How to Clean Oxidized Auto Paint

Written by samantha volz
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Unless you keep your car or truck stored in a temperature and climate controlled environment at all times, the paint will certainly oxidise over time. Oxidisation occurs when heat, wind, sunlight, air pollution, and other exposures dry out the natural oils in auto paint. The result is a dull, flat, lifeless appearance to your paint that can ruin the overall beauty and style of the automobile. Removing this oxidation can help restore shine and life to your car or truck.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Orbital polisher
  • 3 polisher pads
  • 2 spray bottles
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Compound polish
  • Microfiber towel
  • Car polish
  • Wax or paint sealant

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  1. 1

    Attach the compounding pad to the orbital polisher. The materials used for this type of cleaning can be found at hardware stores and automotive stores.

  2. 2

    Apply a small amount of compound polish directly to the surface of the car, across an area of 18 to 24 square inches. Work in small areas to avoid the compound drying on the surface before you have a chance to work with it.

  3. 3

    Fill one spray bottle with clean water and one with equal parts water and isopropyl alcohol. Lightly spray the surface of the pad with plain water to lubricate its movement across the car's surface.

  4. 4

    Before turning on the machine, spread the compound around your working area with the compounding pad. This way, your pad is coated with compound.

  5. 5

    Flatten your pad against the car's surface and set the polisher to medium speed. Work in long figure eight patterns right to left, then up and down, until the compound is spread and begins to dry.

  6. 6

    Turn off the machine and inspect the results. Spray the surface lightly with the alcohol mixture and wipe clean with a microfiber towel to remove residual compound. The surface may be a little dull from the compound, but it will be scratch- and swirl-free. If necessary, repeat the steps with a clean compound pad to remove other scratches or swirls.


  1. 1

    Attach the polishing pad to the orbital polisher.

  2. 2

    Apply car polish directly to the surface of the car, again working in small areas.

  3. 3

    Spread the compound first with the machine off, then proceed to polish in the same way you compounded, working in figure eight shapes until the polish is dry.

  4. 4

    Wipe off the surface with a microfiber towel; do not use alcohol after the polish, because it will remove the polishing chemicals. After polishing, the surface will appear glossy and smooth. If necessary, repeat the steps with a clean polishing pad to get a more glossy finish.


  1. 1

    Attach the finishing pad to the orbital polisher. Finishing can also be done by hand with a microfiber towel.

  2. 2

    Spread car wax or sealant onto the polishing pad or towel and work again in small areas, just as before.

  3. 3

    Polish the car completely, then buff away residual polish for a bright shine.

Tips and warnings

  • Compounding is used to remove badly oxidised layers of paint and scratches and swirls. If you have only a light layer of oxidation without scratches or swirls, you can skip the compounding step and go directly to Section 2.
  • Work on a relatively cool day and out of direct sunlight so the polishes do not dry on the car's surface before you have a chance to spread them.

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