Tip Sheet

6 car waxing mistakes you should stop doing

After I first waxed my dad's huge Chevy à la The Karate Kid, I realized no car care regimen is more rewarding and beneficial to your vehicle's paint than a good "wax-on, wax-off." The question is, are you doing it right?

Let me enumerate the common mistakes of waxing and possibly help you all in getting that shine and protection your finish deserves.

1) Applying and buffing wax under direct sunlight. It isn't exactly a bright idea to wax and bake your car under the sun at the same time. It will just make buffing more difficult as it will overly dry out your wax, not to mention affect the adhesion of it on your paint's surface.

What's right: Follow the instructions on the label by keeping the surface cool and performing the task under a well-shaded area. Plus, there are far better ways of achieving that summer tan.


2) Not completely drying out your car prior to application. Having the slightest moisture on your paint after a good wash will prevent any type of wax from evenly bonding with your finish. Just think of the relationship between oil and water. They will never be compatible.

What's right: Prior to application, make sure you take ample time to dry out your car. Get water out of tight areas, as it may later drip down your panels as you wax along.

3) Using a dirty applicator. Based on what I've seen, a lot of car owners and shops tend to overlook how they stow and care for their wax applicator sponges. Oftentimes, dry wax build-up covers up the applicator, giving it a somewhat crunchy feel. This can be quite harmful to your car's finish as old, dry wax can be abrasive and hold unwanted debris.

What's right: Make it a rule to clean your applicator after every waxing session. You can mist it with some water or detailer spray and squeeze/pat it dry on a clean towel prior to storage. Prior to use, always check the applicator's surface for any type of debris that may have clung onto it. As I would, it is best to prep the pad by misting it with a spray wax or detailer and massaging it until it feels soft and supple before applying the wax.

4) Applying a thick layer of wax. Aside from being wasteful, a thick layer of wax won't make your car any shinier. In fact, it will just increase your effort in buffing it off, which is something I shy away from. My approach to buffing is always accompanied by a high degree of finesse and subtle pressure. Too much force on the surface can be unkind to your clear coat and possibly dent your panels, given that a lot of mass-produced cars today use thinner sheets of metal.

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What's right: The best way to achieve the best coverage and shine is by applying a thin layer of wax in even, circular strokes working on one panel at a time. Allow a couple of minutes for the wax to dry to a light haze then buff off. For extra protection, you can do a double wax by simply repeating the aforementioned steps. When possible, you should use a nano-shield synthetic wax for the first layer followed by a show car wax to top it off. It’s a powerful combination of shielding your paint from pollutants and the elements while achieving a shimmering, show-worthy finish.

5) Using ordinary cloths such as a pranela for buffing. Sadly, many car owners and carwash shops still use such cloths for cleaning and buffing paint. Though regular cotton cloths were the only option a couple of decades ago, my obsessive self will be forever thankful for the invention of the microfiber towel. In layman's terms, the use of ordinary cloths can be unsafe for your paint as they don't lift abrasive debris away from the treated surface.

What's right: Invest in quality microfiber towels for buffing away wax to achieve the best, paint-safe results.

6) Using the wrong wax type for a specific paint condition. Thanks to modern technology, we now have a range of waxes to address different paint conditions. Typically, most of us (shops included) won't know this, so it's best to consult professionals in the industry or educate ourselves by asking Google.


What's right: Don't use a show car wax for paint that's been neglected. Instead, use a carnauba cleaner wax as it cleans and protects at the same time. When the paint is in better condition from being detailed properly, then you can switch to a show car wax.

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PHOTO: Manskee Nascimento
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