How To Wax A Car By Hand (Like a Pro)

If you are following my detailing guide series on reading this article you will be at a stage where your paintwork is suitably prepped for you to now look at how to wax a car by hand.

If you have not signed up for the guide series don’t worry this article will still guide you through how to wax your car, but you may want to catch up on some of the preparation steps to ensure you are working on the smoothest possible finish you can get prior to applying your car wax.

Although the title of this article is How To Wax A Car By Hand, I will also include the use of car paint sealants here as they are becoming just a popular, if not more so than waxes.

Indeed many concours enthusiasts will tend to apply a sealant first and then apply a layer or two of car wax over the sealant. Not only can this produce an extremely deep gloss shine, but also a longer lasting one.

Choosing Your Car Wax (or Sealant)

There are some basic rules to follow here and it depends on how much time you have available to regularly maintain your cars finish and also to a degree the climate that you live in.

For durability, a sealant will tend to outlast a synthetic wax which in turn will outlast a carnauba car wax. So if you find yourself with little time you are better off looking at a sealant rather than a wax.

Equally, if you live in a climate that is subject to significant changes in weather conditions over the seasons and particularly harsh winters then sealants or “winter waxes” may also be the better choice.

For the summer months where you may have a little more time and/or enthusiasm for getting out and waxing your car then synthetic and carnauba based products may be your wax of choice.

You also have to be careful that you understand the difference between car wax and a polish when purchasing. With some of the manufacturers’ packaging, it can be a little confusing. So much so that I wrote a separate post on this very topic.

Once you have decided whether to go down the sealant, synthetic or carnauba route your final choice can also be influenced by the colour of your paint, with some products working better on darker colors and others on lighter colors

How To Apply Car Wax

Applying Car Wax By HandHaving selected your wax or sealant of choice here are the essential steps of how to wax a car by hand.

  1. Firstly ensure that you paintwork is totally dry. There are products on the market that will work on wet paintwork but the majority work best with a dry surface.
  2. Ideally work in the shade and out of the direct sunlight. Again some products will allow you to work with them in direct sunlight but you are just making things that little bit harder for yourself.
  3. Don’t be fooled into thinking the more product you apply the deeper the shine you will get. Quite the opposite – always look to apply thin layers and if you need to, apply thin layer on top of thin layer, once suitably cured and buffed off.
  4. To achieve this work on one section at a time, ideally if using a standard size hand applicator pad, a section of about 2-3sqft.
  5. For this size area apply a single spot of polish to the centre of the pad, approx the size of a 10p piece or US quarter.
  6. Apply your wax or sealant in an up and down, straight line motion rather than circular. Don’t press down hard, just a light amount of pressure to get and even glide and smooth thin coat.
  7. Leave to dry (or not) as per the product manufacturers instructions.
  8. When buffing off always use the best quality, plushest microfiber buffing towel you can afford.
  9. If you want to layer a wax over a sealant or another thin layer of wax on wax, ideally leave the first application to cure completely – usually a period of at least 12 hours in recommended between layers.

Trick Of The Trade

Occasionally, even after you have followed the recommended steps on how to wax a car without a buffer you may still end up with a few streaks and smudges. These can be frustrating to remove.

One trick as to how to wax a car like a pro is by leaving your car in the warmth of the sunlight for 10-20 mins, depending on how hot it is. Then return your motor to a shaded area, get out a bottle of detailing spray, apply a light layer over the affected area and buff off with a clean, dry buffing towel.

With the paintwork being warmed by the sunlight it makes it easier for the detail spray to work into the wax layer, removing the smudges as you buff.

Deep Gloss Wet Look Shine

Pinnacle Car WaxFor the ultimate in deep gloss wet look shines many enthusiasts still swear by applying a final layer of carnauba based waxes. Again as point 9. above you must leave ample time for the first layer(s) to cure and dry completely.

One of the best results I have ever seen was the application of Pinnacle Souveran Paste Waxover a layer of sealant on a black finish.

It was just stunning and I wish I had taken a picture that day to be able to show you.

Maintaining Your Car Wax Finish

I mentioned above about using a detailing spray to help remove any smudges. A good quality detailing spray is also ideal to top up and maintain that just waxed look on your motor, rather than having to wash it every week or so.

Detailing sprays contain a blend of ingredients that not only provide lubrication to enable safe removal of light dirt and dust from your paint, evaporate fairly quickly without leaving any spotting or streaking and also contain shine enhancers to keep your motor gleaming between washes.

Some of my favourite detailing sprays include:

Over To You

Have you got any of your own tips or tricks of the trade on how to wax a car by hand? What is your favourite wax, sealant or combination for a really deep gloss shine? Please let me and your fellow enthusiasts know in the comments section below.

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