Waxing your car is a great way to protect the paint from being damaged by weather conditions, small rocks and road grime while bringing out the natural shine. There are just as many opinions about how and when you should wax your car as there are automotive enthusiasts, but here are five car waxing tips and tricks that hold true no matter where you live or what you drive.
Before you even think about putting wax to paint, you’ll have to make sure your car is as clean as possible. Dust and grime can scour your finish during application.
Once everything’s clean, you’ll also need to dry the car thoroughly. You don’t want any water leaking down and mixing with the wax.
Finally, do not wash or wax in direct sunlight, as the heat can cure the wax into your paint before it’s ready to be removed.
2. Choose Your Weapons Wisely
Before you select the wax you’re going to use, you’ll have to decide how you’re going to apply it. If you’re unsure, stick with hand application; this method requires either terry cloth detailing towels or special wax application pads.
3. Carnauba or Polymer?
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed the first time you wander down the wax aisle and discover the variety of options and brands available. In general, automotive waxes can be broken down into two different categories: carnauba and polymer.
Carnauba-based products contain a natural, tree-derived wax that offers a deep, wet-look shine, but they are somewhat harder to work with as carnauba itself is fairly stiff. Polymer waxes, also known as sealants, use polymer compounds and acrylic resins to bond to you car’s paint and provide a layer of protection and shine that’s not quite as deep, but that is much easier to use. Polymer lasts a lot longer before requiring a re-application: usually 6 months versus 60 days for carnauba. You’ll also find waxes that combine carnauba and polymers, giving you a third option to consider.
4. Wax on, Wax off
Applying wax is actually quite simple. If you’re working by hand, squirt, dab or spread a small amount of wax directly on your terry cloth or pad and then work it into the paint using steady pressure in a circular motion. Working in small sections at a time, keep at it until the wax has absorbed into the paint. Make sure not to get any on black trim or plastic. Use a clean terry cloth to remove any excess wax once it has dried.
5. Buff It up
Once the wax is removed, it’s time to buff your car to make sure the wax that has bonded with the paint really shines. Using a clean terry cloth, wipe the paint gently in a circular motion until you start to get the deep reflective look you are going for. You can buff your car after every wash — as long as it’s clean and dry — to help keep it looking its best between waxings.
Keeping your car waxed and beautiful is a labor of love, but it’s one that’ll bring you closer to your vehicle and help extend the life of its paint job.
Check out all the chemical products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on car waxing tips, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
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Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.