Do you wash your car regularly but find yourself not satisfied with the results? After it dries does the shine just evaporate along with the water? Fact is, your car’s paint finish is constantly under attack by road grit, UV radiation, de-icing chemicals—and the occasional errant grocery cart. The net effect of all these hazards is paint that loses its luster and appears dull.
However, paint jobs can often be brought close to an as-new appearance by cutting, polishing, and waxing. This is a process of deep cleaning the paint, buffing out minor imperfections like hard water spots, and applying a protective coat of wax. A lot of body shops and professional detailers already offer machine polishing that will make your vehicle look better, but they are usually very expensive. It’s much cheaper to do this by yourself, and it’s not that difficult—you just need some time.
There are a lot of available polishing kits online so we’ve picked out some of the best ones for your consideration. There are options here for all budgets and skill levels from the occasional wash-it-yourselfer to the aspiring car show winner.
For more information on the best polishing kits for your car, refer to the table of contents.
Table of contents
- 1. Editor's Pick: Meguiar's G55048 Ultimate Car Care Kit
- 2. The Connoisseur's Choice: Griot's Garage G8 Orbital Correct & Protect Kit
- 3. Best Kit For the Price: Armor All Complete Car Care Kit
- 4. Drought Conscious Option: Chemical Guys HOL401 Eco-Friendly Drought-Buster
- 5. Most Comprehensive Kit: Adam's Essentials Complete Car Detailing Upgraded Kit
- What is Car Polish and How is it Different Than Wax?
- Why Do I Need to Polish My Car's Paint?
- How to Polish Your Car by Kshitij Sharma
1. Editor's Pick: Meguiar's G55048 Ultimate Car Care Kit
This very comprehensive kit contains everything you need for cleaning, polishing and waxing the paint of your car, as well as cleaning other parts, like the wheels, tires, and interior. The only thing not on the roster is a clay bar. Every product that comes in this kit yields great results. We used them to prep our 1962 Volvo for a local show—and it won an award.
The kit also includes high quality microfiber towels, a wash mitt, a foam applicator and a water magnet drying towel that is fantastic at removing water spots. While you can use an orbital buffer to apply these products, hand application still yields a superb shine.
We also really like the Ultimate Black plastic restorer that can make the black plastic, vinyl, and rubber trims appear as new again after the treatment. A well-polished paint job is nothing with plastic and rubber parts that look greyish and faded.
All these great products come in a kit that doesn’t cost too much, especially given the fact that these are from a brand as reputable as Meguiar’s.
2. The Connoisseur's Choice: Griot's Garage G8 Orbital Correct & Protect Kit
Visit any prestigious concours d’elegance and you’re likely to see entrants preparing their treasured cars with Griot’s products. This kit puts Pebble Beach quality paint correction in the hands of the do-it-yourselfer. The included G8 electric orbital buffer is an upgrade over previous Griot’s offerings, according to them the gearset is now 45% stronger. That added durability takes some of the sting out of the not inconsiderable buy-in price. Besides the buffer, you’ll get 16oz bottles of BOSS Correcting Cream and Best of Show wax. There are two distinct types of buffing pads as well; orange for the Correcting Cream and red to apply the wax. The six microfiber buffing cloths in this kit have no hems or edges that might catch on and dislodge trim—very thoughtful.
Griot’s has been in taking car care seriously since they began business in 1990. All of their waxes, cutting and polishing compounds, and other liquid car care products are manufactured in their own U.S. factory.
Whether the cost of a Griot’s kit is worth it is truly a matter of personal preference. But, sometimes it’s nice to splurge a little on the good stuff. Your car deserves it, even if you’re not planning on entering it in a concours.
3. Best Kit For the Price: Armor All Complete Car Care Kit
A suitable option for those on a budget—this one is the cheapest here. This kit includes Ultra Shine Wash & Wax that lifts away dirt, a tire protectant, original protectant for long-lasting shiny finish and glass wipes that can keep the windows of your car clean. For the price, you really get a lot of products in one package, but there are no mitts or microfiber towels—you’ll need to purchase them on the side.
As for the quality of polishing and cleaning, don’t expect results like the best polishers and cleaners out there. However, it’s good enough for regular maintaining of a shiny finish of the paint. The glass wipes can definitely keep your windows clean, but they’re only good if the glass is not very dirty. In other words, use them only on the inner side of the windows and for the mirrors, as otherwise, they will only smear the dirt and not remove it.
We may have been critical of the Armor All products, but for the price they really do a good job of maintaining the finish of your paint. Just don’t expect miracles.
4. Drought Conscious Option: Chemical Guys HOL401 Eco-Friendly Drought-Buster
The Chemical Guys waterless solution is a great product for those that want to polish and detail their cars easily and quickly. This kit doesn’t even require a hose or a water source nearby. Just mix the solution with water in the provided sprayer and you are good to go or use the concentrated solution for a very dirty car.
It’s very simple to use as well. Just spray over an area of the car and use the provided microfiber cloth to detail your car. Don’t expect professional polishing results, but for most users, this product can give the shine they want. The best thing is, it protects the paint from further damage thanks to the built-in wax.
All of this sounds very good, but don’t expect the best polishing results. Scratches and blemishes will definitely not be removed—this is more of a product for using after every car wash, and not once or twice a year like a real car polisher. That doesn’t mean that it won’t provide you with the shiny finish—it’s just that it won’t be on the level of some other products.
Still, for ease of use and people that don’t want to spend a lot of time cleaning their cars, this is a very good product. Just be prepared to splurge the cash.
5. Most Comprehensive Kit: Adam's Essentials Complete Car Detailing Upgraded Kit
If you are very serious about maintaining every possible material on your car, Adam’s kit will definitely do the job. It doesn’t just include a high-quality detailer, but it also includes professional car wash shampoo, interior detailer, wheel cleaner, clay bar, VRT Vinyl, Rubber & Tire dressing, H2O Guard & Gloss and a lot of microfiber towels, mitts, and brushes of a very high quality. It even comes with a bucket inside. A real all-in-one solution.
We can safely say that all of the products do their job as advertised. After using all of them on the respective finishes, you can expect to have dazzling car. And we are not talking only about the paint, but the plastic, vinyl and rubber parts, windows, tires, wheels, interior etc. It even has a built-in clay bar that will give you that shiny, mirror-like finish.
With all of this said, Adam’s kit is really meant for people that are serious about maintaining their vehicle. The price of the kit is a high and most car owners would probably be served just as well by some of the less expensive options like our Editor’s Pick from Meguiar’s.
What is Car Polish and How is it Different Than Wax?
Car polish is actually an abrasive that is used to remove defects from your car’s clear coat. What you may not know is that when you’re polishing a car, you’re actually removing a tiny bit of the damaged clear coat. A quality car polish will remove the damage on your clear coat, from micro scratches and swirls to water marks.
But since polish is an abrasive, you should only use it when you have to remove visible flaws from your car’s finish. Wax, on the other hand, is designed to add a layer of protection to your car rather than removing a small bit of clear coat. You should always consider applying a good coat of wax after polishing your car to protect your hard work.
Why Do I Need to Polish My Car's Paint?
The body and paint on your car are abused all day long and are constantly exposed to things that are trying to damage it. Everything from stones, UV rays from the sun, acid rain, bird droppings, sand, mud, ice, rampaging shopping carts, car washes, etc.
All of this abuse and wear and tear can make your car look dull and old. You will see micro scratches, swirling, water spots, and stone chips on the paint. These imperfections not only ruin the look of your car, but can ruin the paint in the long run. For example, micro scratches can accumulate even more dirt and grime inside, water spots comprised of calcium carbonate can get harder to remove, and the acid from rain or bird droppings can fade the paint away.
A good car polishing, done at least once a year, can help greatly to reduce the damage on the paint and help protect it from further damage. After polishing and waxing, the paint of your car will look shiny, almost like new. Combine all of that with clay bar detailing and you’ll have a car that looks brand new. And the best thing is, taking care of your car is not that hard – all you need is few hours of your time, preferably on the weekend and a good car polishing kit. You take care of the former, and we’ll take care of the latter.
How to Polish Your Car by Kshitij Sharma
As the summer approaches, give your car the shine it deserves. You can approach polishing your car in two ways, you can either do it by hand or use a polishing machine. We highly recommend using the polishing machine as it is easier and faster. But if you want to build your forearms or train to be the next karate kid (or adult), who are we to object.
There are distinct types of machine polishers you can use at home. But we recommend that you use the dual purpose orbital polisher that is very beginner-friendly. If you have some previous experience you can even use random orbit polishers which creates little orbits from the momentum of the central rotary system.
People with intermediate experience can even use forced rotation dual-action polishers which combine orbital and rotary motions. But be mindful that this has a higher potential to burn your car’s paint and the full rotary polishers should be handled by professionals only. That is because rotary polishers can heat up due to friction very fast and cause the paint to burn. Having cleared that up, let’s go ahead with the procedure.
- First, you will need to ensure that your car has been freshly cleaned and wiped of all debris. Also, it is preferable that you work in a shaded area.
- You should cordon off the area you are working at as the polish will likely fling out from the edges and cause a mess. You want to avoid cleaning the rest of the garage afterward. It is also important that you wear a respirator to avoid breathing in any fumes.
- Next, take a spray bottle and add a few drops of soft detergent to a bottle full of water and spray the area you intend to polish.
- Next, you will need the clay bar, it is like a soft putty that you rub on to the surfaces to ensure the car is free of any residual debris or dust particles or any little thing that can ruin the paint of your car.
- Now take your orbital polisher and apply dime-sized polish on to the applicator pad. Never apply the polish directly to the paint.
- First spread the polish on the surface you intend to work on without switching the polisher on. Also, remember to work in small sections as the dried polish is very hard to remove.
- Next, start with the lowest speeds and ensure the polish is spread evenly. Spread it upwards in a smooth motion and then circle downwards so the polisher overlaps with the previous spread.
- Repeat this until only a thin layer of the polish remains on the surface.
- Now you need to use a clean microfiber cloth and buff the residual polish to reveal a shiny paint finish. Always remember to keep changing sides of the cloth and once all sides are exhausted, change the cloth for a new one.
- Also, ensure you polish in small batches as a dried polish will leave the paint hazy and will be difficult to clean up.
Polishing by Hand
Though this is the more cost-effective method, it is also tedious and time-consuming. Although, we will admit it can be a good workout. As with machine polishing, you will need to ensure the car is washed and cleaned. You will also need to clean the car with the clay bar to ensure there is no residual debris on the surface of the car.
- Ensure you have plenty of spare applicators and microfiber cloths.
- Add about a tablespoon worth of polish on your applicator and gently apply it to the surface you’re working on in gentle circular motion.
- Gently increase the pressure. Also, ensure you press with your fingers and not your fingertips otherwise the polish will not spread.
- You will also need to ease off the quantity of product you put on the applicator with each cycle as the initial dollop is to ensure the applicator is wet enough.
- Rub until the polish is nothing more than a thin film on the surface. Be warned though this will take a while.
- Next, use the microfiber cloth to buff the residual polish off and a shiny surface should reveal itself.