Detailing 111: Wax Tech
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.