Best way to wax a car

Waxing your car is something that’s essential to preserve it’s paint finish. A car that lives outside in the elements endures a harsh environment. With the suns ultra violet rays trying to burn through the clear coat, plus acidic weather, acidic bird poop etc… you need a layer of protection!  Having a layer of wax on your car is the equivalent to putting sun screen on your skin. When the paint job on your car is faded before it’s time it says you either don’t care or don’t know any better. Protect your investment and keep your car waxed. And please wash it when it gets dirty. : ) Paint jobs are not cheap. Consider washing and waxing as part of your normal maintenance schedule.

If the car lives outside general rules of thumb for washing is every one to two weeks. Waxing should be done a minimum of twice a year.



It’s best to wash a car in the shade whenever possible. Get yourself a dedicated car washing soap. Car washing soap helps lift the dirt from the paint surface and doesn’t have any harsh detergents that’ll strip wax off the car. Do not use dish soap or hand soap! Add the car washing soap to a bucket of water and bring to a lather. A car washing sponge to apply the soap works well.


Thoroughly rinse the vehicle- being sure to wet all surfaces. The water will act as a lubricant when you start to apply the soap. Rinse away all the loose dirt. The stream of water should be dispersed either with your thumb or use a hose attachment that will fan the water out evenly.


Always wash a car from top to bottom. When you wash the car with soap you always want to work from the top down. All the grit from the road clings to the bottom of the car and you don’t want to spread that grit to the shiny topside. That can create swirls and scratches! The area’s behind the wheels are the dirtiest and should be washed last. Also if you decide to clean the wheels they should be cleaned last or with a separate bucket of soap. Make sure to rinse well.


Drying comes down to preference. I just use a beach towel. Some people like to use a chamois. I dry the windows first because water spots are the most unforgiving on the glass. Again you want to work from top down when drying to avoid swirls and scratches. If you ever happen to drop the towel on the ground- do not continue using it! A towel that has touched the ground is a guaranteed way to scratch your paint!




Wax the car in the shade. Before you begin, asses the condition of the paint. Most times the paint really needs a polish to get the best results. With your hand, feel the smoothness of the paint. If it feels dry or rough it should be polished before you add a wax. If it feels rough and is also visually faded then it needs a compound.


Polishing the car can be accomplished the same as waxing a car. The difference is the bottle that you’re using will say polish instead of wax. Polishing can be done by hand if you don’t mind using elbow grease. Do one section at a time and polish the surface with either a microfiber towel or an old 100% cotton t shirt. Use your hand to check your progress- feeling the smoothness of the paint. Be careful not to spend too much time on sharp edges of the bodywork because the paint is thinest in these areas. Polishing will bring back the luster and gloss of the paint before you wax.


If your paint looks faded you should start first by using a compound. A compound is more aggressive then a polish. A compound will gently remove the top surface of the paint/clear coat so be careful and pay attention to your work. Compounds are applied the same as a polish. When you compound or polish you should use very light pressure. Let the product do the work.


Machine polished with a medium foam pad

Even though you can apply polish or compound by hand it’s much easier if you use an electric buffer. This makes the job much quicker. Use a foam pad. The use of a wool pad is for compounding severely faded paint. Use the slow speed or slowest speed and take your time. Be careful not to spend too much time on edges of the bodywork. It’s safer to do those area’s by hand. If you use a buffer, whether you are compounding or polishing have a spray bottle filled with water and give the panel a few shots of water for lubrication.

I will go around the car and do the whole thing all at once but if your starting out it’s a good idea to take your time and do only one or two panels at a time. When you’ve made a pass with the buffer move on- you want to be conservative with your efforts. Don’t stay in one spot for long and check your work. 


If you need to compound the paint then you should polish it next then finally, wax. The polish step closes the pores of the paint and brings extra gloss. Finally wax.

If your paint is in good shape to start with, you can go straight to waxing.





Applying the Wax


I recommend spending the extra money on a ‘good’ wax. A good wax saves time and often lasts longer/protects better. The difference between a good wax and a cheap wax is applying it and removing it. A good wax makes the job a lot easier! Meguiars Ultimate is my favorite wax. 


Start with a clean car. If the car isn’t clean, wash and dry it before proceeding!


As always wax from top down. Use the applicator that comes with the wax and apply wax to the entire vehicle. Use a circular motion applying the wax and make sure to cover all areas. If your vehicle has gloss black trim between the windows you may wax these areas too. I also polish and wax my head lights and tail lights. This doesn’t take anymore time and it keeps them looking great! Try to avoid getting wax in between badges and trim because it will leave a white residue.

Wax dried to a ‘haze’ ready to be removed

After applying wax to the entire vehicle, take a break! Let the wax dry to a haze. It depends on the temperature- but I let the wax dry for about an hour. You can check when its ready to be removed by wiping it with a rag. (microfiber or clean 100% cotton rag) It should come off cleanly with minimal buffing. If it smudges and takes more then a few passes to remove it- give it more time. Once ready take a clean rag and buff the wax to a lustrous shine. The rag will clog so turn it frequently. Once most of the wax has been removed you can take a final clean rag and buff everything to perfection! One old t shirt or 4 microfiber towels is about how many rags you’ll need to do the job.


This is the moment you get the satisfaction of a freshly waxed paint job! Look at that shine- as good as new! You can rest easy knowing your ride will look great for years to come.

I hope this was a help to you. Please feel free to write comments or ask a question.

7 Comments on Best way to wax a car

  1. Hey there! I just recently bought a car and I don’t have a lot of ideas about cleaning it. I heard things about wax but I’m really not sure what’s the purpose of it. Also the benefits of waxing a car. Do you think that it’s worth it to wax my car? Also what’s the benefits of waxing in the long run? Thank you for your response.

    • Hey John! Thanks for your comment. Wax will give you a layer of protection against the sun and the elements. It’ll also helps contaminants ‘roll off’ the paint rather then getting embedded in it. In the long run your paint job will last longer and look better if you wax it at least every 6 months. Good luck with your new car!

  2. Hello Isaiah.
    Nice and simple guide. But it has reminded me how much I’ve neglected my car:( Ah well, I hope the weather will be nice during the weekend so I can wash and wax it properly. Thanks

  3. Isaiah, Es sent me the link to your site and I like it. In a recent conversation with a professional body shop friend I learned a small secret. In asking about polishing a car he said that the shop was always getting samples of polish to use. Although they used them and some were very good, they seemed to prefer liquid turtle wax with one little secret. Add a small amount of water to the wax prior to waxing. He also said to only do a small area at a time and to begin polishing before the wax dries.

    • Thanks for checking out the site Richard. Glad you like it! Polishes and waxes are pretty subjective- guys develop a preference for different brands etc. I like turtle wax’s polish a lot- use it all the time. Haven’t used their wax in quite a while but I’m sure it’s good.

      I bet he adds water to make it easier and faster to remove… I’d think speed would be a priority in the body shop setting

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