Waxing your car might seem like a luxury, but it saves you money by preserving the surface paint, and the clear coating that protects it, Waxing and occasional buffing rids your car's surface of scratches, debris, bugs and bird droppings. It doesn't take long to wax your car if you have the right supplies.

How to Wax a Car

You can learn how to wax a car in a few minutes and beautify your vehicle’s surface without leaving it at the car wash or detailer for extra work. 

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You may wonder why you should wax your car. Isn’t washing it and keeping it clean enough? There are advantages to waxing and buffing your car, even if you don’t have an expensive or vintage vehicle.

Benefits of Waxing Your Car

Waxing and buffing may sound like a luxury, but they help protect your car’s finish from road debris, salt, bugs, UV rays and tree sap. If you don’t occasionally apply wax to your car’s surface finish, it will make the clear coat shielding the paint wear down faster. Unprotected paint is easily damaged by road salt, oxidation, sunlight, and debris. 

Even the clear coat protectant applied by the manufacturer can be strengthened by Teflon or polymer, which gives the paint an extra layer to absorb scratches, blemishes, and damages.  This extra layer leaves paint intact and glossy. Waxing your car can also cover scratches and blemishes on the surface. 

Heat and oxygen combine to cause oxidation and break down the paint on your car. Keeping your car clean, waxed and out of the sun will prolong paint and the clear coating that covers the paint. 

If you don’t have the time to wax and buff your car, detailers may charge up to a few hundred dollars for a waxing, buffing and cleaning package. 

Pre-Waxing Setup

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Use water and mild soap to wash your car. Your vehicle should be thoroughly cleaned before waxing.  Wax won’t adhere properly to your car if it has dirt and debris on the surface. 

If the surface of our car is scratched, damaged or dull, use a polishing or rubbing compound before you wax. A polishing solution is abrasive and will get rid of a thin layer of a see-through coating from your car, so it will have an even color that makes waxing easier and more efficient. 

A rubbing compound can be pretty abrasive, so choose a polishing compound if you’re new to buffing cars. Rub the compound over the car surface with a microfiber cloth and then remove the compound with a fresh microfiber cloth. 

The circumstances involved in how to wax a car are important. Weather and location make a difference.  You should wax your car when it's cool. It shouldn't be more than 85 degrees and no less than 55 degrees when you wax and buff.   

The wax will dry too fast if it’s hot outside and make it hard to buff. It will also be harder to take off the wax. The wax will be harder to apply in cold weather. 

Stay out of direct sunlight, and wax your car in your garage if possible. The rays of your sun can heat up the wax and your car and leave residue on the vehicle. The temperature in your garage is controlled, and sunlight can’t heat up the car or the wax. 

Wax under the shade of a tree, in the early morning or on a cloudy day if you don’t have a garage.  

Applying by Hand

Put paint sealant or car wax on your vehicle in the shade, because it may be hard to buff it if it dries too quickly. Always apply sealant or wax to a dry vehicle. Any wet areas will make paint strike and make buffing difficult. 

Put a thin coat of the wax on your car. Applying a thick coat only causes streaks and makes the wax hard to remove. After you put on the first thin coat, buff the surface and then apply another thin coat. Always check the instructions on your car wax to find out how long the wax has to set before applying the second coat.

 The best products for how to wax a car depend on the type of car you have, its condition and the experience you have in buffing and waxing vehicles. An inexpensive poly foam applicator helps you get a thin, even coat. You can wash and reuse these applicators, and throw them away if they become too dirty.

Waxing with a Machine

Use a foam finishing pad to put wax on your car with a machine. Spread paste wax on the pad like you’re buttering toast. Turn the wax jar over and slide the contents into a plastic bag to rub it on the pad. You can also use a putty knife. 

Pour out three lines of wax (about three inches for each line) around the pad edge if you are using a sealant or liquid wax. Use the paint setting on your polisher and spread wax before turning on the machine to avoid splattering the liquid. 

Use a dual action polisher at settings up to three. Always check your wax for directions before applying with a machine or by hand. Spread the wax on a panel until it’s covered. Turn off the machine before lifting it off the car surface.

Buff each panel with a microfiber cloth after waxing, or wait until you’ve waxed the whole car, according to the directions on the brand of wax you are using. Use a terry cloth or microfiber bonnet over a lambswool pad as a cushion if you can wait until the entire vehicle is done to buff.

Buffing Your Car

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 Buffing your vehicle is optional, but here’s how to do it.

 Use an orbital electric buffer or an angle grinder with an attached buffing wheel. You’ll also need buffing pads, microfiber cloths, car polish and car wax. The angle grinder with an attached buffing wheel will give you car the best polish and glow, but it is difficult to use.

 The orbital buffer doesn’t have the speed to strip paint as fast as the grinder. You’ll need to use the buffer on oxidation or deep scratches longer to get results you’d get with a quick pass of the grinder.

 Put buffing compound on a scratched or highly degraded surface. Buffing exposes the underlying layer of paint under a scratched outer layer. The buffing compound strips off the surface paint. You should wax the car right after buffing to renew the protection offered by the stripped clear coat.

 Use the buffing pad to spread the compound when the buffer isn’t moving. Using an immobile buffer will prevent the compound from splashing onto glass, chrome or other nearby surfaces.

 Hold the buffer pad flat as you move the machine in circular motions on the car surface. If you turn the buffer at an angle or use too much pressure, it will cause a swirling pattern and destroy the paint.  Do a quarter-panel until the area is glossy and bright, then move on to another quarter-panel.

 You can use car polish if the paint on your vehicle is free of damage instead of buffing compound. You’ll use less polish than buffing compound. Polish covers a wider area and eliminates less paint. Use the polish across the car surface until you see that all the paint is restored.

 Ideally, you should buff your car once a year. Use polish if your car is stored in a garage. Substitute buffing compound and buff two or three times a year if your car is stored outdoors and you live near a coast.

 Coastal air has a higher salt content and may erode paint faster than in dry climates. If your car is parked under trees and falls victim to bird droppings and tree sap, you'll also need to buff every four or six months.  

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Waxing Tips

If you store your car outside, consider using a car cover to catch debris, bird droppings and guard against inclement weather Car covers will reduce the need for waxing and buffing throughout the year.  A locked car cover is a deterrent against thieves. 

You may need to remove old wax before applying a new coat. The old wax may streak or look dull, signaling that you need to re-wax. Remove old wax every three months, as a rule, or more often if you park your vehicle outdoors. 

Remove old wax by using detailing clay. Wash and dry your vehicle and spray a clay lubricant on the surface. Run the clay bar over your vehicle in one small area at a time. The clay removes wax and debris. Clean up the surface with a microfiber cloth when all wax is gone. 

Wash and dry your car and then spray on a pre-wax cleaner, and then use a spray-on wax removal solution. Clean your car’s trim with a rag with soap and water or an all-purpose cleaner. 

Resist the urge to save money by using old rags or T-shirts to clean or wax your car. They may seem harmless and soft, but they can scratch the clear-coat, and make your car’s surface ragged. 

Microfiber towels lift up dirt and debris instead of pushing it from place to place. Polish removal cloths can pick up excess polish. Microfiber wax removal cloths buff excess wax or sealant. Invest a few extra dollars in the right cleaning cloths to preserve your car's paint and clear coating.

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