Types of Car Wax: Which Should You Use?

One of the most important steps in car care that people often skip is waxing. Wax isn’t just there as a gimmick to make your vehicle look bright and sparkly, it also protects it from environmental damage.

Some types of car wax can even cover small superficial damages your car already has. Implementing car wax in your detailing regimen can help with scratches, color fading, and external corrosion.

Different Types of Car Wax

There are two main types of car wax and they differ based on their ingredients: natural and synthetic.

Natural Car Wax

Just like the name suggests, natural car wax is made of natural ingredients, most commonly plants. The hardest and most common natural wax comes from the leaves of the Copernicia Cerifera palm tree that grows in Brazil, also known as carnauba.

There are different grades of carnauba wax — yellow and white — as well as a lot of carnauba-based products. The yellow wax is actually pure plant wax and is the most expensive kind. Despite being the priciest option, carnauba wax enjoys great popularity because of the high level of protection and admirable shine it offers. It is highly appreciated among owners of vintage classics and dark-colored cars because the deep shine it provides enhances their hue.

The only potential downside of using this wax would be the need for regular re-application since it tends to wear off fairly quickly, after four months at most.

Synthetic Car Wax

synthetic car wax

Unlike natural wax, synthetic waxes are artificial — they’re made of chemicals that can bond with paint. They give your car shine and protection that can last for up to a year, depending on the weather conditions.

They usually have a cleaning component in their formula, so they strip your car of any residual dirt. Additionally, their application is less time-consuming and with immediate effect. All those advantages, combined with affordability, make synthetic car waxes a preferred choice among everyday drivers.

With that said, they usually are lack-luster in terms of their depth of shine. If you’re after that deep shine that carnauba wax offers, then you would be remiss if you opted for a synthetic option.

Different Mediums of Car Wax

types of car wax

There are several different forms of car wax based on its form: paste, liquid, spray, and rubbing compounds.

Paste Wax

This wax is the oldest form of car wax. It provides your car with a beautiful gloss and water beading thanks to the natural oils. Still, compared to liquid wax, it must be applied more frequently. They are also usually more expensive than any other form of wax.

Some paste waxes have a very hard texture, so their application might be somewhat challenging and require special tools. However, they give better protection than liquid and spray waxes, and can even make your car smell nice.

Products advertised as “natural” are usually a paste consistency.

Liquid Wax

Liquid wax has a smoother texture than paste wax and has the longest-lasting effects due to added synthetic polymers. However, it is somewhat challenging to apply because it tends to dry quickly. Nevertheless, it is the most commonly used wax by daily drivers.

Still, you should be careful when shopping for one since some types are abrasive and could damage the surface of your vehicle.

Spray Wax

The thing that makes spray waxes stand out is their practical packaging that enables a precise application. It makes them perfect for treating problem spots or giving your car a quick wax on the go. Besides that, they’re great for intensifying the shine and giving some additional protection to new cars that already have a high-quality finish and an intact surface.

An easy application doesn’t guarantee lasting results, though. The effects that spray waxes give are among the shortest, so they are mostly used as a quick fix. However, because of their consistency and application method, spray waxes are usually non-abrasive.

Rubbing Compound?

Rubbing compound is more so reserved to professional detailers than average vehicle owners.

Rubbing compound is similar to polishing compound. However, rubbing compound is much more abrasive. They are typically used for paintwork correction.

The abrasives/grit level in rubbing compounds allow them to remove deeper scratches in a vehicle's paint. This is the primary reason they're reserved for professionals as you can very easily strip too much and cause greater damage to the paintwork than intended.

Colored Car Wax?

As outlined in another article, colored car wax is a gimmick. A number of manufacturers will market wax towards specific paintwork colors - typically white and black.

Car wax does not alter the existing color of your vehicle. Meaning, it will not perform much better or worse than regular car wax.

Final Thoughts

In the end, when choosing the right wax, think about how much time you are willing to invest in maintaining your vehicle. If you don’t have time to spare, you might want to choose a synthetic option. Application is easy and you can typically wax an entire vehicle in 15-30 minutes and it will last longer than a natural option.

However, if you’re someone who genuinely enjoys detailing their vehicle, then paste is truly the best option. However, re-application in more frequent.

Richard Reed
I've been a General Manager of a moving company and I've also been a Professional Mover for over 30 years. I've driven flat beds, reefers, dropdecks, moving vans, heavy machinery, etc. In my time as a Mover I've driven over 1,000,000 safe miles. My days of moving and driving truck are past me but The Vehicle Lab allows me to share the knowledge I've gained over the past 40 years.
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