What is the difference between, car wax and polish?

"Getting the best shine with wax or polish."

PolishingThe two things are very different but sadly most people are unaware and have probably been using the wrong product for years.

This can have a detrimental affect on your cars shine and the paint can actually be damaged if you use the wrong product.

What is polish and what is it used for?

As a result, polish may efficiently smooth the paint surface to remove oxidation and minor blemishes. Wax, on the other hand, is a protective layer on the paint that fills in dimples, dents, and defects to make the paint shine.

According to TorqueCars, a few manufacturers use the terms "polish" and "wax" interchangeably. Because wax just serves as a protective covering, flaws in the paint underneath will still be visible, so only use wax as a last finishing touch on high-quality paint.

Some waxes contain small abrasive particles, and are still classed as a polish as they remove a tiny layer of paint. These are good options to freshen up your cars paint.

So when should you use Polish?

Only when the paint finish has become flat, corroded, or damaged does it become necessary to polish. Paintwork on an automobile may be damaged over time by sunshine, bird lime, dirt, and grime.

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In sunlight, the paint on red cars turns a dull pink colour, which is much more susceptible to sunlight degradation than other colours (this is caused by oxidation) and the fact that red reflects the infrared end of the spectrum, absorbing all the other light frequencies.

Drag your finger over a flaw to see whether it's above or below the surface. This will help you choose whether a wax or polish should be applied.

Using Wax instead of polish can seal in problem paint defects, and using polish instead of wax can remove your top layer of paint, so how do you decide which product to use when detailing your car?

WARNING:Using polish removes a little amount of paint every time (your cloth will show up this color). The only way to cure it is to re-paint the vehicle if you do it too much, which is expensive and time-consuming.

Preparation before applying a polish treatment

You have to figure out whether the flaw in the paint is on the surface or if it's hidden underneath it. Following a thorough wash, run your fingertips over the paint's surface to check for any irregularities. If the paint feels smooth, the problem is under the surface; if the paint feels rough, pitted, or even slightly sticky, the problem lies above the surface.

Polishing is used to correct flaws in the subsurface. Washing and then using a clay bar is the best way to remove above-surface problems such as traffic film, tar, insect guts, and the like.

Use the included lubricant and warm the clay before rubbing over the paint to catch dirt particles. Even while it takes some time, it makes a significant improvement in the paint's gloss, particularly on lighter-colored automobiles where even the tiniest flaw stands out.

Take a careful look at the paint after it has been treated with a clay bar. If any noticeable flaws remain, polishing will be required to remove them.

Before applying the wax, any stone chips or scratches should be repaired since paint will not cling well to a waxed surface.

Car polishing instructions.

You may use a soft cloth and cutting paste/polish to polish your automobile. Make sure you use a damp cloth and a plenty of polish.

Make sure the newly cut paint blends in with the old paint and does not pop out if you are removing a scratch or a particular imperfection. You may have to re-paint an entire panel if the previous paint is severely faded.

Because you only want to remove the tiniest amount of paint to get rid of imperfections, it's best to do it in stages. Although using an electric polisher may speed up the process, it is possible to remove too much paint.

As these photos demonstrate, polishing can erase almost all of the damage caused by key scratches, parking lot scrapes, and other sources of wear and tear.

With a little polishing, a blemish-inducing scuff may be made almost unnoticeable. To get an idea of how bad the damage is, try to polish it out yourself before you take it to a body shop for a respray estimate.

More aggressive polishes for scratch removal are preferable to those used on a general paint job mop up.

Car Waxes

These are a protective coating over the paint, and will fill the tiny indentations in the paint finish helping it to reflect more light and will appear more shiny.

Using an electric polisher to apply wax may result in a high-quality finish in a short period of time.

A deep wax layer should be build up in very small stages. This will ensure it is quite durable, whereas a thick wax coating will  not adhere very well and is prone to act as a magnet picking up particles in the atmosphere when it gets warm.

Natural waxes such as Carnauba are commonly used, but these will build up over time and should really be removed before it is reapplied to your car.

Modern waxes contain synthetic polymers which bond to the paint. Some specialists coatings can also be applied that will form a nice protective layer over the paint.

Be careful when waxing to ensure the paint is free of imperfections as it will seal in these and they will still be noticeable.

So to summarise the difference between Car Wax and Car Polish.

  1. Polish - is a mild abrasive used for removing surface imperfections and small scratches and swirls.
  2. Wax - is a protective coating applied to the car and prevents further environmental damage and gives a nice deep shine.

Many thanks to forum member Freddie for sharing these photos, which show just how much of a difference it makes to know the difference between wax and polish. Waxes should be applied to an automobile every three to six months, and polishes should be applied when the paint becomes dull, as described in the technique above.

Please join the TorqueCars friendly chat forums and chat with other car enthusiasts about all aspects of detailing, car care and car ownership.

Our favourite wax is Collonite 476 - it lasts a long time and gives a good deep protection. We also recommend Meguiars NTX Tech wax and Autoglym super resin polish for older cars with slight imperfections in the paint and for cars with lots of imperfections the Bilt-Hamber Ultra Fine Paint Conditioner.

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4 Responses to “Is car polish and wax the same thing?”

  1. gareth says:

    now i know to use wax on my 2004 land rover td4. good .

  2. mohammed says:

    can the buffing pad be used for polishing?

  3. Selva says:

    1. Please e/mail me the difference between car polish & wax.
    Need some advice, I make tyre & dash polish with silicon water based. What can i add to give a longer shine. You can e/mail me on both e/mail address.

  4. Thomas says:

    I think this article is very good. Unfortunately I have to disagree at the key scratches comment above. If the paint has come off; as is normally the case with a nasty key scratch. I would re-paint, rather than polish out as I believe polishing out a deep key scratch doesn’t work. I’d be keen to hear others comments/ experience regarding this.

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