Can You Use a Drill To Polish Your Car?

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guy using a drill to polish a car, illustration

I recently tried polishing the hood of my car with a drill, and I decided to share my experience and opinion in this post. For all of you who were wondering if polishing a car with a drill is possible, here’s the answer.

Key Takeaways:

  • Drills and cordless drills can be used for car polishing. You just have to buy a drill attachment to which you can attach buffing pads.
  • I don’t recommend polishing with a drill unless you have no other option or you’re just polishing some small scratch or headlights.
  • Drills aren’t made for polishing, and it’s hard to keep them leveled, which may cause uneven polishing results.
  • One situation where I recommend polishing with a drill is when you need to polish wheels or exhausts because you’ll be able to reach deeper with a drill when compared to car polishers.

Reasons Not To Use A Drill For Car Polishing

Here are the main reasons why I don’t recommend you use a drill for polishing your car.

  • Drills aren’t made for polishing. While there are many types of drills, none of them is made for polishing.
  • It’s hard to hold the drill properly. Drills are made in such a shape that it’s impossible to keep them at a 90-degree angle against car paint. Also, because of the shape, you won’t be able to apply the same pressure all the time.
  • Most drills only have two speeds. Most drills only have two speeds, and even if they have more, it’s never even similar to car polishers. Also, drills often struggle with keeping the same RPM all the time, which is bad for polishing.
  • It’s easy to burn the clear coat. By polishing with a drill, if you’re using a compound, you’re more likely to burn through the clear coat because you won’t have a feeling of how much pressure you’re applying.
  • You can’t use large buffing pads. With all the buffing attachments for drills, you can’t use large polishing pads. The max you’ll be able to attach is a ca. 4-inch polishing pad, which is only enough for polishing headlights or some small scratch, not the whole car.
  • All drills are rotary. While there are dual-action car polishers, there aren’t any dual-action drills that you can use for car polishing. Yes, there are attachments that mimic dual action, but it’s nothing similar to professional car buffers.

Reasons To Use a Drill For Car Buffing

As always, I’m trying to be very objective. There are some reasons why using a drill for car polishing could be a good option.

  • It’s easier than hand polishing. If your choice is between hand polishing or polishing with a drill, of course, pick a drill. It’s ten times easier, and you’ll probably achieve a smoother finish because the drill can get to higher RPMs when compared to your hand.
  • Quickly polishing some tiny scratches. This is especially true for cordless drills. If you just need to polish some fresh, tiny scratches quickly, you can use a drill to do it. Buffing attachments for drills are great for those small paint correction tasks.
  • You have no other option. If your only option is a drill, go for it. It’s still better than leaving your car paint or headlight scratched. It might take a lot of time, but you’ll be able to do it.
  • For polishing and waxing wheels and exhausts. If you want to polish wheels or exhausts, using ball polishing drill attachments is a great choice, and you’ll easily clean or protect wheels and exhausts on your vehicle.

How To Polish a Car With a Drill?

If you decide to polish your car with a drill, here’s how you should do it:

  1. Mount a car polish drill attachment to the drill (or the cordless drill)
  2. Add some polishing paste to the pad (check my recommended car polish products)
  3. Spread the paste over the pad using your fingers
  4. Spread the paste on the scratches you want to remove – do this with the polishing pad while the drill is still turned off (tap the car paint a few times)
  5. Start polishing – keep the drill straight (90-degree angle), and don’t press it too hard.
  6. Don’t forget to work on small areas only.

If you need a polishing tool for drills, I recommend buying Meguiar’s Dual Action Polishing Tool For Drills. It’s the best drill attachment you can get that will help you polish a car.

Meguiar's Dual Action Power System Tool: Get Professional Results Compounding, Polishing, and Waxing...
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Using a drill to polish a car may not be the best and easiest method, but it can surely remove some scratches and bring back the car paint’s shine.

Final Thoughts

As you can see above, the drill can be used to polish your car, but it’s not the ideal solution and should only be used when you have no other option.

I tried it, and I wasn’t happy with the results. It all just seems too complicated, and in the future, I may only use a drill to polish car headlights after removing oxidation from them. And that’s all.

There are many budget-friendly car polishers out there, and if you’re serious about polishing your car, it’s a much better choice.

Cordless drills are best when used for removing car seats or using them to brush the seats and carpets with dedicated drill brush attachments.

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