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Updated Nov 12, 2021 12:16 PM

In addition to the new car smell, one of the best things about buying a new car is the sparkling finish. And while the continued implementation of better scratch-resistant ceramic-based clear coats prolongs the honeymoon period longer and longer, the realities of driving are that road debris, weather, sunlight, and other factors damage the finish of your vehicle. Eventually, you need to take matters into your own hands and return that polish back to your car. To help you keep that new-car shine, and to help you pick the option that’s right for you, we’ve compiled this list of what we think are the most promising polishes that’ll work great for any of your rides.

Best Metal Polishes Reviews & Recommendations

Flitz is one of the most common names in the world of polishes. Sure it’s nothing new, the packaging is fairly plain, and your dad probably used it on his classic ride, but the fact is that this is an extremely versatile polish and the company is known to be top-tier among enthusiasts. It’s on this list as a capable metal polish, but the truth is that it’ll polish fiberglass, plastic, glass, and even marble, as well as cleaning them.

This versatility means that it’s a safe bet for nearly anyone, and it means that it has capabilities beyond the automotive sphere. The downside is that certain materials will polish better than others. For instance, this compound struggles to polish zinc-coated metals, with considerable effort and multiple coatings required. Also, it’s not great at polishing out more severe scratches.

Specification
  • Brand Flitz
  • Model ‎CA 03518-6
  • Weight ‎2.19 pounds
PROS

Extremely versatile — works on almost any material

Multipurpose — can be used for both polishing and cleaning

Simple application process

CONS

Doesn’t polish all materials equally well

Doesn’t polish out more severe scratches

Requires considerable effort to polish many surfaces

Turtle Wax is a brand that most people who have set foot in an auto parts store are likely familiar with, since it’s a mass-marketed polishing compound. Turtle Wax has upgraded its formula with high-tech “platelet abrasives” that it claims to allow you to both correct scratches and achieve a mirror polish with a simple change of the polishing head. This, combined with the affordable price tag, makes it a very beginner-friendly option. Turtle Wax claims that this is a one-step solution for a mirror shine, but this is somewhat inaccurate.

As mentioned above, you need to do your correction step first, switch buffing heads, and then do your polishing step, and while this is without having to use different solutions for correction and polishing, it’s not quite as easy as they make it sound. Additionally, by being a jack-of-all-trades, it’s a master of none. You’re not going to get major scratch correction capabilities, as of the two functions, this solution is balanced in favor of getting a shine, rather than restoring damaged finishes. Finally, the post-polish residue can be difficult to clean off from this particular compound.

Specification
  • Brand Turtle Wax
  • Model ‎53478
  • Weight 1 pound
PROS

Cost-effective

Simple to use

Gives a high shine

CONS

Not truly one-step

Not suitable for major scratches

Can leave residue

Best Metal Polish for Enthusiasts

If you’ve named your car, have your Instagram tag on a decal in the window, apply tire shine every week, and wash and polish your car way too often, the Chemical Guys have the system that’s right for you. Included in the kit is the company’s V32 Optical Grade Extreme Compound to correct major damage, V34 Optical Grade Hybrid Compound to start a more involved minor correction and polish, V36 Optical Grade Cutting Polish to remove swirls and surface irregularities before a final polish, and V38 Optical Grade Final Polish to get that intense, oily, mirrorlike shine.

What this all means is that if you keep up with your car’s exterior maintenance, you don’t have to start with the V32 every time. Maybe it just needs a touch-up. This flexibility also allows you to maintain any clear or shiny surface, including headlights, rims, and composite panels, and allows for use with both dual-action and rotary polishers. It is, however, a very involved process if you’re starting from zero. It also requires a buffer/polisher and isn’t beginner friendly.

Specification
  • Brand ‎Chemical Guys
  • Model GAP_VKIT_16
  • Weight ‎5.13 pounds
PROS

Extremely flexible and comprehensive

Can be scaled to the severity of your finish needs

High quality for most applications

CONS

Very involved process

Requires professional equipment

Not beginner-friendly

You may own a high-end car that you want to preserve at all cost or you own a vintage car that’s in good condition and you want to preserve the original coat of paint. If that’s the case, and you have cash to burn, then Migliore’s polish is for you. Before we dive into its features, just know that it’s quite expensive.

What you’re getting is a mirror-finish coating that will keep for up to three years, repels water, and stands up to scratches and corrosion like no other. Unfortunately, this is not for the faint of heart, and we’re not just talking about the price. This is for experienced car maintainers only and you really need to be familiar with graphene or ceramic polishes before you apply this, or you could risk ruining your finish. Research is needed before applying, but chances are, if you own the kind of car that this is made for, and are okay with spending this much money on a product like this, this is a good option.

Specification
  • Brand Migliore
  • Model MF10
  • Weight 4.2 ounces
PROS

Will allow you to forego most surface maintenance for years

Excellent for preserving factory paint on high-end or vintage vehicles

Provides an amazing, peerless sheen when applied properly

CONS

Extremely expensive

Requires careful application for proper performance

Not useful for most car owners

Best Cut-Focused Automotive Polish

Most of the products that made our list were made to be middle-of-the-road, good for weekend warriors and DIY detailers. This compound from Meguiar’s still offers that usability, but is specifically designed to be more cut, less polish, meaning that it’s good for getting rid of scratches, scuffs, and other imperfections. This is a good option for anyone who bought a middle-of-the-road or polish-focused compound, and who needs something to supplement it to get an even finer shine and polish.

Excellent for restoring scratched, hologrammed, or stained finishes, the Meguiar’s polish is a cost-effective product that goes well with your usual polish. The downside is that you can’t buy just this compound and use it to get that desired mirror finish. It’s not a one-stop solution, and beginners may make the mistake of getting just this and wondering why it’s not working as well as when a professional does.

Specification
  • Brand Meguiar's
  • Model M10532
  • Weight 1.5 pounds
PROS

Excellent for restoring scratched, hologrammed, or stained finishes

Cost-effective enough to be a limited use supplement to your usual polish regime

Compatible with dual-action and rotary polishers

CONS

Limited use due to cutting-specific formula

Best used with mechanical polishing heads

Must be used in conjunction with other products

How We Selected The Products 

When selecting products for this ranking of the best automotive polishes, we looked at the products that covered the wide range of needs for our readers. We took into account budget, different skill levels, and different equipment capabilities and we spoke to car owners and asked them what specific brands they recommended to be able to cut through the huge amount of cheap, dodgy, and otherwise undesirable options on the market. With that in mind, we specifically avoided any options that these car owners did NOT recommend. 

Our product selections, rankings, and awards for this story are based on research. While we haven’t conducted real-world testing on all of these products yet, we’ve looked at consumer testimonials and data, tutorials, and general discussions on social media and in forums. We also consider price and specification in the context of the segment. And, of course, we rely on our institutional knowledge of the automotive landscape to weed out weak products.”

Buying Guide/What to Look For 

When buying automotive polishes, there’s a lot of terminology to translate to make sure that you get the right compound for what you need. What is cutting? What is polishing? Why ceramic? These are all questions that you might have been wondering, even while reading our product guide, and hopefully, this list of considerations will answer some of those.

What to Consider When Buying Metal Polishes

Types of Metal Polish

Cutting Compound

Cutting compounds are specifically designed to remove scratches from automotive paint finishes as well as remove light surface corrosion. This is a process known as “correcting” the paint, and this is the first step in a full-spectrum restoration job. Think of it as providing a smooth base for you to layer polish on top of. Because of this, cutting compounds are usually heavier in grit and will not leave the finish mirror-shiny, relying on finer-grit compounds to achieve that. To ensure an even application, ensure you use a power brush, whether dual-action or rotary and a specific cutting head.

All-Purpose Compounds

The name speaks for itself. Also known as “one step” compounds, these are designed to be jacks of all trades, rather than focusing on either end of the cutting/polishing equilibrium. These are generally the most friendly to new owners because you can just go and buy a bottle of polishing compound, a basic polishing device, and get satisfactory results on most finishes. These aren’t going to produce professional- or factory-quality shine, but they definitely are a great starting point, and you can be confident that they will work.

Polishing Compounds

These compounds are how you get that liquid, jewel-like finish that everyone craves, and they do so by providing the smoothest possible surface for a final surface treatment. These compounds frankly won’t do against bigger scratches and are best used after using a cutting compound to smooth out the surface below, for a gradual refinement of surface polish. These compounds can also contain things like waxes, ceramic, graphene, and other substances to further enhance the sheen of your car’s finish. Other compounds specifically seek to boost durability to ensure that your polish lasts longer through the use of the aforementioned substances.

Surface Treatment Compounds

These aren’t polishes per se, but they deserve a mention since they’re usually the coup de grace on any thorough polish job. These compounds add that final gloss to your car’s finish and can do things like optically enhance the color of your finish, protect the finish from the sun’s UV rays, and preserve your finish from scratches from road debris. We bring these substances up because they are emphatically NOT a replacement for a thorough cleaning and multi-step polish job. They are merely a supplement. If not applied to a perfectly clean surface, these coatings, depending on their composition, may even trap particles on the paint, giving the vehicle a more uneven finish. 

metal polish

Key Features of Automotive Metal Polishes

Grit

This is the measure of the size of the abrasive material that wears down the finish of whatever object that you’re working on. Smaller numbers indicate a larger abrasive material size, and larger numbers conversely mean that the compound will be more focused on putting the final touch on any finish.

Dual-Action, Rotary, and Orbital Polishers

These aren’t strictly key features of the compounds themselves, but certain polishes specify that they work best with a specific polisher, so this is important to know. Dual-action polishers move forward and backward very quickly to mimic the motion of hand-polishing, albeit much faster. Rotary polishers rotate in a circular fashion at a constant speed, and can be much more versatile in trained hands, but are less beginner-friendly. Orbital polishers move in an uneven circular fashion to mimic Karate Kid-style circular hand motions. From weak standard orbital polishers that are basically only useful for waxing to strong forced-rotation, dual-action orbital polishers that mimic the capabilities of a rotary polisher without as much risk.

Graphene and Ceramic Coatings

Certain compounds will contain these two substances, both regarded as hard or resilient materials. They add durability to the finish to ensure that your polishing isn’t a total waste and make sure that when you drive up to the car meet, the drive over hasn’t totally ruined the finish. Ceramic is generally the cheaper option, and graphene being a space-age substance that’s extremely expensive. You’ll often find “graphene ceramic” coatings, which are hybrids between the two that seek to bring you the performance of graphene without the insane price tag.

Metal Polish Tips and Tricks

As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and metal polishes. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • Name matters. Make sure the brand you’re purchasing has a good reputation. Most good brands are very well known and be prepared to spend good money for good polish.
  • Test polishes on a small, out-of-view portion of your vehicle before applying them to the body at large, especially as a beginner.
  • Be prepared to put in the effort to get the finish of your dreams. Multi-step polishing regimens, expensive polishers, and many failed tries starting out are part of it.
  • Don’t pair expensive polishes with cheap polishers, especially not on expensive cars. 

FAQs

Q: What is the best automotive polish for my car?

That depends on what you want from your polish. Brands to look out for are Flitz, Meguiar’s, Chemical Guys, and Turtle Wax.

Q: Why should I use a multi-stage polishing compound?

Using multiple different compounds helps to allow you to address the issues with your finish at the lowest level. There’s no need to use a compound with high abrasive qualities for a simple touch-up, which would wear away your finish faster than if you had the option of using a finishing compound rather than a cutting compound.

Q: How much should I spend on a polisher?

It’s hard to set a concrete number, but you should scale your purchase to how often you maintain your own car, how often you drive your car, and how seriously you take your car’s appearance. I’d say if you multiply the cost of whatever polishing solution you use by three, you should have a good price range for where to start looking with polishers. Remember that if it looks too good to be true, it is

metal polishes

Final Thoughts

Our best overall option is the Flitz International Multi Purpose Metal Polish, which can work on a variety of surfaces. If you want to save a little money, opt for the Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Pro 1 and Done Compound Correct and Finish.

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