How To Make Car Shine At Home? — [In 5 DIY Steps]

I understand that many people just don’t want to bring their favorite car to professional detailers since it takes a lot of time; it sometimes takes a few weeks. Waiting for so long doesn’t seem like a comfortable decision. 

Well, don’t worry. With a little bit of know-how, you can make your car look like it just rolled off the showroom floor. These are the steps involved in making your car shine at home.

  1. Wash your car thoroughly with the 2-bucket method via a pH-neutral car wash shampoo.
  2. Dry your car using an air dryer and/or microfiber towels without making water spots and streaks.
  3. Use a clay bar to draw out contaminants from your car’s paint.
  4. Polish your car to remove swirl marks, scratches, and imperfections using a dual-action polisher and polish or polishing compound.
  5. Apply a protection layer to the car’s surface using wax, paint sealant, or ceramic coating.

This is just a simple overview. And in this guide, I’m going to explain everything in detail. Read on to get my top tips, from washing your car to claying, waxing, polishing, etc. 

Supplies You Need To Make Your Car Shine

From washing the car to polishing to waxing, several phases are involved in the process. The tools required in each phase of the process are different. 

Therefore, I have decided to do things differently—the following are the tools needed for the process for each phase mentioned along with them.

Phase 1: Washing the Car.

  • 2 Buckets
  • 2 Grit Guards
  • A Wash Mitt
  • Ph Neutral Shampoo

Phase 2: Drying the Car.

  • Air Dryer
  • Large Microfiber Towel

Phase 3: Claying the Car Surface.

  • Clay Bar
  • Clay Bar Lubricant

Phase 4: Polishing the Car Surface.

  • Dual-action polishing kit

Phase 5: Applying a Protection Coat.

  • Wax protection/ Paint sealants/ Ceramic coating

Note: In phase 5, which is applying a protective coat, you can choose from three different products to use for the process; wax, sealants, or ceramic coating. I’ll tell you the difference below in detail, but for now, remember all three are different.

How to Make Car Shine At Home? Step-By-Step Guide

To achieve a shiny finish for your car at home, start by washing and drying it properly, then proceed with clay barring, polishing, and waxing the surface using the appropriate products. This is just a short summary; the following is the detailed process. 


Phase 1: Start With Washing Your Car.

I always start with washing my car with shampoo when making it shine. This ensures I have removed all the dirt, dust, and grime before moving further. This is how I wash my car. 

Park your car in a shady spot. I park my car in my garage to prevent the sun from quickly drying the shampoo and water. You can also use the tree shade for this purpose. 

Place the grit guards in the bottom of both buckets to keep the dirt and debris away from getting into the soapy water and wash mitts.

Fill both buckets with clean water, but mix shampoo in one. Add a few ounces of car pH-neutral wash shampoo to one bucket, creating a balanced, foamy solution. 

Wet the car with the hose. I always use clean, soft water to remove bulky, dried mud. DO NOT use hard water at all, as it leaves white spots on the paint once dried

Soak the wash mitt in shampooed water. Squeeze out the extra chunk of soapy water, but avoid drawing it out fully. 

Cover the exterior of your car with a soapy cleaning solution. I use the wash mitt in a circular motion, from the top of the car to the bottom. I cover all the crannies and nooks, including the wheels and tires.

Rinse the wash mitt often in a bucket of clean water. Use only the bucket filled with clean water. DO NOT rinse the wash mitt in the soapy solution as it will make it dirty. 

Rinse the car thoroughly with the hose or pressure washer at the end. This will help to get rid of any shampoo residue. If you don’t know about rinsing, learn to rinse your car at car wash.

NOTE: DO NOT use car wash brushes as they are bad for car paint. I always use wash mitts as they are softer and don’t leave any scratches or swirl marks on the paint.

Phase 2: Dry Your Car Appropriately After Washing It.

After washing your car thoroughly, the next step is drying it. You should follow these guidelines not to leave water spots and streaks in the end.

Use the air dryer to blow off any loose water from the car. I always focus on the areas where water is most likely to pool, such as the roof, hood, and trunk.

Utilize the microfiber towel to dry the car. Start at the top and work your way down, being sure to dry in the direction of the grain of the paint.

Change towels frequently. As the towel becomes wet, it will no longer be able to absorb as much water. This can lead to water spots, so be sure to change towels frequently.

Pay attention to the details. Don’t forget to dry the hard-to-reach areas, such as the headlights, taillights, door jambs, side mirrors, gaps between body panels, wheels, etc.

TIP: Avoid using a regular towel or cloth, as they can put scratches on the surface of your car. I always opt for microfiber towels or chamois cloths for the best results.

Phase 3: Apply Clay Bar Treatment While Being Gentle.

Clay barring, also known as claying, is a process for removing contaminants from the paint (such as iron particles, insect remains, tree sap, etc.) of your car that cannot be drawn out by only washing. 

Take a small portion of the clay bar and shape it into a size that feels comfortable to hold. Make sure it is manageable and easy to grip.

Apply the clay bar lubricant to the clay bar. I always be sure to spread the lubricant liberally to both sides of the clay bar.

Knead the clay bar to work the lubricant into it. This will help to make an even, smooth surface on the clay bar.

Start clay barring in a small section of the car. Work the clay bar in a circular motion, being sure to apply light pressure.

As you clay bar, inspect the clay bar for contaminants. If the clay bar becomes contaminated, fold it in half and knead it again.

TIP: One thing I forgot to tell you: be gentle. Clay barring can be abrasive, so be sure to use light pressure. If you put too much pressure, you can harm your car’s paint.

Continue clay barring until the entire car is covered. Be sure to pay attention to the hard-to-reach areas, such as the headlights, taillights, and wheels.

Rinse the car thoroughly with water to remove any remaining lubricant and contaminants. After that, dry your car the same way I have taught in the previous section.

NOTE: Clay barring is not restricted to the paintwork alone; I use it to tackle the imperfections on glass surfaces such as windshields. You can include the glass areas in your claying process.

Phase 4: Polish The Car/ Perform Paint Correction.

Paint polishing, also known as paint correction, removes scratches, swirl marks, and other defects from your car’s paint. It is a more aggressive process than washing and waxing, which can be done by hand or machine.

For now, I’ll be teaching you the process of machine polishing in this section. This is the most familiar kind of paint correction. It involves using a rotary or orbital polisher to remove the defects from the paint.

Considerations For Paint Correction:

The condition of your car’s paint. If your car’s paint is already in good condition, skip polishing your car. Opt for it only if there are a lot of swirl marks and scratches on the paint.

The type of paint on your car. Not all types of paint can be corrected. If your car has a matte finish, paint correction may not be a choice.

Suppose there are swirl marks and scratches on your car’s non-matte finished paint. In such a case, you should polish your car following these steps.

Apply a small amount of polish or polishing compound onto the polishing pad given on the dual-action polisher. Be sure to apply the polish evenly.

Couple the polishing pad with the dual-action polisher. Be sure to select the correct polishing pad for the type of polish you are using.

Start polishing in a small section of the car. Work the polisher in a circular motion. Always apply light pressure to avoid damaging the paint while getting excellent results.

NOTE: If the paint looks smooth and shiny, you can move on to the next section. If the paint still looks dull or hazy, you may need to apply more polish or use a different polishing pad.

Continue polishing until the entire car is covered. I suggest you pay special attention to the hard-to-reach areas, such as the headlights, taillights, and wheels.

Wipe away the polish once finished. Once you are finished polishing, wipe away any excess polish with a microfiber cloth.

Phase 5: Apply A Protection Layer To The Car Surface. 

Now that you’ve cleaned and dried your car after clay barring it, you can polish the surface to give it that extra shine. 

However, you should know the difference between wax protection, paint sealants, and ceramic coating. Although all are used for polishing the car, they are not the same. 

I have added this table to tell you their possible differences. Check it out and select one product that best matches your needs and requirements. 

Protection MethodEase of ApplicationLongevityShineRecommended Products
WaxModerateFew monthsGoodWax
Paint SealantEasyUp to 2 yearsHighPaint Sealant
Ceramic CoatingModerate to DifficultUp to 5 years or moreGood to HighCeramic Coating

Note: The application process for wax protection, paint sealants, and ceramic coating varies for each type of car protection. Each requires a specific application method and specific lessons to attain the best possible outcomes. 

Therefore, I suggest you conduct thorough research, take appropriate precautions, and follow all the steps, tips, and tricks for the chosen protection method. Remember that the steps may differ depending on the method you select, so proceed accordingly.

How To Polish Your Car By Hand?

Whether polishing my car by hand or rotatory polisher, I always start with collecting the needed supplies. If I’m polishing by hand, I need an applicator pad, compound and polish paste/liquid, and 2-3 microfiber towels. 

To polish my car with my hand, apply a polish dollop onto the car’s surface. Grab the applicator pad and use it to spread the polish. Always select a small section at a time. Continue buffing until the polish has turned to a clear film.

On tip: work the polishing compound into the paint in circular motions. Apply light pressure and avoid scrubbing too hard. However, with each section, wipe off the residue properly using a microfiber cloth.

Can I Use A Hair Conditioner Instead Of Wax?

Yes, one can use a hair conditioner instead of wax as a final step in making your car shine like glass. However, only if there is no wax available in your garage or any other protective compound, such as sealant or coating.

To use hair conditioner as a protection layer on your car instead of wax, get the following supplies within your reach first. 

  • Hair conditioner
  • A gallon-sized bucket
  • Two microfiber cloths

I’m considering you have washed your car. If not, see “Phase 1: Start With Washing Your Car.” to learn how to do so before proceeding to this final step. 

Once you have washed and dried your car, mix a 1/2 cup of hair conditioner with 2 cups of clean, soft water. 

Pick a microfiber cloth and buff the entire surface of your car following a circular motion. Rinse the car and dry it thoroughly with the other clean towel.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Make My Car Shine Without Polish?

If you want to make your car shine without using polish, you can try using a detailing spray or quick detailer to give your car a nice shine. Alternatively, you can use a ceramic coating to take care of the paint and magnify the shine.

What Can You Use As A Substitute For Car Polish?

You can use wax or sealant as a substitute for car polish. These products will assist you in protecting your car’s paint and give it a nice shine. 

You can also employ a clay bar to get rid of contaminants and smooth the surface before applying wax or sealant.

How Can I Make My Car Look Wet And Shiny?

Use a spray wax or quick detailer to make your car look wet and shiny. These products will add a nice shine and make your car look like it came out of the car wash.

Additionally, you can use a high-quality sealant or wax to safeguard your car’s paint and give it a deep, wet-looking shine.

What Do Car Dealers Put On Cars To Make Them Shine?

Car dealers often use various products to make cars shine, including polishes, waxes, and sealants. They may also use a glaze or detailing spray to enhance the shine and remove imperfections. 

The exact products used may vary depending on the dealership, but the goal is always to make the car look as shiny and new as possible.