How To Wax Your Car-The Ultimate Guide- by Autodetailinglab

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How To Wax Your Car-The Ultimate Step By Step Guide will take you through the best processes to make sure your gleaming car turns more heads.

As we guess its not turning many heads at the moment?

Those swirls are really beginning to annoy you... 

Are you looking for  a shine so deep you could dive into?

Then read on!

If you choose to do it by hand or use or with a buffer, use paste or liquid wax we will show you how. By giving you the latest tips and strategies to ensure your cars shine is so deep you could float a ship on it!

Step by step learn how to:

  • Prepare your car to wax
  • Choose the best car wax for your car
  • What methods to use
  • Save time on the process
  • All the latest show and shine tricks

So lets do that and excuse the pun, dive right in now!

As with anything you set out to do the results will always be better if you prepare. As the saying goes:

"Fail to Prepare...Prepare to Fail"

This is even more relevant in the car detailing world if its the ultimate shine your after. Start with great preparation and great results will easily follow.

How To Wax Your Car by washing it well

We know it sounds obvious to wash your car before you wax it, but there is washing and washing properly. Untold damage can be done in the washing process. Use one wrong methods or tool and you could wipe dollars off its value!

Lets start with the good ole bucket and sponge!

If your still using the traditional bucket of water and yellow block sponge, then is likely you are doing more harm than good. 

Please realise the old yellow block shape sponges are full of holes. The holes are great at scooping up the grit and grime as you wash, this effectively turns your sponge into a sanding block.

Dragging these micro particles over your paintwork as you wash creates hairline scratches and swirls in the paint. These imperfections deflect light off in different directions so lessening the body works ability to appear shiny.

This is how dull paintwork is created.

So take that old yellow block sponge, give it one last soak then throw it straight over the wall, its useless!!

You now have two choices. You use a hose and bucket or get a car detailing power washer and then wash with bucket after.

Now the power-washer is the best course of action but we understand the financial outlay maybe too much for some pockets. If that is the case then use a hose or visit your local gas station and use the jet wash facility there. The problem is then you have to drive home which means you could pick up more bugs and grime.

Car Washing Options-Part 1 (By hose and hand)

The Two Bucket Method

This is the preferred method of washing any car to minimise risk of damage to the paintwork.

Many swirls and scratches can occur if you use just one bucket. This is because you are using one bucket of water for washing and rinsing.

But if you use the two bucket method you minimise any swirls of scratches forming during the washing process.

Let us explain.

The two bucket method requires exactly what it says "Two Buckets", along with a bottle of good quality car shampoo, a wash mitt and a drying towel.

Guard from grit scratches

Each bucket should also have a Grit Guard fitted

This prevents the car from becoming scratched as it divides the bucket. Keeping all the grit at the bottom. So as you wash the car you rinse the mitt in one bucket and all the grit falls below the grit guard into the bottom of the bucket.

The grit guard then prevents it from coming back up. It also prevents the wash mitt from reaching the heavy dirt particles at the bottom on the bucket. It doubles up as a type of washboard to agitate the wash mitt across to release the particles,

You need to have grit guards in both buckets, and they should be placed in at the start before you add water or shampoo.

Next fill up the buckets with clean water and add  the best car wash shampoo you can afford to one of the buckets.

 Leave the other one with just water in it as this will be your rinse bucket. You are then ready to get started.

First go ahead and rinse the car with a hose using a spray nozzle

Next spray the hose into the bucket containing the shampoo to agitate the suds.


Wash bucket showing agitated suds and wash mitt ready to start the wash process

Take the soapy wash mitt and wash the car in horizontal lines. Starting at the top and work down the car, removing all the dirt and grit. The reason we go from top to bottom is that most of the dirt will be at the bottom of the car. By doing this you will not bring dirt from the bottom of the car, where is usually always is, and spread it all over the cleaner upper part.

Rinse from top to bottom

Once you have completed one of the panels take your wash mitt and rinse it in the "Rinse Bucket", the one without the shampoo in it. Take it right down until it contacts the grit guard and agitate it across the guard to release and grit.

Next wring out the wash mitt before putting back into the shampoo bucket and repeating the process on the next panel.

Once the car is completely washed by this method then rinse it off with the hose again and grab a coffee to let the excess drain off.

Car Washing Option-Part 2 (Power Washer)

Snow Foam Method

You should now be grasping the the idea that imperfections in the paint work are caused by particles of dirt being dragged across the surface. Almost all the swirls and scratches are caused by human touch.

Reducing the amount of times we touch the car minimises the chance of any scratches or swirls.

The aforementioned Two Bucket Method goes someway to minimise the chances by rinsing and using two buckets but we can minimise the risk further by uing snow foam.

Using a Pressure Washer with a Foam Cannon goes someway to remove the human factor in the removal of dirt.

However, you will still need to go over car using the two bucket method for a complete wash job.

Using a Foam Cannon not only lubricates the surface to allow the particles to slid off, the sheer weight of the foam slides down the bodywork loosening and removing a high percentage of grime in its path.


What is Snow Foam?

Whilst there are many variations of now foam on the market their basic ingredients are:

  • Cleaning Agent
  • Foaming Agent

The cleaning agent it to loosen the dirt and grim the foaming agent helps the cleaning agent stay on the car surface longer. If the foaming aspect wasn't present the cleaning agent would drain straight off the surface.

 The foam slows the surface drainage as well as providing weight to gently slide the particles off the car. An important aspect of snow foaming is "Dwell Time". This is the time from applying it to the car to the time you rinse it off. Ten seconds is no good ten minutes is better.

How To Snow Foam

Start by ensuring your have all your equipment

  • Pressure Washer or Pump Sprayer
  • Foam Lance
  • Snow Foam Gun
  • Snow Foam Liquid
  • Water Measuring Jug
  • Large Measuring Syringe
  • Water

Read the dilution instructions on the snow foam container as they all vary and for best effects they need to be perfectly diluted to the instructions. Use a large measuring syringe and a water measuring jug to get the proportions correct.

Mix the liquid in the foam gun bottle by adding the agent first then topping up with water to the required level.

Attache gun to lance and lance to pressure washer or pump gun. When we say pump gun we are talking about one of the simple garden spray guns. The type used for killing weeds. This is only if your don't have a pressure washer.

Just a quick word about lances. There seems to be two main types, Chinese and PA from Italy, with the Italian ones getting the general vote but the Chinese as usual come in cheaper. 

Once set up the best method of application is to walk down the length of the car spraying the foam as you walk. It usually takes about three passes per side to get the whole area covered.

It is then that you have to use the "Dwell time" and maybe take coffee while you watch those suds do their work!

As a guide it should be like a "Runny nose"!

Snow Foam suds running off a red car to emphasise you have to wait while the foam does its work

To avoid leaving any soap spots don't snow foam in direct sunlight and rinse off using a hose not the power washer.

Once rinsed you can then use the two bucket method to remove the last layers of oxidation safe in the knowledge that the grit and grime have been removed and the chance of any scratches being formed whilst washing are minimal.

Finish off with a hose rinse and your then ready to dry the car in preparation for the next stage.


How to Dry Your Car

Now we will cover all the options for drying your car after washing. It is important to dry it properly to get the best shine and to eliminate any water spots that may form. To do this your need the right products and techniques to get the best results.

Lets dive right in an look at everything from the old Chamois leathers to the latest heated blowers!

Microfiber Drying Towel

These are the most basic way to dry any type of vehicle. The material is designed to pick up the water and absorb it. 

Microfiber drying towels are huge towels in comparison to normal microfiber towels. The size is to enable a whole vehicle to be dried without them being wrung out. They have specially designed seams to the never damage the car during the drying process

To start they should be folded in half and just dragged across the wet bodywork. Another option would be to simply place it on the surface and gently tap it with your hand, just like blotting paper. Tap away and it just picks up all the water. 

You can also use a drying aid which if you wish. These simply drive the water off the surface and make it even easier for the towel to pick up the water. This is your easiest and safest way to dry your car.

Microfiber drying towel folded in half on a wet car hood showing how it has removed water from a section

Waffle Weave Drying Towel

This is microfiber but it has a much greater absorption rate. It is called waffle weave due to the way it made. With sections of fiber being woven across each other to form small square pockets. These absorb water at a greater rate and puff up as they fill. 

With a waffle weave drying towel you can easily dry a larger vehicle or two normal size cars without wringing out.

Like the microfiber towel the waffle weave should be folded in half and placed on the bodywork and again simply dragged across. You can also use it on glass or plastic. Waffle weave is the fastest way to dry any car.

Chamois Leather

These are the traditional way to dry a car. There are genuine leather chamois or a synthetic type. The synthetic chamois is the faster way to absorb water.

But a downside is that to work properly it has to be wet first. Soak it in a bucket of water, wring it out the just apply to the surface as we suggested for the microfiber. 

Water blade

These are similar to water blades used by window washers, but with a larger blade made from a type of foam. They are a speedy way to dry larger vehicles so are ideal for vans and trucks.

The downside is that there is a greater risk of scratches if any particles are left on the surface, as you are dragging the the blade across the surface.

Car Blower Dryers

These are a cross between hair dryers and leaf blowers! There are mains electric car dryers and cordless rechargeable dryers.

With no contact taking place at all this has to be the safest way to remove water from car bodywork. By simply blowing the water drops away the is no chance at ll of any scratches forming.

The basic form has a large fan that draws air in and simply blows it out through a long nozzle. More advanced models have a heating coil in them to heat up the air to make the drying process even better by evaporating any water spots.

Most of them have variable speeds that can be adjusted to suit the section of the car you are drying. These are ideal for drying the tricky to get to ridges and grills.

So now you know how to wash and dry your car let take a look at the next step in how to wax your car.

Clay Bar or not Clay Bar?

So, once you have a well washed and dried car it is time to decide if you have any imperfections that need removing before polishing and waxing.

To do this simply feeling the paintwork by lightly rubbing your hand over the surface, If it feels rough or bumpy then it should be clay barred.

Clay Bar

Clay barring will remove any contaminants or other surface debris that has proved too stubborn to be removed by washing.

A good clay barring will enhance the shine and make the paintwork feel as smooth as glass​

A black car with shiny surface being finally ploished with a blue mocrofiber cloth to show how shiny it can be after clay barring

There are several different types of clay bar ranging from an all purpose one to light and heavy duty bars that are suited to older vehicles with heavy contamination.

The process is really easy and can be applied by anyone, by using a clay bar and clay car lube.

Simply open the clay bar pack and tear off a section. Knead it into a a small disc shape just big enough to hold in your hand.

If you drop it bin it!

 An important point to remember is that if you drop the clay bar on the floor then you have to discard it. It will have picked up every granule of grit off the floor and you will simply scratch the surface if you continue to use it.

Next generously spray the panel with clay lube then gently scrub the surface. Use a left and right or up and down action, not in circles. It can also be used on any type of metal or glass. 

As you use it you will fell it grabbing and picking any contaminationon the surface. Once your have used it on a section take it off and knead it to find another clean section. Using the method you can clay car up to twenty vehicles.

Finally take a microfiber towel and dry the surface and check to see if you have covered all the panel.

Now on to the fun bit How to Wax Your Car

The difference between Waxing and Polishing

At this stage it is important to distinguish the difference between WAX and POLISH, as many people think they are much the same thing.

Here is a saying to help you remember the difference

" POLISH to PREPARE...WAX to PROTECT"

This means that POLISH is an abrasive product to correct and remove any scratches or swirls and improve the shine of the body work.

Then once the surface is shining and correct then a WAX coat should be applied to protect it.



How to Wax Your Car by Polishing it first


Blue car hood showing a persons hand using a polish applicator pad to apply polish. The polish can be seen on the hood applied in circles


Now we know that Polish is applied before Wax to correct the paint imperfections, let's look at the Polishes and polishing process.

What does car Polish do?

All polishes are abrasive substances and most of them are liquid waxes. They are designed to remove a very small amount of the clear coat, which sits onto of your cars paintwork.

This is where all the fine scratches and swirls are found and by removing the top most layer many of them will disappear.

Some polishes are more abrasive than others and there is an abrasive chart you can use when to choose your polish.

If you search for "Car Polish Abrasive Chart" you will find many of them. We don't feel as though I can put one on here as there maybe a copyright issue. But they are easy to find and very informative.

If your car has many scratches that look quite deep then a more aggressive polish often described as a Cutting Compounds (8-10 on the abrasive chart)

If the scratches are finer then a medium polish will be required often labelled as Swirl Removers (Numbers 4-7 on the abrasive chart)

We are then left with Final Polishers or Light Swirl Removers (1-3 on the abrasive chart) These have very little abrasive qualities and are usually called Finishing Polishes

We 

NOTE: If your car has scratches that go deeper than the clear coat or even through the paint coat and to the bare metal polishing will not fix these. You will been touch up paint of the help of a bodyshop.

If your car has

To apply the polish you can:

  • Apply by hand
  • Apply by mechanical polisher
Polishing by hand

Start the process by having an applicator pad or a microfiber cloth to apply the polish and another microfiber cloth to buff the polish off. Complete your armoury with some top quality Car Wax and your good to go!

Car Polish Applicators

These are small circular microfiber or foam padded discs. They are often supplied with the polish, particularly if you purchase a good quality brand.

They should be large enough to be gripped well but small enough to easily handle more intricate areas.

Microfiber cloth

This will be used to buff off the polish once it has dried to a haze. It is worth buying a good quality pack of microfiber clothes. You can get them in packs of twelve which if cared for well should last you years.

Top Detailing Tip 

To get the best use out of each microfiber towel and to minimise scratches you should fold the towel in half and then into quarter.

This not only gives you extra cushioning to be able to apply good pressure, it also gives you eight clean sides of the cloth.

Once folded into quarters use the first surface on one panel. Next turn the towel over and use the other clean surface for the next panel.

 Then open up the towel and fold the it with the two dirty sides together.

 This gives you two more clean surfaces. And finally once those have been used open out the towel and fold it with the dirty sides inner most to give another four clean towel surfaces. See the video below if my explanation isn't making sense.


Polishing your car


Now you are aware of the equipment lets look at the process.

  1. Take your applicator pad and put about 4 or fives spots of polish around the surface.
  2. Select the panel you want to polish and begin applying the polish in small circles. continue until the whole panel is covered.
  3. ​Allow some time for a haze to form.
  4. Next take your microfiber buffing off cloth and again using small circles remove the hazed polish.
  5. Finally inspect the area for any remaining imperfections and repeat process if needed.


Polishing Car with Buffer


To polish your car by hand is a time consuming and you need an arm like a superhero!

But at the same time it can very rewarding  and relaxing especially if time is not an issue.

Using a a buffer or a buffer attachment on a drill will take less than half the time and give you the same results.

The process is the same as with the hand polishing


  1. Apply four of five blobs of polish onto the applicator pad
  2. Place buffer pad onto surface and operate at a slow speed (if you have a variable speed version)
  3. Treat one panel at a time as you work around the car
  4. After completing a panel allow to dry to a haze
  5. Buff off with a good quality microfiber cloth
  6. Inspect surface for imperfections and repeat if needed.


How to Wax Your Car the final step!

You have finally arrived! 

We hope you have enjoyed the journey from typing into Google "How to Wax Your Car" and following all the stages of the post down to this final act!

Its WAX time!

Your car should now be gleaming in all its glory if you have followed the process.

Now we need to cocoon it is a protective coat to preserve that shine and protect that paint.

Types of Car Wax, which wax to use?

Now comes the tricky part, faced with a huge choice it can take a while to make the final choice, We hope we can make that task a little easier.

The choice starts with:

  • Paste Wax
  • Liquid Wax
  • Spray Wax
  • Coloured Wax
  • Synthetic Sealant

Paste Wax

This is the most traditional type of car wax. Paste Wax has been used by car enthusiasts for decades for provide a year round hard shell covering of their vehicles.

It is natural wax product often based around the natural wax from the Copernicia Cerifrea palm tree that grows in Brazil, known as Carnauba. Despite it being one of the most expensive options it is still the most popular ingredient in car wax.

This is mainly due to to its high level of protection but its durability is not the greatest, and top ups are required around 3-4 months. Never the less the paste wax still remains a firm favourite with many, especially classic car owners.

Liquid Wax

Liquid wax is paste wax with synthetic polymers added to create liquidity. Liquid Waxes are easier to apply and may also increase durability, due to their synthetic components.

It is the most common type of wax used, especially by beginners. But many seasoned detailers frown on its use, as they see paste wax as the the best option.

Speed of application is greatly increased by being in liquid form. Hence why liquid wax is a good choice if time is an important factor.

The main challenge with its application is it dries quite fast. If not buffed off in time it can prove difficult to remove. This is especially so in hot weather and applying in direct sunlight should be avoided at all times.


Spray Wax

Spray waxes are liquid wax in a form thin enough to be able to pass through a spray head. This allows for even faster even coated application.

You still need an applicator but the coating is so thin is is much easier to spread than paste or liquid waxes.

The main advantage is the time saving aspect over paste wax in particular. But many voice an opinion on how can the coating be comparable with the wax element being so diluted?

We find spray wax most useful when used as a top up wax in between beginning of season waxes.

For example is you paste wax your car at the beginning of Spring to protect it from the Summer UV rays. Then use a spray wax top up in early Summer. This creates more durability and that extra layer of protection as the paste wax coat becomes weaker.

Colored Wax

This is pretty much a marketing hype, any many buy into it. It tends to be made for black, white and red cars. But if you think back to what we said is the purpose of wax (To give a protective layer) why should it be coloured?

If you have done the preparation and polishing correctly then all the blemishes should have been taken care of. Having said that there is some truth that colored waxes can help fill in micro scratches in the clear coat but this seems to be a gimmick which many buy into.

Synthetic Sealant

"Ceramic Coating" is most certainly the buzz word of the auto detailing world at the moment. Packed with technological advances these Synthetic Sealants are trying to challenge conventional wax.

They seem to be produced by the same companies who produce the usual detailing products. As with all products there are some good and some not so good!

The main selling point over conventional wax is increased durability. Quotes range up them lasting four to six months before any top up is needed. Greater protection from harmful contaminants also seems to be a major feature of these latest products.

And finally if its quality beading of water on the surface of your car that you want then a "Sealant Coating" boasts the best hydrophobic properties on the market.

How to Wax Your Car- Car Wax Application

Car wax application is pretty much the same process as polishing, except you are not trying to correct any imperfections in the paint. Instead you are applying a coating over the paint.

  1. Take your applicator pad and put about 4 or fives spots of polish around the surface.
  2. Select the panel you want to wax and begin applying the wax in small circles. continue until the whole panel is covered.
  3. ​Allow some time for a haze to form.
  4. Next take your microfiber buffing off cloth and again using small circles remove the hazed polish

Conclusion

We hope you are now clear on How To Wax Your Car.

When it is done properly as laid out in the steps above and in the info graphic below. While it can be time consuming it really is worth the effort. 

The benefits are:

  • Car feels better the drive
  • You get admiring glances!
  • Less chances of damage by road debris
  • Slows depreciation
  • Increases chances of selling car
  • It can be a therapeutic experience!
  • Protects car paintwork from UV rays
  • Enables you to join the Detailing Community!

Follow our steps and take a look at our other pages for much more information on all aspects of detailing and reviews on the latest products.

Wax away grasshoppers!!

An infor graphic explaining the steps in the How To Wax Your Car Ultimate Guide