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Car Wax and Car Polish: Why They Both Matter

Many misconceptions about car wax and car polish exist in the general auto-detailing marketplace—about the results of using just a car wax or a car polish.

People either ask about which best car polish should be used to protect a car, or which is the best car wax to use for polishing a car.

According to professional auto detailers, both polish and wax should be used and incorporated into your car washing schedule. When done regularly, using both products ultimately helps in keeping your car well-protected, looking great and almost like new.

What is a car wax?

Most car waxes found on the market can be a combination of natural wax, solvents, colorants, silicone fluids, and other types of wax. Some waxes may also contain abrasives, depending on the purpose of the product.

The main purpose of a wax is to restore the shine of the car by smoothing out the surface of the paint by filling in the imperfections on the surface.

A wax, in its natural form, can come in many forms such as from vegetable waxes to animal waxes. Because of the natural properties of the wax, they are ideal for use in car waxes, and the most popular type of wax in the automotive industry is carnauba wax.

Carnauba wax is ideal for use on vehicles because it is insoluble in water, able to withstand high daylight temperatures, and offers a high-gloss finish that is long-lasting when it is combined with other ingredients to soften it.

These qualities enable the wax to stay on after several washes or exposure to rains, will not melt off your vehicle in hot summer temperatures, and will provide a durable layer of added protection to your car’s paint.

Sometimes, by applying wax to your car, you can hide the many imperfections of your car that include marks from oxidation, paint swirls, or dullness. Wax can only do so much in filling in and so it can effectively cover and hide the true situation of why your car is not looking so good.

Another type of wax is synthetic wax, which is also called a sealant. There are many mixtures and different ingredients unique to each brand’s formulation, and these combinations affect how the product adheres to your vehicle’s paintwork.

The shine and finish from a synthetic wax last far longer than natural waxes because it has a better adherence to the paintwork of the vehicle due to the polymers that bond with the paint.

What is a car polish?

A car polish makes use of an abrasive action which can eliminate very fine layers of the top coat protection.

This ensures a highly polish look because the surface is flattened out; hence, the surface is able to produce an equal reflection of light. The degrees of abrasiveness vary from medium to ultra-fine.

High-quality modern car polish is made of diminishing abrasives. These particles break down into smaller units, becoming even finer as they are worked into the paint of the vehicle.

This process eliminates the need to go through varying degrees of abrasiveness for a highly polished look. Gloss-enhancing oils are included in many polish formulas, and this useful addition helps provide a deep shine and wet look to the paintwork.

Before applying the wax coat, a car polish should be used to remove dirt, grease, scrapes and scratches that cannot be removed from washing. Car polish comes in many forms such as creams, liquids, and sprays.

Car polishes contain solvents that remove impurities, thereby allowing the paint to shine through. Polishing should be done carefully because you can take off too much paint, thus exposing the undercoat of the vehicle.

Car wax vs. car polish: Which should I use?

What car polish is missing is its ability to protect the paintwork, and this is where car wax comes in.  Waxing the car after polishing it is important because the wax protects all the efforts you have made in polishing your car.

The protection lasts for months, and a high shine is left that enhances your car’s look by using a car wax. Every three months is the ideal schedule to have a wax job done to your car, and polishing should only be done when there are problem spots.

Ideally, you should check your car after washing and before waxing to see if there are nicks and scratches that need to be polished so that damage can be minimized.  When small scratches are left untreated, they can begin to rust, eventually forming small holes on your car’s exterior.

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