A proper wax process can restore your car’s exterior and protect it from elements like bird droppings and road grime, UV damage, and fading. Learn how to wax a car by yourself to save money and enjoy a quality DIY maintenance routine. Compare wax products and follow this step-by-step guide to care for your car.

How to Wax a Car


Gather the Materials

Properly waxing your car requires a few cleaning products and tools. You'll also need a flat area where you can safely wash, dry, and wax your vehicle without worrying about leaves, pollen, or debris falling on it. Ideally, you should wash and wax your car in a garage with proper drainage. If you can't work indoors, be sure you aren't waxing your vehicle in freezing temperatures, extreme heat, or in direct sunlight. Here are the basic materials you need to wax your vehicle:

  • Car wash
  • Microfiber towels or other cleaning towels
  • Polishing compound
  • Scratch repair products (optional)
  • Your preferred spray, paste, or liquid wax
  • Foam applicator pad (optional)
  • Buffer or orbital (optional)

Clean Your Car

Because wax is used to seal the surface of your vehicle, it's important to thoroughly clean its surface before you start the process. Use an car wash and microfiber cloth or other preferred cleaning steps to remove dirt, oils, and insect parts from the surface of your car body. Look at your car's paint closely to ensure that deeply clean to remove any sticky substances like tar and pitch.


Check for Imperfections

Once the surface is clean and dry, use a polishing compound to remove dirt or grease, and helps smooth the paint surface and remove small imperfections while helping to bring out the paint's color. If there are any scratches, swirls, or other issues with your paint job, be sure to touch these up before applying wax. Follow the included instructions on a quality scratch repair kit to prevent rust and restore the flawless look of your vehicle. A layer of car wax will protect your car's body from further scratches (wax helps keep your paint looking healthy, helps repel water, protect it from the elements as well as makes it easier to clean your paint) but it won't restore imperfections already in your paint job.


Wax by Hand

Once your car is washed, polished, and dry, here is the best way to wax a car by hand. Choose your type of wax and apply it following the included instructions. Spray wax allows you to spray the product directly onto your vehicle, but both liquid and paste products are best applied with a foam applicator pad.

Choose one area at a time and don't attempt to apply wax to your entire vehicle before rubbing it into the body. Once you've sprayed or applied wax to a single area, rub it with a damp microfiber cloth or foam applicator.

Turn the cloth or pad over and buff out the remaining product with the other side. Be sure to use circular motions and to work slowly to ensure every area is covered and excess wax is removed as you work.
Once you're finished, you can expect car wax to last between three and six months, depending on the weather and your driving habits. Continued use of wax can protect your vehicle from a number of contaminants and help you enjoy a vibrant, long-lasting paint job.


Or Wax with a Buffer

There's something about waxing by hand that many car owners enjoy. This process allows you to take your time and inspect every inch of your vehicle. To save time and avoid using extra elbow grease, consider choosing a buffing tool or orbital. These can be powered by electrical cord, rechargeable battery, or air compressor.

Be sure to read the owner's manual on your particular buffer before use. Depending on the size of your vehicle and the contours of its body, you may need to be extra precise to cover every area of its surface.

Apply the wax to the orbital pad before you turn the buffer on, as these tools can be used on both the buffing stage and applying stage. Once wax is thoroughly spread over a single area of your vehicle, turn on the machine and allow it to gently glide and buff the wax. This will save you time and energy on the waxing process.

What Is Car Wax?

The primary ingredient in quality car wax products is carnauba, synthetic polymer, or ceramic wax, but carnauba wax is likely the most well known. This product comes from Brazilian palm leaves and is a durable, natural product. Most waxes also include synthetic polymers and other waxes to vary the glossy finish, ease of application, and longevity of the product. Compare brands and styles of wax to be sure you have the best option for your driving habits and vehicle.

Comparing Wax Products

The steps to waxing and how often you should wax your car depend on the type of wax you use. Compare these common types to find the ideal product for your vehicle and your preferred wax process:

  • Paste
  • Spray
  • Liquid

Wax paste is the hardest type of automotive wax. This provides a long-lasting finish preferred by many auto enthusiasts, but is also more difficult and time-consuming to apply. Spray wax is the easiest to apply, but may not offer the same long-lasting results of paste. Finally, liquid wax is a middle-ground option that doesn’t require as much effort as paste but still offers more longevity than spray. There are pros and cons to each type of wax, so discuss each option and top brands with a local AutoZone associate to find the best product for your vehicle.

Can I Wax a Black Car?

Many companies provide alternative wax products for black exterior paint. This is because black paint is more prone to showing visible imperfections, swirl marks, and UV damage. For best use, choose specialized wax for your vehicle with a black paint job.

How Do I Remove Wax From Trim Pieces?

Now that you know how to properly wax a car, it’s time to remove excess wax from trim pieces. Many wax products aren’t recommended for trim pieces. If your wax isn’t suited for use on trim, consider using a trim wax removal product to clean these areas without affecting the rest of your wax coat. Follow the instructions and use a clean cloth to gently wipe the affected areas.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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