What Does Car Wax Do? (Waxed Vs Unwaxed)

Image Credit: Christopher Bowns via Flickr

Image Credit: Christopher Bowns via Flickr

What Does Car Wax Do? (Waxed Vs Unwaxed)


Car wax works by creating a protective thin layer on the painted surface of your car’s exterior. Car waxes help extend the life of your vehicle’s paint and leave you with a glossy car.

Automatic car washes may apply some spray waxes at the end of the wash, but these car waxes are not going to protect for long.

To truly provide real protection to your car’s paint you need to apply a proper auto wax that will last more more than a few days.

Continue reading to learn about what waxing your car can do for your vehicle’s paint.

What Does Car Wax Do?

Car wax does 3 main things, creates a protective layer over your paint, adds an attractive glossy shine, and makes it easier to keep your vehicle’s exterior clean.


Benefits of Waxing Your Car

Now that you know your options for waxing cars, let’s talk about all of the benefits that your car will have from just adding waxing to your routine.

Protect your paint

Our environment is full of pollutants and sadly our car and its paint job will take the brunt of it as it speeds down the roadway. Daily encounters with rain, UV rays from the sun, road debris, and stuck on bugs can all ruin an otherwise perfect paint job over time and a car wax will protect against all of these.

The wax makes it easy for liquids to slide off the car which prevents the pollutants from sitting on your paint job and it eliminates the pain of having to scrub off bugs with such force, which could also result in damaging your paint.

Another thing that wax can do is reflect the UV rays from your car before it gets to the paint and causes damage to the clear coat.

Fill in Scratches

If you see small, shallow scratches on the surface of the car–rest assured, it happens. You don’t have to take your car into the detailer to make most of them disappear, just add a coat of wax!

Wax applies a thin protective layer on top of your clear coat which will fill in the scratches, as it works to form a barrier. I can’t guarantee that they will all go away, but this definitely is a cheaper fix than any detailing shop can offer.

Make Your Car Shine

Who doesn’t want a car that looks brand new? Your car will look as if you just drove it home for the first time and have a mirror-like finish that shines like no other.

For any car lover, this is the biggest appeal, however, if you are trying to sell it, this can also get you significantly more for an older ride. Anything is more appealing with a little extra shine to the paint and this waxing car treatment will take your vehicle to the next level.

Have more effective car washes

As you try to wash your car, you suddenly become aware of just how sticky everything truly is. The elbow grease involved in removing stickiness increases the time you spend washing your car just to get a mediocre or average result.

Car wax will prevent these sticky objects from sticking so firmly on your car’s surface which results in a lot less time spent scrubbing the front of your car and will likely result in a better washing experience.

Applying a wax will make your car look like you spent more time cleaning it than you actually did and leave you with more time to focus on other details.


What happens if you don't wax your car?

If you don’t wax your car, the clear coat will begin to slowly break down due to ultraviolet rays. Factory car paint is typically warrantied for 10 years. After that period, clear coat will begin to become hazy and oxidize. Eventually it will begin peeling, at which point it can’t be easily fixed.

Additionally, your car’s paint will collect environmental contaminants that bond with the surface or wear away at the clear coat. Things like rail dust, brake dust, industrial pollution, tree sap, bird droppings, bug guts, acid rain and more all eat away at your finish.

Car wax provides an essential protective coating to your car’s exterior that will help extend the paint life and dramatically improve the paint shine.

Types of Car Waxes

There are two categories into which car wax falls: Natural and Synthetic. Both of these waxes are great to use when waxing a car and will give your car a beautiful finish.

Natural Waxes

Natural wax is a carnauba wax which comes from a tree in Brazil. This wax itself is quite hard, is harder to work with, and may not last as long as a synthetic paint sealant, but when you wax with carnauba–you get a result like no other. Your car will have a brilliant shine and the paint will look better than it ever has before.

Synthetic Waxes

Synthetic wax is known as a paint sealant. Synthetic polymers in paint sealants lasts longer than carnauba wax, but what it gains in time, it lacks in shine. Although this product offers longer protection, when you wax your car with each wax and put them side by side, the car that has a layer of wax with the carnauba will catch your eye first.

Ceramic Coatings

Ok, so a ceramic coating isn’t a wax but it technically is an advanced synthetic paint sealant.

Ceramic coatings are superior to natural waxes and paint sealants in almost every way. The biggest downsides to ceramics coatings are the cost and the fact that they aren’t ideal for do it yourselfers.

The biggest benefits of ceramic coatings are that they last an incredibly long time (years) , provide the best possible shine, excellent water beading, and most importantly, can actually provide protection from swirl marks other micro scratches.

If you’re interested in learning more, you should check out our article on all of the advantages and disadvantages of ceramic coatings.


Paste, Liquid, or Spray Wax

There are also different delivery methods of car wax, which can be chosen based on the user’s preference and application goals as well as the vehicle the wax is being applied.

In general, paste wax lasts longer, then liquid wax, and finally spray wax. The different formulations are:

Paste Wax

You will typically see the prior mentioned carnauba wax in this form. A car wax in paste form is harder to apply as it is more of a solid material and should be used on a heated vehicle. You can achieve this by working on a warmer day or by letting the engine heat the car up before applying the wax as this will save you a lot of time when all is said and done.

This is the type of car wax that I recommend you should use if you are looking for more of a professional job with that iconic crystal clear mirror finish.

Spray Wax

Spray waxes are great for quick touch-ups and an excellent tool to have in your arsenal. The application process is quick, easy, and perfect to do for continued wax maintenance right after you give your car a wash.

After the car wash, you may see a few areas that need some extra love, so don’t be afraid to buff a layer of wax into the surface to get your car looking in its ideal condition again.

Liquid Wax

Wax in this form can be either synthetic or natural, however, if it is the natural carnauba wax, polymers are added to the formula to make it more of a liquid which will result in it losing some of its shine.

I recommend this for the older vehicle crowd as it adds a thin seal over the top of the clear coat and acts aggressively in terms of the sealing power which an older car can benefit from.


How Long Does Car Wax Last?

Natural car waxes typically only last 30 days. Within the natural waxes, pastes tend to last the longest, then liquid waxes, and finally spray waxes last the shortest amount of time.

Synthetic wax will last much longer, as much as over a year. My favorite synthetic wax is Wolfgang’s Deep Gloss Paint Sealant. I’ve personally had it last over a year on my car and can vouch for its benefits and shine.

If you really want to purchase a paint protection that will go the distance, a ceramic coating is the way to go. Professional-grade ceramic coatings can last more than 10 years. Even consumer-grade coatings you cay apply yourself are getting crazy good. Adam’s Polishes Graphene Ceramic Coating Advanced is touted as lasting over 9 years!

How To Wax Your Car

In general, the main steps are to apply your chosen car wax to your car’s paint, allow it to cure, and wipe it away.

Important things to know about how to apply wax are:

  • Obviously you should do a thorough car wash prior to waxing.
  • If your paint feels rough, you should consider using a clay bar to decontaminate the vehicle’s paint first.
  • Washing and waxing your car should be done in the shade, preferably in a garage if you have access to one.

That’s obviously an over simplification so let’s dive into the particulars of how to apply car wax:

How To Use Liquid Wax or Paste Wax

  1. Work the liquid or paste into a foam applicator pad
  2. Moisten the pad if you’re having trouble with applying wax
  3. Apply wax in a circular motion to 2 foot square sections
  4. Allow to cure according the manufacturer’s recommendation
  5. Wipe away the dried wax with a microfiber towel

How To Use Spray Wax

  1. Spray the wax directly onto your car’s exterior in a 2 foot square section
  2. Wipe away the wax with a microfiber towel
  3. Flip the towel and buff the area until you’re satisfied with the shine
  4. Repeat until the entire vehicle’s exterior is complete


You should now have a firm grasp of the benefits of car wax and the importance of ensuring your car’s paint is protected from environmental contaminants and ultraviolet rays.

The type of wax product you choose to use to ensure your vehicle’s finish is protected will make a difference in how often you need to reapply wax to your to your car or truck.

Providing protection from road grime and other contaminants is important to ensure the longevity of your clear coat, but it also adds a great shine.

Be sure and check out our step-by-step guide to car detailing and check out our many other articles on keeping your car clean.

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