Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Car wax versus car polish

What’s the difference between car wax and car polish?

Car wax is a shiny coating that seals the pores of the paint and adds gloss. Car polish, on the other hand is a product that’s designed to remove scratches and bring up the shine of the paint. It isn’t a coating like wax. It doesn’t provide long term protection. Think of it more like sandpaper that smooths out your wood project before applying a protective urethane.
Polish= fine sandpaper Wax=Shellac or urethane coating

Some car waxes do double duty as both a polish and a wax, so they do a mediocre job on both. They save time and elbow grease, but don’t provide the same results as a separate polish and wax.

These are not the same products! A polishing wax contains a small amount of abrasive to smooth out scratches, along with a top coating wax. A polishing compound, on the other hand is designed only to remove scratches and “polish” the paint to a gloss. But it doesn’t contain any protective wax. A synthetic wax is just that, a protective coating. It doesn’t contain any polishing compound. It goes on after you’ve polished the paint.

When to use car polish

Car paint gets scratched from car wash brushes and even hand washing if you don’t clean your wash mitt regularly. It can also get scratched by dragging packages across the paint. If your car’s finish looks dull or you see scratches, car polish can remove them and bring the paint back to a shiny luster. You don’t have to polish you car before every wax job. In fact, you shouldn’t polish that often because you’re literally removing a portion of your car’s finish every time you polish. If you polish your car every five years but wax twice a year, your car will look great all the time.

How to use car polish

Car polish can be applied by hand, with a dual action polisher or with a high speed buffer. Pros use a high speed buffer. But unless you’ve had experience with one of those machines, don’t try it on your car; staying in one spot too long will literally “sand” off the paint or burn it off.

Polish your car by hand

This requires far more elbow grease than with a machine, so your arms will be quite tired if you’re polishing your entire car. If you’re applying car polish by hand, use a sponge applicator and apply a small dollop and rub in a circular motion going in overlapping rows. Work in small section. Once the polish has dried, wipe with a microfiber cloth to see if it’s removed all the scratches. If it hasn’t, repeat.

Polish your car with a dual action polisher

This is the easiest way to polish your car. Purchase or rent a dual action polisher and a polishing pad and a wax pad. The foam firmness is what differentiates the two.
Apply a dollop of polish to the polishing pad and wipe it onto the paint. Don’t apply the polish to the pad and then hit the trigger; that will just sling the polish all over the place. Start at one end of the polish you’ve wiped on the car and hit the trigger. The dual action will rotate the polishing pad in a circular and randomly oscillating motion that prevents paint burn. Continue along the line of polish until the end. Then add more and start a second row, making sure you overlap the rows. Work in small sections.
Wipe off the dried polish using a dry clean microfiber towel.

Apply wax

Once you’ve polished the entire vehicle, it’s time to wax. Some classic car owners swear by Carnauba wax. It provides a warm deep color and shine to your vehicle. But Carnauba wax doesn’t last long. Bottom line; it’s a lot of work to apply and doesn’t last. That’s why I don’t like it. Instead, use a synthetic polymer wax.

Polymer wax is a paint sealant

A synthetic polymer wax seeps into the pores of the paint better than Carnauba wax, which is why it’s often referred to a “paint sealant.” That’s right, the paint sealant the dealer tries to push on you is nothing more than a synthetic wax that you can apply yourself at home. A synthetic car wax gives your paint a “wet look” that shines more than a Caranuba wax.

How to apply polymer wax

The directions tell you to avoid waxing your car in direct sunlight. The reason for that is because the sun dries out the solvents in the wax too quickly, making it cake up fast which also makes it harder to remove. Find a shady spot to apply polymer wax.

Apply the wax to a sponge and wipe it onto your car using circular motions in overlapping rows. As the wax dries, remove the remaining coating with a microfiber towel.

How to remove dried wax

The easiest way to remove dried wax in crevices is to apply fresh wax and then wipe it off.

©, 2019 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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