Car Wax Does Not Remove Scratches And Here Is Why

Applying car wax protects the paintwork on your vehicle, but it’s no remedy for removing scratches.

While it lends it a deep shine and professional looking finish, any cosmetic damage is just masked temporarily.

Read on for my explanation as to why.

Quick Answer

Car wax doesn’t actually remove scratches or cosmetic blemishes. Instead, such damage is disguised under the protective layer the wax forms on the paint. Car wax isn’t abrasive so doesn’t remove material to even out the paint’s surface, which is how scratches are usually repaired.

Let’s take a closer look at why car wax does not remove scratches.

Can Car Wax Remove Scratches Or Swirls?

Car wax hasn’t been developed for the purpose of correcting blemishes in paintwork.

It isn’t abrasive, unlike car polish, which contains solvents; these remove a very fine amount of paint with the aim of minimizing the appearance of flaws. 

Quick Answer

Car wax cannot remove scratches. Car wax is not an abrasive and cannot take away clear coat in order to level the paint and remove scratches. Car wax can fill up scratches and make them invisible to the eye, but it will not remove scratches.

Applying car wax to the vehicle merely results in a thin layer of wax that lies on the top coat of paint (the clear coat/lacquer).

The even layer of wax effectively smooths out the paint surface, giving it an attractive appearance and making it shine.

By completing covering every panel on the vehicle, car wax provides effective protection from the onslaught of UV light, grit, and debris, with the added benefit of repelling water, which prevents corrosion.  

Since the layer of wax is applied by spreading it over the panels on the vehicle, it traverses everything on the surface, including any blemishes that exist in the paint.

Consequently, these flaws are filled in by the wax, which has the effect of reducing their visual impact. The extent to which they are mitigated depends on what form they take.

Is Car Wax Able To Remove Light Scratches And Swirls?

Small imperfections merely impairing the uppermost, clear-coat layer of the paint could be completely masked by applying an even coating of wax on top of them, or at the very least be less noticeable.

Differentiating minor marks from more serious ones is simply a matter of passing a fingernail gently over the surface. If you don’t feel anything, then such an impairment is likely to be completely obscured by the car wax.

In fact, the act of buffing alone when applying the car wax might be sufficient to eradicate some really minor examples, especially if using a type of wax that comes as a thick paste.

Quick Answer

Car wax cannot remove light scratches. In order to remove any kind of scratch an abrasive material is needed in order to level the paint. Car wax is not abrasive and cannot level the paint. It can fill up light scratches and make them invisibel, but it does not remove light scratches.

However, micro-scratches such as swirl marks are merely filled in by the layer of wax, yet they still might be largely disguised by it.

Remember, though, that surface-level blemishes like these remain present, despite the fact they can’t immediately be seen.

I recommend attempting to remove such micro-scratches by using a car polish first, and then waxing the car afterwards to seal the paint under a protective layer of wax.

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Does Car Wax Cover Up Scratches And Swirls?

It can mask or disguise minor cosmetic imperfections affecting the clear coat of the paintwork, which it does by filling them and hiding them away under its protective coating.

Only the lightest of the light ones will disappear through buffing when putting on the wax.

Quick Answer

Car wax can cover up scratches and make them invisible. This is only true for light scratches that affect the clear coat only. Deep scratches that need a repaint can not be covered up by car wax.

Therefore, the great majority of them will still be there, so the best solution would be to tackle repair of such damage first with appropriate products, such as car polish, and then applying car wax to protect the repaired surface.

However, damage that reaches deeper into the layers of paint is another matter. Scratches or stone chips of this type are more serious, and often a small portion of the clear coat and the colored base coat underneath it is missing.

It’s possible to discern whether such scratches cut into the paint by gently passing a fingernail over them.

Should you feel an indentation when doing this, then the damage carries through the clear coat to the paint level or even farther.

Another tell-tale sign is if the primer – the lowest layer of paint applied to the sheet metal of the panel – is visible or the bare metal itself.

Deep scratches such as these are simply filled in by car wax, although this affords the advantage of covering the damage and stopping the affected area from potentially rusting.

This means that car wax isn’t the solution for dealing with them, since it’s necessary to undertake proper repairs with an abrasive agent, such as car polish, and items like touch-up paint, for example.

Car Wax On Scratches – At A Glance

Effectiveness at dealing with scratchesDWhile some extremely minor flaws in the clear coat might be removed by buffing the bodywork when applying the wax, everything else is only covered by the layer of wax.
Quality of finishBYes, the car will look better after waxing it, as small instances of cosmetic damage will be disguised by the wax. Plus the wax deepens the luster of the paint.
CostAVariable. Buy a good quality wax, especially one containing carnauba, and it’ll protect your car and lend it a deep gleam. 
Fun factorCI’ve marked this down a bit as waxing a car takes time. There’s fun to be had in seeing the before and after effect, though, as it’ll transform the appearance of the car.
Other considerationsSeek spousal approval, as they might not appreciate the time dedicated to the car rather than them (unless it’s theirs, of course).

Car wax shouldn’t be considered a means of removing scratches as that’s not its intended purpose.

It’s meant to protect the bodywork from the effects of weather and small pieces of debris that come into contact with it through ordinary use.

It doesn’t contain any abrasive component, meaning isn’t sufficient or applicable for repairing damage to paint.

What Can Remove Scratches From A Car?

Car detailing can fix minor scratches that only impair the clear coat.

Minor scratch damage is removed by polishing or buffing the clear coat, where polishing or buffing it levels out the paint, making the scratch invisible. Remember that if the base coat is scratched, car detailing isn’t a solution to the problem.

If you want to know more about it, make sure to read my detailed article about it here.

It’s necessary to use a compound to buff out and remove the imperfection. Note that it only works for blemishes affecting the clear coat of the paint, not where paint has actually been removed.

Putting the compound onto the damage smooths out the area and easily gets rid of the problem.

An array of commercial car polishes exist for tackling minor cosmetic damage. These contain the required abrasive compound to remove scratches in the clear coat.

Some polishes are made for certain colors of paint and constitute something of an all-in-one solution for restoring and deepening the luster of the paint while simultaneously dealing with minor blemishes, plus they include wax for added shine and protection; best suited for occasional use, a dedicated car wax would provide a superior wax finish.

Key Takeaways:

  • Car wax doesn’t actually remove scratches or similar cosmetic blemishes
  • Car wax is a protective coating without abrasives
  • It only fills in micro-scratches and more serious imperfections, but has the potential to mitigate their visual impact to a varying degree
  • Consider repairing the damage effectively by using products for that purpose, such as car polish
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge