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How-to Remove Paint Oxidation & Restore Your Car's Shine

Updated on August 14, 2013

The Sun Is Mean To Your Car's Paint And Clear Coat!

The purpose of this page is to explain how-to remove oxidation from your automobile's paint using a polishing compound. Paint oxidation is a common problem for all cars that are not regularly garaged or covered.

You can prevent severe paint damage from oxidation and exposure to the sun with regular care, including polishing and waxing. However, if your automobile's exterior is allowed to visibly deteriorate, you may need to use a heavy duty car polish (compound) to restore the finish and bring back the shine.

If You Think Your Car Is Dull & Faded... Watch This!

What To Expect

Oxidized paint can be restored up to a point. That point is largely based on the type of paint and the color.

An automobile with a clear coat paint finish can be restored up to the point that clear coat failure begins (blotchy white areas). On a traditional paint finish without a clear coat, you can restore the finish up to the point that the color coat weathers away and exposes the primer.

When either of these two situations occurs, the affected panels or the entire car will need to be repainted. Allowing your car's paint finish get to the point of clear coat failure is an expensive mistake.

Left unprotected and out in the elements, your car's paint will quickly oxidize. You won't notice the damage over a period of a month or two, but it's there. After a year in the elements without protection, your paint will be noticeably dull and rough.

Paint oxidation is not always the kiss of death. Light oxidation is easily removed through regular paint cleaning with a clay bar. Once the paint surface begins to dull and fade, you will need to clean away the dirt and oxidation with detailing clay and restore the shine by polishing. Heavy oxidation, recognizable by a completely dull, chalky surface, is likely beyond complete restoration. However, even heavily oxidized paint can be polished to bring back shine.

If you must park your vehicle outside, you can reduce oxidation with regular polishing and waxing, and by using a car cover.

What's The Condition Of Your Car's Paint Finish?

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Fixing Heavy Paint Oxidation

Start by cleaning. Are you ready to get your hands dirty?

The first step is to thoroughly wash your car with Dawn dish washing liquid and then use a clay bar to remove the bonded contamination and dead paint. As your car's paint oxidizes, small particles of the top layer of paint flake off. This "dead paint" and the grime that sticks to it needs to be removed.

A detailing clay bar is the fast and easy way to remove the dead paint and bonded contamination. You might as well use the least expensive detailing clay you can find, because it's going to be trash when you're finished with it.

If you're not familiar with clay bar detailing, you're not alone. The product has been around for decades, yet fewer than 10% of all car owners use it, even though it makes paint cleaning super easy. All you do is lubricate and rub.

Mothers and Meguiars have the two best clay bar kits. You can pay more if you want to, but it's all made in the same factory.

Now, Polish!

You can do this by hand, but a dual-action polisher makes the job easy!

The cleaning step was the easy part. Now the fun begins. You need to polish your car with two grades of polish. The first grade is a cutting polish, commonly called a compound. The second grade is a finishing polish. The products I recommend are shown below.

Meguiar's G17216 Ultimate Compound - 15.2 oz.
Meguiar's G17216 Ultimate Compound - 15.2 oz.

Meguiar's introduced this fine paint compound a couple years ago. It uses a micro-polish that works fast but won't scour paint like heavy rubbing compounds. It's clear coat safe! Follow this product with Klasse All-In-One for a beautiful finish.

Klasse All-In-One Polish and Sealant
Klasse All-In-One Polish and Sealant

This is one of my favorite car polishes. Don't take my word for it. Go read the reviews on Amazon! You can use it by hand or with an electric polisher to remove light to moderate oxidation. It is a very fine polish, paint cleaner and wax in one and it works great!


Remember The Red Mazda Miata Picture Above?

That was my neighbor's car.

A lot of people ask me if they can do this job by hand. The answer is "yes," but it won't be easy, fast or the best job possible. To use a micro-abrasive cutting polish, like Meguiar's Ultimate Compound, you really need to apply the polish with a dual-action car polisher.

I recommend the the Porter Cable 7424XP (my personal favorite). If you are not familiar with dual-action car polishers (very safe), see my Car How-to Use a Dual-Action Car Polisher guide (link takes you off Squidoo).

Do You Own Or Have You Used A Dual-Action Polisher?

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Watch How Easy It Is!

If you've never used a dual-action car polisher, you have nothing to be concerned about. They are very easy to use and 100% safe.

About The Images...

The images from this lens came from my car detailing blog.

When +David Bynon is not creating Squidoo Lenses, you can find him blogging on his website.

Sound Off! - Please sign my lens and tell me what you think!

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    • EdwardPhelan LM profile image

      EdwardPhelan LM 4 years ago

      I think its mostly red cars that fade with colour. I have a car that looks to have pink wing mirrors! Does this also work on the plastic parts too? Thanks, great lens!

    • autofanatic profile image

      autofanatic 4 years ago

      @cwilson360: Thanks for stopping by!

    • cwilson360 profile image

      cwilson360 4 years ago

      Great lens! Thanks

    • Legenden profile image

      Legenden 4 years ago

      Thanks for the tips.

    • LauraCarExpert profile image

      LauraCarExpert 4 years ago

      Awesome! Hit a pole and I was able to get the paint off thanks to this lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Informative lens !

    • wyzeguru profile image

      wyzeguru 5 years ago

      I keep my car in pristine condition, washing it with a woolen mitt avoids lots of the scratches you'd normally pick up whilst cleaning.

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 5 years ago from Kansas

      I just thought my car paint was faded. I need to try these products this spring when I detail my car.

    • samcuj71 profile image

      samcuj71 5 years ago

      Good Lens. I swear by a thorough wash and claybar.

    • profile image

      dellgirl 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this information on How-to Remove Paint Oxidation From Your Car itâs very helpful!

    • profile image

      newcarpaintprotection 5 years ago

      thanks for the great tips and info, really liked the video

    • autofanatic profile image

      autofanatic 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for dropping by, Tipi!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have not ever done this myself, but I have seen it done. Works well!

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 6 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Nice to know that there is 'hope' for an 'outside' car whose paint is oxidizing! Now if I can just find a place to work on it in an apartment complex! :)

    • WerewolfCustoms1 profile image

      WerewolfCustoms1 6 years ago

      I did have some cars in the past that were affected by paint oxidation. Never really bothered to fix them, since they were my 'work horses'. Now I have a 16 year old car, and the paintwork is like new. And, it's always parked outside - I'm too lazy to clean up my garage.

      I guess it really depends on the manufacturer and the materials they use making (painting) their cars. :)

      BTW, nice lens.