The Right Wax, Some Elbow Grease Are All You Need

By Ven Griva

April 18, 2008 5 min read


The right wax, some elbow grease are all you need

By Ven Griva

Copley News Service

We've all been on our sofa late at night watching TV when a commercial comes on hawking car polish so amazing it can resurrect the long-dead paint on a junkyard wreck.

Is it true? Do you need it? Is it right for your Ford Fiesta?

If there were a miracle car polish available on the market, you can rest assured that everyone in our car-crazy society would know about it.

When it comes to waxing your car, the most important ingredient is elbow grease. But there are some things you should know before you buy a car polish.

One is that the cost of these products can run between $4 and $32. Two, you don't have to buy the most expensive car wax to put a high-gloss shine on your baby.

Essentially, there are tree kinds of car polish products: spray-on, paste and liquid.

Spray waxes are good for new cars with excellent finishes since new paint is still shiny and shouldn't be oxidized, testers found. They were good, however, for convenience, plastic compatibility and spot waxing.

They are quick to apply and many can be wiped off without drying. But they are not as good for cleaning and are the worst for durability.

Liquid waxes generally provide the best combination of cleaning and protection. But they require more effort than paste waxes to apply and remove. Liquids were the hardest to apply evenly and take the most time to buff out.

Paste waxes are good for ease of application. But overall performance is not as good as with liquids. Also, it can be difficult to remove wax from the bottom of the container. Paste waxes usually dry to a haze within 30 seconds.

In 2006, the Consumers Union tested 28 car waxes and published their findings in Consumer Reports magazine. The products tested included ones from Armor All, Turtle Wax and Meguiar's.

Testers put the waxes through a series of tests. They waxed 15 cars to see how easy the waxes were to apply and buff off. Sprays were easiest, but liquid and paste waxes tended to perform better.

To find their best bets, technicians at Consumers Union in Yonkers, N.Y., waxed 15 cars and parked them outdoors.

"Every week, for five weeks, we brought them in from outside where they were weathering," said John McAloon of Consumers Reports. "Then we checked to see how well water beaded on the surface."

The roundness of each water droplet was measured in a machine called an optical comparator. The spray waxes were least effective.

"We also tested the products to see how well they cleaned a really weathered surface. Again, the spray waxes didn't do well," said McAloon.

Consumer Reports found two products from Black Magic and Turtle Wax that outperformed all the others.

Black Magic Wet Shine Liquid Wax and Turtle Wax Carnauba Car Wax T-6 were tied at the top in the Consumer Reports ratings. Both products, which sell nationally for around $7, were named as best buys because of their combination of performance and comparatively low cost.

Once you've selected a wax, here are some tips to make waxing easier:

- Always work in a shaded area. Elevated paint temperatures cause waxes to dry too quickly, which can cause hazing or streaking.

- Apply waxes using as thin a coating as possible.

- Remove wax and buff using clean, dry terry towels.

- Avoid tightly woven material like diapers that can trap particles between the cloth and the paint, causing fine scratches.

- If you have difficulty buffing wax to a uniform shine, switch to a clean wipe towel.

- Hazing, streaking, and uneven gloss can result from using too much wax or waxing a surface that's too hot. If the gloss is uneven, mist the waxed surface with distilled water and re-wipe with a fresh towel.

- A spray bottle with distilled water and 1/2 teaspoon of isopropyl alcohol is a great solution for removing problem streaks and cloudy patches.

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