Waxing your car will help maintain the gleam of a fresh, shiny paint job, but what happens if this maintenance has been neglected? Well, over time, if a car is not waxed, the oils and other chemicals in the paint that give it that luster can evaporate if there is nothing to protect them from the harsh weather and sun.
If a car is not taken care of properly, the paint job will begin to look dull and unimpressive. It can also lead to oxidation, which is a step beyond a dull paint job. When this occurs, the paint will not only appear dull, but it will become cloudy and look almost as though it was colored with sidewalk chalk. Thankfully, there is a way to get rid of oxidation if it has not completely taken over your vehicle.
This will involve stripping away the offending layer of oxidation to reveal the preserved paint below, which is done using abrasive compounds. However, you don't want to just jump right in and start removing paint, as you can wind up taking off more than you intend. First and foremost, you're going to need to wash the vehicle to remove dirt and debris that could scratch the paint while you're trying to polish it.
Next, you will have to determine the type of paint that was used on your vehicle. There are two types of automotive paint - single stage and basecoat-clearcoat. Single stage paint is applied in one layer. The other type involves a basecoat being applied to the body of the car, followed by a clearcoat. The basecoat is typically dull and the clearcoat is used to give the color a good shine while protecting it at the same time. If your vehicle has the latter paint job, you will need to be extra careful when removing oxidation to avoid stripping off the clearcoat and exposing the basecoat. If you do this, there's no way to restore the shine without having the area repainted.
The level of oxidation your vehicle has should determine the level of abrasiveness you will need in a rubbing compound. If you are unsure what would work best for your vehicle, you can always ask one of the professionals at the auto parts store for advice. If your car is oxidized only in small areas or it is just dull, you will likely only need a mildly abrasive polish, whereas a vehicle with heavy oxidation will require a much stronger agent.
When you are applying the polish to remove oxidation, it is important to do so slowly. If you use a power buffer, you will have less control and risk removing too much paint. Using a buffing pad, work slowly and follow the contours of the body panels. Resist your urge to reenact the Karate Kid, as this can leave swirled patterns when you're done. After you have applied the rubbing compound to your vehicle, remove it in the same fashion as you put it on. Then you will want to polish the areas you worked on. Again, follow the same application process and take your time to ensure the work you're doing will pay off.
After you finish polishing the vehicle, you should wax it to seal in your hard work and protect the vehicle from further damage caused by the elements. A good rule of thumb is to wax your car every few months to prevent the paint job from fading, losing its luster and becoming oxidized.