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Share to PinterestShine Up Your Car With an At-Home Wax
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Shine Up Your Car With an At-Home Wax

By Staff Writer
Share to PinterestShine Up Your Car With an At-Home Wax

Do you remember how dazzlingly glossy and dust-free your car looked, all wrapped in a bow, the day you picked it up from the showroom? Believe it or not, you can buff your vehicle to that same perfection with the right supplies, some elbow grease, and half a day or so.

Putting in the time every two or three months will keep your exterior looking on-point for years to come. Here's how to get your car to shine bright like a diamond.


Get washing

Share to Pinterestman washing his car at a wand wash

Before any wax product goes on your hood, you must shampoo to ensure a clean base layer. You can use mild soap if you don't have a specialized shampoo, and rinse off well with really mean water, so you don't undo your efforts.

Alternatively, you can take your car to a car wash and wait a few hours before checking it for dirt and waxing by hand. Unless you book a premium service, DIY waxing produces superior results to hastily applied spray-on wax at a drive-through service provider.


Get polishing

Share to Pinterestclose up of polishing headlights of car

Does your car have scratches and scuffs in the paint? You can do a pre-wax treatment and tend to this damage with an abrasive polish. You'll need a foam pad to apply a tablespoon of polish in circular motions. Make your way around the car, and use more polish on the applicator when necessary.

Work fast, or the polish will dry before you can buff it off with a microfiber cloth. You're less likely to mess up your paintwork with hand polishing than if you were to use a rotary polisher. Be extra careful with dark colors.


Be mindful of the temperature

Share to Pinterestthermometer showing moderate temperature outside

Work at night or move the car out of the sun if you need to because temperatures above 85 °F dry the wax too quickly for buffing and make removing it a challenge. Temperatures below 55° F also pose difficulties because the wax becomes less amenable.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, though, colder weather is preferable to a sweltering day; touch the trunk to check if it's cool. Working in a garage is best because you won't have breezes blowing dirt and dust onto your hard work and ruining your flow.


Wax on

Share to Pinterestperson applying wax to the hood of their car

Ensure your automobile is dry and speck-free, or the wax won't adhere properly. A so-called 'cleaner wax' can eliminate the polishing step from your to-do list, but it might not do as good of a job.

Follow your product's usage instructions, and consult your owner's manual or an expert if you're unsure about what to do. Less is more. Go from one panel to the next with a foam applicator or a damp sponge if you need to make do with a substitute. Again, you want to employ gentle circular motions that overlap. Reapply the wax if you feel you need to.


Use an orbital buffer

Share to Pinterestperson using an orbital buffer to wax their car

An electric or battery-powered buffer tool works well if your car has flat panels rather than a bunch of dips and rises. This step is optional but can give your vehicle that extra glimmer and reduce labor time.

Maintain a low speed and keep an even pressure until the remaining imperfections vanish. Learn how to use the machine optimally before starting your first buffing project.



Share to Pinterestman standing near his nice car, checking his watch

Give it a few minutes and let the product do its thing. The instructions will tell you how long to wait before wiping the wax off.

If you run your finger along one of your car's panels, smearing is a sign you should hang tight for a bit longer, and when the finger test looks clear, you're good to go.


Wax off

Share to Pinterestman using a microfiber cloth the buff his newly waxed car

The finish line is just one set of wipes away. Use a microfiber towel with strokes moving in the opposite direction. Turn the cloth over if it stops moving smoothly due to product buildup. Keep spare cloths on hand just in case they're required.

Et voilà! The final look will sparkle to acknowledge your exertions.


Choosing your wax

Share to Pinterestrows of various car waxes at the store

Car wax comes in many forms, including liquids, pastes, and sprays. The latter offers a speedy application, but its effects disappear after a week. Pastes allow you to go much longer between waxing sessions, and liquids fall in the middle. You also get soft waxes, longer-lasting polymer preservatives, and polyglycotes.

Generally, if you have a darker vehicle, you'll want to go for a natural wax, and lighter cars benefit from synthetic silicone wax. Natural wax, which is rain and heat-resistant, is sourced from carnauba palm. Black cars can get UV damage and you'll get the best results from a black wax.


Why should you wax your car?

Share to Pinterestman lovingly admiring his car

Your car is a big ticket item—one of the average American's most expensive purchases. Maintenance waxing prevents rust and protects the paint from debris, bird poop, and bug mash, which are more destructive than you'd think.

Care steps like this add value, too. Your car will look fantastic for longer, and you'll be able to sell it for more because it won't seem as beat up.


The Car-Detailing Landscape

Share to Pinterestperson in business suit standing in front of an expensive car

In an age of Uber and instant gratification, car care product manufacturers like Collinite, Meguiar's, Mothers, and Turtle Wax are trying to figure out how to attract millennials and Gen-Zs in real-time. The market is divided into boomer car care enthusiasts, some of whom are willing to spend up to $850 on a jar of Chemical Guys' Project J97 Ultra Refined White Brazilian Paste Wax, and a younger set more interested in cheap and convenient products.

Be wary of boutique small-batch brands that pride themselves in the middle of the spectrum—some simply add color and fragrance to generic car wax, dilute, and rebottle it. Wax is still popular among enthusiasts, but professional detailers opt for ceramic coatings, which last for years and require their expertise for application. As a result, you'll see many ceramic-infused wax sprays on the shelves today.



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