Full Guide With Video: How To Wax A Car By Hand And With A Machine

Your precious car could be exposed to wear and tear and may not look as shiny and new as when you bought it.

While the car could still be in perfect condition, it could use some makeover to take it back to its heydays when it had that alluring showroom shine.

You can wax the vehicle to help you achieve a well-polished appearance.

So how do you do it?

This article has step-by-step instructions showing how a car’s exterior can be transformed to its former glory by hand or buffer waxing.

Read to the end to learn how to achieve a neat look even when you aren’t a car waxing professional.

Waxing A Car By Hand – Step By Step Instructions

Hand waxing a car is one of the simplest and most effective car waxing methods.

It is relatively risk-free, as there are minimal chances for damage to be done while waxing by hand.

For you to achieve success in this method, ensure you have the following items:

  • Applicator pads
  • Microfiber towels
  • Car wax (any type that you prefer)
  • Car shampoo
  • Lubricant
  • Clay bar
  • A good compound

There are different options for car wax to be used when hand waxing.

The wax could be in the form of liquid, paste, or spray.

Carnauba wax tends to be the most preferred car wax type, as it is organic and gives vehicles a good shine.

Another car wax type is synthetic car wax, which is easy to apply and lasts longer.

Once these items are at your disposal, it is time to apply the wax.

Step One: Wash The Car

Washing the car is the first step in applying car wax to the vehicle’s exterior.

This step shouldn’t be missed as grime, dust, dirt, and other contaminants on the vehicle’s surface stick to the wax when applied, giving it a lumpy and uneven finish.

Therefore, the perfect wax application starts with a fresh and clean surface.

Use good quality car shampoo to wash the car and dry off the water using a microfiber cloth or towel.

Park the car in the shade or somewhere cool to prevent the surface from heating up from the sunlight and interfering with the wax application.

Step Two: Apply The Lubricant And Clay Bar

The next step is to remove contaminants on the car’s surface.

You can tell whether the car’s surface is contaminated if it feels rough when touched.

Apply the lubricant first, and then rub the clay bar on the lubricated area.

The lubricant helps the clay bar glide on the car’s surface easily to remove the contaminants, making it smooth.

Using plenty of lubricant helps avoid scratching the car’s surface when rubbing the clay bar on it.

Step Three: Compounding

With a smooth and clean surface, the next step is compounding the car by hand.

Use an applicator pad to apply the compounding agent in small amounts.

The compound is intended to help remove scratches and surface layers the clay bar couldn’t remove.

Don’t overload the applicator pad with the agent, as it may leave white powder remnants in the cracks of the car.

Remove the compound by polishing it with a microfiber towel.

Be gentle with the polishing to avoid scratching the car with any dirt or dust that may have settled on the car while prepping it for waxing.

Step Four: Wipe The Car With Isopropyl Alcohol And Water

Wiping the car with an alcohol-water mix makes sure that all fats and all left over polishing compound is properly removed.

After the wipe the paint will be “naked” and this allows the wax to bond perfectly with the paint.

The better the bond, the longer the wax lasts and the better the protection is.

So make sure to wipe your car with a mix of alcohol and water before applying the car wax.

Step Five: Apply The Wax In Sections

The final step is applying the wax, and good quality wax is paramount for excellent results.

Apply thin coats as you go, as too much wax is harder to apply and even out on the vehicle’s surface.

Also, work in small sections and check each section before moving to the next one.

Use the applicator pad to spread the wax in each section in a vertical motion.

Avoid circular motions when applying because they could leave behind swirl marks on the car, ruining the smooth finish intended.

Working in sections helps identify and correct hand waxing mistakes when the wax is being applied.

This hack is helpful because mistakes are prevented early on rather than applying to the whole surface and noticing them later on when the damage is already done.

Take your time when applying car wax by hand. Car waxing by hand is time-consuming and takes a lot of hard work.

Therefore, hastily slathering the wax all over the car at once without any structure shortens the application time but makes it harder to polish the vehicle and achieve a flawless finish.

Step Six: Buff The Wax

When the wax application is complete, the next step is to make the car’s surface smooth and shiny.

Use a microfiber towel or cloth to buff the waxed vehicle’s exterior to a smooth finish.

Use vertical motions when buffing in the wax, and the process is deemed complete.

Waxing A Car With A Buffer – Step By Step Instructions

Waxing a car with a buffer is much faster than waxing by hand, but it is much more complicated.

You need the same materials as the hand waxing method, only that a machine is used this time instead of doing it by hand.

The following steps should be followed when using the machine to apply wax on vehicles:

Step One: Clean The Car

Like in hand waxing, using a buffer to apply wax also needs the car to be fully clean before starting the process.

Wash the car, dry it off with a microfiber towel, and park it in a cool shade away from direct sunlight.

Step Two: Clay The Surface

This step involves using a clay bar to remove any contaminants left on the car even after being washed.

The contaminants may lead to scratching the paintwork when applying the wax, hence the need to eliminate them.

Dissolve a few drops of detergent in a water bottle, put it in a spray bottle, and spray the contents on the car’s surface to act as a lubricant for the clay bar to glide on easily.

Then, slide the clay bar on the surface using light pressure to help eliminate the contaminants.

If you encounter resistance on a particular part of the surface, glide the bar a few more times on the spot until the contaminant is successfully removed.

Step Three: Apply Detail Spray On The Surface

Once the surface is free of contaminants, spray the clayed surface with detail spray and wipe it off using a microfiber cloth or towel.

The detail spray helps remove the soapy water used before the surface was clayed.

It removes any dirt that might have settled on the car’s surface after washing and claying.

Step Four: Wipe The Car With Isopropyl Alcohol And Water

It is important to wipe the car before applying the wax.

This makes sure that the car paint is free of any fatty residue, left over polishing compound, or anything else.

The alcohol-water mixture prepares the car paint perfectly to be waxed.

The cleaner the paint is, the longer the car wax lasts and the better it will protect the paint.

Make sure not to forget this step.

Step Five: Apply The Wax

Attach the applicator pad to the machine and apply small wax dots evenly. Dab the wax onto a section of the car to coat the surface with the wax.

Then, use the buffer to spread out the wax on that area thinly and evenly without ruining the vehicle’s paintwork.

Use light, vertical and horizontal motions to spread and break down the wax on the car.

Step Six: Buff The Wax

When every inch of the car’s surface intended for coating has been covered, the final step is to buff the wax.

Use a microfiber towel to buff off the residue wax, revealing a bright and well-polished vehicle.

Waxing A Car With Liquid Wax – What To Consider

Waxing a car with liquid wax is a great way to protect your paint job and keep it looking fresh.

But there are some things you should consider before you start:

  • Waxing can be messy, so ensure you have plenty of towels on hand to clean up drips and spills.
  • If you’re waxing a vehicle that has been in storage for a while, remove any cobwebs or dust from the interior before beginning this process.
  • Be sure that any loose rust or patches of peeling paint are addressed before applying any waxes or sealants, as these can compromise their effectiveness.

Key Takeaways

  • Start the car waxing process with a clean car to eliminate dirt, dust, and contaminants that may scratch the car while waxing.
  • There are different forms of car wax: liquid, spray, and paste.
  • A car can be waxed by hand or a buffer; waxing by hand takes much more time than a machine.
  • Applying wax using a buffer could be more complicated for a non-professional.












Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge