How to Wax Your Car Like a Pro

With collision repair shops in Tulsa, Wichita and Junction City, we get a lot of questions from customers about how to keep their vehicles looking new after we’ve done body work on them. So we thought we’d start with some waxing tips from our auto body professionals.

Before you begin

  • Always wax your vehicle between 55° and 85° F—the cooler the better within that range. Any warmer, and the wax dries so quickly that it won’t polish properly.
  • Wax in the shade, or—ideally—in a garage. The sun’s rays can over-dry wax almost instantly. If you don’t have a covered location, do it in the cool of the morning or evening.
  • If your paint is scratched or dull in places, consider using a rubbing or polishing compound before you wax. This will remove a fine layer of clear coat (the shiny, transparent finish that’s applied over your paint color), but can improve the appearance of damaged areas. Polishing compounds generally use a finer abrasive than rubbing compounds and tend to leave a smoother surface for waxing.

Choosing the right car wax

  • Always use a wax that contains carnauba oil. Science has yet to invent a tougher or more attractive coating for auto body paint than this natural extract made from Brazilian Fan Palm leaves.
  • Beware of “cleaner” waxes, as they contain abrasives and can wear down the clear coat and dull your car’s luster.
  • Paste and liquid wax coatings have been proven to last longer than spray wax coatings. Sprays can be a little easier to use, but, hey, it’s a job worth doing right.

Tools of the trade

  • Carnauba wax, either liquid or paste
  • Waxing pads
  • Microfiber cloth

Waxing the car

  1. Place a silver-dollar-sized amount of wax on the pad. This should cover about a 2 by 2 foot area. Remember: it’s better to use too little than too much, so work the wax onto the surface over as large an area as you can.
  2. Apply the wax in overlapping circles (i.e. Karate Kid – “Wax on, wax off”). Work in sections, and let the wax dry for a few minutes in each section before polishing.

Pro tip

Be careful not to let it dry to full hardness. As soon you can swipe your finger across the wax surface with only minor smearing, it’s time to polish.

  1. Polish with the microfiber cloth, removing most of the wax to leave a thin, protective shine on the finish. Apply more wax as needed to bring out the shine in specific areas. When wax begins to build up on the cloth, you’ll feel it drag, which means it’s time to flip it over or fold it to expose a clean spot.
  2. Wipe away any remaining wax residues at the edges and seams, and you’re all done!
  3. Step back and admire your beautiful ride. Maybe drive it up and down Main Street a couple of times.

Pro tip

You can add a second coat of wax to thicken the protective “shell” and extend the life of your car’s luster. Waxing is like painting: multiple thin coats are better than one thick one.

Good luck!

Be sure to watch our video on this topic: