Getting a showroom finish on your vehicle isn’t as difficult as you might think. Whether you want to work by hand, or you have an electric buffer lying around, it doesn’t take much effort to learn how to wax a car.

Many of us spend a lot of time caring for our vehicles; it’s just in our blood. With that said, you don’t have to be like us to take care of the automotive paint. With a few simple tips about automotive wax, you can drive a vehicle that looks like it just came off the dealer lot.

Not only will it look fantastic, but you provide protection for the paint. You also help the vehicle maintain its resale value, which we all want.

Let’s look closer at the benefits of an automotive wax, how to wax a car and what products you should use.

Car Wax Benefits

Among the benefits, you can expect the following advantages after waxing your car.

  • Protection from Scratches: Carnauba wax is combined with other natural oils to create car wax. These ingredients produce a thin protective layer on the auto body. By applying these layers, you allow dirt to slide off of the car instead of getting ground into the paint and causing scratches.
  • Protection from Exposure: You expose your vehicle to weather elements, tree sap, ultraviolet rays, road salt, hail, snow and bird droppings every day. Not only do these aspects damage automotive paint, but they also allow for oxidation. By applying wax regularly, you protect the car body from this exposure.
  • Saves Money: If you need to have the paint redone, it can cost a lot of money. Depending on what needs to be done, an automotive paint job can range from $300 to $7,500. When you wax the car, you extend the life of the paint and avoid having to visit the auto body shop.
  • Increased Resale Value: When a vehicle is valued, estimators look at several factors, including the paint condition. Once the paint ages, fades or chips, you lose resale value. By keeping the car in its best shape, you ensure top-dollar for it when it comes time to sell.
  • Looks Good: You can’t overlook the style and appearance of a freshly waxed car. Even if you use a simple spray-on product, you still improve the shine of your vehicle.

When Should You Apply Car Wax?

There’s a right and wrong time to wax your car. Here are a few steps to ensure success.

  • Don’t wax in direct sunlight, but find a shaded spot instead.
  • Avoid waxing when temperatures are freezing.
  • Work indoors to avoid bird droppings, bugs and other airborne contaminants.

Best Type of Car Wax

You have a lot of options when it comes to picking a car wax. Some car-care kits come with wax, such as Meguiar’s G55146 All in One Essentials Car Care Kit, but you can select any type that works for you.

Spray wax is the easiest to apply, but you will want to make sure you shake the bottle completely before use.

A paste wax takes time to apply but provides some of the best results.

Liquid wax is the middle ground between the two. You have to put forth a medium-size effort and the results are better than a spray, but not quite as good as a paste. As with the spray, you will want to shake the bottle to ensure all of the ingredients are mixed.

Preparing for Car Wax

Before you can start applying the automotive wax, you need to prepare your car.

  1. Wash the car

Make sure you use lots of water and a high-quality wash to get rid of all of the grime and dirt. It’s also imperative that you remove all of the suds after washing. Then, towel dry your vehicle.

  1. Handle defects

It’s time to polish the surface of your car. Pay attention to the panels as you carefully remove previous layers of wax. If you notice any light scratches or swirls on the surface, you might require an aggressively abrasive product.

How to Wax a Car by Hand: Step-by-Step

Die-hard car enthusiasts often swear about the results created from hand waxing. This method does take some additional time but can be well worth the effort.

If you are using a spray wax, follow these steps.

  1. Shake the wax thoroughly.
  2. Spray the wax onto the car’s surface, one section at a time.
  3. Rub the wax in with a damp microfiber cloth. Be sure you take your time.
  4. Buff out any leftover product with the other side of your towel.

If you are using a paste or liquid, you will follow these steps instead.

  1. Apply a small amount of the product to your polishing pad.
  2. Buff the paint in a circular motion.
  3. Reapply as needed.
  4. Make sure you check all of the gaps and reflections. Walk around the vehicle and examine it from several angles to ensure you have removed all of the remaining wax.

How to Wax with a Buffer/Orbital: Step-by-Step

When you buff your vehicle with an orbital or electric buffer, you have to spend far less time getting the job done. However, you don’t want to undergo this technique if you aren’t familiar with the operation.

Buffers tend to work best on cars with flat, large panels. If you have a small car with undulations and numerous crevices, you are going to face a lot of challenges.

  1. Apply your wax onto the pad.
  2. Don’t turn the buffer on at first, but apply the wax by using large circular motions with the tool.
  3. Turn your machine on and allow it to glide across the car surface. Don’t apply much pressure.
  4. Continue to work in the same direction as the metal flows.
  5. When you’ve covered the car in wax, allow it to dry until it reaches a haze.
  6. Swap out the applicator for a microfiber cloth and start buffing out the leftover wax. Don’t buff in a circle or you will end up with swirl marks.

Car Wax FAQ

What kind of car wax should I use?

Aside from the various methods for application, you will find two forms of wax, Synthetic or Carnauba. The carnauba based wax comes from the Carnauba Palm tree leaves found in Brazil. It goes on the vehicle quickly and creates a clear layer of protection, but does fade with washings and heat. Synthetic waxes are even easier to apply but don’t often provide the same shine as carnauba.

How often should I wax my car?

It depends on the environment you live in and how you store the vehicle. If you live in a cool climate, don’t drive much or store the vehicle indoors, you might only need to wax once a year. Otherwise, you will likely want to wax three to four times a year, especially if you live in a warm environment.

What is the difference between a polish and wax?

Most people use the terms interchangeably, but there is a difference. Polish contains abrasives that polish out the paint to create a smooth finish. It will generate a gloss finish that you can’t get from a wax. Car wax, on the other hand, protects any area that’s been polished. You want to apply the wax after you finish polishing. We also talked about ceramic coating recently, which might be another step you can add to your car care routine.

Waxing your car is the most common and traditional way to apply a sealer to your paint and make it shine. But have you heard of ceramic coating? Check out our Ceramic Coating How To that explains what ceramic coating is, its benefits and how you apply it!