Difference between Car Wax & Car Polish ?

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Difference between Car Wax & Car Polish ?

Post by Waxman » Tue Jan 28, 2014 11:58 am

What is the difference between car wax and polish?

Firstly let’s start with the question What is a Wax? A wax in its natural form comes in many guises from vegetable waxes i.e carnauba to animal waxes i.e. bees wax. Its is the natural properties of some of these waxes that make them ideal for use in car waxes.

The most popular for use in the automotive industry is carnauba wax. What makes this type of wax ideal is that it is virtually insoluble in water, so won’t immediately disappear after each wash or rain shower has a melting point of 82-86 °C so will withstand the high daylight summer temperatures without melting off your car.

Although one of the hardest waxes to be found in its natural form it produces a durable and very glossy finish when combined with other waxes/ingredients used to produce a softer product that can be more easily applied to paintwork.

Most car waxes will therefore be a combination of the natural wax, solvents, silicone fluids, other waxes and colorants. Some will also contain abrasives, depending on the product being developed but for the purposes of this article we are looking to compare the “pure” wax vs polish.

Unfortunately if your paintwork is suffering from oxidation, dullness or swirls, wax can only represent a certain amount of gloss, with some waxes containing fillers they may 'help' in hiding some of these - the purer, more higher blended waxes offer a pure visual finish to the paint and contain no fillers.

One other category of “wax” we have not yet considered is the “synthetic wax” or “sealant”. Again these have various other added ingredients that change how the product adheres to your paintwork giving a longer lasting and more durable finish, the synthetic waxes can also assist in producing a sharper visual look for metallic paints, allowing the small metallic particles to theoretically 'pop' from the paintwork .

What is a Car Polish?

In contrast to a wax a car polish is a product that uses an abrasive action to remove very fine layers of the top coat protection to flatten out the surface to ensure and equal reflection of the light and thus a highly polished look. Such products come in varying degrees of abrasiveness from medium to ultra fine.

The quality modern polish will be made of what is known as diminishing abrasives which break down into further smaller particles as they are worked on the paint thus getting finer and finer the more they are “polished” into the paint.

This avoids the need to go through varying steps of abrasiveness in different bottles to achieve a highly polished look. Many polishes also contain gloss enhancing oils which further help to provide a deep look shine to the paint work.

What however is missing by just applying your polish is any protection to the polished paintwork, which is where your wax comes in to protect all the hard work you have just put in polishing and a achieving that deep gloss shine.

Which, using your wax or sealant, you will now protect for a few to several months (depending on how often your car is used, how it is stored, the wax you have used and the environment).

It is worth mentioning at this stage another product group called Glazes. A true glaze is a product that does not contain any abrasives but a mix of gloss enhancing oils and Koalin which effectively fills in any remaining imperfections in the paintwork to ensure a bright evenly reflective surface.

It is good practice, especially on some of the more softer modern paint finishes not to us a pure polish too often but to use a glaze more frequently than you polish to maintain the gloss and look of your paintwork.

This will ensure you are not continually taking off micro layers of the clear coat each time your detail your car and thus ensuring the longer term effectiveness of your paints protection.

As with polishing however it is vitally important after using a glaze that you immediately seal it in with your wax or sealant otherwise the fine fillers and oils that provide the smooth reflective surface will be washed away in the first rain or next car wash.

A short video here showing the difference & behavior between a 'high spec' blend wax vs a High Street purchased wax bought at a major UK automotive supplier.

The purpose of showing this is to give a quick visual look at why it's important to use a good blended wax.

Imagine for instance a full nights rainfull - With all the contaminates in the rain, a car with no wax has no protection and the rain settles over the paint and does not disperse so easily - so you would have a full nights rain contaminates on your vehicle.

A car that has a good protection, the rain rolls off the paint taking the contaminates with it - When you come out in the morning what you will see on the car is basically the last 5 minutes worth of rain = a cleaner, protected car.

Higher spec ingredient wax on the Left - High St wax on the Right.

Any Q's - fire away :wink:

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Re: Difference between Car Wax & Car Polish ?

Post by GingerMagic » Tue Jan 28, 2014 1:31 pm

What sort of polish would you recommended for the stage between washing and waxing?
I am 'cautious' with my money so price is as important as quality. I used autoglym before but it has now turned to water so needs replacing.
1999 T4 family wagon
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1998 406 V6 Coupe - Midlife crisis..!
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Re: Difference between Car Wax & Car Polish ?

Post by rwb » Tue Jan 28, 2014 2:54 pm

Another excellent explanation :D

So given that I won't polish (won't risk it with a maching and hand polishing is essentially useless on modern hard topcoats), my best course of action is: clay, glaze, wax.

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