Time Needed: 1.5-4 hours, Difficulty: Easy, Cost: $80-100 for a whole kit, $20-30 just for wax
Waxing a car is one of the ultimate displays of affection between automotive enthusiasts and their pride and joy. It separates the gearheads from the norms. And depending on the quality of the wax and its application, your vehicle could have a new-car shine for months. There are more benefits to waxing a vehicle than meets the eye, though, as wax protects a car’s paint from chipping, sun exposure, and debris.
Waxing your car can save you money in the long run because it’s less likely that you’ll need to get your vehicle repainted if you wax it. So, when it comes time to sell your car, a blemish-free paint job is going to command a higher asking price. Keep reading to find out how to wax your ride and we’ll set you up with everything you’ll need to complete the job.
Why Should I Wax My Car?
Those cars that pass by, the ones with shiny paint that give you a crick in your neck are most likely waxed. If you want your car to look as good as possible, waxing it is non-negotiable. Apart from enhancing your car’s aesthetics, it also increases its protection as your vehicle’s clear coat paint protects the paint under it, and waxing protects the clear coat.
Wax makes it more difficult for corrosive substances to dig in and cause damage to your vehicle’s body. If bugs and grime manage to latch onto the car, they’re much easier to remove if your ride is waxed. Otherwise, you’ll need to use a lot more elbow grease and run the risk of scratching the paint.
Worse yet, scratches and general paintwork wear and tear create one of the worst resale value gremlins: rust. So, when it comes time to sell your car, you’ll be able to command a higher price because its paintwork will be in fantastic condition. Waxing also helps to avoid any costly resprays.
Are All Car Waxes the Same?
No, all car waxes aren’t the same, and you have a wide range of types to choose from. The two most common types on offer are synthetic and natural waxes. Carnauba wax is a great option for anyone who wants extreme shine, whereas synthetic wax lasts longer and offers even more protection. The right type for you will depend on what you hope to achieve by waxing. Ceramic coatings are also becoming more popular in place of waxes, but we’ll discuss them in the FAQs section.
Once you choose a type, you’ll need to pick one of three forms: paste, liquid, and spray. Liquid and paste waxes perform quite evenly. Liquid wax is easier to apply and remove and is the only one to choose if you’re using an orbital buffer. If your car’s finish lacks luster, then a paste is probably the best option, as it will make the vehicle just a bit shinier. Sprays are easy to apply and remove but won’t leave your vehicle as shiny or protected and don’t last nearly as long.
Preparation for Waxing Your Car
It’s best to prepare your work space and gather all of the tools and equipment you’ll be using before you begin. This will keep you safe, keep your car safe, and lead to the best results popssible.
The Safety Brief
Waxing your car has to be one of the least inherently dangerous automotive DIY jobs there is. With that in mind, you’ll still be using substances that contain chemicals that you won’t want to have too much direct contact with. So to keep your hands and eyes safe, consider using a pair of gloves and safety glasses.
The Tools & Parts You Need
If possible, try to wax your car indoors but, if you must wax outdoors, do it on a relatively cold and cloudy day. If you apply wax in direct sunlight and the temperature is above 80-degrees-Fahrenheit, the wax can bake into your car’s paintwork and become hard to remove. Below is a list of the parts you’ll need to complete the job, including a few optional extras.
- Cleaning Sponge
- Car soap
- Isopropyl alcohol spray
- Wax paste
- Foam applicator pad
- Microfibre towel
- Liquid wax (optional)
- Spray wax (optional)
- Microfibre applicator pad (optional)
- Dual-action orbital polisher (optional)
- Foam polishing pad (optional)
The Job: How To Wax a Car
Let’s get into it.
1. Thoroughly clean your car.
Before you can start waxing, your car needs to be contaminant-free, and this means giving it a thorough wash. Start by mixing some car soap with warm water, soaking a sponge in the solution, and scrubbing off all the dirt from your vehicle. Once your vehicle is clean, leave it to dry completely or use a drying towel if you don’t want to wait around. For more information about how to clean a vehicle, read our guide How To Wash a Car by Hand.
If there are still some hard-to-remove contaminants in your vehicle’s paintwork, use a clay bar and lubricant to remove them.
2. Prepare the car’s paint.
Once your vehicle is dry, you can prepare its paintwork for the wax by using an isopropyl alcohol (IPA) spray. This solution removes any oil contaminants from the paintwork, like the oil your fingerprints would leave behind. Some people skip this step unless they polish the car before they wax it.
3. Apply wax to your applicator pad.
Although most waxes have the same general guidelines, read the specific instructions that come with the brand you use before applying it. Whether you choose to use a foam or microfiber applicator pad, the way you apply your wax is the same. If you’re using liquid wax, apply one or two nickel-sized blobs for every two-by-two-foot section you’ll cover. If you’re using a wax paste, apply roughly the same amount by dabbing the pad into the wax container. Make sure the pad is clean before you use it, and remember to clean it once you’re finished.
4. Apply the wax to your car.
There are two methods you can use to apply wax to your car. You can apply in a straight line or a circular motion with continuous vertical or horizontal movement. Whatever method you choose, you’ll only need to apply very light pressure to the pad. Don’t wax your car outside if it’s hot, and ideally, you would apply wax when it’s between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
People often make the mistake of digging the pad into the paintwork like they’re trying to scrub off grime, so don’t be one of those people. Wax your vehicle panel by panel and, once the pad starts to drag on the paint, add more wax. If a pad becomes saturated with paste, continue the job with a new clean pad.
5. Apply wax using a dual application orbital polisher.
Alternatively, you can wax your car using a dual application orbital polisher. If you opt for this method, you’ll need to use a foam polishing pad and liquid wax. Fit a pad that’s intended for waxing (extremely soft), and apply the liquid wax. The easiest way to apply the wax is to make a cross with it on the pad. Set the tool to its slowest speed, and remember to apply almost no pressure when waxing. Remember, let the pad do the work. Reapply the wax with the same frequency that you would if you were hand waxing.
6. Let the wax cure.
Before you can remove your freshly applied wax, you need to let it cure. A simple way to test whether your wax has set is by running your finger over it. If the wax smears, it’s not ready to be removed, but if there’s no smudge it’s time to move to the next step.
7. Remove the extra wax.
Once the wax has cured, you can remove any extra amounts. Use your softest and thickest microfiber towel to wipe the dried wax off. Similarly to when you applied the wax, only apply a slight amount of pressure when removing it. As the wax builds up on the towel, you might want to change it for a fresh one, especially when working on large vehicles.
8. Make it Last
Always use a PH-neutral soap when washing your car between waxes. This will extend the lifespan of the coat. If you want to further increase the wax’s longevity, and boost its gloss, you can use a quick detailer between waxes.
FAQs About Waxing Your Car
Based on data from the most popular search engines, forums, and the general car community, we’ve selected a few of the most popular questions to answer.
Q: When should I wax my car?
A: If you’re only going to wax your car twice per year, then choose to do it right before winter starts and right before summer. This will help protect it from the harsh winter weather and road debris, along with the intense direct sunlight and UV rays your paint endures through summer. If you have time to wax it more, like three to four times per year, then try to time it with the change of the seasons. If you use carnauba wax, you should apply it more frequently than synthetic wax.
Q: How long does car wax last?
A: There isn’t a set amount of time that car wax lasts, and manufacturers are reluctant to give a hard number. It will depend on the type of wax, product quality, application process, environment your vehicle lives in, and how you wash your car. So natural wax can last anywhere from four weeks up to five months, whereas synthetic waxes can last up to a few months longer. If you use a good-quality natural liquid or paste wax, and your car is garaged, it’s reasonable to expect it to last for four months.
Q: What’s the difference between wax and ceramic coatings?
A: A car wax and a ceramic coating are quite different. Ceramic-based protectants create a chemical bond with your car’s paint, unlike wax, which just sits on top of the paint. A wax coating will provide a shinier, warmer glow but won’t protect as well or last for as long as a ceramic coating.
Q: Can waxing your car ruin the paint?
A: Waxing a car by its very nature protects its paintwork. The only way you can ruin a car’s paint is by using the wrong product, like an abrasive wax, or by being too forceful with the orbital polisher. Overwaxing could cause issues with your paintwork, meaning if you apply too much wax, which might cause it to look cloudy.
Video Tutorial on Waxing a Car
If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like reading walls of text and would prefer to consume your information via video, we’ve got you covered. The team at Meguiar’s UK has put together a comprehensive video showing you how to properly wax your car. Meguiar’s has been around for decades, and they know what they’re talking about. They’ve also included some extra bits of information about polishing and detailing, which you can check out too.
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