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What Does Car Wax Do? (Why It’s Useless)

Image Credit: Christopher Bowns via Flickr

Image Credit: Christopher Bowns via Flickr

What Does Car Wax Do? (Why It’s Useless)

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Waxing your car used to be the only way to protect your finish. Unfortunately wax doesn’t last more than a few weeks. What you will want to use instead is a paint sealant. Good sealants can last years. Paint sealants are sometimes known as synthetic wax and are one of the best ways that you can protect your vehicle.

People still refer to applying sealants as waxing and we will too. But it’s important to know the difference between a wax and a paint sealant. Carnauba wax is useless as a protective coating for your daily driver unless you plan on reapplying it frequently. Step up to a quality paint sealant and save yourself time.

After reading this article, you will have the ultimate understanding as to why it is so important to keep your car waxed (or sealed), as well as all the little details that you might have never considered, that can transform your detail job from being just okay to having professional-level results.

Is it good to wax your car?

As a car owner, waxing your car is a necessity and if you haven’t started, use this as the inspiration you need to begin! By not waxing your car, you are cheating it out of years of its best possible condition and spending too much money on cosmetic issues that could be prevented. 

When you wax your car, you are preventing the potentially disastrous effects of sun damage to the surface of your paint job such as fading to any degree, oxidation, and overall discoloration. This is detrimental to the cosmetic condition of your car and decreases the value as well as costs a significant amount of money in damage control.

Types of Car Wax

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. The 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 wax, 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 wax is known as a paint sealant. This wax ultimately 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. There are also different forms 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 to. There is nothing that is set firm in stone which car wax will be best for you, so feel free to try a few out. The different forms 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

    This form of car wax is great for quick touch-ups and is an excellent item 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.

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.
  • 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 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.

How long does wax last on a car?

Waxing your car is not a one and done application. Some wax jobs start to falter between 2 and 5 weeks while others can last upwards of 6 months without any problems. There is no right answer to when you should wax your car as it will ultimately depend on how often you have it out and subject to the environment. The length of your wax will also be determined by what type of wax you use, your skill level of applying it, how much you apply, and the condition of your car.

What do I need to wax my car?

When applying wax to your car, it is best to use the instructions on the packaging of your product of choice. Each wax method has a few differences in the way you should apply, but there are a few tools that you will need across the board for a successful wax job:
  • Wax of Choice

    Above I detailed the different types of wax that are available to you on the market, but one of my favorites is the Wolfgang Concours Series Deep Gloss. This product lasts longer than any other product that I’ve used and gives flawless results that are comparable to that of a professional. No matter the type of wax that you select, make sure it is from a reliable brand and a good quality in order to avoid any waxing mishaps. Also, make sure to follow the instructions on the packaging for the best possible results.
  • Microfiber Towel

    If you apply the wax with a normal towel, then the surface of your car is subject to those dreaded swirls and light scratches across the paint and an uneven coat of wax. In order to keep your paint looking pristine, use a microfiber towel such as the options by The Rag Company. These towels will protect your vehicle while you’re laying down the product.
  • A Clay Bar

    A clay bar can be helpful after you wash your car in order to remove any debris that may have lingered after the car wash. If any debris is left on the car when you wax, it will be trapped under the layer leaving bubbles and other undesired markings. This will result in a loss of the mirror finish that you would otherwise get from waxing.

Helpful Links


Car wax is a product that is often overlooked by automotive owners across the spectrum, however, applying it to your car will set it far apart from the rest. Your car will thank you for incorporating the simple act of waxing into your car upkeep routine.

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