Well-maintained vehicles may only need a layer of wax, but in order to explain the contrasts between the services, let’s discuss both in the context of a full detail: polishing is the tedious buffing done to remove defects from your paint job, and waxing is the protective later put on as the final step. Many drivers look to forego polishing and simply get a wax, but that won’t correct a bad paint job!
Compare polishing and waxing to a family portrait. Everyone wants to capture a beautiful moment and protect it with a nice frame. You may have an expensive, solid gold picture frame, but it can’t change a bad picture where your aunt and cousin’s eyes are closed.
Likewise, if a driver is seeking the best paint job possible then polishing may have to be done before waxing. Many paint jobs have deep defects that wax merely hides. As mentioned before, even a brand new car will need paint correction after just one bad wash. The swirls, scratches and air contamination that lay on an untreated car make waxing a stopgap solution at best. A contaminated paint job won’t gloss, and once the wax compound wears off, the defects will still be there. To properly eliminate those paint job defects, claying and/or polishing with an abrasive is necessary.
What’s An Abrasive?
An abrasive is any compound or instrument that has the ability to “cut” into your vehicle’s paint job and level out the defects. When a vehicle is fresh from the manufacturer, there is (hopefully) one top coat of paint evenly distributed along it. Over time, scratches, swirls and other scrapes tear into that top coat, leaving noticeable dips in the surface.
In order to re-align the paint job, paint correction must be done with abrasives such as car polish, clay bars, or even sandpaper. The average full paint correction consists of:
- Clay Barring, which removes surface contamination
- Wet Sanding or Color Sanding, which refines and smooths the paint job, priming it for
- Polishing, which eliminates swirls, scratches and other marring.
When polishing, detailers create a combination of friction and heat with their buffers, and eat away at all defects. Depending on how level (or not) the paint job is, a variety of buffers and compounds may be used to polish a vehicle’s surface. Paint correction is generally measured in three levels:
- 1-Step Paint Correction (Up to 75% of defects) – A less aggressive cut that removes most scratches on vehicles
- 2-Step Paint Correction (Up to 90% of defects removed) An aggressive approach which leaves only the deepest swirls apparent.
- 3-Step Paint Correction (90%+ of defects removed) A tedious, aggressive polish typically
Once proper correction has been done and any potential micro-marring (residual marks from aggressive polishing) has been removed, the wax process begins.
All About Car Wax
Car wax doesn’t have the restorative properties of polishing compounds, but it’s still of vital importance to your vehicle. A pure wax or “glaze” will protect your car’s paint job from the elements. Not only does wax provide a layer of security, it provides a beautiful gloss that will help your car shine like it did when you bought it.
Most auto industry waxes are made with Carnauba wax, which comes from Carnauba trees.
Carnauba Wax is favored by the industry for many reasons, including:
- It’s durability against rain and other contaminants that have to be clayed off of unprotected cars.
- It bonds easily to most paint jobs
- It’s ability to withstand heat and still protect vehicles