How to Buff a Car Like a Pro

Owning a car seems like a lot of job and responsibilities. There’s washing, painting, waxing and engine maintenance among all others. Then there’s buffing too. If you’re a car enthusiast, you will understand the need to go through all of these meticulous processes with the best products to do so. These not only keep your vehicle looking good but it will also keep your car in its top shape.

Now as for ways to restore your car’s glory, all those exterior processes help. They work hand in hand to maintain your car paint. Proper washing/cleaning, polishing, waxing and all that.

how to buff a car

We’ve mentioned about buffing. This process is sometimes mistaken for polishing. In this article, we will teach you how to buff a car. We also included information about what car buffing is and how it’s different from polishing.

What is car buffing?

Buffing vs. Polishing. Buffing is the process by which you remove a layer of your car’s paint. This is also often mistaken for polishing. Those two concepts are very different. However, they have similarities. Which also explains why they are mistaken for each other. These two processes work hand in hand to restore your car’s glory when it was still new.

There are three types of car buffing techniques. It is important that you know which process does what, so you can choose what’s best for you.

  • Manual – This method uses a manual buffing machine. Resorting to manually buffing your car might be considered as a temporary fix. Though this can be very convenient for you, the results might not be even all throughout your vehicle. Some areas might be too buffed; some might be just fine.
  • High-speed – This technique is done by professionals. Some even consider this as the best option for buffing. High-speed buffing simply uses a high-speed buffer to even out the surface of your car paint.
  • Orbital – The orbital buffing, on the other hand, uses that circular or orbital buffer. This is usually seen shaped like a handheld grinder. It helps minimize swirls and scratches.

Benefits of Buffing

#1 It reveals a fresh layer

This is one of the main effects of car buffing. Products and buffers will help restore the freshness of your vehicle’s paint. By scraping the old layer off (which is exposed to so many elements already and might have lots of scratches), a new fresh layer is going to be revealed.

#2 Makes your finish last longer

This might sound a little debatable. However, again if done right, buffing can make your car finish last longer. With the paint job evened out and the exterior well taken care of, you’re most likely to maintain the beauty of your car.

#3 It helps remove light scratches

Just as we mentioned in number 1, buffing helps remove light scratches. Scraping or peeling off that layer with the light scratches will most definitely remove those scratches. Thus replacing it with a newer, smoother and fresher layer.

Materials You Will Be Needing

  • Polisher – a good polisher can help minimize scratches and swirl marks.
  • Car Compound Polish – this is used for deeper or bigger scratches.
  • Orbital or High-speed Buffer – these two buffers are less likely to leave swirl marks on your car if used correctly.

Step 1: Find a good place to park

The first step is the simplest one. However, a lot of car owners overlook this step. That applies especially to those who are living in tropical areas. You might ask, what’s with tropical areas? Well to simply put, the temperature significantly affects your car’s sheen. Hence, it also affects when you’re buffing up your vehicle.

places to park your car

Hot temperatures can leave a bad stain on your car if you’re going to apply soap to it, which you’ll do in the next step. With that said, make sure to find a good place where you’re going to buff your car. Keep it away from direct heat so find some shade. Even before that, cool off your car first if the surface is quite hot.

Step 2: Prepare the soap

You’ll need a basic mixture of soap and water to start buffing your car. Similar to removing swirl marks, buffing your car requires cleaning first. Since your ultimate goal is to leave a glossy sheen and remove the brittle layer of paint, removing dirt is the priority.

prepare the soap

Grab a bucket that can accommodate the size of a gallon. If you are planning to polish a larger vehicle such as a van, then a bigger bucket would be better. To do the mixture, only mix sufficient amount of soap and water until the bucket gets bubbly. Make sure the consistency isn’t runny. If it is, keep adding soap to the bucket until it looks like a bubble bath.

Step 3: Start cleaning

start cleaning

Once you have a bubbly mixture, grab a sponge and submerge it. Afterward, start scrubbing the surface of your car from the top. The most efficient way to clean your car is in a circular motion. It covers a lot of ground immediately, and it also helps remove trapped dirt.

Be sure to pay particular attention to your car’s crevices and cracks. Such cracks include the gap between the fender and hood, the grill, and the doors. Remember, dirt accumulates more often in these areas as opposed.

Step 4:  Pick a polisher or a compound

After you’ve finished cleaning, you’ll need to proceed to the actual buffing process. The first thing you’ll need to decide is whether you need a polisher or a compound. To briefly explain, a compound is a different mixture to a polisher. It’s used if your car has deep scratches or serious swirl marks.

a polisher

On the other hand, polishers are used for car surfaces that are not serious. If your vehicle doesn’t have any serious scratch, then a polisher is the way to go. This will be the primary material to be used with a buffer that we will discuss in the next step.

Step 5: Select the right type of buffer

High-speed Buffer

A buffer is essentially similar to a polishing machine. These are advanced tools that give you the finest results compared to hand polishing. Using a high-speed buffer is a necessity if you’re really serious about buffing your car.

The primary goal of buffers is to eliminate scratches and blemishes. As a result, it creates a shine through subtraction. The problem with high-speed buffers is that you might want to practice it first with a scrap of metal and some polish.

If you jump straight to your car, you might scratch it or leave swirls that worsen the problem. The speed of this buffer needs practice since its fast enough to strip your car’s paint.

Orbital Buffer

Orbital buffers are easier to handle compared to fast ones. Its motion and overall mechanics are not that risky. Therefore, it’s probably the best path to take if your car doesn’t have a lot of damages.

Orbital buffers require minor effort. Besides that, it still gives your car a nice sheen compared to hand polishing. Of course, the result won’t be as convincing as a high-speed buffer.

Step 6: Buff the right way

Now that you’ve decided what kind of buffer and polish you’ll use, you can now buffer your car. Foremost, make sure your car is completely dry. Using a clean towel, wipe off any moisture or wet spots present on the surface.

buff your car

Afterward, apply a small amount of polish or compound on the surface of your car. Keep in mind, if there are instructions on the product that you’ve bought, check it. But to be safe, when applying these chemicals start with small amounts.

Once you’ve used a sufficient amount, take your buffer and gently place it on the surface. Buffers can have strong recoils because of the speed of the pads, so firmly grip it. Gently move it around the surface in slow circular motions.

Let the buffer do its job as you gently guide it. Repeat this process until you get a nice sheen on your car. Remember, don’t overdo it! Try not to run through a surface repeatedly as it can damage it.


At the end of the day, you don’t always have to conform to the norm. Such a norm that requires you to buff your car now and then especially if you don’t have the materials, budget or time for it. Resorting to low quality, cheaper or half-baked efforts to buff up your car might just result to scraping off the paint itself instead of just the scratches.

You don’t buff your car up just to have worse scratches or swirl marks. So do not ever settle for less when buffing up your vehicle. Remember, this is one of the few times when you should be very meticulous for your car.

Should you feel like there’s more that you should know about buffing, do not hesitate to research more on the topic especially before you buff your car up for the first time. It’s critical that you know what you’re getting your car into.