How Soon Can You Wax a Car After Painting?

Protecting newly painted car paint is extremely important if you want to keep it looking like new for years, but it shouldn’t be done straight away. Fresh paint takes time to cure on the car, and during that time, none of the paint protectants should be applied to the paint.

In this post, I’ll show you how long you should wait before waxing your freshly painted vehicle.

Key Takeaways:

  • You should wait anywhere between 60 and 90 days before waxing your freshly painted car. It takes time for new paint to cure, and it should be able to breathe during that curing process.
  • The best option is to always ask the painter how long you should wait before the clear coat is fully hardened.

Why Is Waiting For Paint To Cure Important?

guy painting a car, illustration

It’s extremely important to wait for the new paint to dry completely before applying any protective layers, such as car waxes, sealants, or even ceramic coatings. 

Why?

Because fresh paints need to be in direct contact with fresh air so that they can evaporate and become as hardened as possible. 

Even though clear coats and paints have hardener compounds inside, they aren’t able to dry fully in an extremely short period of time. Some shops will use the baking process to dry the paint a bit quicker, but the paint will still need time to cure and harden fully. They use those methods so you can freely drive your car but not wax it. 

How Long Does It Take For New Paint To Cure

In general, it will take around 60 days for the paint to fully cure and harden. During this time, you should avoid any activities that can damage the paint, such as waxing or polishing the car.

Once the paint is fully cured, the car is ready for any paint correction or paint protection job.

Keep in mind that this is a general estimate, and the drying time can vary based on several factors, which I’ll discuss below. 

Factors That Affect Drying Time

Here are the most important factors that may affect the drying time of a new paint job:

  • Humidity. High humidity can slow down the drying time of new paint. Humidity prevents the moisture in the paint from evaporating, thus delaying the curing process. 
  • Temperature. The temperature is one of the most important factors. During higher temperatures (spring and summer time), new paint jobs tend to dry much quicker than during colder days (late autumn and winter). 
  • The thickness of the paint. Not all cars and shops apply the same amount of paint to your vehicle, and more isn’t always equal to better paint. There are some general guidelines of how thick the paint should be, but if you decide to apply a few more layers of paint or a clear coat, then the curing times will prolong accordingly. 
  • Ventilation. Proper ventilation is also crucial for the drying process. For instance, keeping your car in a garage isn’t the smartest area. The light breeze is always favorable if you want to shorten the curing time of a new paint job. 
  • Brand of paint. Even though you may think that all brands create very similar types of paints, it’s not always like that. Each brand will have some specific instructions on curing times, and you should follow them. The best you can do is to ask the painter how long to wait for that specific paint.

As you can see, many factors can affect the curing time, and that’s why you should know how to test if the paint is dry enough, which I’ll discuss below. 

How To Test If The Paint Is Dry Enough

It’s hard to determine whether the paint job is dry enough or not unless you’re a car painting expert. However, after I did some paintwork on my past Peugeot 308, there were some things that I realized that indicated that the paint wasn’t yet dry enough. So, I’m sharing these two tips with you:

  • The finger test. Gently touch the paint in some less visible areas, and try to push it a bit with your nail. If the paint isn’t dry yet, it will seem a bit soft, like some extremely hard gum or plastic. The paint should be extremely stiff if it’s completely dry. 
  • The color test. This especially applies to darker colors such as black or dark blue. If the color is inconsistent and there are some visible areas of discoloration, the paint is probably not dry enough. For instance, on black cars, the paint may seem kind of blueish at first, but once the paint cures completely, it’ll become black. 

Even though knowing these tips and tricks may help you, I still highly suggest that you check with a car painter whether the paint is dry enough or not. They will check that in a minute, and you’ll have an expert opinion on it so that you can apply car wax worry-free.

Risks of Waxing Your Car Too Soon

car wax application

I want you to be aware of the risks of waxing your car too soon, so here are the most important risks:

  • Staining. If you wax a car too soon after painting it, you could cause some staining in the paint. Since wax bonds to the paint, it will penetrate the still-curing paint and may cause discoloration or staining. 
  • Preventing curing. Applying waxes too soon will also prevent curing, and the paint will never be able to dry completely. That will make the paint much more vulnerable to harmful elements such as UV rays, acid rain, and bird droppings. Furthermore, swirl marks and scratches will appear on it much more quickly since the paint will be soft.
  • Cracking. The worst-case scenario is that the paint may start to crack in some places. That’s because waxes will penetrate the clear coat (as I stated earlier), and it may cause the paint particles to break and cause cracks, meaning that you’ll have to repaint the car again. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the general rule is that 60 days is enough for the new paint to dry completely, so you can apply wax to it and protect it from harmful external factors. However, since the curing times may differ depending on the climate and some other conditions that I mentioned above, I still highly recommend you check out with a car paint expert and ask them if your car is ready for waxing or not. 

Or, if you don’t know anyone who can give you advice, wait for 90 days (3 months), and that will 100% be more than enough time for the paint to dry, and you can apply waxes, polish, compound, and do any other auto detailing task you want.

Now, if your car paint is ready for wax, I suggest checking my article on how to apply a wax to the car, where I share all the tiny steps you should do to get it done quickly and properly.

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