Should You Polish a Car Before Waxing It? EXPLAINED
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You have probably heard car detailers saying that before waxing, you should polish your car. Is it really the truth? Can you wax the car without polishing it? I decided to dig deep into this topic and check out whether you should polish a car before waxing or not.
Is it necessary to polish a car before waxing it? The answer is – it depends. However, most of the time, you should polish your car before waxing. Polishing will fix all those minor car paint imperfections, which is essential to get the best results after applying wax.
In reality, keeping your car’s paintwork in top shape isn’t as easy. From blaring sun to road salts, tree saps, wind, and dust, and lest I forget, bird poops, your paintwork usually needs help almost always.
Apart from these, you could have a few scratches on your car from your driving. All these factors combined can add to the damage created on your car’s body to affect its shine. But when these happen, should you necessarily polish your car before waxing it? The answer is YES.
The idea here is to prepare your car with polish and then seal the polish up with wax.
What Is Waxing?
Waxing is the procedure of applying wax to car paint. Waxes will make a layer of protection to your paint, which will prevent light paint damage (fading, bird poops, oxidation, water spots, etc.).
Also, waxing enhances the car paint, so it becomes glossy and shiny – just like when you bought the car. Waxes can be either synthetic or natural (carnauba waxes).
Natural car waxes offer the best shine, while synthetic car waxes offer better longevity and durability. If you want to read a detailed comparison, check my synthetic vs. natural waxes article.
Now, let’s see whether you need to polish your car before waxing and in which situations it’s critical to get that appealing look of your car.
When Should You Polish Your Car Before Waxing?
Although it may not be necessary to have your car polished before waxing it, it is essential to do so in most situations. Now, I’m going to show you in which conditions you should (have to) polish the car paint before you apply the wax.
You Should Polish The Car Before Waxing:
- If you see swirls on your car
- If there are minor scratches
- If the paint is oxidized (faded) from the sun
- If you just painted some car parts (bumper, hood, etc.)
I bet that now you see the real reason why polishing is essential before you go and apply the wax.
Related: Best Car Polishes For The Best Results
Also, in some situations (horrible paint), your car will need both polishing and compounding. As you already know, compounding is more abrasive than polishing, and it’s used for hard paint defects.
When Is Polishing Not Needed Prior To Waxing?
In some cases, you don’t need to polish your car. You can go and wax your vehicle straight away (with some preparations, of course).
There’s No Need To Polish Your Car Before Waxing:
- If the paint still looks great, without damages (swirls, scratches, fading)
- If you already have the wax on your car and now you want to reapply it
- If you just bought your vehicle
- If you just painted the whole car
These are the situations when you don’t need to polish the car. However, to prevent paint damages, you should take care of your car all the time – which most people don’t.
That’s why I always suggest you take care of your car all the time, even if you have to spend 1-2 hours more per week on that. It’ll save you money in the long run.
Other Things You Should Do Before Waxing The Car
Yes, sometimes you don’t have to polish your car before waxing, but there are some steps that you should do whenever you wax your car.
Whenever you wax your car, make sure to do the following:
- Thoroughly wash your car
- If you had wax before, make sure to remove it completely.
- Remove any paint contamination.
- Make sure to remove bugs and tar.
- Clay bar your vehicle to get that smooth paint.
These were the things you should always do, even if you don’t want to apply wax. By following this advice, you’ll always get the best results when washing your car.
What Happens If You Wax Without Polishing
Polishing and waxing are part of auto detailing, but they have different objectives they wish to attain, even though they sometimes seem similar.
You do not have to polish before waxing if the conditions I have mentioned earlier are in straightforward terms intact. However, if you wax without polishing when you actually have to polish before doing so, you might be doing an unprofessional job.
The truth is that wax will not remove dirt from your car’s paintwork. It will only seal what you have.
Now imagine locking dirt, swirls, scratches, and grubs up on your vehicle. That is what you do when you wax without polishing.
The paintwork has to be clean and dry before waxing. When you are even replacing wax, you likely do not need to polish before doing so. You should wash, clean, and dry your car.
The Differences Between Car Waxing and Polishing
It is easy to confuse polish with wax when your motive is to shine your car’s paintwork. In fact, most car detailers use these words interchangeably. Of course, both will shine your car, but they are two different products that do other things.
Polish is actually very fine and abrasive. Sometimes you might think about why you would want to apply an abrasive product on your car’s delicate paintwork. However, polish, as it is with the whole family of graded compounds, helps you to remove microlayers of dead or damaged coatings on your car.
As for wax, it also shines your car, but its other function is perhaps the most essential. Waxes put a protective shell over your car’s paintwork, thus preventing bird poop and other surface dirt from sticking to it. The wax is also improving the shine of the car paint, so you get that glossy look.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can wax your car without polishing, but if the paint isn’t in top condition, don’t expect miracles.
You should always opt for polishing first. Polishing is used to fix paint imperfections, while waxing is used afterward to protect the paintwork.
It’s up to you, but if you want to keep the paint protected, I highly suggest you wax your car after polishing it. However, you can also opt for other paint protection methods such as ceramic coating, car sealants, or even paint protection films.
Whenever you decide to wax your car (even if you’re just reapplying it), make sure to check the condition of the car paint.
Even if you had wax on your car, the car paint could still get damaged. Remember, wax isn’t the best protection for your paint. If you want high-level paint protection, you should consider applying ceramic coating on your car.