To infinity and beyond

The never-ending ritual of car polishing

Polishing Car
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Been following me so far? Last post we looked at the joy of car cleanliness. But cleanliness is nothing without shininess. Luckily, reaching shine nirvana is equally as enthralling.

Stage one, the simple, but thorough, act of car cleaning offers Zen-like rewards and you know 100% that every surface of your car is now clean. Stage two, polishing, is not quite so straight forward. There is never really an end to the ritual of polishing: the paint, the chrome, the glass can always be a tiny bit shinier… And how deep you want to go down that rabbit hole is up to you, your sense of perfection, your patience, your wallet and your love of your car.

This isn’t the more advanced polishing and detailing - we can talk about paint correction and rotary polishers in a later post and save the really specialist tools and techniques for another day. This is just your common and garden polish and wax of that paint. Or, more likely these days, that clear coat layer that sits over your thin and precious paint. 

Polish and wax are different media - and achieve different results. But a gleaming finish isn’t achievable without both.

Firstly the polish. A true shine can’t be achieved without dead-smooth paint. Daily wear helps put tiny scratches into that paint. Whether it’s the branches on the lane brushing your car, careless washing without a fastidiously clean cloth, overcoats and kids that brush against it while getting in and out, or filling up, or even that super-soft car cover, rubbing the paint as it billows in the wind. These tiny contacts can all leave their marks, visible as swirls and ‘holograms’ in the paint. These are the marks you remove when you polish.

Polishing is the ground work that lets that wax shine, so don’t ignore it. Of course, if your pride and joy sits in your heated, air-filtered, carpeted garage all of the time, you can probably skip straight to the wax. But for most of us, at least once a year, a few hours of polishing will help set things up for the decent weather.  Polishing helps smooth the clear coat by wearing it down a little, so that the scratches are evened out and less obvious. 

The process is simple. Polish on, work it in and see the reflections start to even out. Let it dry and then buff it out to a shine. It’s tempting to think that you’re done - after all, your shoulders ache, your knees hurt and your grip is non-existent. But you’re only halfway there. The freshly smoothed paint is now as vulnerable as exfoliated skin straight out of the bath. It needs a layer to shine and protect. It needs that wax. 

Waxing, by contrast isn’t as labour intensive and it provides instant satisfaction. Wax on, Mr Miyagi says, and wax off. Smooth on your (doubtless expensive - who’s going to skimp on cheap wax, right?) carnauba wax, or your super gloss protection, and let it haze. Wait as long as you can (which usually isn’t long) and using those special microfibre cloths that no one else in the household understands (or is allowed to touch…) you clean off the polish to reveal that deep, deep shine. 

Waxing A Porsche

The glorious act of waxing helps fill in any of those unfilled micro scratches, leaving a completely smooth finish and, as it dries hard, it helps protect the paint and lets water just bead and roll off. But it’s more than just a protective finish, it’s a sense of satisfaction in a mirror shine. 

And as you bask in the reflected glory of your gleaming vehicle, it’s best not to wonder whether that even more expensive Swiss stuff you’ve heard about might give you an extra 1% of shine over your current stuff. Whether you should, perhaps, use carnauba wax and then super gloss for proper belt and braces. Or if you have the right polishing cloth for tinted glass, or if your newly shone tyres should be satin or gloss finished… For a day or two at least. 

It’s kind of good that there may be more shine, just around the corner. We all need a glimpse of infinity, after all.


by Chipps Chippendale at 9 Apr 2018, 00:00 AM