Best Metal Polishes: Make Your Car Shine
Lacklustre metal details got you down? Check out our picks for making them shine
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BY Katherine Rother / LAST UPDATED ON June 27, 2019
Keeping your car looking great is probably at the top of your vehicle maintenance list. To do that, you know that your car needs regular washing and waxing, and you’ve probably heard about the wonders that polish can do for your chrome details. Read on for everything you need to know about this inexpensive and easy-to-use product, and find the best metal polish for your needs.
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Benefits of Metal Polish
- Aesthetics. The simple and straightforward answer to why you need metal polish is that it makes your car look good. All the chrome and metal parts on your car need to be taken care of as well. Metal polish lets you do just that.
- Maintenance. As part of your car maintenance routine, you should include a regular polishing of all chrome and metal parts. That not only helps them (and your car) look their best but will also aid in keeping everything in good condition.
- Restoration. If your car’s details are already looking a little worn, fear not. Certain types of metal polish have restorative properties that will help buff out the signs of wear on metal parts, helping them to look new again.
- Resale value. This one almost goes without saying, but keeping your car in excellent condition overall will retain the maximum resale value for as long as possible. That will come in handy when you’re looking to trade up down the line.
Types of Metal Polish
Restorative metal polishes contain higher levels of abrasives, which help to restore the surface of the metal you’re polishing. Best for worn, rusted, or pitted metal and chrome details, this type of metal polish is a real life-saver for metal parts that have lost their lustre.
A milder type of metal polish, polishing products tend to require a bit more elbow grease to use. They are, however, mild enough to use regularly without damaging the surface of whatever metal parts you’re using them on. They won’t restore metal parts, but they are ideal for keeping the lustre alive and well.
Based in Cleburne, Texas, Blue Magic has been around for more than 50 years, formulating and manufacturing high-quality automotive repair products. Its big lineup includes metal polishes, which are some of the best on the market. Top sellers include the MTL Polish Cream.
Founded in 1995, Mothers is based in beautiful southern California. The company is one of the biggest manufacturers of polishes, waxes, and cleaners for automotive uses. Among its bestselling items are the Mag & Aluminum Polish and the Billet Metal Polish.
Chemical Guys is a popular brand thanks to their heavy-duty formulations that are also eco-friendly. Based in Gardena, California, Chemical Guys has been around for over 50 years, perfecting polishing products. Its bestseller is the Heavy Metal Polish Restorer and Protectant.
Metal Polish Pricing
- Under $10: You’ll find a lot of basic metal polishes at this price point, some of which will be decent to good quality, and others which will be of poor quality. In this price range, it’s important to be on the lookout for the quality of the formulation, as bad additives can be damaging.
- $10-$20: In the mid-range, you’ll find a number of great products that will take care of your metal polishing needs. There are still some differences between brands in terms of quality of the formulation, but most will get the job done.
- Over $20: If you’re looking for the best of the best, this price range will deliver. Quality will be high, eco-friendliness is often considered, and toxic additives are left to the wayside. That being said, a couple of products can be overpriced for what they are, so watch out for hype.
The strength of the polish corresponds to the number of abrasives in the formulation. Higher grits are better for restoring rusted and pitted metal parts, whereas lower grit is ideal for upkeep. You can also switch between the two as your needs change, starting off with the higher abrasive polish to restore your metal parts and then switching to the milder formulation to keep things lustreful.
A major point to keep in mind is the formulation itself. Generally, metal polishes come in one of two forms: as a viscous, wax-like product or a runny, watery one. The thicker, paste-like formulation is easier to use, as it doesn’t drip down or runoff, helping to get the product right where you need it.
A number of products have formulations that will offer some degree of long-term protection. Metal polishes do this by building up a layer over several applications, which works to block grime and dirt, and may help prevent pitting. Through this, the metal will also maintain its shine over long periods of time.
- Eco-Friendly: All metal polishes are chemical products, but some contain more harmful ingredients than others. If eco-friendliness is an important factor for you, watch out for petroleum-based products, which both smell strangely and aren’t great for the environment.
- Multiple Application: Some metal polishes can be used on other surfaces as well. These can include porcelain, wheels, and even silver. If a multi-use product appeals to you, check the label for all recommended use cases.
- Packaging Size: If you’ve got lots of metal to polish, you’ll want a bigger bottle or tub of product. But keep in mind that some polishes tend to wear down once opened, so don’t buy too much at once.
- Quality: Metal polishes contain abrasives that could potentially damage your vehicle if they’re too coarse. Watch out for poor quality metal polishes, which could end up doing more harm than good to your vehicle.
Best Metal Polish Reviews & Recommendations 2020
- Make sure you wash your car properly before polishing any metal details. This will ensure a superb finished lustre, as well as protection from damage, as dirt and grime can cause harm to the finish.
- Paste-like metal polish formulations are easiest to use since you can easily control the movement of the product.
- Apply metal polishing in small circular strokes for an even finish, and always use a clean cloth or applicator to avoid damage.
- For polishing first-timers, remember that a little product goes a long way. Also, keep in mind that the final results depend a lot on both your elbow grease and the product itself, so keep at it.
- Rusting, pitting, and other damage can be restored using a heavy duty polishing solution. Apply it with a power tool for best results, and seal it up with a protecting polish when you’re done.
Q: What’s the best way to polish chrome details?
A: The first step in any polishing routine should always be a thorough wash and dry. This will remove any built-up dirt and grime, making space for the metal polish to do its work. Next up, apply your choice of metal polish to a microfiber cloth or sponge. With a little elbow grease, work in the product until the level of lustre you desire is achieved. That’s it!
Q: Can I use metal polish to restore the shine of a chrome exhaust pipe?
A: The short answer is yes! Since a chrome exhaust is a metal detail just like any other, you can use the same steps we detailed above to restore the pipe’s lustre. Keep in mind that exhaust pipes do get hot, so make sure that it’s cool to the touch before beginning the wash, dry, and polish routine to avoid injury and unflattering results.
Q: How often can I polish my metal details?
A: We recommend about twice a year, but you can do it a little more frequently, provided you’re using a high-quality, mild metal polish. Anything with a high grit can damage the finish with repeated use.
Q: Can I use a polishing tool to shine up chrome and aluminum details?
A: You can use any application method you desire to polish up chrome and aluminum details, although power tools are best used in extreme cases to restore the finish using heavy-duty polishes. If you’re wanting to do some upkeep polishing, we recommend skipping the power tools or being extra gentle while using them to avoid over-polishing.
Our top pick is the Chemical Guys Heavy Metal Polish Restorer. It does an excellent job at restoring rusted and worn metal components without too much of a hassle.
If you’re looking for our most wallet-friendly option, check out the Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish. It does the trick at half the price.