In today’s market, there are so many different products available to help keep the exterior of your car looking shiny and new! But for the average consumer, it may be difficult to figure out how to you’re your car looking this way.
I get asked all the time “ How to make a car shine at home ? “
I will explain the many ways to make your car shine at home, but for the most part we will focus on waxes and polishes. By the end of the article, you will be well educated on the various types of ways to make your car shine like new!
Purpose of Waxing a car
This is a good question to start out with. What is the purpose of waxing a car ?
Well, I would say, think of your cars paint job like you do about your own skin. Would you go outside all summer long without wearing any sunscreen? Of course not!
Cleaning and waxing your car’s paint surface is just as important as doing regular oil changes and maintenance to your car or truck.
Some people claim that there is no need to wax your car/truck because of the improvements in clear coat technology (the clear coat applied by the automakers over top of your paint job). While the technology HAS improved a lot over the years, it is still VERY important to wax your car on a regular basis.
Waxing your car provides a thin layer of wax on top of the clear coat finish that helps protect the clear coat from damage caused by the sun, and everyday driving conditions (including bugs, bird poop, tree sap, tar, salty sea air , rain, snow, road salt, sand, and grit). This thin layer is somewhat of a ‘sacrificial’ layer of protection so that the clear coat keeps its glossy, shiny appearance.
In the video above, the crew at Chemical Guys explain why it is so important to wax your car. They also give a brief demonstration of how to wax your car using one of their newer Hybrid cream waxes.
Should you wax a brand new car
Back in the 1980’s there was a very common popular belief that you should never wax a brand new car. This idea became popular when it was discovered that sometimes the paint used to paint new automobiles would not fully cure until sometimes a few months after a vehicle was purchased from a dealership.
Many believed that waxing the car too soon (before the inner layers of paint could fully cure) would cause damage to the exterior paint finish itself.
This same theory has been long debunked, as advances in technology have allowed automakers to paint cars/trucks and the paint is fully cured even before the clear coat is applied over the paint.
So, based on the information above, I would say that this theory has done a full 180 degree turn.
“ Should you wax a brand new car ?”
When should you first wax a new car
The answer to the question “ When should you first wax a new car ?” is not the same answer as it was 38 years ago
Well, we explained in the above paragraphs that the whole theory about waiting to wax a new car for the first time is no longer valid. .
We also mentioned, at the beginning of the article, why waxing your car/truck is so important – to help protect the paint and clear coat finish from daily weather & road hazards.
That all being said, ideally, a new car or truck should be waxed as soon as possible after purchase to help protect the paint and clear coat finish from the hazards of daily driving.
How often should I wax my car
The question “ How often should I wax my car ?” is a very good one to ask, and there are many variables that will determine the proper answer for this question.
The following questions will help determine how often you should wax your car:
- Where do you live? An automobile in very warm places like Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico would need to be waxed more often than one in a state with much milder weather like Kansas or Missouri. The same can be said for cold wintery climates like Montana, North Dakota, and Michigan.
- Is your car/truck parked outside in the sun for the majority of the daytime, or do you have covered parking at home & work? In the hotter climates, the sun can do a LOT of damage to your automobile’s paint if you do not have covered parking (and don’t wax t enough).
- What color is your car’s paint? Darker paint colors will absorb more heat than the lighter colors will. Therefore, the darker colors need to be better protected.
- What types of driving conditions does your automobile encounter on a daily basis? Do you drive your car/truck in the winter often? and does your state use road salts to help melt ice on the roads? These types of road salts are brutal on a car’s exterior finish. Dirty, gritty, snowy roads also wreak havoc on the paint job & clear coat from all the splatter as you drive through it. Another item to consider here – dirt/gravel roads. Dirt/gravel roads will be harder on your car’s painted surface as well.
Considering all these areas of concern, the answer to “ How often should I was my car ?” will vary depending on where you live.
A good rule of thumb is as follows:
- If you live in a hot summer climate like in Arizona, Nevada, etc – you should wax you car at LEAST every 3 months to properly protect the paint & clear coat finish. NOTE: IF you have a darker colored car/truck and/or you park in uncovered areas often, then I would recommend waxing at LEAST every two months
- If you live in a milder climate, such as the case in states like Missouri, Arkansas, etc – I would recommend that you still wax your car twice a year
- Winter diving can be very damaging to the exterior paint & clear coat finishes, so I would recommend a good waxing 3 times a year, with the most importantly timed one being right in the fall before winter.
I know that waxing a car every two months sounds ridiculous to some, but I have spent time in Arizona over the past 5-10 years, and I have seen many dark colored cars with TONS of paint & clear coat damage. These cars were obviously not waxed enough accordingly to help protect the paint/clear coat, based on their driving conditions.
One thing I saw in a LOT of places in Phoenix and their surrounding communities was parking lots with covered parking spots in most of the lots I saw. The sun there is so strong during the 8-ish hot months of the year – the vehicles really need the protection from the sun to help prevent damages to the car’s finishes.
Can you wax your car too much
“ Can you wax your car too much ?” – Man, this is one question I get a good laugh out of when hearing people discuss this.
I hear a lot of differing opinions on this issue. Some people say that waxing too much will leave a wax buildup on your cars paint surface.
I also hear from some that “waxing too often creates a haze over the painted/clear coated surface”
The honest answer to this question is “No”. You cannot wax your car too much!
The only negative effects from waxing your car more often than the suggested guidelines I mentioned in the pages above are:
- You would be using more product (wax, buffer pads, etc) than you really NEED to be, and
- IF you do not properly buff/clean up (after applying the wax to the car), then you MAY see some wax residue leftover. But that would be the same for if you waxed it once and didn’t buff and clean up the applied wax.
NOTE: you can find out more information about waxing a car in my other article HERE, where I explain how to wax your car by hand, and with an electric buffer.
Should I wax or polish my car
A lot of people commonly interchange the terms ‘waxing’ and ‘polishing’ when it comes to detailing the exterior paint and clear coat finish on their car/truck.
Polishing a car is the process of applying a polishing compound to the exterior paint/clear coat finish (usually with a power polisher tool) to help remove excess dirt, grime, and smooth out the appearance of the painted finish of the vehicle.
The power polishing tool will help apply the polishing compound a lot better than trying to do it by hand, because the goal here is to heat up the clear coat finish to the point where it becomes slightly viscous.
Getting the clear coat heated up to this point, allows for the clear coat to smoothly spread and cover any damaged areas of the nearby clear coat (fills in swirls, scratches, and other clear coat damage). After doing this to the automobile, the visible painted/clear coat finish will be a lot smoother and (after a good cleaning) will be ready for a good waxing to preserve the fresh new finish.
NOTE: If you plan on trying this at home, please be very careful and start with the least visible part of your cars exterior painted finish. Using a power polisher takes a little getting used to, so you want to apply it every evenly with the surface of the pad and not to overheat the clear coat.
You can check out my other article HERE where I will go into a lot more detail about how to do this.
So, the act of polishing a car is to pre-prep the cars painted/clear coat finish BEFORE applying a coat of wax to protect it.
Waxing a car, as discussed many times above, is done to PROTECT the exterior painted surface of your car.
Is it necessary to polish a car before waxing
It is not absolutely necessary to polish a car before waxing.
However, giving a car a good polish before waxing, helps bring out the best finish of the paint and clear coat when the waxing stage is complete.
If you have a brand new car, then there should not be any need for polishing before applying a coat of wax. But for any car 6 months old, or older, I would strongly recommend polishing the car before starting the waxing process.
How often should I polish my car
If you live in an area where your car is not subjected to long term hot sun exposure (the hotter states like Arizona, etc) or extreme winter driving conditions (like in Michigan, or Montana, or even up in Canada), then polishing your car once a year would be a good plan – right before applying wax.
If your car IS subject to hot sun exposure or harsh winter road conditions, then polishing your car twice a year (before waxing) would be my personal recommendation. The same would apply to someone who travels often on dirt/gravel roads – twice a year.
This is entirely up to you to decide how often you would like to do this. It is not a necessary step to protecting your car’s paint and clear coat, but it sure helps noticeably improve the finished results (after waxing).
NOTE: For darker colored cars – I would recommend polishing more often than with a lighter colored car, since swirl marks often will show up on these colors much more often than with the light colored ones.
Synthetic wax vs Carnauba wax
There are generally two types of car waxes made today:
- Natural Wax – which is usually wax made from Carnauba, which according to Wikipedia , comes from the leaves of certain palm trees in Brazil
- Synthetic Wax – this is a chemically formulated type of car wax product that is made for polymers
The Carnauba was has long been a favorite of the car community for the amazing results that it leaves when done properly.
Using Carnauba wax and a good buffer will leave your cars paint looking ultra shiny and give the paint a nice ‘deep’ mirror finish to it.
Meanwhile, a synthetic wax doesn’t quite leave your car with the same results that a good Carnauba wax job will.
BUT, the synthetic wax WILL last longer than the Carnauba waxes do.
I think it comes down to personal preference and the amount of time that you want to spend on polishing/waxing to protect your car’s paint and clear coat.
IF you don’t have the time to wax your car every month?? Try using a synthetic wax and you might find it protects long enough where you only have to apply it twice a year.
If you want that deep, mirror-like, wet look to your paint job – then I would highly recommend using a Carnauba wax and a good power buffer. You wont get that same finish with most synthetic waxes.
How long does carnauba wax last
Well, that depends if you are asking about it’s shelf life, or about how long it will last in good shape on your car (before it needs to be re-done).
As I explained above, a good carnauba wax will last anywhere from two months (in hot climates) to 6-8 months in much milder climates. You can check out the section above in this article where I go into more detail about how often you should re-apply wax on your car/truck.
As for the shelf life, Carnauba wax will last up to 5 years if stored in a cool, dark place that isn’t too dry. In hot and dry conditions, most waxes will not last over a year or two MAX before starting to dry up.
How long does synthetic wax last
Like I said earlier, applying synthetic wax to your automobile should provide protection for a whole year in milder climates. While, in more harsh weather climates, a good synthetic wax should only need to be applied twice a year.
When referring to how long this type of wax will last in the container (shelf life) – the same rules apply to the conditions that it is stored in.
The timelines are very similar to the Carnauba wax.
If the synthetic wax is stored in a cool, dark place that isn’t overly dry, then the was product should last up to 5 years if stored nice and tight.
Otherwise, you are looking at maybe a year or two MAX for shelf life is not stored properly.
Do I need a buffer to wax my car
When polishing a car, a buffer is petty much mandatory to help heat up the clear coat to a warm enough temperature to help it somewhat spread out and fill in scratches and small chips.
Using a buffing cloth by hand is not going to be able to create enough heat/friction to make the polishing compound do its job properly.
When it comes to WAXING your car, a buffer WILL help maximize the quality of the waxed finish because it will provide so much more ‘buffing’ than your hand could ever do with a cloth buffing rag.
Another benefit of using a power buffer – a LOT less chances of you scratching the clear coat finish with a fingernail or bracelet, etc.
When looking for a power buffer/polisher machine, I would recommend always starting out with a random orbit or dual action orbit style of unit.
The reason for this is that is it VERY easy to wreck the paint and/or clear coat surface with a full rotary buffer/polishing machine if you don’t have experience using one
If you do have experience using a full rotary buffer/polisher, then you cannot beat the quality of work that this machine will offer.
For polishing – the full orbital machines do a GREAT job, BUT are difficult to use for those who don’t have experience using these machines. You DO NOT need this type of machine to get a good finish to a wax job. A random orbit or dual-action orbit machine will work just fine for any waxing applications.
For a beginner, I would 100% recommend the random or dual-action orbital power polishers/buffers!
In this article we have covered the following topics:
- Purpose of waxing a car
- Should you wax a brand new car
- When should you first wax a new car
- How often should I wax my car
- Can you wax your car too much
- Should I wax or polish my car
- Is it necessary to polish a car before waxing
- How often should I polish my car
- Synthetic wax vs carnauba wax
- How long does carnauba wax last
- How long does synthetic wax last
- Do I need a buffer to wax my car
After reading all of this, you should now know how to make a car shine from home.
Please feel free to check out my other articles in the Care Care section HERE which will include videos on how to wax and polish a car by hand, and with a power polisher/buffer.