How to Wax a Car: Your Step-by-Step Guide (Updated 2024)

How to Wax a Car: Your Step-by-Step Guide (Updated 2024)

What is the best time to wax a car? Should you wax your car every time you wash it? How many coats of wax should I put on my car? We answer these questions and break down the steps to properly wax your car in this simple Step-by-Step "How to wax your car" Guide.
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Given the choice, virtually no one would choose a dull, dirty car over a spotless, shimmering car that almost looks wet. Taking pride in your vehicle takes time, effort, and a small investment whether you drive a $100,000 sports car or a decade-old grocery-getter. One of those maintenance tasks is waxing your car.

Does waxing your car do anything? Yes, Although paint looks like a durable coating on your body panels, it’s not perfect. It’s susceptible to effects from the sun’s UV rays and can oxidize, leaving it looking shabby. As well, environmental issues like bird droppings and tree sap can etch into the paint if it isn’t protected. And perhaps the most satisfying reason of all: a waxed car repels water, making it bead off water and dirt with ease.

Whether you are a beginner or advanced we recommend these simples steps to lay down a coat of wax or spray wax on your car that lasts.

Invest in high-quality wax and application products


Using tested products that have been proven and reviewed to be long-lasting, you’ll only have to wax your car once a year. Invest in a wax product that gives you the results you’re looking for: resists water spots, a brilliant shine, and protects against environmental elements. 

Ethos Ceramic Wax PRO does all of those things, and the ceramic-infused compound bonds at a molecular level. It’s much harder than a carnauba wax which is why it can last for a year or more. 

Don’t skimp on applicator pads and towels either. Use microfiber cloths, also available at Ethos, to avoid scratches and to work gently. Avoid anything abrasive that could negate all the good you’re doing with a wax job, and launder your towels after every waxing.

Start with a clean car

The quality of your wax application depends on putting the compound directly on the paint. Wash your car completely, minding the areas that can accumulate dirt. Getting rid of dirt and grime is a job for a hand-wash whenever it’s possible, since automatic car washes tend to leave trouble areas untouched. 

After washing your car and rinsing very well, wipe it dry with microfiber cloths. Wax is easier to apply and lasts longer when it’s applied to dry paint.

Remove contaminants and road grime

Think you’re ready after a wash? Guess again. It could work to just slap on a quick wax coating, sure, but you’ll be trapping dirt and grime against the paint. Run your hand over the hood, the lower portions of the doors, the rockers and the bumpers. If you feel ANY little bumps, they need to be removed. It could be road tar, road paint, rail dust – you name it – but it needs to come off. Use a clay bar to safely lift and trap those bits. Whats the difference between a Clay bar and Clay Mitt?

Once it’s clean and clay barred, decontaminate any surfaces you plan to wax. Ethos DETOX is an alcohol-based spray that’s perfect for doing the final wipe-down prior to applying your wax. Simply mist it on, then wipe it off with a clean towel.

Work in a cool, dry area

Is it ok to wax car in the sun? Yes, but its not preferable. Applying wax in the direct sunlight or in the heat can result in inconsistent finishing, plus you’ll tend to use much more wax than you should need. And if it starts to drizzle while you’re waxing, you could get unsightly water spots that are annoying to remove. Choose a clean, cool, and dry place to apply the wax. A well-lit garage is a great choice, but conditions can sometimes allow for applying the wax outdoors. 

Apply wax in small sections

Sparingly squeeze out your liquid wax onto an applicator pad, not directly onto the paint. By putting it onto the pad, you’ll be able to control coverage better and save on the amount of wax you need. 

Wipe the wax onto your car’s clean paint in small sections, like half the hood at a time, to control your coverage. Some people will advise to use a circular motion, but really, the direction doesn’t matter nearly as much as a consistent coverage. You don’t need much either, so long as there’s a thin layer over all the paint.

Completely cover the car with wax until you’ve done the whole vehicle. On a midsize car, it might take 15 minutes or so. A full-size truck might take a half-hour or more. 

Let the wax dry

Wax doesn’t take long to dry, and there’s no need to leave it on the paint for more than the cure time of 20 to 30 minutes. During this time you can detail the interior of your car, or grab a quick snack. Once you can swipe your finger across the wax and it doesn’t streak, you’re golden. It should appear like a powdery residue on your finger. 

Wipe off the film

The hard part is done. Wiping the wax off is so satisfying, and it takes no effort at all. With a clean microfiber cloth, gently wipe the cloudy-looking wax off the paint. If you need to apply pressure, your wax either isn’t completely dry or you might’ve applied a thicker layer than necessary. The initial swipe across the paint might feel like some light resistance, but that gives way to a slippery feel when the wax residue is off.

If you’re getting buildup on your towel, fold it to a clean section. Always ensure you’re using a clean part of the towel to buff the film off.

Touch up any streaks

If you’ve laid down too much wax in areas or it wasn’t completely dry, there could be streaks. No problem – they’re easy to fix. Using your applicator and a dab of wax, go over the area again, then immediately wipe the wax off.

For textured, unpainted plastic as well as badges and emblems, wax can discolor them. They’ll usually buff out with a clean towel, and stubborn stuck-on streaks on plastic might require a quick touch of DETOX or all-purpose cleaner.

To sum it up… 

Waxing a car can be a chore, but it’s well worth the effort. Everything you need to detail your car including its annual wax application can be found at Ethos from microfiber towels to a clay bar or new clay mitt to detailing sprays and our Ceramic Wax PRO.


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