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Summary
  • You can make your car look good and keep it clean for months with wax, polish, or both.
  • Waxing is the process of applying a protective wax-based clear coating on your vehicle.
  • In general, wax your car between two and four times every year.
  • Car polish removes rust and fixes minor damage and flaws on your vehicle’s exterior surface.
  • Apply car polish to your vehicle at least once a year.
  • Waxing and polishing do different things, but you can apply both to your vehicle.
  • Always polish your car first before putting a wax coat on it.

Your car is your pride and joy. It deserves to look its best at all times. However, taking your car out for a drive can leave it covered in dirt, or it might sustain minor damage that can ruin its pristine state. There are two ways to improve your ride’s look and keep it clean for months. You can apply wax on your car or polish its exterior to a sheen.

Each process brings benefits and comes with drawbacks. You can even apply both approaches to your car, combining the best of both. However, you have to make sure to do one before the other. Read on and find out what should go first between waxing and polishing your car.

car wax
Car wax shields your car from harsh environmental conditions that can degrade its exterior surface, but it doesn’t fix existing damage.

What Is Car Waxing?

Waxing is the process of applying a wax-based clear coating on your car. Car wax is a combination of hydrocarbon-based wax, oils, and solvents. You squeeze wax on a clean cloth and rub it over your car’s exterior, creating an even coat.

A wax coat serves as a layer of protection for your car’s paint job and exterior. It screens sunlight and bad weather conditions like rain and snow that will otherwise degrade the paint.

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The coating also prevents contaminants like dirt, dust, and moisture from reaching your car. It reduces the risk of physical damage and corrosion.

Appearance-wise, the wax coating reflects light. The resulting shine improves your vehicle’s looks, making it more appealing to other people.

Always wash your car and let it dry thoroughly before applying wax. By cleaning the exterior beforehand, you remove any dirt that can undermine the coating from underneath it. Make sure the surface has dried out before putting wax on it.

Top Car Wash Products by Chemical Guys

How Often Should You Wax Your Car?

Experts advise waxing your car between two and four times annually. The frequency will depend on various factors such as parking location, how frequently and long you spend on the road, and what weather you usually drive in.

Car wax wears off over time. The wax coating degrades faster when exposed to harsh weather conditions, such as direct sunlight, heavy rain, and snow. If you leave your vehicle parked outdoors, apply a new coat of car wax more often to renew its protection.

Extend the duration of the wax treatment by keeping your car out of the weather as much as possible. Park it inside a garage whenever possible, preferably an interior space with a climate control system. If you don’t have easy access to an isolated parking space, put a car cover over your vehicle to minimize direct exposure to the elements.

A good rule of thumb is to apply a new coat of car wax at the start of a new season, especially if you drive a lot. The abrupt change in weather conditions between seasons will have mostly worn away the old coating.

You can also inspect your car’s wax coating to determine if it needs renewal. Put some water on any surface and check if the liquid beads up. A wax layer exerts surface tension that causes moisture to form beads. If the water runs freely, there’s no wax left on the surface.

See also  Waxing 101

Another way to check your car’s wax coat is to draw your finger over its surface. The wax layer feels smooth and reduces friction with anything touching it. If your car’s surface seems rougher and less slippery, it probably needs a new wax coat.

What Does Car Polish Do?

Car polish is another automobile care product that makes your vehicle look better. However, this liquid abrasive achieves improvement through a different means compared to car wax.

What does polishing a car do? Car polish repairs minor damage and flaws in your vehicle’s exterior surface. It fills up the chips, dents, and scratches that your car accumulates over time.

Car polish also removes any rust that has formed on your car’s exterior. It also helps retain the vibrant color of the paint job, especially for the lacquer paint on older vehicles.

car polish
Car polish repairs physical damage and imperfections, and also removes rust, something wax cannot do.

How Often Should You Polish Your Car?

Experts advise applying car polish to your vehicle on at least an annual basis to repair the damage accumulated over the year. If you drive your car hard, you might want to polish it more than once.

Remember that excessive car polishing can harm the paint job it’s supposed to preserve. Stick to car polish when you must fix visible imperfections on your vehicle’s exterior.

Car Wax vs. Polish

At first glance, car waxing and car polishing might seem similar. Both processes involve applying an auto care product to your car’s exterior surface. They also make your vehicle look better.

However, waxing and polishing do very different things. Car wax shields your car from harsh environmental conditions that can degrade its exterior surface. However, it doesn’t fix existing damage. If you apply wax on a patch of corroded metal, the rust won’t go away.

In comparison, car polish repairs physical damage and imperfections. It also removes rust, something wax cannot do.

But excessive polishing can affect the paint job. Repeated application of car wax won’t do anything to paint, although it will get harder to remove the excess wax.

See also  Wet Sanding a Car: Benefits, Process, and FAQs

But why settle for one or the other? Car wax and car polish aren’t exclusive approaches. They even complement each other.

Do You Wax or Polish First?

Let’s say your schedule allows you to wax and polish your vehicle. Which of the two car treatments should precede the other?

You should always polish your vehicle before you wax it. Car polishing will remove whatever dirt escapes the car wash. Applying a coat of car wax on the polished surface ensures that detailing repairs to your car’s exterior last longer. The wax coating reduces the risk of additional damage that requires repeat polishing.

If you wax your vehicle before polishing it, the car polish will strip the wax coating from your car. The exterior will remain unprotected from the elements.

Get the Best Car Wax Products Online

Waxing is important because it protects your vehicle’s coat against the elements like sunlight, rain, and snow, which degrades your vehicle’s paint. If you want your vehicle to look new for a long time, you should wax it at appropriate intervals. Need car care or cleaning products online? Look no further, as CarParts.com is your one-stop shop for all your vehicle’s needs. 

When it comes to car care products, CarParts.com chooses brands that use the highest quality chemicals and solutions so that your car receives the best care. You can choose a variety of waxes including carnauba wax, ceramic wax, or synthetic spray wax, among others. You can also choose spray-on car wax so you can give your car protection without going through the conventional process of applying wax.

Revitalize your ride and give it the ultimate protection it deserves! Shop for car wax here at CarParts.com today!

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Automotive Features Reviewer at CarParts.com

Lisa Conant grew up in Canada around a solid contingency of gear heads and DIY motor enthusiasts. She is an eclectic writer with a varied repertoire in the automotive industry, including research pieces with a focus on daily drivers and recreational vehicles. Lisa has written for Car Bibles and The Drive.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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