certain car polishes will literally abrade or "sand" away the paint defects by removing a micro-thin layer of your paint (this will actually be clear coat) As you use a machine buffer and car polish on your paint, the defects are removed as the abrasives "sand" away the surface until you have achieved a flawless paint surface free of defects.
  • Clear coat is only so thick. Your car will be finished with what is called clear coat as the top layer on your car paint. You want as much of that clear coat to remain on your car. The more defects your paint has, the more polishing will be required to remove those defects. The more polishing you do, the thinner your clear coat will become. Which then means that polishing your car will become limited based on how aggressive you need to be initially, or how aggressive you are each time you buff your car moving forward.

Darren's Note: This may sound scary at first, but the amount of "material" (clear coat) you will be removing when buffing your car will be extremely thin (thousands of an inch thick)

This is acceptable if done aggressively a couple times on your car, as there will still be plenty of clear coat left. Most times a single aggressive buff job to your car will be all that is require to create that show car shine, then any additional car buffing will be a light buffing to restore some lost shine and depth down the road.

If your car has heavy paint defects you will likely have defects that are too deep to safely remove. This is normal on cars that have been neglected. Buffing your car is no guarantee you will be able to remove every last paint defect, but the paint defects that cannot be removed, can in most cases be diminished so they are less noticeable, or virtually unnoticeable.

Does Buffing a Car Remove Scratches


If you are using a polish or compound that has actual abrasive particles in it, then buffing a car will remove scratches. The tricky part is knowing whether the car polish you have chosen has any abrasive particles for one, and how aggressive the particles are.

This industry is filled with so much hype that reading the product labeling will not only leave many of you with an unanswered question, but in many cases you will actually be more confused due to hyped-up descriptions and ambiguous terminology.

Most retail/professional car polishing products glorify their product with made-up terms and inflated claims. Glorified packaging with bright colors and cool tag lines, and it is easy to see why so many people like yourself are overwhelmed out of the gate and simply give up.

Even as a professional with 30 plus experience, I also have difficulty reading the labeling and knowing exactly what the product is capable of or how it has been formulated. Which means I am in the same position as you, left simply having to experiment with a product to see how it performs.

Many car polishes are filled with ingredients (often referred to as "fillers") that produce such a friendly user experience by design, but ultimately fail to produce the desired results.

Can You Buff a Car by Hand

Yes, but I don't recommend it. Any car polish or compound can be used by machine or hand regardless of how it is labeled.

I do not recommend buffing a car by hand simply because you will never be able to achieve the results that can be achieved by buffing a car with a machine polisher.

Due to the endless horror stories repeated by people with no real experience about car buffers, swirl marks, burnt paint edges, etc., there are many people under the false understanding that buffing a car by hand is the only real safe way to polish a car.

But this simply is not true. Sure, there are likely many cases where an inexperienced person got the wrong type of machine buffer in the hands (this would be a high-speed or rotary polisher) and caused some unwanted damage to their car, but using a random orbital car buffer is completely safe for any true beginner, and will produce desired results that will far exceed attempting to buff your car by hand.

How to Buff a Car:
Process of Buffing a Car

By this point you should come to the conclusion that if you want your car looking like a show car, literally how to buff a car is your next step:

  • Start with a clean car
  • Decontaminate the paint using a clay bar
  • Working in shaded area out of the sun is best (not a requirement if you are using the CSi Ceram-X polish)
  • Apply chosen car polish to foam pad and work small sections at a time
  • Check first section that you polish for results to determine the amount of pressure and duration needed to obtain desired results for moving forward in polishing the remainder of your car
  • Use micro-fiber cloth to remove polish (I prefer to remove polish after each section as I am working)

Darren's Note: I realize that describing a physical process by writing instructions is difficult and does not serve the moment well when compared to watching a video on how to buff a car.

And for this reason I will lay out the things I think you need to know when it comes to not just learning how to buff a car, but actually getting a machine buffer, choosing the type of polish, and the types of pads, as well as other helpful car buffing tips.

How to Buff a Car:
Useful tips for success

Having taught countless guys how to buff a car, there are a number of things I have learned along the way when it comes to teaching people who are complete beginners useful tips on how to buff a car.

I will start with the basics, and work further into the car buffing process and apply my professional experience so you can get the most out of learning how to buff a car for maximum results and a better user experience.

  • Don't Overthink It

I realize many of you reading this are doing your best to learn the secrets of how to buff a car the best and safest way. The problem you are facing is far too much bad information that not only gets repeated over and over again, but tends to grow along the way.

As a result, you are probably overly anxious and will overthink the process of buffing your car to the point of spending too much of your money on unnecessary "stuff", or you give up completely due to a mental overwhelm!

With my car buffing tips on this page, I have done my best to reduce it down to what you need to know, and how to buff a car with complete confidence while removing a much of the hyped-up crap instructions that continuously float around the Internet.

  • Use Detailing Clay!

If you have not heard of the clay bar or detailing clay (same thing called by different names) you need to take note. Just like virtually every other area of the physical world, preparation is very important towards achieving your desire results.

The clay bar is designed to "deep clean" your car paint in preparation for both waxing your car, and in this case, buffing your car. Yes, you definitely need to start with a clean car before you buff your car, but traditional car washing will not removed what are called bonded surface contaminants.

If you fail to remove these before you take a buffer to your car, not only will this impact the end results in a negative way, but it will also make your car buffing experience more difficult as these bonded contaminants will effect every part of the car buffing process.

  • Too Much of a Good Thing

Experience has taught me that most beginners want to use too much polish, rather than too little of polish. If you are planning on following my advice on this page, you only need to apply 10-15 pea size drops of the Ceram-X car polish to your polishing pad to start with.

seasoning car buffing pad

As you work additional areas of your paint, you just reapply about 5 pea size drops moving forward. As you work, the polish will begin to build-up on the pad face. You will need to clean your pad as you work from section to section.

  • Keep Your Pad Clean

As you polish from section to section and continue to apply more and more polish for each section, the polish will begin to build-up. Use a dedicated nylon pad cleaning brush to remove the spent polish from the pad.

Hold the brush against the pad and turn on the buffer. You will see the dust from the spent polish be released and float into the air. You can do this as often as you want, but if you allow the pad to accumulate too much spent polish without cleaning your pad, this will interfere with your polishing.

  • The Right Polishing Pad

This is an area of learning how to buff a car that is severely hyped-up. There are countless types of pads to choose from that will overwhelm you very quickly. I like to keep it simple and choose a flat, foam pad that has been labeled as a medium of or firm pad. These may also be labeled as an intermediate pad or a cutting pad.

The critical thing is to just keep it simple with a foam pad, and a flat face (they make pads that have contoured surfaces or lines cut into the face)

  • Choose the Right Car Polish

Another area of how to buff a car that is severely hyped-up. If you think you are overwhelmed by the choice in the best buffer or the best polishing pad, wait till you go shopping for the best car polish.

There is a mind numbing amount of car compounds and polishes to choose from. The amount of hype and marketing used to sell you the next best car polish will fry your mental hard-drive!

For this reason I always recommend my favorite car polish, Ceram-X. This has been my sure thing for the past 15-plus years as it can work on any car, any condition, and any weather.

Ceram-X is formulated using controlled abrasives and has the ability to do the heavy lifting of defect removal, but finishes down to a swirl free finish, all with a single polish. No more switching and transitioning from one compound and polish to another just to achieve desired results.

The industry and the many so-called experts all want you to believe you need multiple compounds ad polishes to buff a car. But this is a process based on outdated technology, and a great way to get you to continue buying multiple polishes rather than the ability to do all your car buffing with only a single polish.

How to Buff Car Summary

car polishes and compounds to buff a carThis is what the industry wants you to believe you need to get professional results. This is exactly how the industry attempts to separate you from as much of your money as possible.

Making it this far into my how to buff car tutorial deserves a medal of honor in your behalf! Most people simply want short cut answers to problems that require more than a short cut answer can provide.

Buffing a car will require some commitment and determination on your part and the last thing you want is to go about buffing your car based on bad information and poor recommendations.

But I can promise you that if you are willing to put in the work, you will be amazed at the professional results you can produce in your driveway at home with zero experience.

This is the beauty of modern day technology and chemistry. Allowing true beginners like yourself the ability to match seasoned professionals like myself.

I wish you much success!


Darren Priest

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