The Best Method to Restore Paint on a Car

Updated February 21, 2017

Paint on a car can become dull or damaged over time. Taking it to an auto bodyworks garage can resolve the problem, but is often expensive. Before you begin to repair or restore paint on your car, take the time to learn about the different methods used so you can ensure you select the best method to get your car back to looking its best.

Orbital Polisher Method

Using an orbital polisher is a great method to restore paint. Proper Auto Care (see References) suggests the Porter Cable 7424. To do the job well, you will also need a yellow foam compounding pad or an orange Power Pad; some sort of polish, such as the Menzerna Intensive Polish or 3M Fine Cut Compound; a white foam polishing pad; a polish such as Menzerna Final Polish or Meguiar's Number 9 Swirl Remover; two spray bottles; three microfiber cloths for detailing; a red finishing pad; and your preference of a paint sealant or wax. One of the spray bottles should contain a water and alcohol mix and the other should just contain straight water.

If the paint job on your car only has minor damage, you normally can restore the shine simply through polishing. However, if the paint job requires more care, you will need to follow three steps to restore the paint.

First, to complete the compounding step, you need the yellow foam pad or the orange pad, the orbital polisher, the spray bottle filled with water and your compound. Attach the foam pad to your orbital polisher and spray the pad with water. Next, apply the compound to a small area of the paint surface. With the polisher off, rub the compound over the surface of the paint with the pad. Once you have rubbed the compound, turn the machine on, set it to a speed between three and a half and four, and move the machine first in a left to right figure eight pattern and in an up and down figure eight pattern until the compound starts to become dry. Shut the machine off and spray the area with the water/alcohol mix and then wipe away the excess compound with one of the microfiber towels. Run your fingers over the surface to see if the surface is smooth and inspect for shine. If it is not to your liking, repeat the compounding steps again until the paint's appearance is acceptable.

Next, polish the paint's surface. First, remove the yellow or orange pad and replace it with the white polishing pad. Use the polish you have selected and apply the polish to the area where you have applied the compound. Spray the white polishing pad with the bottle that has water only in it and then rub the polish the same way you did the compound. Once the polish has been rubbed, turn the orbital polisher on, leaving the speed setting between three and a half and four. Perform the same figure eight motions as you did with the compound until the polish begins to feel like it is drying. Turn the machine off and remove the excess polish with a microfiber towel that is clean. Make sure that you do not use the water/alcohol mixture as you did to remove the excess compound as this will affect the appearance of the polish. If the polish is not to your liking, repeat the process until the appearance satisfies you and move on to the final step.

The final step is to put the finishing touches on the car with a nice coat of wax. This can be done with the orbital polisher and the red finishing pad or you can also wax the car by hand using a cleaning cloth and your favourite wax. Follow the manufacturer's instructions that came with your wax. Once you are done, clean the pads you have used by spraying them with the hose and allowing them to sit in soapy water. To make the pads last longer, make sure not to wash or dry the pads in a machine washer or dryer.

Circular Polisher Method

The circular polisher method is an alternative to the orbital polisher. The steps for using the circular polisher are identical to using the orbital polisher, but using the circular polisher requires a bit more experience because circular polishers are faster and so it is possible to burn through the paint if you do not know what you are doing. You will still need to use the polisher in a left-to-right figure eight and then an up-and-down figure eight pattern, but the polisher will go much faster than the three-and-a-half to four speed that you set your orbital polisher on. If you are not prepared to be able to move in fast figure eights at this stage, the circular polisher can take off too much of the finish in one spot on the car, thus causing a burnt-off paint effect.

Choosing a Method

Stick with the orbital polishing method if you are not experienced in handling the circular polisher. Both methods will achieve the same effects in regards to restoring the shine and appearance of your car's paint job. The only difference is that using the orbital polisher may take you a bit longer. However, doing the job right is better than a costly repair solely because you wanted to get the job done quickly.

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About the Author

Alexis Writing has many years of freelance writing experience. She has written for a variety of online destinations, including She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from the University of Rochester.