How Often Can You Machine Polish Your Car?

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black dodge ram - how often can you machine polish your car

How shiny and good-looking car, right? For me, there is no such thing as a nice shiny black car that mirrors everything around it. We all know that you can get that glossy and shiny (like a new) paint look by polishing a car. But how often can you machine polish your car without damaging the paint?

You shouldn’t machine polish your car until there are swirls and scratches that you want to fix. In general, a car shouldn’t be polished more than 3-5 times in a lifetime and more than once a year. Polishing your car 3-5 times in a lifetime is considered safe for the clear coat.

Machine polishing removes some layers of car clear coat, and if you do it too often or too often, it will lead to paint damage, and you will have to repaint the whole vehicle – that’s the worst scenario.

Why Do People Machine Polish Their Car

I could divide this question into two categories. The first would be a reason for polishing in general, and the second is the choice of machine polishing over hand buffing. So, let’s see!

4 Reasons To Polish Your Car

Down here, you can see the most common reasons for car polishing.

1. Minor Scratches and Swirls

You know, those tiny scratches from keys, purses, etc. The same is with swirl marks. They are making all of us freak out. Polishing your car can fix those tiny scratches on the paint. 

2. Faded and Oxidized Paint

Weather conditions, especially the sun’s UV rays, are destroying the car’s body paint. It’s just a matter of time before your car paint starts to oxidize and become faded. 

When the car paint loses its shine and that beautiful glossy look, polishing will enhance the paint finish, and it will look like new again (depending on how oxidized the paint is). 

3. After Painting Some Car Parts

Let’s assume that you have just painted your front left doors. There will be a lot of differences between them and the rear ones. Polishing the whole car will equalize the colors, and it’ll be hard to say which car part was freshly painted.

4. Improve The Shine of Car Paint

This is more of a reason for car enthusiasts who want their car to look better than it was new. The polished car will always look better than the unpolished one. For instance, this could be before the car show.

RELATED: Do You Have To Polish a Car Before Waxing? EXPLAINED

However, when you are preparing your car for the car show, you won’t go as deep with polishing as you would go when fixing minor scratches or oxidized paint. 

Machine or Hand Polishing?

As I said, after reasons for car buffing in general, there is the second category – which is why people decide on machine polishing over hand polishing. I’m going to be short here. For more detailed information, check the hand vs machine polishing article.

Let’s see the reasons:

  • Hand polishing is exhausting. You would have to be very strong to hand polish the whole car. Just imagine polishing your big SUV… you would end up more tired than after the gym.
  • Machine polishing has better results. This is totally clear; with high RPMs, it’s normal that the machine will do a better job than you could do with the hand. 

Does Machine Polishing Destroy Car Paint?

The answer here isn’t so simple. Yes, machine polishing somehow destroys the car paint. But let’s dive a bit deeper into this.

Whenever you do a machine polish, it will remove one layer of clear coat. Most of the tiny scratches and paint fading are the damage of the clear coat. And when you polish, you remove that damaged layer of clear coat, which will “fix” the scratches, oxidation, etc. Before polishing, you can measure car paint thickness. That way, you’ll ensure that there’s enough clear coat on the car.

Check out this great report: how much of a clearcoat is removed during machine polishing.

The general answer to this question would be this: Machine polishing removes a layer of a clear coat, but it’s needed to fix the scratches, oxidation, and fading and bring the car paint shine back. Usually, polishing will remove around 1-3 microns (μm) of clearcoat, depending on the type of compound you’re using.

Related: Best Auto Detailing Polishers (Under $300)

However, one important thing here is what type of compound you will use when machine polishing your car. There are non-abrasive and abrasive compounds for polishing.

Also, some compounds are more abrasive than others, so keep that in mind, and always start with the least abrasive compound and check the results. If you are unhappy with the results, pick the more abrasive one.

How Often Can You Machine Polish Your Car

As I said, the average car may be machine polished about 3-5 times in the lifetime of the car paint before you could run into problems. If you repaint the whole car, it can again be polished ca. 3-5 times. Also, you shouldn’t do it more than once a year because polishing compounds will mostly last at least a year. 


As I mentioned before, machine polishing removes a layer of a clearcoat (the layer that gives a shine to the paint), and as long as there is some clear coat, you can do car polishing. On average, you could do it 30 times before you reach the base coat (the main car color).

As you can see, the car could be polished up to 30 times before reaching the base coat, but you shouldn’t remove more than 15-20% of the original clear coat applied. It’s because those 15-20% of the top of the clear coat offer the best UV protection. That’s where those 3-5 times come. It’s a number of times you can do safe polishing.

Check out the picture below, so you can imagine what layer of car paint you are removing with machine polishing.

car paint layers - machine polishing

What To Do Instead Of Machine Polishing?

Well, there are two options here:

  • Do hand polishing which is less aggressive and won’t destroy a clear coat as much as machine polishing
  • Protect the paint with some coating like wax, sealant, or ceramic coating

Hand Polishing

Hand polishing won’t give you even similar results as machine polishing. But you have to determine whether you need just light polishing or you really have a lot of scratches or faded paint. 

My advice to you is to try hand polishing first, and if that doesn’t help with your car paint issue, then go for machine polishing. That way, you will prevent unnecessary damage to the car’s clear coat.

Protect The Car Paint

There are many ways to protect car paint from scratches, fading, oxidation, etc. For instance, just a frequent washing of your car will help to keep the shine and maintain the original color. 

However, to protect the car from scratches and UV rays, you shall consider waxing it, applying some sealant, or doing a synthetic coating.

Check out my article and find out the three best ways to protect the car’s paint.

Protection is always the best option, and you should start protecting your car paint the same day you bought the car. That way, the car paint will last much longer, and there will be no need for often car polishing.

Remember: prevention over repression is the key!


Well, now you know that you shouldn’t machine polish your car more than 3-5 times. However, always try to do everything to prevent paint damage. If you don’t take care of your car paint, one day, machine polishing won’t be enough, and you’ll have to do the repainting.

Love your car, maintain it, and keep it safe from weather conditions, scratches, and other things that are destroying the paint. The golden rule is not to exaggerate anything, so it is with machine polishing!

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