Auto maintenance: How to wax and polish a car

How to wax and polish your car to a near showroom shine.
Waxing your car provides an additional layer of protection against the elements over and above that of traditional clear coating normally applied to the painted surfaces of the car. If you’ve ever washed a new car and noticed the water beading on the surface instead of creating a sheet of water, the surface has some type of wax already applied. Deciding whether or not your car needs a coat of wax can be determined by two things: check to see if the water no longer beads on the surface, or if your paint is faded or dull even after a good washing. In cases like this a good coat of wax and some polishing may be all you need to recover that showroom shine.

To start, it’s important that you purchase a wax or polish that’s specially formulated for your cars paint surface. While there are quite a few brands to choose from this isn’t as difficult as it might seem. For example, you’re not going to want to purchase a wax that’s specially formulated for newer paint finishes if the finish you’re dealing with has a couple years of wear on it. Trusted brands like Meguiar’s, Black Magic, Turtle Wax and Formula 2001 all offer great results and have an impressive product line for just about any type of paint surface. You’ll need to purchase a couple of terry cloth towels to wipe the product off and do the final polishing.

Auto maintenance: How to wax and polish a car

Begin the process by thoroughly washing and drying your car. This needs to be done in a place where your vehicle is out of direct sunlight or can be moved to an area out of sunlight once it’s washed and dried. To wax the car, the paint surface needs to be cool to the touch. It may be easier to wax it if you park in a covered area or get up early in the morning if you live in an area that’s generally warm. If the surface is too hot or even warm for that matter, the wax will dry almost immediately and won’t provide you with the level of protection and shine you’re looking for, making your effort almost worthless. Not to mention it’s much harder to remove wax when it’s applied to a hot finish.
Applying the polish should be done with a sponge or applicator either included with the wax or purchased separately. There are applicators specifically made for the sole purpose of applying car polish. These sponges are smoother than regular cleaning sponges and promote even application of thicker substances like that of wax and polish. Place a small amount of polish on the applicator and work in a circular motion over one area of the car. You may choose to work from bumper to bumper or polish the top parts of the car and then the sides. There is no right or wrong way, it’s only important that you do a whole area at a time. That said, if you start on the hood, cover the entire hood with wax, allow it to dry and then wipe it off. You’ll end up doing parts twice if you don’t complete a whole area at a time.

Once you’ve applied the polish to the area you’ve selected, allow it sufficient time to dry. The drying time will vary due to the circulation of air in the area in which you’re waxing the car. If it’s a well-ventilated area with an adequate breeze the wax will dry much faster than if you’re in an area with little or no air flow or breeze of any kind.

While we’re talking about ventilation, there really isn’t any specific guideline for wax. Because wax products don’t normally have any caustic fumes, exposing yourself to the fumes in the confines of a garage won’t pose any threat. However if you have a specific medical condition that may be affected please exercise caution.

Once the wax has dried to a white haze on the surface of the paint you can wipe it off. At this point you’ll want to have two towels or wax removal cloths to perform this task. It’s also necessary to wipe the initial haze off with a firm grip on one cloth. This is the polishing stage and you’ll get better results if you throw a little elbow grease in there than if you gently rub at the surface. Once dried to a haze, the wax will be a little hard to remove without adequate pressure so this shouldn’t be an issue.

Once the initial haze is removed, run the other towel over the surface to remove the debris or wax dust that will be left over. This fine, powdery substance is very adherent to paint and will blow back onto your paint just as quickly as you buff it off. Because of this, the need for a second clean towel to catch this debris is not only handy, but in some cases necessary.

Once you’ve completed these steps over the entirety of your car you’ll be done and I assure you the results are very satisfying. Waxing once every six months is recommended, and once every three months is definitely necessary if you wash your car on a regular basis or live in a very rainy climate.

An orbital buffer can be used for the buffing process, but I’ll recommend that you learn how to use it first before experimenting on your car. While not hard to use, an orbital buffer can permanently leave swirl marks, scratches and scuffs in your paint if improperly used. But when properly used an orbital buffer can considerably reduce your buffing time and the effort you’ll need to put into waxing your car.

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