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How to Polish a Newly Painted Car

How to Polish a Newly Painted Car

If you’re re-colouring and refinishing your vehicle, once your work with the spray paint gun is complete and your clear coat applied, you might want to add a stunning mirror like gleam to your surface. The cut and polish procedure, also known as colour sanding and buffing, is the key to polishing up your paint work and imparting that show-stopping finish to it.

Done by a seasoned expert, colour sanding can turn a good paint job into an exceptional one.


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Wet sanding

If the thought of taking sandpaper to your new paintwork seems scary, fear not! You wouldn’t be the first newbie to flinch at the idea. Nevertheless, by following these steps you will take your paint job from impressive to spectacular.

A note before you start; make sure your clear coat has properly cured. If you’re a serious paint job nut – or your best mate is one - you might have access to a baking oven, but if you don’t that’s fine; Leaving your vehicle in the hot Aussie sun for at least 24 hours will do the trick.


Once fully cured you can use a tungsten block to carefully eliminate any of the more prominent nibs of paint of dust before wet sanding. Then use wet sanding to start smoothing your surface with the aim of removing the tiny bumps and ripples in the paint that may have occurred at the paint spray gun stage, frequently referred to as orange peel.

As you sand, you’ll be upping the grade of your sandpaper all the way to micro-fine 3000 grit varieties. The idea is to gradually eliminate the coarser scratches from the paint, levelling the paint’s surface with finer and finer scratches that can eventually be hidden with polish.

Fill a bucket with slightly soapy water and let your sandpaper soak in it for up to an hour before you begin, then wrap it around a soft colour sanding block. Ensure it is a soft block or you risk scratching the paint job. Start by sanding a test area by laying your block flat on the surface and sliding it left and right a few times then moving down and repeating the pattern. Once you start sanding, use even, smooth strokes without pressing too hard and using different stroke directions to achieve a “cross hatching” effect. Start with around 1500 grade (1200 minimum, if the surface is acrylic and the scratches are really bad) and work up to 3000 grit. Some sites recommend starting with paper as low as 400 grade, but do not do this! Anything under 1200 is going to cause more damage than it solves. Use micro-fine sandpaper, which is less sharp than other sandpaper and less likely to damage the surface. You may need to finish the sanding process with 3000 fine-grade sandpaper. This may not be required if your rubbing compound is designed to buff out 2000 grit scratches, but it is highly recommended for the ultimate finish.


After wet sanding is complete, it’s time to bring that shine to your vehicle through buffing. Remove excess soap, dust and sandpaper grit by washing down your vehicle with fresh water and drying with a lint-free cloth.

Make sure your buffing pad is 100 percent clean and properly attached to your buffer before starting. Evenly apply polish to your electric buffer or foam pad and switch on, but a warning: do not put too much compound on the pad or you could burn through the paint.

If you’re using an electric buffer, turn it on at a low RPM: generally, around 1800 RPM is good. It’s also best to use a slow-starting tool that works up to the top speed you have set. If your RPM is too high or you make sudden starts and stops you will burn the paint. When you begin polishing, moving the buffer around frequently to keep one area from overheating. To optimise control, think about working in sections of about a 30 cm squared at a time.

If you are using a foam pad, apply the polish in firm circular motions until enough polish has been applied. It’s best to use a consistent motion, say left to right, right to left and then down and repeat the pattern. Repeat until you are satisfied with the result, it usually takes about 2-3 passes to obtain an impressive shine. Once you’re satisfied lower the revs a little and do a final pass.

Quick tip: When using, never buff into an edge. Always make sure you buff away from edges.



Most buffers have a finishing pad which should be used with a finishing grade polish. You’ll need to make sure to dampen your pad a little now and then to avoid burning the paint and be careful not to keep the buffer on one area for more than a couple of seconds or you risk damaging the base coat. Make sure you have enough polish so the buffer stays wet, or you might end up having to start over or clear coat the surface again. You’ll also need to use a damp, lint-free cloth to clean off your surface before the polish dries.

Final Polish

Finally, you can use a wax or silicon-based glaze product to give your paint a thin protection layer and a little extra shine. It usually works best to apply a small amount directly onto each section of the car. Once the product has been applied, let it sit for a few minutes, then use a clean and damp cloth to clean it off. If you’ve followed the process correctly, you’ll be amazed at the show level, deep mirror shine your efforts have achieved, raising the work you did with your spray paint gun to new heights!

Please note the information provided in this website is General Information only, please read all product data sheets and safety data sheets before commencing any work. If pain persists show a professional.