The best generic answer to this question is to wax your car every 3 months. This advice is a bit dated and needs some explaining for you to understand how often “you” should wax “your car”.
Depending on what “wax” you’re using and the environment you live in this recommendation can radically change. The reason the answer can change so much is because of the advancement of waxes.
How Often Should You Wax Your Car?
Carnauba wax typically begins to lose it’s protective ability around 30 days with it being mostly ineffective after 3 months.
Paint sealants, which are commonly referred to as wax, can last several months to well over a year.
Manufacturers have evolved protective coatings for cars and trucks a lot since the glory days of wax and modern paint protection is a lot more durable today.
Back then carnauba wax was the gold standard which is a natural pure wax. It is still available today and is loved for its unbeatable shine. Today, the term “wax” has been blurred and what many people refer to as wax really isn’t a wax at all.
Continue reading to learn more about modern paint protections.
3 Different Types of Paint Protection
Carnauba Wax – Weeks to Months of Protection
True wax is typically carnauba wax which is still prized today for its unbeatable shine. While there are plenty of products now on the market that last much longer, none quite give the same gloss and luster that pure carnauba wax is capable of producing.
For this reason it is still very popular with owners of show cars and such. They’re not really interested in its ability to protect and are more interested in its ability to produce an almost wet look.
Carnauba wax just doesn’t hold up very long on a daily driver. It wouldn’t be uncommon for the wax to wear off in a few weeks and need to be reapplied. This makes true wax impractical for use on your typical car.
Paint Sealant – Months to up to 2 Years of Protection
This is where things get a bit muddy. Most of what we commonly refer to as wax these days actually falls under the category of paint sealant more than wax.
You may see labels that say something like “Synthetic Wax” or “Hybrid Wax”. These products are either pure paint sealants or are primarily paint sealants with some carnauba wax included to help improve the shine abilities of the sealant.
Paint sealants are typically not wax at all but a chemical polymer that performs much better than wax could ever hope to perform. As sealants have been improved they have moved from being able to protect for months to now being able to protect for a year or more in some cases.
You may think that you’ll be missing out on a good looking finish if you don’t use carnauba wax based on my comments but that isn’t really the case. I assure you that you’ll be very satisfied with the shine a quality paint sealant can produce and you’ll love the extended protection from acid rain, tree sap, bugs, tar, and harmful UV rays it provides.
Ceramic Coating – 1 to 10 years of protection
Technically these are paint sealants as well but they are a more advanced class of sealant. Ceramic coatings are essentially an order of magnitude more durable than typical paint sealants.
They usually come in very small bottles that surprisingly can coat a large SUV. There are ceramic coatings that the average DIY detailer can purchase and there are even more advanced coatings that are only available to professional detailers that must be certified before they’re allowed to sell and apply them.
These advanced coatings typically last a year or two to as much as 10 years for the professional-only grades.
In addition to all the protection you can expect from a typical paint sealant, these coatings are very hard and can even help protect your clear coat from fine scratches and swirls. Don’t expect them to prevent rock chips and similar damage though.
We prefer paint sealants out of the 3 different types of paint protection. This is most due to expense. Ceramic coatings that perform significantly better than the best paint sealants are quite expensive. Specifically we recommend Wolfgang Deep Gloss Paint Sealant as it is capable of lasting as much as 2 years. However we recommend reapplying every year. You won’t get the added protection against fine scratches and swirls in your clear coat however. If you wash your car properly these scratches will be kept to a minimum.
If you are interested in ceramic coatings and they sound like the best choice for you we recommend checking out Cquartz UK 3.0. It’s probably the best choice for the DIY detailer.
If you’re insistent upon getting the very best gloss possible we recommend applying P21S Carnauba Wax overtop of either the Wolfgang DGPS or CQuartz. That way you’ll have excellent protection but will also have the absolute best gloss possible. Expect to have to reapply the P21S frequently to maintain that shine however.
If you’re interested in the absolute best ceramic coatings contact some of your local detailers that offer ceramic coatings. Ask them about the lifespan of their products and if there are warranties on their performance.
How can you tell when it’s time to wax your car again?
Following the manufacturers recommendation isn’t always accurate. Many factors affect how long your paint protection will last. The best way to determine when it is time to wax your car is when water no longer beads in tight droplets on the surface of the paint.
Waxes, paint sealants, and ceramic coatings are all hydrophobic and will cause water to stand on top of the paint instead of spread out. If water on your car isn’t beading well it’s definitely time to reapply a good coating of your preferred paint protection.
Can you wax your car too much?
Waxing your car will not hurt it. It will only add to the protection that is already on it. That said, there isn’t any need to apply it more often than the manufacturer recommends.
Waxing is the process of adding a layer of protection on top of your clear coat. Polishing is the process of wearing away some of the clear coat to remove fine scratches. If you’re unclear on the differences between waxing and polishing you should check out our article explaining the difference between polishing and waxing.
Should you wax a new car?
Yes, however you should wait 3 months to do so. Fresh paint needs to breath to cure and this process can continue after you take delivery of your new car. I recently bought a new car that I knew had just been manufactured prior to picking it up.
Knowing this I’m currently waiting before applying a coat of paint sealant. If you know the build date of your car at it is beyond 3 months since manufacturer you should be fine to go ahead and wax it.
Is waxing a car worth it?
For most people it definitely is. If you don’t care about the appearance of your car or truck – it’s just transportation AND you don’t plan on keeping it very long then it may not be worth the trouble to you. Some reasons you should keep your car’s paint well protected are:
- It will make your car look great
- It will be easier to clean
- It will stay clean longer
- Protection from damaging ultraviolet rays
- Protection from acid rain
- Protection from bird droppings
- Protection from acidic bug guts
- Protection from tree sap
- Improves the resale value of your car
How to wax a car
Waxes and paint sealants are generally applied the same way whether you’re dealing with a spray, liquid, or paste. They are all typically wiped onto the surface of your paint and then after a short period of time – the amount of time will vary from product to product – you wipe it off.
This will leave behind a thin coating of protection. Always follow the instructions on the product you decide to use. You obviously need to thoroughly wash your car prior to waxing. You may even want to decontaminate it by using a clay bar first.
Once it’s finished being waxed you don’t need to rinse it off or do anything. You should be done with the process.
There really isn’t one answer that works for everyone when it comes to answering the question of how often to wax. The best way to determine when it’s time to reapply a coating of your favorite paint protection is by paying attention to how water beads on the paint. If it doesn’t bead very well then it’s time to reapply.
Waxing is a generic term these days and doesn’t strictly mean real natural wax. Most of what we consider to be wax is actually a chemical polymer that bonds to the surface of your paint to provide protection.
We recommend Wolfgang Concours Deep Gloss Paint Sealant as paint protection for most people. It looks great, protects for a very long time, is easy to apply and is not too expensive given the incredible performance. Most people will only need to apply it once per year.