posted on February 12, 2013 00:00
Detailing 111: Wax Tech
By Connor Harrison
To many people, waxing is an annual hassle and the benefit is only temporarily appreciated. It is treated as something that isn’t really necessary, and only needs to be done if we’re getting spiffy for a night out on the town. Waxing once a year is simply not often enough (don’t believe what you see on TV)! Your car is under attack every time you drive it; all the dirt, tar, bug guts, bird poop, hard water, and acid rain work to degrade the finish of your vehicle. Your wax is your protection from these environmental offenders, and it wears away much sooner than you might think.
Regular waxing makes your car’s surface much slicker, making your weekly washing regimen much easier as the dirt doesn’t want to stick to the surface. All that mud, dirt, dust, bug debris, and tar will want to slip right off the surface rather than needing to be scrubbed off. Waxing your car makes for easier cleaning and provides temporary protection from the various environmental contaminants that would do your car harm. Besides these cleaning benefits, a well waxed car has that ‘wet look’ and shine that we all crave.
These days you have a variety of choices for just about anything on the marketplace, and waxes are no exception. There are traditional paste waxes, liquid synthetic sealants, and spray waxes/sealants. All of these products vary in their subtleties regarding application, user friendliness, and the final appearance of the vehicle. They all work to protect the surface, improve shine, and are applied as the Last Step in the detailing process, and in detailer nerd jargon are referred to LSPs. (Last Step Product)
Different products claim different lengths of durability, ranging anywhere from a month to a year or more. Few people really enjoy the process of waxing our cars, or even have enough time to do it once a month. How do we actually know if what is printed on the label is actually true? What it comes down to is how the surface sheds water and dirt. Some waxes will create tight beads of water (shown above), whereas others will cause the water to sheet off the surface. Both of these observations imply that a wax is still present, and that your paint is protected. Regardless of how the surface reacts to water, you will know its time to reapply your wax once the surface stops feeling super smooth, loses a bit of its gloss, and begins to hold dirt onto the surface more readily.
Jars of carnauba wax are what most people think of when it comes to waxing their car. Carnauba wax is praised for its hydrophobic properties and natural hardness, optimally suited for protecting a vehicles finish. Although carnauba is a primary ingredient and proudly touted on most labels, there is a variety of other natural and synthetic waxes and oils that go into today’s car wax. Jars of carnauba wax can vary in terms of durability, look, and most often cost. Some waxes may promise the ultimate wet look, but at the cost of limited lifespan and a high cost. Others may only look “so so”, but will protect your car for months at a time. You can expect most carnauba waxes to protect your paint for about 3 months, although there are high end boutique waxes that may only last 3-5 weeks, while some hybrid waxes can last 5-7 months.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 7:11 AM
Pro tip: Use blue painter's masking tape on all plastic and vinyl surfaces before applying sealant and wax. That way you don't have to worry about getting that white haze on them!
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 7:14 AM
I like where this is going. When are we going to see more products tested on a Ferrari Dino.
So lets say that you got a little excited with the wax last time and you found a few pieces of trim that got wax on them and now the haze wont come off. Is there a way to restore the trim pieces without replacing them?
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 8:10 AM
Goo Gone can remove that white haze, but it's difficult. You'll need to use a different product to remove the Goo Gone afterwards and a third to restore the black stuff then.
That's why I take an extra 20 minutes to use painters tape and mask off the black trim. It saves time down the road!
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 9:19 AM
GREAT WRITE UP! I'll be applying these techniques on my own whip.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 9:47 AM
Ive been applying sealant after my wax, I keep getting different opinions on this. I'm using SmartWax Sealant.
The process I've always been using has been the following:
4)Correct Paint (1-3 step process depending on the paint quality)
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 12:01 PM
It should be noted that all the Blackfire products I used in the article do NOT leave a white haze on trim. Most of your off the shelf waxes will unfortunately, but most of the higher end boutique waxes don't have this problem. There is a dedicated product called Wax Blaster that you can use to clean up stained trim.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 12:28 PM
According to every professional detailer I've ever talked to, the wax goes on AFTER the sealant.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 12:32 PM
That is the rule of thumb, yes. Seal first, wax second.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 12:46 PM
So how about using a DA polisher with these products? Do you need to use a different set of products? Do the steps remain the same (although the application obviously different)?
I like to keep my wife's minivan nice but it has so much surface area doing the whole thing by hand is quite a pain.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 1:06 PM
@Dusty Duster Pro Tip:
LISTEN to CONNOR! I have spent time through two full details with Connor on my OWN cars and one thing I have learned is that there are few certainties. You cannot say "every pro detailer say sto do it this way". That is a general guideline and varies based on time frame of the detail and products used.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 2:09 PM
Using a DA polisher with a super soft wax applicator pad can be a real time saver! Applying with a DA is my preferred method for liquid sealants, but it is also possible to do with a paste wax by CAREFULLY working the wax out of the container and applying it to the buffing pad. I generally don't apply a paste in this manner as there is a chance of dropping the hunk of wax , and with my waxes that is a very expensive mistake.
Looking forward to laying the smackdown on Project STi this spring, buddy!
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 4:45 PM
Excellent article, Connor! I wish I could get the opportunity to even just wax a Dino like that one!
@Wes: Dusty wasn't disagreeing with Connor, he was correcting Alex, and Connor backed up Dusty's comment with his own afterwards. He wasn't saying that "every detailer says" about his pro tip, but rather about the order in which to apply sealant and wax. +1 for trying to make sure people know not to just go by rule of thumb without thinking, though!
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 6:20 AM
GREAT article! Thanks for taking the time to share your methods.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 11:36 AM
I've become a big fan of Optimum's Opti-Coat/Opti-Guard line of products. Expensive, but their durability and ability to protect from surface scratches caused by day to day use and washing seal the deal for me. You generally can't apply a carnauba wax over them so if you love the waxing process or the super wet look ksome carnaubas can provide then it's not for you, but I follow my washes up with a light sealant or instant detailer (right now I'm trying Surf City Garage's Hot Rod instant detailer with UV protection) and it looks fantastic.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 1:09 PM
I chose to omit coatings from the article, as that is an entirely different can of worms! With that said, my WRX and now my Legacy GT both have Opti-Guard on them and I really can't complain about the looks or performance.
Its not that you CAN'T apply a wax over them, its simply stated that there is no additional benefit. Occasionally I'll hit them with Opti-Seal or Optimum Car Wax for an added level of slickness.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 1:14 PM
I understand that. It's something that your average user likely won't be applying themselves and something that comes at a pricepoint that is so much different than a sealant or wax.
I found that you have to be extra careful to use *just* enough product on top of them because they're so slick, any extra is really hard to get buffed out and even looking.
My car got hit recently so I'm having the coating reapplied after paint, I'll likely purchase some opti-seal or other Optimum product to ensure maximum compatibility. :)
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 7:11 PM
How do you clean your applicator pads? just a hose down and air dry? I tried to throw mine in the wash with my microfiber towels and just ended up getting product residue all over everything in that wash load. and my washer smells like carnauba now.
oh well, nissans paint is a rock chip magnet anyway and the front of my car is a lost cause now i think.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 7:16 PM
Applicator pads are pretty cheap, I just throw mine away most of the time.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 7:51 PM
Generally once I'm finished using it I will give it a spritz with diluted Meguiars Super Degreaser, and then toss it in the bag with the rest of the used microfibers, applicators, and buffing pads. When it comes to do the wash I toss them in with the towels and use a dedicated microfiber detergent and a shot of Super Degreaser as well. Generally I try to get at least 4-5 uses out of an applicator before I toss it, but as Nate said, they are pretty cheap so I always include some whenever I'm ordering more products.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 8:16 PM
I had no idea there was dedicated microfiber detergent. No wonder mine get all shitty after the wash. I thought it was normal.
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