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Wax Overview |
Waxing Technique |
Wax Product Recommendations
The purpose of wax is primarily to
protect your finish and secondarily to enhance your car's shine.
If your car's finish is in good shape, some people argue that
wax can't make it any shinier because it just adds a layer on
top of the perfectly shiny finish. Other people say that true
wax (as opposed to synthetic products) has enough dimensionality
that the wax can fill hairline scratches and create a smoother
surface which is therefore shinier.
There is also such a blurry line between
"wax," "polish," "sealant," "glaze" and other kinds of products
that it becomes hard to say whether a car that has a polished
finish has any "wax" on it!
Before we go any further, let's define our
Wax. "Wax" refers generically to
any substance you put on your car's finish to protect it from
the elements. When the term is used specifically and literally, "wax" refers
to products containing carnauba wax, which comes from a palm
tree. Carnauba is universally the wax of
choice because it's the hardest naturally occurring wax, and it
has a high melting point (for a wax). In its natural state,
carnauba is hard as a brick, and you can shave flakes off as
shown on the left. Because it's so hard, carnauba must always be
mixed with other substances to make it usable. The highest
concentration of carnauba a car wax can contain is about 30%.
That means that putting solvents, oils, cleaners, polishes, etc.
in the "wax" is inevitable because the manufacturers have to mix something in with
the carnauba or it will be unusable.
Polish. This is used carefully to
mean two different things and sloppily to mean anything in the
general vicinity of a car care product. The first careful
meaning is an abrasive compound that can be used to smooth out a
car's surface. The second careful meaning is a synthetic,
non-wax product that serves the same purpose that a wax
traditionally serves, i.e., protecting the car's finish. The word "sealant" is more commonly used for this
Sealant. Sealant normally refers to
a synthetic wax-like product that doesn't contain wax.
Glaze. Same as sealant, as far as I
can tell. Sometimes seems to imply that it's a sealant that
contains some polish (i.e., abrasives).
The Wax vs. Synthetics Debate
There are big debates among detailing nuts
about whether waxes are better or synthetics are better. This
debate is muddied by the fact that many products contain both
natural carnauba and synthetic ingredients.
The general feeling seems to be that waxes
are harder to apply, harder to remove, and don't last as long,
but they can produce a rich, warm deep glow that synthetic
products can't match. In contrast, most synthetics are easy to
put on and take off, and some of them last a long time. They
have a much higher melting point than wax, which is helpful on a
car's surface which can get pretty hot. They can produce a
near-perfect, highly reflective surface, but some feel that the
shine lacks depth and is ultimately without "soul." (Some people
really take this stuff seriously!) I personally am not
convinced. I have gotten a "nice warm glow" from both wax and
synthetic products. I think the glow has as much to do with the
surface preparation as with the wax.
Some real detailing fanatics apply a
bottom synthetic coat for long-lasting protection and then apply
a wax top coat for that deep, warm glow. AutoGeeks has a good
summary of the
Wax Product Recommendations