How To Wax Your Car - Detailing 101

How To Wax Your Car - Detailing 101

How To Wax Your Car - Detailing 101

How To Wax Your Car - Detailing 101

Many new car owners look at the clearcoat as a protective layer that shields their car against harm. This is simply not true. The clearcoat is a tough clear paint that is there to protect your color coat and add depth in shine. Although harder than single stage paints, it is not a super high tech protectant, it is just clear paint and needs to be protected just like the older single stage paints.

Car Wax, Paint Sealants And Paint Protectants, What's The Difference?

When choosing your protection you must first understand the somewhat confusing term, “protectant" which can mean several things in the automotive finish care industry. To simplify things, car waxes, paint protectants and paint sealants all fall into the same “paint protectant category". Although some protectants do a better job than others, they all protect against the harsh environmental elements and help prevent premature deterioration caused by the onset of oxidation. With modern technology, a traditional car wax would be considered “old school" and be less protective than the more advanced paint synthetic sealants and protectants.

Synthetic Paint Sealants vs. Old School Traditional Paste Wax

When choosing a paint protectant product, some compare liquid vs. paste wax and assume that the paste wax is better because it is tough to put on and take off. This is not necessarily true. The object of a paint protectant is to have it bond with the surface to create a protective barrier against harsh environmental elements as well as make your paint slick and look good. When you wipe off your protectant residue, you want to make sure you leave as much bonded protectant on the surface as possible. With the newer technology of liquid paint sealants this is an easy task and they actually do a very good job. With older paste waxes, this is more difficult as you need to work hard to remove the residue and at the same time you are creating friction, which causes removal of a portion of the protectant that you truly need to leave behind.

How To Choose Your Paint Protection

There are many choices when it comes to car wax, paint sealants and paint protectants. When it comes to choosing, you will want to make sure your protection choice includes durability, looks and don't forget, slickness. With these key characteristics in mind let's move forward and take an in-depth look at the chemistry of paint protectants.

  • Traditional Paste Wax – Paste waxes are usually older technology and are a hard wax substance that contains silicone and petroleum distillates to create a temporary shine. They are often difficult to put on as well as remove. In fact, the pressure it takes to remove the wax residue will also wear away part of the wax protection that would ideally be left on the surface for protection.
  • Carnauba Based Wax – The true Carnauba Based Wax are soft, easy to use waxes that are usually a little pricey and known for looks, not longevity. These waxes are commonly called toppers. They are commonly used to top acrylic paint sealants that need a little shine. The carnauba works well on all colors but will show more on darker or deeper colors. The downfall of the protection is that pure carnauba melts at about 160 to 170 degrees so the look fades fast and the protection doesn't hold up on hot sunny days, especially on dark colors, which tend to draw the heat. Basically, put it on when you want to look good but don't expect it to last.
  • Cleaner Wax – A cleaner wax is a one step product that has some polishing ability as well as a protectant. They work well for those who have a surface that is free of defects and plan on using further protection. The cleaner wax is generally about the same aggressiveness as a pre-wax cleaner. The problem with a cleaner wax is that because of the cleaners you are not able to leave as much protection on the paint surface so you will want to follow up with more serious protection that is not a cleaner wax.

  • Synthetic Paint Sealants – Man perfected the Wax! Newer technology reveals synthetic paint sealants that offer serious, long lasting protection. Unlike traditional waxes, synthetic paint sealants can withstand temperatures over 1000 degrees which make them much more durable. When choosing a synthetic paint sealant you need to know the difference between the two basic types of synthetic paint sealants. While they both offer good protection, they will vary in shine and slickness. A quality synthetic polymer based paint sealant will generally offer your best protection, shine and slickness, while the acrylic based sealant will provide good protection but is not as slick and may need a little help from a carnauba topper for shine.

Now that you know the difference between traditional waxes and synthetic sealants, you can make an educated decision on what will work the best for your needs. There is no right or wrong choice, just make sure you protect your paint and keep it protected!


New or older, no matter how well you have taken care of your car, you still need to prep your surface. Protecting your surface properly is actually the fourth step if you want serious protection and the best looking shine. We all know washing is necessary to remove loose dirt and grime before we protect our surface, but what about the bonded contamination and minor defect removal and gloss enhancement? A properly prepared surface not only looks better it actually helps your protection bond with your paint surface which helps it protect better and longer.


We all know that washing your car removes loose dirt and grime. What you may not know is that your car washing procedure is the number one cause of swirl marks! Don't worry - this can be avoided by using high a quality car wash shampoo, wash mitt and microfiber drying towels. With high quality products and a little education your car wash procedure will not only be safer, it will be easier and you will achieve much better results.

For more information on how to properly wash your car read our Detailing 101 – How To Wash Your Car Article.


Many think that claying is an optional step and a product for professional detailers. This is not necessarily true! Contamination doesn't care if your car is old or new. Even if your car is new it has been subjected to many types environments between the factory lot waiting for transport via ship, train or truck or a combination of transports, then it may have sat on the lot waiting to be bought for who knows how long. During this time, contaminants such as pollen and pollution were floating around the air and had a chance to bond to your paint surface. If you don't remove the contamination, you are actually protecting over it instead of allowing your paint protection to bond directly with your paint.

Claying your car with a detail clay or using the Ultima Elastrofoam Cleaning System is not a substitute for polishing your paint, it is a process to be done prior to the polishing process to remove surface contaminants that make your paint rough. When your paint is rough, dirt and grime tend to stick and build up, creating even more problems. Claying is simple and will quickly and safely remove the contamination and prepare your car for the polishing and protecting steps.

For more information on properly detail clay your paint or how to Ultima Elastrofoam Clay Replacement System read our Detailing 101 – How To Detail Clay Your Car Article.


After your surface is free of surface contamination it is time to remove defects, staining and enhance overall shine by cleaning and polishing your paint with a pre-wax cleaner or paint polish system. What you are looking for your polishing process or pre wax cleaning to do is offer a clean, contaminant free, optically clear paint surface that is ready for protection. For proper bonding, the surface should be perfectly smooth and free of defects prior to your application of your chosen car wax, paint sealant or paint protectant

If your car is new, more than likely you won't need to remove defects unless your car has been on the lot for a while and been stricken with that dreaded swirl from poor washing procedures by the dealership. If your car is older, it depends on how well the car has been maintained as to whether or not it needs correction or just gloss enhancement.

If your paint is free of defects you will still want to use a pre-wax cleaner like the Ultima Paint Prep Plus to enhance the shine and prepare your paint surface for your paint protectant, sealant or car wax. This can safely and easily be done by hand or machine.

For those needing more serious defect removal, I would recommend the Sonus Polishing System for scratch, oxidation and swirlmark removal as well as overall gloss enhancement.

For more information on properly polish your car read our How To Polish Your Car Article.


The term “wax your car" started with the old school waxes when you actually put wax on your car's paint. Nowadays, it is a term that is used for the paint protection process of applying your car wax, paint sealant or paint protectant. This does not mean you need to apply a wax. It also does not mean you need to wax after a paint sealant. Remember, the object is to protect and the car wax, paint sealant and paint protectant all do this job so you truly only need one product for protection with the exceptions of topper type waxes.

Now that you have done the proper prep work, you should have a have a high gloss, slick, contaminant and defect free surface and now you are ready for your protection! I know it seems like a long road but trust me, the end results will show your work and the actual protection process is quite simple.

Instructions for Applying Wax and Sealants

Always work in a shaded area and on a cool surface.

  • To begin your wax or paint sealant application process, start at the top surfaces of your car. Apply a very thin, even layer of your car wax or paint sealant with a quality microfiber or foam wax applicator working in a back and forth motion in the direction of the panel or along the lines of the car. This process may also be done with a finishing pad on a dual action polisher.
  • When you are finished applying your car wax or paint sealant to the entire car you will need to wait for it to cure and bond with the paint. This generally takes about 15 to 20 minutes but could take longer depending on the type of car wax or paint sealant and weather conditions.
  • Test a small area by performing a “swipe test" to see if your car wax or paint sealant residue is ready to remove. To do this test, briskly wipe your finger across a small area of wax residue. If it smears, wait a little while longer, if leaves a clean area, it is time to wipe off.
  • Start your car wax or paint sealant removal at the same place you started your application. With a high quality microfiber buffing or polishing towel, wipe in a back and forth motion, just as you did during your application process. As you work, fold the towel often to reveal a fresh side and every once in a while shake out any loose residue build up.
  • For best results repeat the protection process in about 12 or more hours after your car wax or paint sealant has had a chance to harden and finish bonding with your paint. A second layer will ensure even coverage as well as enhance the shine.

Ultima Paint Guard Plus Wipe-On, Walk-AwayTM Application Instructions

Ultima Paint Guard Plus is a synthetic polymer paint sealant that goes on clear and is a Wipe-On, Walk-AwayTM that offers serious durable protection, a deep, wet looking shine and offers superior slickness. The thin, clear liquid will not build up in the cracks, crevices, emblems and will not stain trim.

  • Ultima Paint Guard Plus must be used very sparingly. About 1/4 ounce of product is all that's needed to treat most cars. Start at one corner of the vehicle (e.g., left front fender). Mist the Ultima AutoSpa Microfiber Applicator with Ultima Paint Guard Plus twice (two pumps) to prime the pad with product.
  • Wipe the product onto the surface of your paint in a circular motion to spread out and finish by wiping in a straight line motion. (This will help to see where product has been applied).
  • When it appears that no more product is being applied to the paint, spray one more shot of product onto the applicator. Do not spray directly on your vehicle.
  • Continue to apply until the entire vehicle has complete coverage. By the time you get back to where you began, the first couple of panels should already look dry.
  • For best results repeat this process in about 4 or more hours after Ultima Paint Guard Plus has had a chance to cure and bond with your paint. This will ensure even coverage for your protection as well as enhance the shine.

It's that easy - the entire Ultima Paint Guard process should take less than 10 minutes!

Quick Detailing To Maintain Your Protection and Shine

Quick Detailing is a simple solution that will cut down on your regular washing routine by maintaining your car's paint when it is just lightly dusty. Just a few minutes a day or every other day will refresh your protection, enhance the shine and keep that just detailed look!

For more information on properly quick detail your car read our Detailing 101 – How To Quick Detail Your Car Article.

How Often Should I Wax Or Protect My Paint

The answer is 2-4 times per year; depending on the environmental conditions and if you park in a garage or outside. Many car wax, paint sealant and paint protection manufactures make big claims that their product will last a year or longer. The truth is that there are no miracle products and although you may find protection on your paint after a year, would you rely on it for your protection? Think of it as you would your sunscreen, would you put it on yourself or your child early on a scorching hot day and rely on it to protect all day? Yes, you would still have sunscreen on at the end of the day, but more than likely you will also have a sunburn. The moral of this story is that just like your skin, the environment can cause premature aging so KEEP PROTECTED!

Many people ask, “Do I have to do all of the steps?," and the answer is no if you are looking for mediocre results and protection. If you expect the best, then yes, you need to follow the proper steps and avoid any short cuts. You spent a lot of money on that car or truck and will get out of it what you put in to it so protect your investment by properly taking care of it!

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