How-To Compound a Car at Home
No matter how careful you are while driving, odds are, tar and other caked up grime builds up over time, causing the paintwork to look weathered and dull. Compounds can easily take care of general signs of ageing on cars, as well as more severe imperfections, such as scratches, paint transfer and more stubborn stains. If you’re unfamiliar with how to use compounds or simply looking for some more guidance, you can find everything you need in this handy guide.
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What is Car Compounding?
- Car compounding refers to the process of using compounds (polishing, rubbing or cutting) in order to restore the damaged car paintwork surfaces.
- The abrasive qualities of the car compounds are able to smooth & restore the clearcoat layer.
Polishing Compound vs. Rubbing Compound
- A lot of people tend to get confused about what the difference between the different compounds is and how to choose one that is suitable for them.
- The polishing compound is less abrasive and typically is used for enhancing the paint finish and increasing the shine. While it will get rid of lighter imperfections, it is not powerful enough to remove most heavier paintwork imperfections.
- Rubbing compound has harder abrasives with larger particle sizes, which results in a more aggressive formula, that are able to smooth out severe scratches and restore more severe damage to the car surface.
When Should You Use a Polishing Compound?
A polishing compound is used to clean and shine, as well as removing small imperfections on the vehicle’s paint surface. It can be used to:
- Remove light scratches
- Remove watermarks from paint or in some cases glass (if the window cleaners have failed to work)
- Remove stains or light oxidation from most automotive finishes
- Treat other less severe imperfections on newer cars
TIP: You should always follow a polishing compound treatment with car polish or car wax to refine the shine and to protect the paint.
When Should You Use a Rubbing Compound?
We recommend using the rubbing compound for more severe damage to the car’s paint, which cannot be removed using milder formulas. Some of these include:
- Removing stubborn stains and severe oxidation
- Removing paint transfer (for more information on how to remove paint transfer, visit our how-to guide here)
- Smoothing out deeper scratches and scuffs
TIP: Avoid using a rubbing compound for new car paintwork restoration. Ensure to only use it after less aggressive products have been tested first, such as Turtle Wax Scratch Repair & Renew.
Liquid vs. Paste Compounds
- Generally, paste rubbing compound is best used on dull, badly oxidized finishes and paint transfer and is used for heavy-duty cleaning. This type of product is perfect for oxidized fiberglass or conventional finishes that have faded or developed a heavy white oxidized layer.
- Sometimes a second, milder paste polishing compound or swirl remover needs to be used to help remove haze in the clearcoat and restore shine prior to applying a final wax.
- The liquid compound is milder and easier to use than paste compounds.
How-To Compound a Car By Hand
Most of the common imperfections, such as scratches, paint transfer, oxidation, and water spots, can be removed by hand. Turtle Wax compounds are formulated with the consumer in mind, meaning that you can easily achieve a like-new finish without the need for a laborious and time-consuming application process.
Step 1 : Assess the Paintwork
- If the paint is affected by light oxidation, small scratches, swirls or watermarks, opt for the Turtle Wax Clean Finish Polishing Compound, which is a light to medium cleaner due to the less abrasive qualities.
- If the paint is affected by deeper/larger scratches, paint transfer, heavy oxidation, and more stubborn stains, we recommend using the Turtle Wax Clean Cut Rubbing Compound.
Step 2: Wash & Dry the Car
- Make sure to prepare the surface by using a car wash product with strong cleaning power, such as Turtle Wax M.A.X-Power Car Wash, to prevent further damage on paintwork and help the application process.
Step 3: Test the product on a small inconspicuous area
- We recommend testing your chosen product on a small area on the vehicle prior to applying it to the rest of the vehicle.
- Some compounds are more aggressive than others, therefore it’s best to test, especially when working with a new product.
Step 4: Apply the Compound
- Make sure to apply the product on a cool clean surface and out of direct sunlight.
- Apply the compound onto a damp applicator pad or a cotton towel over a small area at a time.
- Rub the product into the surface using back and forth motion.
Step 5: Remove Excess Product
- Before the product dries, remove it with a clean cotton or microfiber towel and buff lightly.
- Assess the results and reapply if needed, making sure not to apply too much pressure, especially if working with more abrasive compounds.
Step 6: Apply Car Polish to Bring Back the Shine.
- For the best results, make sure to follow the treatment with a polish or wax product, such as the Turtle Wax Carnauba Car Wax, to bring back the shine that was lost during the process.
- If you’re restoring black car paint, you can use a polish that contains a pigment, such as Turtle Wax ICE Black Polish, for even better results.
How-To Compound a Car with a Buffer/ Polisher
Sometimes the compound application becomes quite difficult to do by hand, especially if working on harder paint or on a large surface. In this case, it might be a good idea to use a dual-action (DA) polisher. If you’re inexperienced with this tool, we would recommend taking extra care and practicing on an old bonnet prior to beginning this process on your vehicle.
Step 1: Choose your Polishing/ Buffing Pad
- Choose the polishing/buffing pad depending on the severity of the imperfections and area affected.
- If your DA came with an accessory kit, you should have access to different pad sizes and grit levels.
- Pad selection is important to product performance and can impact how much scratch removal (cutting) or shine and clarity (finishing) the product delivers.
Step 2: Work on a Small Surface Area
- Work on a small surface at a time, approximately 20” x 20”.
- Dispense Turtle Wax Clean Cut Rubbing Compound on the applicator pad and apply it onto the surface without turning the DA polisher on to spread the product.
Step 3: Turn on the DA Polisher Slowly
- Turn on the DA polisher slowly and move it across the paint surface in the direction the metal flows, using back and forth motion and minimal pressure on the medium speed setting.
Step 4: Repeat the Process
- Change the direction and repeat the same process back forth horizontally to treat the surface from a different angle.
Step 5: Remove Excess Product
- Remove the excess product using a microfiber towel and assess the results.
- Repeat the application if needed, however, due to the abrasive qualities, make sure to not apply too much pressure especially since the surface has already been treated.
- TIP: Keep the surface of the pad wet with the product during the application process to avoid damaging the paint.
If you are willing to try this yourself, make sure to assess the severity of the damage before starting the restoration process. Make sure to take care when using the more aggressive formulas to ensure that paintwork doesn’t get subjected to further damage and test the product on a small area before continuing with the restoration process.
We have a range of how-to guides for common car surface imperfections, therefore we recommend checking out our Solutions section or the related articles linked at the bottom of this article.
Why shouldn’t a compound be allowed to dry on paint finish?
Water and oils in a compound provide key lubrication to the compound’s cleaning ingredients. A compound that dries may be difficult to remove or be too aggressive to the finish during removal. Always apply a compound with a damp applicator or cloth and remove it immediately to assure safe performance.
Can I use Rubbing Compound to remove scratches from my new car?
No. New car finishes should not be subjected to a rubbing compound first. Use a rubbing compound only after less aggressive products have been tested first, like Scratch Repair and Renew.
How do I repair deep scratches?
Use Turtle Wax Scratch Repair and Renew. This product is designed for repairing and sealing scratches.
When should I use a scratch and swirl remover?
Use anytime on unsightly scratches & blemishes. Turtle Wax Scratch Repair and Renew contains powerful, ultra-fine polishing agents that quickly cut and remove scratches in the clear coat. It leaves the finish repaired with clear coat resin and ready for the application of car wax to restore the like-new shine and protection.