Will polishing your car result in your paintwork getting burned, or worse, stripped off?
Short answer: Yes, it is possible. But, this is also extremely rare and unlikely.
Before we continue, let’s look at the polishing process first.
WHAT IS CAR POLISHING?
In the world of car detailing, polishing is the process of refining the paint surface to remove scratches and contaminants.
A bit of the clear coat is removed in order to even it out.
Car polishes contain abrasives that do this. However, these are usually very mild.
The more aggressive polishes are called compounds or polishing compounds, which can strip more of the clear coat.
They are used for deeper scratches or embedded stains.
POLISHING YOUR CAR BY HAND IS RELATIVELY SAFE
Polishing your car by hand with a microfibre applicator is unlikely to burn your paint.
Unless you are extremely strong and can apply greater pressure, it will take a very long time to actually cause damage.
MACHINE POLISHING YOUR CAR CARRIES A RISK
Will polishing your car with a machine polisher burn the paint?
Yes, it can happen. But only if the detailer does not know what he is doing.
If the detailer uses aggressive “cutting” pads and compounds, along with a polisher set to high rpms, you might end up needing a respray.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR DETAILER
Handing over your pride and joy to a detailer is a nerve-wracking moment for any enthusiast.
A few questions you should be asking include:
1) What kind or surface preparation will you be doing before polishing?
2) How aggressive is the polish that will be used?
3) What kind of polisher will be used?
If your detailer says that the surface prep includes the two-bucket car wash and claying, this is a good sign.
Polishing or waxing without surface prep causes scratches (and swirls) and prevents the products from bonding with the paint.
For the polish, a true professional detailer will use the least aggressive product first, no matter the condition of your paint. They will never over-promise the results, too.
The “safest” type of polisher is a dual-action polisher.
But if your detailer is very experienced, they can use a regular buffer.