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Washing and waxing the finish on your classic musclecar is a regular part of maintaining a quality finish. For the best results, professionals use a machine to buff away imperfections in paint for a uniform polished finish.

You can buff your car on your own at home, but remember that there’s more to a good buff job than just rubbing some polish around. If you do it incorrectly, you could cause lasting damage to your classic car’s finish. The following tips will help you do it right.

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Do: Get the Car Clean

If you haven’t washed your ride, don’t even think about buffing. Buffing works by heating the paint to allow the clear coat to spread into scratches and imperfections. If there is dirt in the paint during this process, it will stay there forever.

Do: Have an Electric Buffer

You can buff a car by hand, technically, but it won’t have the same results as buffing with a machine. Using the machine allows you to get the finish warmer and buff more evenly. Pros use hi-speed buffers that can be difficult if you’re not well practiced, but you can use a bit on your cordless drill or a prosumer orbital buffer that should strike a nice balance of power and usability.

Don’t: Overuse the Edges

The pad on your buffer spins more quickly toward the edges, which causes them to heat up faster than the rest of the material. If you leave the edge of the buffer in contact with your classic’s finish for too long, you could burn it.

Don’t: Use Aggressive Compound on Dark Colors

Some of the factory paints on classic musclecars were extremely high quality. Whether you’ve got original paint or you’ve spent the money for a quality re-spray, it’s important to use the right polishing compound for your color. Only use aggressive compounds on lighter colors, as they could cause swirling on darker ones.

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Do: Apply Pressure

This is one of the mistakes rookies often make. If you don’t apply some force to the buffer, it won’t polish your finish effectively. Don’t overdo it and burn your finish, but if you think the compound works by magic, you’re going to be disappointed.

Now that you’ve effectively buffed your car, apply a coat of wax to feed the freshly buffed clear coat and pat yourself on the back. If you keep good wax on your musclecar every few weeks, you should only have to get the buffer out about once a year.