Top 8 Best Car Polishes
By | Last updated: August 6, 2020

Yes, I know – we talked about ceramic coatings just the other week. We promise we’re not repeating ourselves, at least not until we’re safely ensconced in the Old Age Home for Recovering Gearheads. We’ll be in the wing where they keep folks who had an odd affinity for terrible ’90s GM cars.

Different than a ceramic coating, these simple polishes are a lot easier to apply, taking less effort and fewer steps. One still shouldn’t slap this stuff on their car in direct sunlight – that goes for all car washing steps, by the way – but it is certainly possible to spend a lazy afternoon treating your car to one of these polishes in the shade of a tree. Those with more motivation will get the job done far more quickly.

We’ll see you in the old age home.

1. Editor's Choice: Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze

This brand is familiar to anyone who’s ever been near a collector car show or the old Spike TV Powerblock of weekend programming. Its intent is to simply restore a deep shine to the car’s paint; think the ‘wet’ look that’s prized by some gearheads.

At just 16 fluid ounces, this isn’t the biggest bottle of polish in the world but should be more than enough to get you and your car through the summer. The label says it’s safe on all painted surfaces and, most importantly, does not dry white – a common carp about other wax and polish products.

Pros/Solid name, great reviews from 500+ buyers
Cons/Small(ish) bottle
Bottom Line/Take one to the next car show

2. Chemical Guys Butter Wet Wax

So you thought butter was just for your toast at breakfast, huh? The crew at Chemical Guys market this product as 100 percent carnauba-based wax, able to provide a deep wet look to any paintwork. They promote a special blend of polymer resins that enhance and protect your car’s color.

Carnauba wax creates a protective layer that repels water, explaining why a car with good polish doesn’t have water spots after a quite rinse at the U-Wash (pro tip: use those facilities carefully lest you simply end up paying five bucks for a paint scratching). To apply this ‘butter’, simply apply a thin coat to the paint surface using a good microfiber towel or foam applicator. Buff it off with a different microfiber towel … also available through the seller, of course.

 

Pros/Easy to apply, contains the word 'butter'
Cons/Doesn't contain any actual butter
Bottom Line/Over 3,200 gearheads can't be wrong

3. Carfidant Scratch and Swirl Remover

The too-cute name of Carfidant aside, this well-priced and highly-reviewed car polish seems to have won plenty of fans according to feedback provided by nearly 10,000 customers. This kit, which includes an applicator pad, alleges to fix light scratches or swirls so long as you pay attention and read the instructions.

In addition to removing swirls and scratches, this product is said to restore the gloss and shine of your car’s paint. The special rubbing compound will remove water spots, oxidation, and other contaminants. It’s easily buffed out by hand using the included buffer pad.

Pros/Causes small scratches to vanish, barrels of positive feedback
Cons/Only 8.4 oz size
Bottom Line/Made in America *waves flag*

4. Shine Armor Fortify Quick Coat

We covered this product in a previous list but it’s good enough to show again. At the time, it was said that I am generally suspicious of products marketing themselves as ‘all-in-one’, as this moniker generally means the stuff is good at everything but great at nothing. This remains, however so does the solid 4.4 out of 5-star rating.

The seller calls it a hydrophobic spray that provides a waterless wash, coat, and shine … all in one convenient product, of course. They assert that it also works as a sealer to give your vehicle a clear shield of protection while also providing a snazzy gloss.

Pros/One product to rule them all (maybe)
Cons/You'll need two bottles
Bottom Line/An all-day spray

5. Nu Finish 4-Piece Car Care Kit

If you’ve seen the Meguiar’s ads mentioned above, then you’ve definitely seen this stuff being hawked on television as well. Billed as the ‘Once-A-Year’ car polish, this kit includes a bottle of scratch removing solution, a container of car polish, and a pair of reusable microfiber cloths.

The company claims, as you may remember from the ads, that this product will safeguard your car’s finish even after 52 automatic car washes (therein lies the once-a-year claim). We’re less sure about the junked car to which they applied this stuff, though.

Pros/Been around forever, you won't lose this brightly colored bottle
Cons/Claims of messing up plastic surfaces
Bottom Line/Don't take your car through 52 automatic washes

6. Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Polish and Wax

You knew Turtle Wax was going to pop up on this list at some point, right? Given their longevity and expertise in the market, not doing so would be like leaving America out of the Top Ten places in which to get a burger.

This stuff will paint correct, polish, and wax your vehicle’s finish in one step. It removes swirls, scratches, and oxidation thanks to a Turtle Wax blend of polishing agents. Hydrophobic (such a great word) and other polymers provide an extreme water beading action, such that you might go for a drive in the rain just for the heck of it.

Pros/Extreme (extreme!) water beading, apparently has a nice odor
Cons/The conundrum of all-in-one
Bottom Line/It's Turtle Wax

7. Adam’s CS3 Clean, Shine, Protect

Adam’s Polishes have, in a relatively short amount of time, been able to work their way into the nation’s wash bays and detail centers. We highlighted this exact product on another list and feel it deserves a place here, too.

Here we have a polish that combines a waterless wash & car wax spray, coat and shine polish, and water-based ceramic coating hydrophobic spray all in one product. Infused with fancy-sounding ceramic nano-coating silica technology, it acts as a sealer and armor to create a shiny finish.

Pros/Safe on many surfaces (wheels, glass, chrome, metal)
Cons/Only a 12oz bottle
Bottom Line/Go for the 16oz bottle or gallon jug

8. Liqui Tech Finish First Auto Polish

Remember when car polishes used to be shipped in metal cans with a red stopper on top? If there were a prize for Most Retro Polish, at least in terms of container appearance, it’d be this stuff from Liqui Tech.

Unlike just about everything else on this list, the Finish First product actually contains no wax, silicone, or Teflon. It apparently works by laying down a tough polymer film onto the surface of the automotive paint, conferring a deep and rich gloss.

Pros/A pure polish without wax, actual replies from company reps in the comments
Cons/Don't mistake this can for your flask
Bottom Line/Promises dazzling results with 'minimal effort'

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Rental Reviews, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main Photo Credit: Vershinin89/Shutterstock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

14 Comments on “Shine Factory: Best Car Polishes...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Interesting review. It’s probably been over a decade since I’ve used car polish. It’s a big day when my vehicles get washed with a soapy sponge – maybe twice a year.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I use Lucas Slick Mist after every wash with a clean microfiber cloth. Takes 10 minutes and looks great. No fuss, no muss, no hard work and for some odd reason it smells like bubble gum :)

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      A similar product I use is Turtle Wax: Wax & Dry. You wash the car, spray this stuff on and just wipe off. It kills two birds with one stone – it adds some shine and slickness to the paint while your drying. Per YouTube the real deal is Turtle Wax Seal & Shine.

  • avatar
    aja8888

    You realize, I hope, that all any of these products are doing is shining up a top layer of urethane clear coat, which is a plastic. The “paint” is a couple of thousands of an inch under the clear and never sees any polishing material you care to apply. Good urethane coating, with UV protection in the compound it’s made of, is easily cleaned and a very tough material.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Well, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is with #3.

    I have some swirls and small blemishes I’d like to go away. I’ll let y’all know how it works.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    New cars have perfect paint (the best paint jobs in the world come out of mainstream OEM vehicle plants – without question) and don’t need any cleaning or maintenance of any kind during the original ownership period.

    Used cars are for unsuccessful poor insecure losers who have failed at life and have misplaced priorities (obviously). The paint sucks (without exception) and will never look good no matter what you do. Used implies crap – without exception – look it up. [Or ask Jay Leno.]

    So either way, you are wasting your time with any products like this.

    /S

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I don’t know how long you consider ownership from new, but these products do help keep the original paint looking good and keeps the paint from getting water spots when caught int he rain or what not. Why would you not want your paint to have a nice deep glossy shine to it all the time?

    For used, a little elbow grease can make those look great too.

  • avatar
    brn

    I’m not giving you guff for trying to make money off of the affiliate links. I get it. However, it seems you base your recommendations off of Amazon reviews. I can sort Amazon by review too (then buy at Autozone). It’d be great if you utilize some expertise in making the recommendations.

    Btw: NuFinish does amazing things to old cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Yankee

      I’m with you brn. I said the same thing about their “review” and “ranking” of ceramic coatings based on the ad copy off the package, and their even more absurd “review” and “ranking” of engine coolant ignoring applicability for individual cars. Watch this space for when they “review” and “rank” engine oil, ignoring viscosity and applications in favor of who sends them the nicest press pack. I love a lot of the stories on this site that no other outlet covers, and the rare rides stories that go into the history and production of oddball cars is top notch. But I don’t know why they can’t exist on clearly labeled advertising the way other sites do instead of writing the advertising themselves in these bogus “reviews.”

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I agree with both of you about these “reviews”, however it gives us all a chance to talk about our real world experiences with different products. That, to me, is worth it

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The most important way to protect your car’s paint is to use a good polymer sealant at least once a year. Keep your car clean and using any waterless car wash in a spray bottle will keep you vehicle shiny and showroom new. Just waxing a car is not enough to protect the clear coat sealant. If the paint is old and has not been maintained than yes I would probably use NuFinish but if you maintain your vehicles paint you don’t need any of these products just use poly sealant and a good spray car wax or waterless car wash with wax already in it. I have been maintaining cars for over 50 years and that is my experience. I have had vehicles over 20 years with their original paint that have sat outside and still look new with a glass and mirror like finish. Over the long run it is easier to maintain your car’s paint and a lot less expensive.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Any polymer sealant as long as it is a polymer sealant. You can find polymer sealants on Amazon. Polymer sealant is a particular variety of automotive sealant that is made up of synthetic ingredients, called polymers, in a liquid base that is applied to a car’s finish during detailing. Polymer sealants have polymeric base and may additionally contain fillers and pigments, resin and adhesion promoters, plasticizers, protective chemicals, and curing agents.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.