How to use rubbing compound on a car finish

Written by cassandra tribe
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Rubbing compounds, polishes and car finish cleaners work to make your car look like new again because they remove a fine layer of your car's paint to rid it of scratches and other imperfections. Each of these have a different degree of abrasive compounds with cleaners being the least abrasive and rubbing compounds being the most abrasive. If your finish is dull or cloudy, then you will want to use a rubbing compound to prepare it for a wax finish. The rubbing compound will be abrasive enough to remove the damaged layer of paint and reveal the original colour beneath.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Rubbing compound
  • Paper towels
  • Variable speed polishing machine

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  1. 1

    Apply the rubbing compound to your car's finish. Work on one body panel at a time (door, bumper and so on). Use a folded paper towel to scoop some rubbing compound out of the jar and smooth it on the body panel in a circular motion. Do not apply the compound with any type of fabric cloth, like cotton. The cloth fibres will further scratch the finish. If your rubbing compound came with a cellulose applicator, use that.

  2. 2

    Let the rubbing compound sit on the body panel for three minutes and then wipe off as much as you can with a paper towel. When wiping it off work in a circular motion as this will help to naturally keep the pressure you are applying even and you will have less a risk of scratching the paint.

  3. 3

    Use a variable speed polishing machine (chamois head only) to polish the panel you just wiped the rubbing compound from. When the panel begins to have a dull shine you are ready to repeat these steps on the next panel of the car. The high gloss shine will come when you wax polish the car.

Tips and warnings

  • Reduce damage to your car's finish by making it habit to wash your car during the winter season. Most drivers overlook the importance of cleaning salt and mud off their vehicle during this season because they feel it "is just going to happen again." Do not wait, the less time the salt and mud sits on your car finish the less damage it will do.
  • Always wear rubber gloves when working with any type of chemical rubbing compound or polish. If you get any cleaning compound on your skin wash it off immediately. The contents of these compounds can be poisonous, cause allergic reactions or create infections in any open wounds you may have on your hands.

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