If you care at all about how your skin looks, you eat right, exercise and use moisturizer and sunscreen. If you care at all about your vehicle, a similar philosophy applies: you’ve got to regularly employ the correct processes to keep the car in tip top shape. Waxing your car is actually more important than you think — especially since it’s about far more than just seeing the sun glint off your steed’s resplendent paint. Waxing protects your car’s paint and body from grime, road salt, moisture, sun damage and other finish-ruining elements. Though cars are better protected from rust than ever before, failing to regularly wax is the automotive equivalent of taking crystal meth: after several years of abuse, things get ugly. We’ve broken down the steps for proper waxing. Do it quarterly and you’ll keep your car looking as radiant as the day you drove it off the lot.
1 Park your car in the shade
. The entire process from start to finish should take place without the harshness of the sun beating down on your vehicle, which tends to leave water spots from minerals. Plus, a hot car makes it tough to remove the wax. You don’t need extra work.
2 Wash the car
. It’s important to remove all surface dirt and grime. Never use household detergents, laundry or dish soap. They’re way too harsh for your car’s paint. Buy a soap that’s specially formulated for car washing. Something like this
. Also, wash with a microfiber or wool mitt. These work way better than sponges or towels by pulling dirt away from the paint. Every time you wash a section of the car, loosen the dirt from the mitt by getting fresh soap from the bucket. This ensures that you’re not rubbing dirt particles all over your car repeatedly.
3 Hand dry the car
using chamois cloths, microfiber towels or 100 percent cotton diapers (new, of course), which don’t leave lint or water streaks behind. Under no circumstances should you dry your car with a bath towel. They’re too rough and leave lint behind. Always wash your car cloths separate from your laundry to keep clothing lint off your car.
4 Now the hard work starts
. Run your hand along the paint and feel the small bumps from surface impurities. These are imbedded in the paint and simple washing can’t remove them. Use a clay bar kit
to remove them. With clean hands, knead the clay bar until it’s pliable, then work on a square foot at a time. Spray down the area with the cleaner and then move the clay along the surface. Wipe down with a chamois. Then feel how smooth the surface is; this will prep your car to take on the wax. Keep kneading the clay to expose clean areas and repeat. It’ll take a good hour to finish clay bar-ing your car — unless you have a Hummer. Then you’re screwed.
5 Now comes the waxing part
. You’re free to use traditional carnauba-based waxes
, which work extremely well in protecting your paint but can be tougher to apply and remove. Newer synthetic polymer-based waxes
last even longer than carnauba and take some of the elbow grease out of the application/removal process. Some state you can use them in the sun, but we wouldn’t recommend it.
6 For quick and swirl-free waxing
, use a random orbital motion buffer/polisher
to apply and remove the wax. If you don’t have one, then use a foam applicator pad that’s been slightly dampened. Work in small circular motions and don’t use too much wax. A quarter-sized dollop should work for several square feet of your car’s surface. Avoid waxing your car’s glass, convertible top, rubber or unpainted metal. Also, do your best to keep wax residue out of crevices.
7 Once you’ve applied the wax
, don’t leave to grab a beer with the guys. Remove it using a microfiber cloth and the same circular motion you used to apply the wax. Make sure all of it is removed, one section of the car at a time. Don’t leave any residue behind. Use clean cloths during the process and replace as necessary.
8 Admire your work
, but don’t get too comfortable. You’ll have to do the same thing three months from now. But it will all be worth it in making your car last and look fantastic (unless your car is a PT Cruiser, in which case no amount of waxing will help).