Car Waxing And Washing Methods – Is It Proper Maintenance For Your Paint?
A very common practice in car maintenance is washing your car regularly and applying wax a few times a year. While this will keep your paint rust free and protect your clear coat for the most part, the problems and imperfections will start surfacing to your attention sooner or later.
My devoted passion to protecting and caring for my clients cars has given me a wealth of information I would like to share with you, on your car’s exterior.
To start with, I’m going to review the ‘Wash and Wax’ principal. For those of you familiar with how a zamboni works on an ice rink, the zamboni first shaves off a thin layer of the old ice to level out the ice’s surface. Then it lays fresh water over the top of the ice to replenish the depth.
This leaves a solid, clear, smooth sheet of new ice. Now think if the zamboni didn’t cut off the old cracked ice, and just applied water over the top. The ice quality wouldn’t be as solid and the clarity wouldn’t be the same smooth, solid, glassy look because of all the cracks in the base layer.
Your car’s paint is very similar to the zamboni principal. Your paint builds up scratches, swirl marks, water marks, and other imperfections. Along with all the particles and dirt that sit on your car in-between washes that actually melt into your clear coat when exposed to direct sunlight!
If you rub your hand against your paint does it feel like you’re only rubbing against a soft clear coat, or can you also feel all those paint imperfections and particles bound to it? Unless you use the six step process I’m about to explain your answer is probably the second one.
Relevant Resource: Best Foam Gun for Car Wash.
Table of Contents
The Professional 6 Step Process
1. Thoroughly wash your car – The better you wash your paint the easier the next steps will be.
2. Clay bar – Clay’s purpose is to absorb all of those particles bound to your clear coat and for those of you who’ve used clay before know how amazing it works. This step leaves the paints surface nice and smooth before you start with a machine polisher.
3. Machine Polisher with cutting compound – This step is the same as the zamboni shaving off a thin layer off of the ice to make a solid base. If you’re adventurous and want to do this yourself make sure you start with a light polishing pad and polishing agent and start on the rear passenger panel (in case you make a mistake). If the swirl marks aren’t coming out than move up to a light cutting compound.
4. Machine Polish with Polishing compound – This step is only necessary if you used cutting compound in the previous step. The polish will remove the small swirl marks that can occur from using a cutting compound and the polish also adds important oils back into your paint.
5. Apply paint sealant – For those of you who’ve never used paint sealant before look it up! This step is like adding water back onto the ice to restore the depth of the clear coat that you took off when using the cutting compound. Most sealants are guaranteed to protect your paint for six months and the smoothness of your paint will amaze you!
6. Apply carnauba wax – This last step is to give your paint that nice deep glossy look that carnauba waxes are famous for.
Now after reading the first five steps, would you rather be applying your favorite wax on your car after a regular wash or onto an even leveled, particle free, swirl free, smooth surface?
Not everyone has the tools and products to do the full six step process, but it’s a great hobby to take up if you’d like to spend a little more time in the garage on Saturday mornings. My passion and now career began with the theory I’m going to own a car the rest of my life, why not keep it looking and feeling like a brand new car?
How Often To Wax
Generally it is recommended to wax your car twice a year, with a manual wax as listed here, not the spray on at the car wash, although that is a good idea during winter. You will see when the wax isn't repelling water as well on your paint which would be ideal to keep the wax finish year round.
If you were in dire straits during the winter, you may seek out a mall parking spot in a heated garage and try your luck there, otherwise, a nice couple coats twice a year, in the warmer months.
Why Wax Your Car?
I was recently asked this, and it never occurred to me to explain why someone would want to wax their car.
I take it for granted since I pretty much live, eat and breathe cars, along with all of my immediate family, and lots of friends.
Wax creates a protective layer to preserve your paint. You may have thought that it is just to keep it looking pretty, which it does, but it does also serve a purpose.
It acts also as a water repellent, which is nice for minimizing hard water build up and puddling in crevices that eventually lead to rust, though the wax doesn’t play a huge role in that aspect, as much as a protectant quality.
Anything that could harm the paint such as tree sap, or anything caught on the car while driving such as bugs, tar, or if someone decided to pour their coffee onto your car, the wax serves as an additional layer between your paint and the offensive mentions above, and it allows them to be cleaned off much easier.
One tip, for keeping an extra layer of protection, that a lot of drag racers do when they bring their street car up for the night, is leaving the wax on without buffing it off. That leaves even more of a layer of protection, that can be wiped away the next day quite easily.
You could do this to the front of your car before a long road trip if you are a fanatic, although then you need to buff it out of every little nook and cranny, which can be time consuming, though a car lover can appreciate that!
How Wax Saved My Paint (for the most part)
One embarrassing example of my own, to demonstrate the protective qualities of wax, is what happened to me one day.
My car rolled under a chain link fence, all the way! Well, I had just waxed the car, and nowhere did it scratch all the way through the paint, and I am certain that is because of the wax. I wouldn’t say it would absolutely protect against potential scratches and chips, but it will lessen the blow.