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Waxing provides an
 easily renewable, transparent barrier between the finish and a hostile environment.

It was European coach builders that first applied coatings of animal fats and wax to protect the custom paint on their horse-drawn carriages.  This tradition has endured over 100 years and is still a great way to protect the paint on modern-day coaches.

Today, the multilayered finish on your car, from the primer through the top clearcoat, is only .004 to .006 of an inch thick.  Regardless of how fine the finish is now, it will deteriorate and dull.  Radiant and ultraviolet energy, acid rain, salt, atmospheric pollution, insect fluids and bird droppings wage a constant war on your car's finish.  Waxing provides an easily renewable, transparent barrier between the finish and a hostile environment.

Waxing also makes your car, new or old, look better.  Quality waxes now combine enriching oils that "wet" the surface with protective formulas of Brazilian carnauba or modern polymers for a high-gloss shine.  This brings us to the subject of selecting a wax.  Waxes can be made from a natural wax, usually Brazilian carnauba, or synthetically made of polymers and acrylic resins.

Waxes and sealants make the surface of a car reflect more light.  As a result, the car looks vibrant.  When I saw this Porsche Carrera GT, it was hard to tell which reflected more, the water or the paint.  It looked alive.  Carnauba-based waxes add an element of depth and warmth to a car.  Synthetic wax formulas create  brilliance and sparkle.  

Carnauba Wax
Carnauba comes from the fronds of the "tree of life" (Copernicia cerifera) native to Brazil.  It is nature's hardest, purest and most transparent wax.  Carnauba car waxes tend to produce a deeper, darker, richer shine that is often described as "three-dimensional."  

Many enthusiasts and show car owners prefer the shine of carnauba waxes, especially on black, red and other dark colors.  Carnauba waxes bead water nicely, absorb the acid content in rain, and hide minor swirls in the paint.  My personal favorite is P21S Carnauba Wax, a true show car wax.  Compared with other show car waxes, P21S Carnauba Wax is very modestly priced and compares favorably.

On the minus side, carnauba waxes are not as durable as synthetic waxes or sealants.  Depending on your climate, a carnauba wax might last between 30 and 60 days.  Additionally, some carnauba waxes can be temperamental, occasionally streaking under certain temperature or humidity conditions.

With the limitations of carnauba wax, you might be asking why it continues to have a loyal following.  In my own case, I continue to use P21S Carnauba Wax to pamper my show car because I like the way it looks.  On my toy, durability is secondary.

Synthetic Waxes
While car enthusiasts love carnauba waxes for the way they make highly polished paint look wet, like a calm pool of water, they would appreciate more durability.   Simply put, carnauba waxes quickly evaporate when your car is in the hot sun.  The average melting temperature of a carnauba wax is about 180 degrees (f).

To make a true wax coating more durable, some chemists have turned to synthetic waxes that mimic the valued properties of natural carnauba, but greatly improve on the limitations.  One such wax is Autoglym Extra Gloss Protection, which is easily the most durable wax product I have found.  Super Resin Polish is a thin liquid, which allows it to be applied very quickly and with little to no rubbing required.  Buffing off is also a breeze, and reveals a bright, shiny, slick surface that will bead water and look great for 4 to 6 months.

I personally prefer acrylic sealants over polymer sealants.  The polymer sealants are becoming more and more common due to the low cost of silicone polymers.  I like the acrylics because the acrylic resin molecule is heavier than polymer strands, which I feel allows acrylic sealants to do a better job of hiding minor paint flaws.  I also find that acrylics have a more natural look and are less likely to cloud the paint.

The king of acrylic resin sealants is Klasse.  The Klasse products include a cleaner and sealant in one, called Klasse All-In-One and a pure sealant called Klasse Sealant Glaze.   Klasse All-In-One is a one-step product that gently cleans and polishes your paint as it protects with the patented Klasse acrylic formula.  A single coat of Klasse All-In-One provides 4-6 months of protection.  For even more protection and paint finish beauty, you can add one or more coats of Klasse Sealant Glaze, which does not contain cleaners or polish.  Klasse Sealant Glaze is pure acrylic resin.

Applying Wax
Once you've selected a wax, here are some tips to make waxing easier:

  1. Work in a shaded area out of direct sunlight.

  2. Use a foam or terry cloth applicator pad to apply your wax.  When the applicator becomes caked with wax, switch to a fresh applicator.

  3. Work on one area at a time covering 2 to 4 square feet.  Some products may allow you to coat the entire car before buffing off, but most do not.

  4. Follow the wax manufacturer's instructions on whether or not to allow the wax to dry (haze) before buffing.

  5. Use a small amount of wax at a time, and rub it in well.  If you use too much wax, you're wasting the product and your time. 

  6. If the wax residue does not buff off easily, switch to a clean wipe towel.

  7. Apply your wax in a back-and-forth motion, not in circles.  If you are creating swirls, you need to replace your applicator or towels. 

After waxing, your car's paint should feel slick and smooth, and be free of streaks and smudges.

What do you do if, after all this work, you still have streaks and areas that don't want to buff out perfectly?  There are several tricks, but the easiest is to park your car in the sun for 10 to 15 minutes.  Let it get warm, but not hot, and then take it back inside the garage.  Next, using a good spray bottle and distilled water, spritz a small area and buff with a clean terry cloth towel.  The warmth of the sun softens the wax, allowing it to buff out to a clear, high gloss.  If you don't have distilled water, use a detailing spray.  If you're using an enthusiast sealant system, use the quick detailer made for the system.

Show Car Tricks
Detailers that prepare show cars will often layer a carnauba wax on top of a synthetic wax.  The synthetic wax acts as a gloss layer, while the carnauba wax adds depth and a wet-looking appearance.  One combination that works well is an initial coating of Klasse All-In-One followed by one or more coats of P21S Carnauba Wax.

Apply and buff the first coat of wax as you would normally, and allow it to cure for 12 to 48 hours.  Follow with a second coat.  Note that the first coat of wax must have time to cure.  If the wax does not cure (harden), the second coat will not improve your car's appearance or protection.  With properly applied coats of wax, you will see a noticeable improvement in depth, richness of color and gloss with the second coat of wax.  Adding more layers is a subjective matter, although many concours winners use multiple layers to produce the desired depth.

Regular waxing is necessary to protect your car's paint from the elements.  In addition to sealing and protecting, waxes and sealants also improve the appearance of freshly washed and polished paint.  If you use the right products, you can successfully layer waxes and sealants to make your paint look deeper and almost liquid.