A smashing ride quickly becomes a dull daily driver if you don’t take the time and put in the energy to make it shine. That means it needs a good coat of wax, not only to help it turn heads, but to protect it from bugs, pollen, salt, wind, grime, and the beating rays of the sun, which will fry your pretty paint in no time flat. It’s true that every paint job dies, but only with a good wax can you make sure that your paint really lives, leaving your vehicle looking better longer.
What Makes a Good Car Wax
There’s no magic formula when it comes to wax, since it’s very subjective. Buying a more costly one won’t guarantee that it works any better than a cheaper one, since cost isn’t always a factor when it comes to protection. Liquids and pastes are equally effective, so anyone trying to tell you that your glossy finish requires one or the other is probably trying to upsell you.
The major ones that are universally avoided by car care pros are Armor All, Turtle Wax, and whatever is on sale at your local big box store. They’re cheap and mediocre at best.
The one thing we, and mechanics, have noticed is that carnauba wax made from “Tree of Life” palms tends to hold up better than anything else out there. Should you decide to pick a wax based on ingredients alone, that’s the ingredient to focus on.
A quality wax won’t wash off when you hit it with high-pressure power sprays, and should allow water to bead up when the weather turns wet. It should also do well at guarding against UV rays, just like a good pair of sunglasses. They should last about 6 weeks, making maintenance every two months or so a habit you need to get into if you want to keep your car fresh.
Different waxes are going to have different properties, with some being specifically designed for dark or light cars, or focusing more on water or on sunshine. When choosing a wax, it’s important to note these items and think about what kind of car you drive, and what kind of weather you’re going to expect over the next couple of months. Just getting a dark or light wax that complements your car’s paint job will go a long way toward making it look better, as will stopping sun in the summer months and moisture when the storm clouds gather.
One final factor is to recognize your wax is only part of the equation, and using a quality car soap when you wash will also change the eye-catching shine of your whip. It also helps to clay your car and get rid of all contaminants before you seal it up.
The more time and patience you use when waxing your car, the better it is going to look, no matter what you use. For the car waxes that look good, cost little, go on easy, and last well, here’s what you should be using instead of spit-shine.
Meguiar’s NXT Generation Tech Wax 2.0
Meguiars is a wax brand that has a whole heaping helping of excellent products to guard and gird your vehicle against rain and shine. It is a paint sealant that goes on quick and wipes away without anything left behind but the glow of a supremely impermeable car. It hits the balance between shine and clear seal that makes bright colors strut their stuff. Purchase: $15
Like all sprays, there’s the potential for streaking should you allow the wax to sit, but on a light-colored vehicle this isn’t even noticeable, making this among the easiest splash waxes out there so long as you’re not driving around in a midnight racer. Purchase: $15
A legend of the car wax world, it began as a way for power companies to protect against electrical fires and explosions. It’s been in production for 75 years, and in that time has been found to be among the most reliable, longest lasting, best looking waxes to populate the market. It works better than most carnauba waxes, and can even protect boat hulls from oxidation. Purchase: $19
Mothers 10016 Reflections Car Wax
Inexpensive and easy on and off, the only cheap aspect to Mothers is the price. It’s a synthetic sealant, making it hard and hardy, difficult to penetrate, with a depth that is especially noticeable on dark cars, giving a sense of profound depth to any paint. Purchase: $21
Liquid Glass LG-100 Ultimate Auto
Liquid Glass looks classic, sitting there in its anachronistic tin, but there’s few modern waxes that can accomplish the same mirrored gleam that you’ll get with LG. It’s not just good against rain and pounding sun, but can help slip bird droppings and corrosive sap from corrupting your precious paint job. Purchase: $28
Blackfire Wet Diamond
Favored by German and Swiss car clubs, Wet Diamond is a triple-polymer sealant blend that not only protects your car against harmful sunbeams, but refracts that light to give the eye-grabbing sparkle reminiscent of a diamond. It’s tough yet shimmers like a clear mountain lake on a calm day. Purchase: $32
P21S Concours Carnauba Car Wax
Collinite 845 is the only other wax in the world to receive the same level of universal devotion as P21S’s wickedly sleek formula. The shine, depth of color, glossy finish, and the ability to revive a worn out paint job, or keep a nice one looking new are just a few of the places where P21S deserves a “Best in Show” ribbon. Purchase: $38
Griot’s Garage Paste Wax
Easy to apply and tough as nails, it’s decent against the UV of our nearest star, but exceptional when it comes to monsoon season. Hydrophobic, water beading on Griot’s is among the best around, and it dries quickly so you spend less time waxing your horseless wagon. Purchase: $39
Wolfgang Füzion Estate Wax
A little lean on the amount in the jar for the cost, you can stretch the Estate Wax a really long way, and the results will give you a whole new appreciation for your automobile. Easy to apply yet capable of spitting out a surprisingly warm glow that is unique to the Füzion, it’s a masterwork that sticks through the roughest conditions that Arizona, Florida, and the Pacific Northwest can dish out. Purchase: $60
Pinnacle Signature Series II
Long lasting both in the can and on the car, the small jar can stretch for ages and doesn’t even require waiting for it to haze over. Certainly a high-end wax for serious gas-breathers who want spectacular form with decent function. You won’t get the hardest seal, but a showroom sparkle that is impressive as hell. Purchase: $60
AMMO is a no-miss name that works for punishing days on dirt tracks or high-speed performance rides through the winding Autobahn. It is a red paste that smells of cinnamon and palm fronds which goes on glossy, creating a wetness to the look of a car that forces the eyes to slide along it. Good for light or dark vehicles and all colors, it’s a little pricey, but well worth it if sparkle and resiliency is your goal. Purchase: $69