Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Difference between rubbing compound and polishing compound

Rubbing compound versus polishing compound

DIYers always ask about the difference between rubbing compound and polishing compound. It’s really  simple; think of both as sandpaper, where rubbing compound is a coarse grit you would use to sand down a scratch in a piece of wood. Think of polishing compound as a fine grit sandpaper you’d use to smooth out the wood before painting.

What is automotive rubbing compound?

Rubbing compound is a paste or thick liquid filled with a coarse abrasive. rubbing compoundIt’s designed to remove scratches in clear coat and paint by removing material from the surface. Unless you’re very skilled with a buffing tool, you should apply rubbing compound by hand to avoid removing too much clear coat and paint.

When to use rubbing compound?

If you’ve scratched the clear coat on your car, use rubbing compound to remove the scratch. How do you know if you’re scratched just the clear coat? Simple. A clear coat scratch appears white or milky in color. After using rubbing compound, polish the surface to a shiny sheen using polishing compound. Start with a lower grit polish and work your way up to a 2,000 grit polishing compound. Then apply a synthetic car wax.




If the scratch has gone all the way through the clear coat and is down to the base coat layer, rubbing compound won’t help much. To fix that deep of a scratch, you’ll need to use a wax remover. Then apply touch up paint, followed by clean coat. Once the paint and clear coat have dried and cured, use rubbing compound to level and blend the touch up into the surrounding paint. Then use polishing compound to bring out the shine.

car paint scratches

deep car paint scratches
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