How to Buff Clear Coat

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Buffing out the clear coat on a car can be time consuming and tedious work, but the end result can be utterly spectacular. It is possible to take an average-looking car and bring it to show-car brilliance in anywhere from 15 to 50 hours, depending on just how exacting you want to be.

Things You'll Need

  • 1000-grit sandpaper
  • 1500-grit sandpaper
  • 2000-grit sandpaper
  • Rubber sanding pad
  • Water
  • Dish soap
  • 3M buffing compound
  • Car polish
  • Cotton T-shirts

Wash the car thoroughly. Leave it wet.

Wrap 1000-grit paper around a rubber sanding pad. Both the paper and sanding pad can be purchased at a good automotive parts store. Dip the pad in a bucket of clean water with 1 ounce of dish detergent in it. Sand lightly in small circular motions, wetting the paper every 30 seconds or so. Clean each area as you sand it with plenty of clean water and pat dry with a cotton T-shirt. Sand the entire car very lightly.

Replace the 1000-grit paper with 1500-grit paper and get a new bucket of slightly soapy water. Repeat the entire sanding job using very light pressure on the pad and keeping the sandpaper constantly wet. Frequently stop to clean areas with clean water as you sand them.

Replace the 1500-grit paper with 2000-grit paper and sand the finish very lightly one final time, keeping the sandpaper wet at all times. Remember, you are not trying to sand through the clear coat on your paint job--you are merely smoothing the existing clear coat.

Wash your car with clear water and pat dry with perfectly clean cotton T-shirt. Apply 3M Buffer compound using a clean cotton T-shirt in small circular motions. Work in small areas and buff out the buffer compound with a clean cotton T-shirt as you go.

Complete the job by rubbing on a good car polish. Use a clean cotton T-shirt and rub on in small circular motions and buff off in the same manner.

Tips & Warnings

  • Alternatively, you can skip the buffing step (step 5) and instead spray on a new (and final) clear coat, followed by a good car polish.
  • Use a light sanding touch at all times and constantly check to see that you are not sanding all the way through the layers of clear coat. Factory paint jobs often only have two layers of clear coat and it is possible to sand through both layers if you are not careful. After-market paint jobs usually have a minimum of three clear coats, making it less likely you will sand through them.
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