Does polishing remove or damage the clear coat? | car care center (2023)

Polishing your car permanently changes the car's clear coat. It is very important to understand what the polish actually does before using it on your car. It's perfectly safe when done right, but there are plenty of ways it can go wrong if you don't know what you're doing.

In this article, I'll explain what polishing does to your car's paint and discuss whether it causes any damage. So let's get started.

the quick answer

Buffing removes a layer of your car's clear coat to even out the surface and remove minor scratches and dents. Buffing is safe as long as your car has enough clear coat and you don't do it too often or too aggressively.

You should try to preserve your car's clear coat to protect the paint from fading, corrosion, and oxidation. Polish only when necessary.

If you plan on polishing your car by machine, be sure to check mine outcomplete polishing checklistto make sure you have all the essential equipment.

What does polishing do?

Let's talk about what polishing actually does to your car to determine if it's good or bad.

Your car's paint consists of several layers. The two main ones to consider in this regard are the clear coat and the base coat.

Does polishing remove or damage the clear coat? | car care center (1)

The clear coat is about three times thicker than the base (color coat). The goal is to protect the underlying layer of paint from UV rays that cause fading, oxidation, acid rain, corrosion, etc.

Polishing removes one layer of the clear coat.

But why?

Unfortunately, lacquer is very sensitive and can be easily scratched, usually by washing. This is what happens when you use a sponge, brush, or bath towel to wash your car instead of microfiber.

Check out this article I wrote aboutWhy you should never wash your car with a spongeto learn more about the damage this causes.

Consult this complete guide to wash your car without scratching it.

Actually, on most cars, the clear coat is not flat. This makes it look matte and you can see these scratches even in direct sunlight.

Does polishing remove or damage the clear coat? | car care center (2)
Does polishing remove or damage the clear coat? | car care center (3)

Polishing fixes this problem by removing a layer of paint to make it smooth again and removing those scratches.

Does polishing remove or damage the clear coat? | car care center (4)
Does polishing remove or damage the clear coat? | car care center (5)

Composite vs Polish

There are two processes you need to be aware of.

  1. pulido
  2. composition

Polishing and compounding do the same, cutting through the paint to reveal a flat layer. However, they work a little differently.

Buffing cuts through paint slowly, making it less aggressive but less effective at removing scratches.

The composition cuts through paint faster and is therefore more aggressive and effective at removing clear coat damage.

Normally the composition does not leave a completely flat surface, so it can be refined with a polish to completely even the surface.

Look at these graphs.

Does polishing remove or damage the clear coat? | car care center (6)
Does polishing remove or damage the clear coat? | car care center (7)

check my articleCompare polish and compoundto learn more about the differences between these two processes and decide which approach is best.

Is it a problem to remove the transparent layer?

Well, now that you know what polishing does, you may be wondering if this process of removing a layer of paint is a problem.

It is important to remember that your clear coat is there to protect the base of your car. Therefore, it is important to leave as much paint as possible.You should always try to preserve the paint.

However, if you want to remove scratches, removing a coat of varnish is the only permanent option.

It's really an exchange. How much do you want perfectly smooth and brilliant color?

If that's really important to you, polish your car.

If you really don't care, it's definitely better to keep the paint and keep its protective properties.

I personally polished and primed my car because I wanted the paint to be super shiny. However, I am now very careful not to add scratches when washing as I don't want to polish and remove even more paint.

How many times can a car be polished?

This question is very similar to how long is a piece of string?

Unfortunately that cannot be answered.

Some cars can be polished more than others. It depends on how much clear coat is left on your car. This can be determined by the following factors:

  • How aggressive is nail polish?
  • How much paint damage do you want to remove?
  • How soft or hard is the paint (how easy is it to cut with a polish)
  • The age of the car (the clear coat wears off over time)

Buffing out small scratches and swirls will remove approximately 3-10 microns of clear coat at a time. A new car has a clear coat between 40 and 80 microns thick.

While I can't give you an exact answer as to how many times you can polish your car, or if it's safe to do so, there is a kit that can do it.

It's called a paint depth gauge and it tells you how thick your car's paint is. This information can help you determine whether or not polishing is safe.

Unfortunately, these ink depth gauges cost well over a hundred dollars. What you can do, however, is take your car to a specialist who can safely perform this paint touch-up as they have access to these indicators.

If you have a new car and have never polished it before, it's relatively safe to start polishing it, but it's not completely risk-free.

Is polishing bad for paint?

If you polish your car properly and don't cut too much paint, it's not bad for your car. It's only a problem if you're stripping a lot of paint because it protects your car's paint.

In a sense, you are damaging the clear coat by removing a coat of paint, but the goal is to remove scratches and level the clear coat.

As long as this is done with care and attention, it shouldn't be a problem.

What happens if the paint is thinned too much?

So what happens when you "superbuff" your car and the clear coat is too thin?

Well, it is important to know some facts.

  • A new car has a clear coat from 40 to 80 microns
  • Buffing out small scratches in the clear coat will remove approximately 3-10 microns at a time.

So what happens if you delete too much?

The clear coat contains "UV inhibitors".that protect the base layer from fading. In fact, if you polish too much, you risk accelerating the rate at which the paint layer will fade, rust, and corrode.

Therefore it is important to protect the car with wax, sealant or ideally a ceramic coating for additional UV protection.

final thoughts

I just wanted to end this article with some thoughts and take home messages.

I didn't write this post to scare anyone about polishing or painting. When done right it is really beneficial and makes the car look amazing. But if it's overdone or done poorly, it can be very annoying.

Here are some things you really should consider.

  • Only dab or dab on when absolutely necessary, always save your car clear coat whenever possible.
  • When it comes to polishing, less is more. Don't go in too aggressively or too often or you'll get yourself in trouble.
  • Make sure you wash your car safely and never use sponges or bath towels that can scratch the surface. This avoids the need for polishing in the future.

Not sure whether to polish your car by machine or by hand? check my depthComparison between machine and manual polishingto help you decide.

Thank you for reading! I hope you found this article useful. Don't forget to read the rest of the blog to learn more about keeping your car looking its best.

  • Are snow foam cannons really worth it?
  • How to keep your tires like new
  • Is it bad to wash the car too often?


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