One of the most important things you need to do to maintain your car’s impeccable finish is to wax it regularly. Dirt, grime, dust, tree saps, bird droppings and dead bugs are just some of the many contaminants that your car is exposed to on and off the road. These contaminants can either dull or damage your car’s finish, which leads to added repair costs!
Regular waxing ensures a nice, gleaming shine while offering a layer of protection against the elements. It can blur superficial blemishes and reduce expensive repairs. Ideally, you want to wax your your car once every month for best results. Waxing doesn’t really take technical cunning but it’s quite a useful skill to learn. That’s why we’ve prepared this in-depth guide to help you wax your car properly. If you’re ready, start prepping your tools and get waxing:
Removing Old Car Wax
Apart from regular waxing, you need to remove old car wax and reapply a new coat of wax every now and then to achieve a gorgeous shine. This goes especially if the paint is looking dull or the finish is no longer smooth as it used to be. Ideally, you have to remove old wax once every 3 months but if your car is always exposed to the elements, you have to do this more often.
There are two ways to strip a car clean of old wax. You can use either a pre-wax cleaner or a detailing clay. Here’s how to clean your car and remove old wax in detail:
Using a Pre-Wax Cleaner
To remove old car wax, you’ll need:
Car wash solution
Clean drying cloths
Wax remover safe for plastic trim
Before stripping old wax from your car, park your car in a shaded area then wash and dry your vehicle thoroughly. To speed up the drying process, use soft cotton towels to wipe the car and remove excess water. Then, give the car several minutes to air dry. Make sure the car is free from dirt and dust to allow the products to seep into the layer of old wax.
Get your preferred pre-wax cleaner. Now, there are two types of pre-wax cleaners and though they strip the car of old wax, they work differently:
Spray-On Wax Remover
A spray-on wax remover is a car cleaner that chemically strips old wax and sealant off the car but stops short at providing a deeper clean. This product has a watery, easy to spread consistency. Because this product does not provide a deeper clean, it’s a great choice for car owners who’d like to remove old wax from their car frequently. Most car experts believe that a spray-on car wax remover is a legitimate pre-wax cleaner compared to…
Non-abrasive polishes are typically used to give the car a beautiful sheen but they can be used to give the paintjob a deeper clean. Removing old wax is just a secondary effect of these products. Usually, non-abrasive polishes help eliminate the layer of dust and grime that sits on the surface of the paint. This product is best for cars that get less waxing.
Before proceeding to the next step, do note that pre-wax cleaners tend to discolor plastic and rubber car components. This means you have to apply the product carefully, avoiding any plastic component during the application to avoid any unsightly discoloration!
To strip the old wax off your car, spread a liberal amount of the pre-wax cleaner directly on the car body, carefully avoiding all the plastic components as you go. If some of the product ended up on the plastic parts of the car, wipe quickly with a clean cloth.
After application, wipe the paint job clean using a soft cloth to remove the wax remover along with the old wax. Wipe the car using a side-to-side and top to bottom motion. Reapply the product if necessary until all traces of old wax have been removed.
To clean the trim, use an all-purpose cleaner. Apply the product on a clean rag and start wiping the trims clean. Gently rub the surface of the trim using an even pressure for best results.
Using a Detailing Clay
A detailing clay is a type of resin used to get rid of unwanted debris and contaminant off the surface of a vehicle’s paint job. This product can be used to clean glass and fiberglass surfaces too.
To get rid of old wax using a detailing clay, you’ll need:
Car wash solution
Again, start by cleaning your car thoroughly and parking in a shaded area. Dry the vehicle completely using several microfiber towels.
Using a clay lubricant, spray the product on the work surface evenly. Work in sections for an even coat, about 2 square feet at a time. Get the detailing clay and rub it on the work surface using a gentle back and forth motion across the moistened area. The detailing clay will lift the old wax and contaminants as you rub it so the motion won’t be smooth. Once the detailing clay is gliding smoothly across the paint as you rub, it’s a sign that the old wax has been removed.
With a clean microfiber towel, wipe the excess clay. If there are clay spots, use the clay lubricant to remove them. By the time you’re done removing the old wax, the car’s paint job should be smooth to the touch. Repeat the process as needed.
Once the car is free from old wax, you can start applying a new layer of wax. The car has to be waxed as soon as possible to keep the finish scratch-free!
How to Wax Your Car
Step 1: Wash Your Car
When it comes to waxing a car, you want to make sure you are starting with a clean car. You don’t want traces of dust, grime, or crusted bird poop mixed with car wax! Trust us, that’s not a pretty sight. You can either give your car a quick wash at the local drive through or get a couple of pros to do it for you. While driving through a car wash is great when you’re in a rush, pro detailers provide better results. If you’d rather not pay someone to do the car washing for you, you can always wash your car on your own. You’ll have to learn the best techniques for a nice hand wash.
To wash your car, you will need:
Car wash soap
Hose with nozzle
Dry soft cloths
Bug and Tar Remover/Degreaser
Ammonia-free glass cleaner
To hand wash your car, start by parking the vehicle in a shaded area and setting all the cleaning tools in one place, preferably near a water source. Close all the windows, retract the antenna and pull the windshield wipers away from the windshield.
Fill one bucket with water, mix the car wash shop as per manufacturer’s instruction. Fill the second bucket with clean water. Next, get your cleaning mitt and soak it in the soapy water. Gently apply the soapy water on the car body, starting from the top then working your way into the lower area. We recommend working in sections for easier, more organized hand washing. Periodically rinse the dirt out of the wash mitt in the bucket with plain water.
Once a section of the vehicle has been washed, rinse it immediately with water before moving on so the soap won’t dry on the paint and cause stains or streaks. Scrub the lower section of the vehicle thoroughly because it is the dirtiest part of the car. We’d recommend using a separate cleaning mitt for this area. Learn more about why.
After cleaning the body of the vehicle, it’s time to clean the wheels. Get your wheel brush and start brushing the openings of the wheel gently. If your wheels have a glossy finish, use a cleaning mitt instead of a brush. Hose off the soap on the wheels using a spray nozzle. Make sure to wash every nook and cranny thoroughly especially if the car has been exposed to salt. Use different angles to get in there and remove mineral built up.
Finish up with a glass cleaner on the windows, mirrors, and windshield. Start by wiping the surface clean before applying the product using a clean, lint-free microfiber towel. Covering the surface with the glass cleaner evenly. Buff the product in a back and forth motion, not circular strokes, to avoid streaking.
Step 2: Apply the Wax
After hand washing your car, you are ready to move on to step 2, waxing your car! Leftover moisture can cause an uneven shine so make sure the car has been dried off completely and the finish is cool to the touch before waxing. To avoid scratching the paint job, use nonabrasive cloths and pads when applying the wax.
Car waxes come in a variety of formulas but the most popular are liquid and hard or paste wax. Both formulas are similar but the consistency varies. We did a write up on our favorite waxes here.
As the name implies, liquid wax has a loose, somewhat watery consistency. Because the formula is thin, it’s easier to spread over a large portion of the car, cutting application time in half. It also provides an even, durable finish that lasts for weeks. The only downside to using liquid wax is that it takes so much longer to dry than paste or hard wax. In addition, it’s easy to overdo the waxing using a liquid wax because of the spreadable consistency. When it comes to this type of car wax, less is more. If you’re waxing for the first time, go for liquid waxes.
Also known as paste wax, solid wax has a rather gummy consistency. Because of its solid consistency, this product is not the best product to use by the uninitiated. The application process can be tricky at times and buffing the wax takes a lot of elbow grease. However, when applied right, this product produces beautiful, gleaming finish. Check out our article on the best car waxes here.
To start waxing your car, you’ll need:
Polish (if paint is dull)
Applicator pad or towel
There are two ways to apply wax on a car, hand application and machine application. Here’s how to wax your car using each technique:
Some car waxes come with their own applicator but if yours doesn’t have one, use a microfiber applicator. Put a small amount of the wax on the microfiber applicator and start spreading the product evenly using gentle circular strokes. Again, work in sections because you want to make the application as even as possible. Give the wax several minutes to dry until it becomes hazy before buffing it out using a microfiber towel.
There are thousands of car wax brands out there but our favorite is the Meguiar’s Ultimate Polish. This product is not only affordable; it’s also one of the highest rated liquid car waxes on Amazon.com. This product boasts of an advanced Polymer Technology, offering a fabulous shine and lasting protection to the car finish.
Another excellent liquid wax product worth trying is the Nu Finish Liquid Car Polish. This product is formulated with a synthetic polymer protectant that protects the car finish from road debris while providing a lasting shine that does not require hard buffing.
When it comes to buffing the hazy finish, use a high-quality microfiber towel to achieve a stunning gleam. Never use soft cloths that can become static-charged because it will attract link and fibers that could ruin the shine and get stuck in the dried wax.
If say, the end result is uneven or streaky, you can use a quick detail spray to achieve an even shine. Just mist the product over the finish and buff gently.
If you’re lucky enough to have a machine wax applicator then waxing will take a lot less elbow grease to complete. To begin, get your foam finishing pad and apply the wax evenly. Foam finishing pads are ideal for machine application because the material is strong enough to withstand the pressure of the machine applicator but soft enough not to scratch the paint job.
If you’re using liquid wax, just press the polisher to the paint and spread the product over one section before turning the machine on. This will prevent the liquid wax from splattering all over the place. On the other hand, if you’re using solid wax, just apply the product evenly in a back and forth motion. You want to set your polisher to maximum speed of 3 for best results but if there’s specific manufacturer’s instruction for waxing, use that as a guide.
Once a section of the car has been waxed evenly, turn off the machine applicator before lifting it off the paint. At this point, you can start buffing the product using a soft microfiber towel. Now, some waxes can be buffed after the whole car has been covered with wax, others have to be buffed a few minutes after it’s been applied so always check the bottle before buffing.