How To Eliminate Oxidation And Fading Of Auto Paint

Over time all automotive paint fades due to age and oxidation, which is caused by the sun’s ultra violet (UV) rays.   The paint will look dull, and not be as bright and shiny as it used to be.  You may not need a new paint job to get that luster and finish back if you follow the simple steps below.
You can do this job yourself in about 3-4 hours, and for a cost of around $40. for the materials, along with an extra approx. $35. for the purchase of a “Orbital Buffer”, if you don’t already have one, and get excellent results, bringing that shine back.
The purpose of this treatment is to gently cut through and remove a thin layer of the existing surface paint or clear coat if any remains, along with removing general debris, which will also dull the finish.  Keep in mind that there are numerous layers of clear coat and paint on a car, and the object is to remove only a thin top layer.  You cannot buff a car too many times before you remove all the paint.
NOTE: If the paint is gone completely and you are looking at the primer below, or surface rust, this treatment will not solve the problem. New paint may be required in these severe cases.

-Perfect It Rubbing Compound    3M brand   part # 06085 (This is a liquid that squeezes out from a plastic container, and is truly a professional product)
-Orbital Buffer   6” or 9” round   (Orbital Buffers not only spin around, but they also dip up and down as it rotates).
-Car wash solution or common dish soap.
-Water hose and clean rags. (Cotton rags are best, like old t-shirts).
-Orbital Buffer Bonnets, (4-6)  Terry Cloth material to fit your orbital buffer.
-Quart size trigger sprayer, or water hose.

-3M Perfect It Rubbing Compound     On Line at
-Orbital Buffer and Bonnets        O’Reilly’s Auto Parts or Hardware Stores

-Rubbing Compound :   approx. $37. Per quart (This is minimum size available)
-Orbital Buffer:   approx.  $35.
-Terry Cloth Bonnets:    approx.. $2. to $3. Each   (Some will be included with purchase of new buffer.)


  1. Temperature should be at least 55 degrees for this job. Wash your car and rinse well with clean water.  All debris and grit should be removed so the surface is smooth.  You do not have to tape off any chrome or glass unless you would like to, using common masking tape. This compound will not hurt any part of the cars exterior, but will only end up with compound on them which is easily washed off.
  2. Apply a Terry Cloth Bonnet to the buffer making sure it is on tight and pulled all around the edges. The bonnet surface that will be placed on the surface should be without wrinkles.  Test run the buffer so you have an idea of the torque involved and what motions to expect. “Hold on tight”.
  3. Apply approximately 1 to 2 tablespoons of compound directly onto the bonnet with the buffer turned off.  The bonnet does not have to be covered in full with the compound, but dabbed in a uniform way. In other words, don’t put it all on one side.
  4. Only work a maximum area of 2 feet x 2 feet at a time, so pick the area you want to work on first. It is wise to pick an inconspicuous area first to test your skills and also get a good idea of how thick or thin your paint is on the car. (Keep in mind the paint will usually be thinner on top surfaces, like trunk, hood and roof).
  5. Place the buffer in the center of the area you will be working on. DO NOT TURN THE BUFFER ON until it is placed firmly in position on the car, otherwise the compound will spin and shoot the compound on the bonnet into the air, and possibly in your eyes. (Safety Glasses are suggested in any event).
  6. For areas such as painted side mirrors, edges of vinyl bumper covers and spoilers, it is suggested to do these areas by hand. Circular motion with small amounts of compound on a clean soft cloth will do the job.
  7. Turn the buffer on “only” while firmly pressed onto the car in the center of your work area. The object is to work the compound gradually from the center of the section and then moving outward.   As you see the compound dry, reduce pressure.  It “will” take a little while to get used to the action of the buffer and what to expect.  NEVER leave the buffer in the same place for more than a few seconds at a time. It should “always” be kept moving.  Take SPECIAL CARE while running the buffer along edges or body lines. Avoid those areas or just run the buffer over them with very quick passes. Leaving the buffer sitting too long on an edge, or any spot for that matter, which could be just a matter of a few seconds, can burn right through the paint. There is a “developed touch” for buffing, and it requires constant focus. NOTE: If after you start buffing, you start to see underlying primer, or the paint becoming too thin, you may want not to move forward and take the chance of removing the little paint that remains.
  8. After you have worked a section and you do not see the white compound being spread any longer, and looking dry and caking up,  it’s time to TURN THE BUFFER OFF WHILE IT IS STILL PRESSED ON THE CAR.  If you turn it off after removed from the car the compound and debris will spin off into the air.
  9. Apply more compound as needed to the bonnet, using no more than 2 tablespoons at a time. You will notice the terry cloth bonnet may be picking up the paint color and become flattened and dirty as you go along. Using your judgment, when you feel the terry cloth bonnet is not doing its job, then it’s time to replace it.
  10. To view your work, wet it down using your trigger sprayer filled with clean water or use a water hose, and wipe that section dry. Your eyes will tell you if you missed any areas.  You should be looking at a shiny smooth surface, with exception of possible light swirl marks or left over compound.
  11. To remove swirl marks or left over compound, which are most noticed on black or very dark finishes, you can usually rub them out by hand using a dry cotton cloth.  You can also purchase another compound from 3M, which is called Swirl Remover, and can be applied with the same buffer, but you would use different bonnets, which are made of soft foam.
  12. If you are happy with the finish, “gently” wash the car again, using a very weak soap solution and soft cloths.  Keep in mind that the compound will still be soft for a time, and rubbing too hard on the finish can cause uneven marks.

Interesting Facts:

  1. To help prevent oxidation in the future, wax your car often using waxes that provide UV protection.
  2. Oxidation is most prominent in sunny states like Arizona for instance, where the sun is very strong.
  3. Factory paint jobs in the US usually have 2-3 coats of paint and then 2-3 coats of clear coat. Custom expensive paint jobs may have as many as 5 or more coats of paint and clear on them.