Car Wax Explained: What It Is, Why Your Car Needs It, And How Often You Should Do It

What exactly is car wax, and why should you use it? We headed over to the HQ of Autoglym for a wax education, to find out the answers to these questions and more

If you’re a more casual car washer, you might have never even bothered with car wax before. However, amongst all the weird and wonderful detailing products out there, wax is something that’s a must, and in the long run it’ll make your life a hell of a lot easier when it comes to keeping your car clean.

But what exactly goes into wax products? Why are they so important, and how are you supposed to use them? To find out more, we visited the headquarters of car care company Autoglym in Hertfordshire to have a chat to Technical Director Paul Coley:

The most obvious starting point is to look at exactly what the stuff you’re slapping on your car is. At its core is - well, wax actually. But wax is a term that encompasses a wide variety of materials. “Wax refers to a hard hydrocarbon at room temperature. The waxes can come from natural sources like carnauba - which is made from the wax on the leaves of the carnauba plant - or you can have palm waxes, and you can even find waxes in hydrocarbons like coal. Or you can have synthetic waxes, such as waxes from silicones,” Paul explains.

The problem is, spreading a hard material over a car isn’t possible, which is why solvents and oils are then added to the mix to make a more malleable substance. More than one kind of wax can go into a car wax product, and the oils and solvents can vary greatly.

Wax is - for the most part - about protection. You’re putting a barrier between the clearcoat and the outside world to protect it from nasty stuff in the air, UV rays, and water. Water is of particular concern - rainwater and spray from the roads is full of all sorts of pollutants which can easily transfer onto the paint, so the best way to protect against it is to make sure water quickly runs straight off your bodywork - something that wax will do by making the surface ‘hydrophobic’.

Take a look at the video above of our Jaguar XE S longtermer: the left-hand side of the bonnet has been given a layer of wax, so the water runs off very quickly. On the unwaxed right-hand side of the bonnet, the water sticks around for a lot longer.

In fact, as you’ll see in the video below, wax is so efficient at repelling water, that it’s possible to dry a waxed car using water - specifically, from an open hose. This is far safer than ‘contact’ drying using towels, as it eliminates the possibility of scratching.

The benefits don’t end there. Making it harder for mucky air and water to deposit grime all over your car means washing doesn’t need to be so frequent, or so intensive. Again, that’s less time spent in potentially harmful contact with your paintwork, and you might even be able to make the car sufficiently clean with a ‘non-contact wash’ using snowfoam. For that method, it’s just a case of coating a car in foam using a lance on a pressure washer, leaving it for a few minutes, and then rinsing away the foam and any contaminants.

If you’ve ever used car wax, you’ll also know that it gives the car a nice shiny finish. The diagram above should give you a good idea of why: what the wax is doing is filling in all the gaps in the clear coat caused by scratches and other imperfections. “It will help you with your colour, and it will help you with your blemishes because micro scratches will be filled. You effectively get a new surface on the top,” Paul explains.

There are two parts to this question: when during your wash regime should you use wax, and how often should you use the stuff? The first one is easier to answer - it should always be the last thing you apply. After washing the car and applying treatments like polish, the wax goes on to ‘seal’ and protect your hard work. Paul warns against the common mistake of waxing and then polishing - doing so simply strips off the wax.

The question of how often you should apply wax is a little more tricky to answer, but Paul suggests around three times a year, depending on the sort of driving you’re doing. Between then simple shampoo washes (or even a snowfoam treatment, if the car’s not too mucky) will be sufficient, and good car shampoos shouldn’t strip away the layer of wax.

It’s all about applying in small, even circles with a decent amount of wax, without slapping too much on or being too stingy. How long you need to leave it before buffing off (preferably with a mircofibre cloth) depends on the wax - if it’s the Autoglym High Definition wax we had applied to the Jaguar, the first part you applied will be ready for buffing in the time that you’ve been around the car to wax the whole thing.

If you want to look after your paintwork, make car washing easier and get a little extra shine (we hope that’s a yes to all three), you should absolutely wax your car every now and then.

It’s not terribly difficult or expensive (yes, you can spend thousands on a tub of wax, but it’s unlikely that you’ll notice a huge difference between that and a more sensibly-priced product), and doesn’t even need doing that often. Is it time you got a little more wax in your life?


How often should I get my car maintained, if I don't drive much?

I'm not exactly a car expert, but when I hear people talking about car maintenance, they always talk in terms of miles. So, I'd been following that rule. However, I went to actually read my car's manual and it says that you should get the 7,500 maintenance after 7,500 miles or 6 months, whichever is sooner. I drive my car way less than that (I've driven around 6000 miles after a year), so when should I actually get my car maintenance done? Also in terms of selling used car, they always just mention the miles, so does that mean that other people always get maintenance done on a mile schedule?

posted by sanka at 5:24 PM on April 6, 2008

posted by bhayes82 at 5:26 PM on April 6, 2008

posted by ctmf at 5:46 PM on April 6, 2008

posted by TomMelee at 5:57 PM on April 6, 2008

posted by foodgeek at 8:24 PM on April 6, 2008

posted by JZig at 11:30 PM on April 6, 2008

posted by jon1270 at 3:42 AM on April 7, 2008

posted by pharm at 6:38 AM on April 7, 2008

posted by lohmannn at 8:29 AM on April 7, 2008

Engine oil degrades with both time and mileage. You should change it whenever you hit either the mileage or time limit in your car's owners manual.

posted by Brockles at 8:04 PM on April 7, 2008


How Often Should You Replace Your Tires? 4 Ways to Know if Your Car’s Due For New Ones

Knowing when to replace your car’s tires isn’t an exact science. A lot of factors determine when you should buy new tires. Generally, though, you can follow these four tips to know when your car needs new tires.

The average tire can handle about 40,000 miles of travel before it starts becoming unsafe. That number depends on the vehicle’s weight, weather conditions, the types of surfaces you drive on, and how many nails you run over. In other words, don’t take this number as a certainty. If your tires are reaching 40,000 miles, though, it’s time to take a close look at them. They’re probably due for a change.

Your tires should have tread at least 1/16 of an inch deep. If you live in a place where the roads are wet, icy, or otherwise slick, then your tread should be at least twice that. Over time, friction between the road and your tires start to wear on the tread. Every time you drive, you leave a tiny bit of tread on the road. It’s immeasurably small, but it adds up. You don’t need a ruler to measure your tread depth. You just need a penny. Turn the penny so that the top of Lincoln’s head faces the tire. Insert the penny between the tread. If you can still see the entire head, then you need to replace your tires. The tread has worn too thin for you to drive safely.

You probably don’t pay much attention to your tires’ sidewalls, but they’re a crucial part of keeping you safe on the road. If the sidewalls fail, then your whole tire could fall apart. Look for cracks in the sidewall. The cracks can look like dry rot. If you see anything resembling this, then your tires are getting too old. They’re probably already leaking air. Get them replaced immediately before you have a blow out on the highway. Sidewalls can get cracked in several ways. Time, rain, and ice will certainly cause cracks. You can also expect cracks to develop more quickly if you need to have your wheels realigned. Poor alignment causes tires to rub the road in unintended ways. This can cause the sides to crack within a fairly short period of time.

You can’t always see what’s wrong with a tire. You have to look for signs that something just isn’t right. This one is a pretty easy sign to spot, mostly because it annoys people so much. If you have to put air in your tires frequently, then you probably have a leak. A professional might find a way to fix the leak, or you might need a new tire. You won’t know until someone takes a closer look. How often is too often? That depends. You should check your pressure at least once a month. Expect pressure to fall quickly during the cold winter months. They should remain stable during the summer. Generally, you shouldn’t have to put air in your tires every month. That indicates a potential problem.

Is it time for you to change your car’s tires? Do you have any other tips for people who haven’t purchased new tires before?


How often should you get a new carHow often should you get a new car

How often should you get a new car

Getting a routine facial should be part of everyone’s custom skin care management plan, but determining how often depends on a variety of factors.

You just experienced an hour of pampering bliss. Highlights included the warm steam, the hydrating masque, and a gentle massage. Now you’re walking out feeling good about having carved out some time focusing on you, and there is no denying that your face is glowing. You may be excited to book your next appointment, but you need to time it just right. Unfortunately, there isn't a perfect cycle that everyone should follow. That’s because the period of time between facials is determined by skin type, age, your environment, and what you hope to achieve. Here are a few tips to help you understand how often you should get a facial.

Skin care specialists recommend that people have a professional facial about every three to four weeks. That’s how long it takes your skin to move through the full life cycle of skin cell growth and exfoliation. A facial helps that process along. The treatment will keep your skin clean, clear, and toned. Having one every three to four weeks helps you maintain that beautiful glow all month long.

For those who are experiencing frequent breakouts or tend to have oilier skin, having a facial more often is recommended during acne flares. Come in every two weeks to clear your skin and bring it to a healthier place. As the skin calms down and the acne goes away, the period of time between facials can be stretched back out.

Although you may have the best of intentions to care for your skin according to the recommended guidelines, sometimes life (and your budget!) gets in the way. If you are unable to come in for a facial every three to four weeks, aim to come in at least once a season. The humidity and sun in the warmer months can lead to breakouts or sun damage, and the cold air of the winter months can dry your skin out. Seeing a skin care specialist at least four times a year will help will help protect you from seasonal exposure and arm your skin take on the elements.

As beneficial and enjoyable as a facial can be, it is possible for your skin to be negatively affected by too much of a good thing. Unless you are following guidelines that are in place to treat a specific issue your skin is experiencing, seeing your esthetician more often than every two to three weeks can have the opposite effect on your skin.

Creating a healthy skin care routine can be done during your next facial. An esthetician is a licensed professional with the training and experience to understand the specific needs of your skin. In order to get the most out of every treatment, discuss with your esthetician an ideal facial schedule and what beauty regimen to follow at home to maintain your skin in-between appointments.