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How-To Polish and Care for Carbon Fiber?

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Although carbon fiber on vehicles can be considered as exotic materials, they fortunately do not require exotic maintenance tools, products, or techniques to keep them looking their best!

For the most part, you can and should care for your carbon fiber components no differently than you do your painted surfaces. You wash them the same as you would paint, you can polish them to remove swirls and increase gloss, and you can wax and seal them just the same as well.

With the majority of carbon fiber that I have worked with, I have generally found the clear coat on them to be a bit on the soft side. Given this, I will always start with the least aggressive method and work my way up as necessary to achieve the desired results.

Since aftermarket carbon fiber hoods are probably the most common items available, I’ll use that as an example of how to care for them. For regular maintenance, wash and dry as you would the rest of the vehicle, and apply your wax or sealant of choice. Several times per year (especially in the northern states), you will want to use a clay bar to remove embedded contaminants…just as you would with the rest of the car. And when you want to polish by machine to remove swirls and/or restore gloss and clarity, then I would recommend using finer grade polishes such as Menzerna 106FA or Meguiars M205 and lighter polishing pads such as a Black, White, or Tangerine Lake Country pad.

Below is an example of carbon fiber that was heavily swirled with holograms (most likely from the factory since the car only had 800 miles on it!). This was on a Ferrari F430 Scuderia that has a lot of carbon fiber on the car. When I did my initial inspection on the interior of the car, I quickly noticed that the CF door panels were a bit hazy, and when I shined my lights on them I saw just how bad they were. With a few quick steps however, I was able to bring the color and gloss of the carbon fiber to a whole new level and it looked absolutely stunning when I was finished.

Take a look at how bad the swirls, haze, and holograms were before:

Ferrari F430 Scuderia carbon fiber swirls, haze and holograms

First I thoroughly cleaned the surface area using a spray bottle with Optimum No Rinse, and dried it off. Then I taped off all trim and mounting hardware. When it was ready, I chose Meguiars M205 with a 4″ Tangerine Hydro-Tech pad (cuts better than white, but finishes down almost as good as black), and used my Porter Cable 7424XP D/A polisher. The main reason I chose the PC over my Makita rotary is because it is smaller and easier to work with in tight areas. After just one pass, this combination was able to remove probably 95% of all defects, and I immediately noticed a big difference in the color with all of the hazing safely removed.

Ferrari F430 Scuderia carbon fiber polishing

After one pass of polish, but before applying a sealant:

Ferrari F430 Scuderia carbon fiber after polishing

After polishing I wiped it down with Meguiars M34 Final Inspection to remove all of the residue from the polish, and then topped it off with Blackfire’s Wet Diamond sealant. This added even more gloss along with a layer of durable protection as well.

Ferrari F430 Scuderia carbon fiber with Blackfire Wet Diamond sealant

Ferrari F430 Scuderia carbon fiber after polish and sealant

So the moral of the story here is to not be afraid to care for and polish your carbon fiber…it needs love just like the paint on your car does! Just be gentle with it, no harsh chemicals, and use fine grade polishes and pads when performing defect removal.

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Todd Cooperider Esoteric Auto Detail
Todd Cooperider
Esoteric Auto Detail
Columbus, Ohio
EsotericDetail.com

18 comments on How-To Polish and Care for Carbon Fiber?

  1. Very nice work sir. You write up is very informative and fluid.

  2. clicks says:

    Nice article!

  3. Yoosof says:

    Thanks so much for your time documenting this! Its nice to know that almost every question you can have regarding polishing has been covered here already!

  4. FasLayne says:

    i’m definitely referring this one!

  5. Nathan Hoekzema says:

    Great read! I was doing a little engine bay work and used the p21s APC on the CF and found it left a little streaking. I’ll try the ONR instead.

    Thanks for backing my plans for a BFWD coat after the cleaning. I don’t need any polish on these parts, but a good layer of gloss and protection will be perfect!

  6. Luke Steffy says:

    Nice, I mean nice. I bought a car with a carbon fiber hood and I am afraid to screw it up. Now for my sigh of relief….. Just awesome work man. I am truly jealous and I will use your advise. Thanks a bunch. Luke- Medford Oregon

  7. [...] part integrity. Thanks for your time everyone! -Faraz Lots of detail here (pardon the pun): http://www.detailedimage.com/Ask-a-P…-carbon-fiber/ try all of this, or Windex __________________ Case 2011 E350 Sport 4MATIC-Black 2009 AMG [...]

  8. Garrett luckett IOWA says:

    Awesome article, I have a 91 toyota mr2 with a bunch of custom parts and a cf hood and after reading this article itll help me out alot! Hood has some sun damage.

    Thank you Todd

  9. SPIRO VELLA says:

    My CF hood has two spots about 12″ Dia. that have lost the shine and there are also some small cracks that are visible. I am hoping that the cracks are actually in the clear coat, what do you think?
    What can I do to restore this hood?. Thank you, Take care

  10. oshogtdio says:

    Thank u very much,very important, nd useful information

  11. Egor Reynolds says:

    I just got a CF part, and i am afraid to leave the car in the sun, i heard that sun makes CF turn yellow and ugly in just few months, now what can i do to actually Prevent it from happening othen that covering it away. Will this article apply for the protection of it, or there is something special?

  12. JMotoRev says:

    I have a few carbon fiber pieces on my 2012 Suzuki GSXR1000. I have a few area on my carbon Fiber exhaust that are faded. or “yellowed” I wondering what you would recommend to clear that up and make is look better. I’m afraid that polish is just not enough. I also think that because it is an exhaust piece this cooks the carbon and clear coat.

    Anyway I would love to hear your advice

  13. matt molina says:

    Yes, thank you for this write up. This will help inthe fiture. I have one question that i hope you can answer : to make a long story short. I had a cousin wash and wax my car and he used turtle wax rubbing compound on my vis racing cf hood instead of wax and it dried up quicker than he could remove it so now its hazy and you could see the streaks and circular motions and i was wonderi.gif there was any way of restoring it back to normal? Thanks in advance.

  14. [...] is to make them look better than new.Actually looking forward to my stuff fading a bit to try this, How-To Polish and Care for Carbon Fiber? | Ask a Pro Blog __________________ 04 ST4s Termi CF Cans(ECU soon) Sargent Seat Lowered pegs Zero Gravity [...]

  15. D. Gandy says:

    This was a very informative article. I had a car detailing business throughout high school and college, and have always tried keeping up with the best detailing methods to ensure proper care for my vehicles. My Ferrari 360, BMW M6 and NSX all have exposed clear-coat carbon fiber surfaces, and I have been using a mild car wash soap, then drying with a blower and finally orbital polishing with Liquid Glass. I have been happy with the results, but wasn’t achieving the same level you are getting. Your explanation and accompanying pics have helped move me to the next level, and I will definitely share the info with my friends. Thanks again!

  16. […] see why not,here's a link to refreshing them, How-To Polish and Care for Carbon Fiber? | Ask a Pro Blog __________________ 04 ST4s Termi CF Cans(ECU soon) Sargent Seat Lowered pegs Zero Gravity […]

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