How To Wax a Car: Pro Detailer’s Step by Step Guide

Susan Fernandez November 11 2021

A car demands attention, and one better not ignore it. This post is all about waxing your car in the right way.

First of all, wash your car and decontaminate it before you start waxing it. If you don't know how to do that properly, check on our article here.

What is waxing?

Wax is a protective layer, which gets applied on the surface of the car to protect it from natural elements like water and dust. Also, there are certain benefits of waxing done by professionals, which are :

  • Treatment for paintwork
  •  Prevention of corrosion
  •  Removal of swirls and light scratches left behind after the polishing process
  • Protection against acid rain etc.

Vehicles that are never waxed end up with chalky residue due to constant weathering caused due to rain and snowfall. This accumulates dirt and grime that leads to the etching of paint if not cleaned off properly at regular intervals(for example: after every wash). The accumulation leads to a loss in the shine of your car. Waxing protects the paintwork from all this and increases the shine. It also helps in heat insulation, which is essential for the summer season where temperatures shoot to unbearable levels.

What kind of wax do you need?

There are different kinds of wax available in the market: liquid, paste, and spray. It depends on what you need and how much work you want to put into it. Let's take a look at each of them one by one:

Liquid wax: The liquid kind is easy and quick to apply but needs lots of effort if applied by hand as it's tough to spread evenly. It can be used just after washing the car and requires no other preparation work.

Paste wax: Paste wax does not dry up that easily, which makes it difficult to be applied by hand. It needs a little bit of rubbing before it can be spread evenly on paintwork. However, applying wax is very easy with a machine polisher as you just need to apply a small amount of paste on a pad and rub it gently in a circular motion for few minutes.

Spray wax: This kind of wax is the easiest one to use. No additional preparation work is needed, all you need is to spray directly on the car's surface and wipe it off with a clean cloth. But make sure not too much wax is sprayed at once or else it might drip here and there if not wiped properly.

When should I wax my car?

Ideally after every wash but at least twice a year. This depends on how often you use your car. If you drive your car daily, then it's best to wax it at least twice a year. Also, when you wash your car there is also an important factor - when to wax it. If you wash your car frequently in summers, the effect of wax is negated as dirt accumulation happens very quickly before any protection can be given by wax.

Supplies for Car Waxing

So, if you're going to do it, you have to do it right! You've got to get the high gloss shine! And for that, you'd be needing the best car wax, applicator pads, and microfiber towels. Once you have these supplies, you can start on with waxing your car. But firstly let`s decide on what car wax we need to use.

Car Wax - Which one to Use?

There are various types of car wax available, but make sure you buy a carnauba car wax for best results. Beware that there are imitation products available in the market which promise to be good, but actually turn out to be not so well.

If you don't know much about different brands, you can try Turtle Wax T-477R ICE Spray Car Polish. It provides good gloss and protection against water spots. And it comes with a microfiber towel too! You can also give Meguiar's G18216 Ultimate Paste Wax a try as it's one of the premium products available in the market. Both these products provide brilliant shine after application and last for a few months without any wash required (as they have very strong water-repelling properties). Also, they have a variety of colors to choose from.

How To Wax a Car: Step by Step

Car waxing can be done in two ways: waxing by hand and waxing by the polisher.

Waxing by Hand

As it has been made clear earlier, you first have to wash and decontaminate your car before you start to wax it. So, consider that as the pre-first step. After you're done with washing, you can proceed to the following steps:

Step 1: Shade

The weather in which you're waxing your car matters a lot. Experts believe it is best to wax a car on a cool day with little or no humidity. It is also imperative that you do it under a shade and not expose it to open sunlight.

Step 2: Pre-Wax Cleaner

You can buy a pre-wax cleaner from any store or you can use your own favorite wax as most of the waxes have natural cleaning properties too. Mix it with water in a ratio of 1:4 and apply to your car's surface. This helps remove the dirt and old wax from the surface without scratching it. Make sure you're going over the entire body, going slowly so that no part is left out. Wipe off everything with a clean cloth. If needed, reapply again to remove stubborn stains.

Pre-cleaner will help to remove dirt and residues from paintwork before applying a new coat of wax on it. But don't forget there are also some other ways to wash off the dust and dirt. 

Step 3: Apply

Now, remember! Always apply wax panel by panel and not on the entire vehicle at once. Secondly, apply wax in 3x3 sections with the help of an applicator pad. Then, gently rub it in straight-line motions. Let it dry for about 10 to 15 minutes before re-waxing to get that extra glossiness.

Tip: If you're using a paste/liquid wax, apply a good amount of it. If you're using a spray wax/sealant, spray it in 3x3 sections and rub it with an applicator pad. Keep up with step 3 after every 3x3 section.

Step 4: Buff

After the wax has hazed, rub it gently with your delicate microfiber towel by folding it into fourths. A right-left motion is recommended to do this task. After that, use another dry microfiber towel to buff the wax off and reveal the shiny new layer below.

Note: You can also use terry cloth for this step instead of microfiber towels.

Step 5: Flipped Buff

It is a continuation of step 3. Just flip the cleaner side of the towel, and continue to buff the surface.

Step 6: Repeat

Repeat the whole process for the rest of your car.

Waxing by Machine

Well, if you decide to wax your car by machine, it's your call. Experts recommend using some high-quality professional polishers for the best results.  For example, you can go with Rupes LHR75e Mini Random Orbital Polishing Machine. But make sure to use the right wax. A good quality wool pad is also required for this kind of work.

Remember to wash and decontaminate your vehicle before you start with waxing.

Step 1: Shade

Find a proper shade to wax your car under it. You don't want warm weather or sunny exposure to your car during waxing.

Step 2: Apply

With the machine, you always use liquid wax. 6 pea-size drops, and the lowest level on the machine is the ideal pairing for starting. 

Remember! Always follow the 3x3 rule, and NEVER apply wax to the whole vehicle at once. You want to do it in parts.

Steps 3, 4, and 5 are the same for the machine as they were for hand. 

Waxing By Hand vs Waxing by Machine

As you can see, both these methods have their pros and cons. If your car's surface finish is in poor condition or if there are too many swirl marks on it, then machine waxing is recommended. This will help in removing scratches and other imperfections easily

On the other hand, when you want a deep shine without necessarily looking at the swirls and fine scratches, then waxing by hand is what you need.

And when do you think you need to use a rubbing compound? If you want that extra wetness and shine, then it is recommended that you use a waxing kit as it includes every tool and chemical needed to perform the job well.

Final words

By learning the step by step process that pro detailers follow when waxing a car, you will become more knowledgeable on the subject. As well as exposing yourself to certain terminology used by pros explaining processes of waxing. Take this article's advice into consideration, but do your own research through other sources if needed before trying any new techniques on your car.

Waxing is an important part of car care since it adds shine and protects your paint job from oxidation. Think about what you want to achieve with each coat of wax applied to a vehicle. Ask yourself if you're trying to conceal defects or if you just want that extra sheen. You can even do both, which is why there are different wax types made with various purposes in mind.

And never forget, always rub in straight lines for an even coating of the wax. And if your car's surface finish is oxidized, swirl marks, and scratches are present, you might want to consider using a machine instead of a hand since it will help remove every blemish on the paint job.

Good luck!