Has the need for waxing gone by the wayside?

No, say pros, not if you want to do your utmost to protect your vehicle’s finish from the harsh effects of ultraviolet rays, road debris, tree sap, bugs and more.

Our research team recently interviewed highly rated auto detailers, who said that failing to occasionally apply wax or another protectant to your car’s exterior finish can lead to the breakdown of the clearcoat that protects the paint. That, in turn, can expose the paint to damage from oxidation, road salt and other factors.

Detailers say that the manufacturer-applied clearcoat itself could use the protective boost from wax or other protectants or sealants, such as polymer or Teflon. The idea is to provide a “sacrificial layer” to take abuse that might otherwise damage the clearcoat. In addition, properly applied wax can cover small scratches or light blemishes.

Over time, say detailers, oxidation — which occurs when heat and oxygen combine — will break down even the highest quality vehicle paint. Therefore, it’s important to keep your car clean and to apply wax at least twice a year. The pros suggest increasing the frequency of waxing to three or four times a year if you live in a place that receives intense sun exposure or where road salt is used.

If you have the time and energy to wax your vehicle yourself, the pros recommend that you make sure it’s freshly washed, rinsed and allowed to thoroughly dry. Apply a thin layer of wax, buff off the excess and repeat. Don’t overapply, detailers warn, because a thin application will bond and cure better.

If you’d rather outsource the job, be aware that detailers charge from $50 to $95 to apply wax or other sealants. A more extensive exterior detail includes cleaning, buffing and waxing, and can range from $150 to $300.


Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a trusted resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home improvement to automotive repair. Follow Angie on Twitter: @Angie_Hicks.