How Often Should You Wax Your Car?

Jessica Shea Choksey | Dec 18, 2020

Regularly waxing a car is essential because it helps preserve the clear coat over a vehicle's paint. That clear coat is the layer that protects the paint from corrosive elements, including snow, rain, street salt, ultraviolet rays, bird droppings, and tree sap, among other contaminants. The clear coat is also what gives a vehicle its shine. 

Vintage Porsche Glossy Black Paint

When the clear coat wears away, the paint becomes susceptible to fading, discoloration, and eventually, rust. In other words, applying wax is a necessary component of keeping the exterior of a car in the best possible condition and retaining a vehicle's resale value.

As a general note, always wash a vehicle before waxing it. Doing this removes surface dirt, debris, and grease so that you can apply the wax cleanly and evenly over the vehicle's clear coat. Not washing a car first can cause the wax application process to grind dirt and other particles into the paintwork.

Waxing Interval

There is no exact answer as to how often a car owner should wax their vehicle. In some cases, twice a year is enough. For others, waxing is necessary every three to four months or with the change of seasons. And some people will wax their vehicle as often as every eight weeks. 

The time interval has a lot to do with the harshness of the environment in which the car lives. For vehicles that are garage kept in climate-controlled spaces, waxing is required less frequently. You must apply wax more often to vehicles parked on the street and exposed to harsh winter weather or year-round direct sunlight. The key is to wax a car on an interval that always keeps the clear coat safeguarded.

Determining that interval is based on the understanding that the wax will wear away on its own. The most obvious way to tell if the layer of wax is thinning is to observe how water beads on the vehicle's surface. Due to surface tension, wax causes water to bead up and roll away. When beading does not occur, there is no wax layer present, and the clear coat is unprotected.

Another way to see if wax remains on the paint is to run a finger over the vehicle's surface. A waxed surface feels noticeably different than an unwaxed surface. The former will have a smoother touch and allow a finger to glide effortlessly across. An unwaxed surface will feel rawer and will offer resistance to sliding. If no wax is detected, it is time to reapply, regardless of how long it has been since the last application.

Types of Wax

The type of wax you use is also a determining factor of how often a vehicle should receive a new coat. There are several wax products, each with different formulations and each with different results:

  • Paste Wax – The most traditional wax formulation puts a thick, protective layer over a vehicle's clear coat. Due to its dense consistency, paste wax takes longer to apply, but it also lasts longer on a car's surface. Reapplication time can be anywhere from three to six months.
  • Liquid Wax – Composed of a blend of natural wax and synthetic polymers to offer a good defense against UV rays. This wax will give the vehicle a good shine, but the coating is thin and may not last very long, meaning as little as eight weeks.
  • Liquid Polymer – This product is made from man-made chemicals but has the same properties as wax. It is often considered a synthetic wax. Although it is easier to apply and offers a similar protection level as wax, a polymer does not result in the same level of paint shine. Plan to reapply this wax every three to four months. 
  • Carnuba Wax – This natural substance is known for giving the paint a great shine. However, it does not last very long and requires reapplication more often than other waxes on this list.

The Verdict

Ultimately, how often an owner should wax a car depends on multiple factors, including whether or not the vehicle is garage-kept, the climate in which you drive the car, the amount you drive the car, and the type of wax you use. Consider all of these factors to determine the right interval between applications of wax.

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