Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Difference between polish and wax and rubbing compound

What’s the difference between polish and wax and rubbing compound

What is car wax and how is it different from polish?

Car wax is a coating that seals the pores of the paint and adds gloss. Car wax acts a protectant against UV degradation and paint oxidation.

It can be made from natural waxes like carnauba or with synthetic polymers. Although some car waxes are sold as a combination wax and polish, the vast majority of car waxes are just a coating and don’t include polish.

What is car polish?

Car polish is made with ultra fine grit particles designed to remove oxidized paint and smooth over scratches to bring the paint to a smooth shine. In many ways it’s like using ultra fine grit sandpaper on wood to remove scratches. In that scenario, polish is the ultra fine sandpaper and wax it like the urethane top coat you’d apply after staining to protect the wood.

What is rubbing compound?

Rubbing compound is similar to polish in that it’s used to remove oxidized paint and smooth scratches. However, it uses a larger grit abrasive and is much more aggressive than polish. If your vehicle has deep scratches in the clear coat, you’d use a rubbing compound first to smooth the scratches. Then you’d move to a polish to provide further smoothing and finish it off with a protective wax.

When to use polish versus wax

• If your car paint is dull, you’d use polish to remove the oxidized paint and bring the paint to a shine
• You’d use polish to remove fine scratches in the clear coat
• Use rubbing compound to remove heavily oxidized single stage paint or to remove deep scratches

Neither rubbing compound nor polish provide any long term protection

You must use a car wax to protect your car’s finish after you’ve used rubbing compound or polish.

What about combination wax/polish?

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.


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.

Don’t over-polish your car!

Polish uses an abrasive and removes a portion of your car’s finish every time you polish. So don’t use it very often or you’ll “sand” off the clear coat and paint. If you polish your car every five years but wax twice a year, your car will look great all the time.

Differences in car wax

Carnauba 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.

Ceramic “wax”

Ceramix car wax isn’t really wax at all. It’s a combination of synthetic polymers and hydrophobic silicon dioxide (SiO2). Unlike traditional car wax that’s a coating, the silicon dioxide doesn’t just sit on the surface of your paint. Instead, it chemically bonds with the paint or clear coat, creating a hydrophobic (water repelling) layer. So it sheds water better than wax and resists dirt attraction so your car stays cleaner. In addition, ceramic wax offers far better UV protection and protection from chemical contamination, as well as everyday wear and tear.

Ceramic products last much longer than either carnauba or synthetic car waxes.

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 apply ceramic coating

See this article for a step by step

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


Custom Wordpress Website created by Wizzy Wig Web Design, Minneapolis MN