Car Polish or Wax – How to Maintain Your Car’s Shine

Servicing your car regularly is an important task as a car owner. However, just as you want to keep your car running reliably, you should also take care of its paint job. Maintaining your car’s paint job will not only prevent corrosion and help you catch scratches or dents, it will also help your car retain more of its value. 

There are two methods to maintain the shine of your car – using car wax or polish. But many people aren’t aware of the differences between the two and don’t know how to polish or wax a car. So if you want to learn about the benefits of car polish versus wax and how to preserve your car’s shine, read on.

Car polish or wax

Car Polish Versus Wax

Over time, a car’s paint job will develop marks, scratches, and become duller due to oxidization. To fix this, you’ll need car polish which is a mildly abrasive compound. It works by removing a very thin layer of the paint and any imperfections on it. As the polish is gently massaged across the car’s paint, it removes the imperfections and smoothens the paint, restoring its original sheen.

Car wax, on the other hand, improves the appearance of your paint by applying a layer of wax that fills in surface scratches in the paint. It also adds an additional protective layer that further smoothens and protects your car’s paint job. Besides protecting your car’s paint from scratches, the wax also prevents fading due to heat, ultraviolet rays, and other irritants. And of course, it adds a nice shine to your car’s surface. If you’ve just polished your car, waxing it afterward will improve the shine and make it last longer. Essentially, car polish removes imperfections and creates a shiny surface while wax protects and smoothens the paint’s surface.

When to Use Car Polish or Wax

Before deciding if you should use car wax or polish, you need to evaluate the condition of your car’s paint job. First, thoroughly wash and dry your car. Then, check the surface of the paint and feel for any rough spots or scratches. If you can see or feel scratches and bumps, you need to polish your car as the blemishes are most likely below the surface of the paint. If the paint is smooth, you can just apply some wax as per the product’s instructions. 

To really enhance and preserve the shine of your car’s paint, you should wash, polish, and wax your car regularly. It’s advisable to wax your car once every three months to protect your paint. If you keep that up, polishing your car once or twice a year should be enough to keep your car scratch-free. While you can get great results when you use both car polish and wax on your car, there’s no hard and fast rule that you have to use them together. You can always use one over the other depending on your needs. However, avoid polishing your car too often as it could strip away excess paint and ruin your car.

Read: A Guide to the Easiest Car Colors to Maintain

Types of Car Wax

Other than deciding between car polish or wax, you also have different types of waxes to consider. There are more types of car waxes compared to polishes, and they each have their own pros and cons. While all car waxes add an additional protective layer to your car’s surface, with so many types of waxes on the market, it can be tricky to decide on the right one for you. To help you decide what’s best for your needs, below are some of the most common types of car waxes and their benefits.

Paste Wax

Paste wax is the oldest form of car wax and is most popular among car enthusiasts, especially old-school ones. Compared to other forms, it creates a glossier, brighter finish when applied resulting in a look that’s hard to obtain with other types of waxes. It’s also very strong and provides excellent protection against UV rays, debris, some chemicals, and light scratches. 

However, it requires more time and attention to detail when applying it, making it trickier to use if you’re new to waxing your car. Also, paste wax doesn’t last as long as liquid wax. It wears thin quicker, so you’ll need to reapply it after a few weeks, typically every 8 to 12 weeks. Paste wax also tends to be slightly costlier than other types, especially if it has natural ingredients like Carnauba wax and natural oils.

Liquid Wax

Liquid wax is the most commonly used type of wax as its texture makes it easier to apply than a paste. It functions the same as paste wax but tends to last longer – around 6 to 12 months. It doesn’t provide the same level of protection as paste wax and doesn’t give the same brilliant shine, but it’s more than enough for most car owners. Liquid wax is perfect for those who want a wax that’s easy to handle and lasts long. However, some liquid waxes can have a higher amount of abrasive particles, so be sure to read the label before buying one.

Spray Wax

Spray wax is designed to be a supplementary product to paste and liquid wax. Since you only need to spray it on your car and wipe it off, it takes significantly less time to apply than the other types. Spray wax can intensify the shine on a car that already has a high-quality finish, making it a great tool to touch up your car’s paint finish before you wax your car with a paste or liquid wax again. While it offers some protection from the elements and is a lot easier to apply, it doesn’t last as long as paste or liquid wax.

2-in-1 Wash and Wax

A 2-in-1 wash and wax combines a car shampoo and wax in one product, making it a good solution for car owners who don’t have the time to wash, polish, and wax their car. It doesn’t provide the same level of protection as a standalone wax and doesn’t last as long but it can still help your car look shiny and new. If you wash your car regularly with a wash and wax, you can still keep your car clean and give its paint job extra protection.

Man polishing his car

Easy Steps to Polish and Wax Your Car

If you’ve always wondered how to polish or wax your car, here are the steps you should follow.

  • Firstly, wash your car with water and car shampoo. Be sure to dry the car thoroughly with a soft dry cloth so as not to leave water spots. Whether you wash, polish, or wax your car, always do it in the shade or when it’s not hot outside. When you wash your car under the sun or when it’s hot, it can cause water spots to form on your car after it dries which will result in a dull paint finish after you polish it.
  • After you wash your car, it’s time to polish it. Put the polish on a suitable pad and apply it onto your car following the product’s instructions. Always apply the polish panel-by-panel in a circular motion. You can polish your car by hand, though using a machine will take less time and effort.
  • Polish the surface until the polishing compound disappears, leaving only the shiny paint behind. You can then move on and continue polishing the next area. Remember to stop polishing when the polish has disappeared as you may dull the finish if you continue polishing the already shiny paint.
  • After polishing, it’s best to wax your car to protect the finish and give it some extra shine. However, before you continue, you need to wash and rinse your car to remove any excess polishing compound that’s left behind.
  • After washing and drying your car, you can start waxing it. Put some wax on the pad or sponge that it came with and apply it to your car in a circular motion. 
  • Apply the wax to the whole car, one area at a time. Unlike with polish, you need to let the wax dry before buffing it off. Once it’s dried, buff it off with a clean microfiber towel. Your car will now have a fantastic shine that can last for months.

We hope now you understand the differences between polish vs wax, and when to use them. You can use either one of them when you need to, but remember to use both polish and wax on your car every few months for the best results. If you’re looking for a used car in good condition or plan to sell your own, check out CARSOME. All our  CARSOME Certified cars have gone through a 175-point inspection to ensure they’re safe and in good working order. CARSOME also reconditions car paint to be like new prior to sale, so you can get your very own shiny, gleaming ride.