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Car Wax vs Polish – Here’s The Real Deal

When was the last time you waxed your car? Last month? A couple of months ago? Okay then. Here’s another question – when was the last time you applied polish? Oh, you think that car wax vs polish is the same?

No, they’re not the same. A Lot of people believe that waxing and polishing will produce the same results, which is to provide a sparkling shine that will last for many weeks.

Here’s the real deal on car wax vs polish and how the two (when combined and religiously performed) can help preserve the value and beauty of your ride.

What Is Wax Or Waxing?

Car wax

Wax is applied to the paint to protect the clear coat. The clear coat in your paint is responsible for sealing the color and providing a brilliant shine.

As the paint is exposed to the elements (sun, snow, dust, rain, etc.) and as you wash your car repeatedly using poor practices and techniques, the clear coat’s surface will be marred by surface imperfections such as swirl marks, scratches, and stains. Swirl marks are actually super fine scratches on the paint. Hence the reason why you shouldn’t wipe a dry surface with a towel, or why you should never use a dirty or soiled towel to wipe the paint.

Using a high-quality wax will ‘hide’ mild surface imperfections. Most waxes sold today are non-abrasive since they are not meant to restore or repair surface damage. The primary role of wax is to provide a durable layer of protection on a freshly polished paint surface.

Since the scratches and the swirl marks will be filled-in by wax, this will also lead to a brighter and flawless paintwork. Waxing will also provide water beading protection to avoid water stains when the paint is subjected to rain.

How Often Should I Apply Wax To My Car?

I’m glad you asked. You should apply wax at least once a month if your car is repeatedly exposed to sun and rain. Wax should be applied after washing and drying the car.

As a general rule of thumb, you should wax your vehicle once every 3 months. Since pure carnauba-based waxes are nonabrasive and will not harm the paint, there is no harm in waxing your vehicle once a month. Trust me, your paint job will thank you for it!

Want to know the proper steps in waxing a car? Click here.

What Is Polish Or Polishing?

Car polish

Polish is used to clean and restore the paint surface. All polishing products for cars utilize a mild abrasive action to effectively remove a microscopic layer of clear coat. This will serve to flatten the surface of the paint, which will result in a highly polished shine.

Not all polishes are the same. Some are formulated with mild abrasives, while others have a more intense polishing action meant for big jobs such as removing deep scratches and heavy oxidation.

There are polishes designed with diminishing abrasives. These types of abrasives will break down further into smaller particles once the polish is applied and worked into the paint.

If the paint has a lot of dull surfaces, oxidation, scratches, and swirl marks, then simply applying wax will not restore the finish. You will need to polish the surface before applying wax. Polish is also used to remove tar or asphalt, dead insects, and bird droppings. For extremely demanding jobs, polish alone is not enough. In order to remove stubborn contaminants, you will need a clay bar followed by applying a mild polish and wax.

Want to know the easy way to polish your car? Click here.

How Often Should I Polish My Car?

Since polish contains mild abrasives, regular polishing is not recommended. In fact, you should only apply polish once every 6 months or so.

This rule is not exactly cast in stone. For example, if you see a lot of scuffs or tar spots on the lower valance of the bodywork, you don’t need to wait for 6 months before removing the scratches and the stains. Grab a bottle of polish, work a small amount of polish on the paint using a clean applicator, and remove the haze with a clean towel. Seal the surface with a premium carnauba wax to restore the shine of the finish.

How Do I Know If It’s Time To Apply Wax?

Easy. Spray some water on the hood, roof, or trunk of your ride. If you see a lot of tall and tight water beads on the surface, then you don’t need to wax, at least for the time being. The same holds true when it rains and you see water beads on the surface of the paint.

Here’s another way to determine if your paint needs waxing: simply run your hands on the paint after washing and drying the vehicle. If the surface feels a bit rough, then you need to apply wax.

How Do I Know If It’s Time To Apply Polish?

If you see a lot of scratches, swirls, and/or dullness in the paint, then you will need to apply polish. The same technique mentioned above can be used to determine if it’s time to polish the paint. Run your clean hand on the paint after washing and drying the vehicle. If you feel a lot of bumps and rough spots on the paint, then it is definitely time to polish the car. Don’t forget to add a coat of wax after polishing the paint.

Is It Okay To Use Products That Can Polish And Wax The Paint In A Single Application?

In my humble opinion, it is best to stay away from products that claim to polish and wax the surface at the same time. I personally don’t use these products simply because nothing beats the shine, clarity, and depth of color of applying a separate coat of polish and wax.


Now you know the real deal between car wax vs polish. Remember to follow the directions on the bottle of the polish or wax and to use the same brand of polish and wax in order to avoid inconsistent results.

About George Bradley

George is an enthusiastic blogger and an auto mechanic expert whose mission is to provide the readers with the best tips, guides, and recent events in the automotive industry. He has been involved in researching on various topics that are essential to the car owners, especially when it comes to an understanding, maintaining and handling their vehicles.

1 thought on “Car Wax vs Polish – Here’s The Real Deal”

  1. Thanks for explaining what waxing is. It’s been a while since I’ve had my car waxed. I’ll take it to a professional to get the job done.


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