How To Wax A Car Properly (By Hand And With A Buffer)


Section 1: Introduction

We all have busy lives and sometimes it seems that all we can manage is to visit a local drive-through car wash that offers a spray-on “wax” finish. Auto parts stores and large retailers sell quick spray-on wax products.

Those and similar products can spruce up a shine for a short while, but few if any offer any real protection. Today, many owners don’t even know how to wax a car.

So why should anyone bother to truly wax a car? I certainly should have been waxing one of mine! Its clear-coat failed and allowed the paint on the hood to deteriorate. It now is in dire need of repainting, but regular and proper waxing could have prevented that.

Most of us are keeping our vehicles much longer now than in the past – the average is 11.4 years – so it’s more important than ever to wax regularly. Twice a year is fine. You can wax by hand or wax using a buffer, just be sure to do it regularly.

Whether you prefer waxing by hand or using a buffer, the following information gives tips on how to properly wax a car.

Related: What is the Best Car Buffer for Beginners?

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Section 2: How to Wax a Car by Hand: What You’ll Need

True waxing involves applying a wax product and then removing the excess to leave a thin, hard protective surface between the vehicle and the environment in which it operates.. This excludes all of the short cut products available that can make us feel good about shine but doesn’t truly protect our vehicles’ finishes.

Items Needed

• A clean vehicle! Even if the car is clean, wash it again and make sure it is completely dry.

• Check for any remaining tree sap, bird gifts, puddle splashes and the like. They can scratch the surface in the process of applying and removing wax.

• High quality wax. The standard for decades has been Simoniz Paste Wax , 100 percent Brazilian carnauba wax. Carnauba wax is tough, long lasting, hard and offers great protection, so look for a paste or paste-type wax that has a high carnauba wax content.

• Clean, soft towels or rags for removing excess wax. Terry towels are fine but some claim it’s necessary to have old, discarded diapers because they’re soft and leave no lint behind.

• A shaded location such as inside a garage or under the shade of a tree so the car is not in direct sun. The point is to keep direct sun off of the vehicle’s surface while waxing to avoid streaking that’s difficult to buff out when removing the wax.

Related: How to Pick the Best Wax for Black Cars + How To Wax Black Car Video

Section 3: Step by Step Instructions (Waxing By Hand)

Step 1: Apply the Wax

Use short, circular strokes to apply the wax to sections that measure about 2 x 2 feet . You can do larger areas on the hood and trunk because they’re larger and easier to reach. You can apply wax to about half of each of those. Apply only a thin layer! Your goal is to sufficiently cover the surface without leaving too much excess to remove later.

Step 2: Wait

Let the wax dry for 3 to 5 minutes after applying. It will take on the appearance of a dull haze when dry. When the entire section appears rather uniform in that dull haze, it’s time to remove the excess.

Of course wait time is not dead time. You can be applying wax to a new section while you wait for the wax to dry on the first. The next section will dry during the time it takes to remove excess wax from the first section.

Step 3: Remove the Excess

Using a clean, dry towel – terry is fine but a microfiber towel is even better – gently rub over the dry wax to remove the excess. This is best done in two passes. Use one side of the towel to remove the excess, then flip it over and repeat to achieve that great shine.

Step 4: Repeat Until Finished

Apply the wax, let it dry, then remove dried wax in small sections until you’ve waxed the entire vehicle. Don’t forget the top, and do give extra attention to surfaces that get greatest direct sun contact. Enjoy the glorious shine as your reward.

Related: Top 13: What Are The Best Car Cleaning Products

Section 4: How to Wax a Car with a Buffer – What You’ll Need

• A clean vehicle! Even if the car is clean, wash it again and make sure it is completely dry.

• High quality wax with a high carnauba wax content.

• Buffer. You can find dedicated wax buffers or use a buffing attachment and electric drill.

Section 5: Step by Step Instructions (Waxing with Buffer)

Step 1: Clean the car.

Buffing by hand can result in scratching if the vehicle isn’t clean at the outset, but using a buffer nearly guarantees it. Unless your vehicle has been freshly washed and dried in the very place it’s sitting when you begin waxing, wash it again.

Dry it well and be sure to dry up any small drips that want to emerge from crevices or other small spaces. Wax and water do not combine well.

Step 2: Apply the Wax

You’ll need a high quality wax, of course. “High quality” means that it has a high carnauba wax content. The wax can be the ultimate Simoniz Paste Wax that’s 100 percent Brazilian carnauba wax or it can be an alternative with a lower carnauba wax content. Quick spray-on forms don’t need buffing and so don’t apply here.

Related: Keeping Them Pearly White: The Best Car Wax for White Cars

Approach your squeaky-clean vehicle parked outside of direct sun armed with your high quality wax and the buffer of your choice. You can use a dedicated buffer / polisher to apply wax.

If you’re using an attachment for an electric drill, you’ll need to apply wax by hand as described above. If you choose to use a dedicated buffer / polisher, apply wax to an applicator attachment and use the tool at its lowest speed to apply wax to the vehicle.

Step 3: Let the Wax Dry

Whether manually waxing and buffing or using a buffer, it’s still a good idea to apply wax in small sections, let each section dry, then remove excess dry wax and buff to gloss.

As described above, it’s convenient to increase the recommended 2 x 2 foot work area when working on the hood, trunk and roof because those areas are more accessible and easier to deal with than are doors and fenders.

Do apply wax in sections as described in the hand-waxing section above. Let the wax dry until it achieves a uniform gray haze stage and then begin removing the excess dry wax. Be certain to let it dry well before you begin to try to remove it.

Step 4: Remove the Excess

Removing dry wax and buffing to a glow is where the buffer shines! Applying the wax isn’t much of an issue, but removing the excess and buffing to a high gloss can be tiring. Whether you’ve applied the wax manually or with the aid of a buffer, wait until it dries to a uniform haze then begin removing the excess and polishing to a high gloss.

A great benefit of using a buffer is that it isn’t tempting to stop buffing and polishing simply because arms are tired. Change buffing pads as necessary to ensure that you remove all excess dry wax and achieve the highest gloss – and hardest surface – possible. Buff away and enjoy that great and marvelous shine.

Related: What is a Clay Bar? And How Do I Use It For Detailing?


You won’t need a dedicated buffer/polisher for use only twice a year.

Every Home Depot, Lowe’s or AutoZone store – as well as Amazon and other online sellers – offers buffing and polishing attachments for standard electric drills.

If you don’t yet have a buffing or polishing tool and want one, do check out the products available. Drill attachments are useful, quite affordable and offer great alternatives to dedicated buffing and polishing tools.

These are top tips on how to wax a car and why you should wax your vehicle on a regular basis. I certainly wish I had known the “why” of waxing long ago when I could have protected the paint on my own old guy.

Many people won’t want to keep their vehicles as long as I’ve wanted to keep mine, but even those who want new vehicles want to ensure they get top dollar on trade-in or sale of what they currently own. If that’s you, then now you know how to wax a car for maximum benefit and finish protection.

What do you think? Please let us know in the comments below. If this article is of value to you, please share. And go wax your car!

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