How Often Can You Polish Your Car?

machine polishing car, illustration

Whenever you’re polishing a car, some amount of clear coat is removed. But how much can you polish a car before all the clear coat is removed? How often can you polish it? I’ll answer those questions in this post, so pay attention.

Key Takeaways:

  • Generally, it is safe to polish a car three to five times in a lifetime.
  • Many cars can be polished many more times, but it’s better to keep it within the safe range.
  • Typical light polishing removes 1-3 microns of clear coat while compounding can remove 3-5 microns of clear coat per step.
  • European cars usually have thicker paint and clear coat, meaning that they can sustain more polishing and compounding.
  • Asian cars have the thinnest clear coats, and too much polishing and compounding may burn the clear coat.

How Many Times Can You Polish a Car

The average car may be machine polished about 3-5 times in the lifetime of the car paint before you could run into problems.

Polishing removes a layer of clear coat (the layer that gives shine and protection to the paint), and as long as there is some clear coat, you can polish a car. 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 infographics

Every Car Is Different

All car manufacturers don’t apply the same amount of clear coat to vehicles, and not all clear coats are of the same hardness.

  • European cars tend to have the thickest and hardest clear coat on cars, meaning that they can be polished more often and more times than other cars.
  • Asian cars tend to have the thinnest clear coat, and they can’t be polished as much as European cars.
  • American cars are somewhere in between, and they’re the average – so, 3-5 polishing before you could run into problems.

How Much Clear Coat Is Removed While Polishing?

To know how many times you can polish a car, you should also know how much of a clear coat is removed per polishing.

There are multiple angles that we should look at:

  • The type of car you’re polishing (soft or hard clear coat)
  • The abrasiveness of the products you’re using
  • Whether you machine polish or hand polish the car
  • Is it a 1-step correction, 2-step correction, or even more
Paint Correction TypeAmount of Clear Coat Removed
1-step polish (light swirl marks, paint enhancement)1-3 microns (μm)
1-step compound (cutting compound for deeper scratches)3-5 microns (μm)
2-step paint correction (compound + polish)4-7 microns (μm)
Hand polishing (per step)1-2 microns (μm)
Hand compounding (per step)2-3 microns (μm)
Average clear coat removals per paint correction type

To know how much clear coat you have left, you should measure the car paint thickness at multiple locations on your car and then count the averages. Everything’s on the link above, so make sure to learn that.

Conclusion

Well, now you know that you shouldn’t 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.

As you can see, you can polish your car as often as you’d like, but you’re limited to 3-5 polishings in total, so keep that in mind. That’s why I suggest always keeping your car paint protected, which reduces the amount of swirl marks and scratches that appear on your car’s paint, thus removing the need for frequent car polishing.

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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