Car Wax vs. Polish – Which Is Best?

Are car wax and car polish the same thing? No, they aren't. Here's a guide to help you decide if you need car wax or car polish for your car.

There is something special about driving a freshly polished or waxed car. If you don’t share the same feeling, at least know that your car does.

Hold up for a moment – Are car wax and polish the same thing?

No, they are not.

Even though many people use these two terms interchangeably, they are in one way the opposite of each other.

In short, polish removes a thin layer of the paintwork, or more precisely, the top clear coat. Wax adds a layer providing an extra protective layer.

The question remains – is it better to wax or polish your car? The answer is both! A word of caution though, waxing and polishing a car incorrectly can do more harm than good.

No need to worry, below you will find everything you need to know about car wax and polish.

At the end of the article, you will have sufficient knowledge to have the best-looking paintwork in the neighborhood, unless your neighbor read the article as well, of course.

We will first go through both treatments individually and then discuss what is best for your car and washing habits.

Table of ContentsShow

What Is Car Wax?

car wax

A good car wax consists of a special wax located in Brazil called Carnauba Wax. It is found in the leaves of the carnauba palm and provides a characteristic high shine to your car’s paintwork.

Other types of wax are also used but to a much lesser extent, especially in the car industry where the shine it gives is the most important characteristic.

The role of car wax is to protect the paintwork by adding an extra layer of protection, additionally, it also provides a characteristic high gloss finish.

If the definition of wax can be played around with, there is also a fully synthetic type of wax which is commonly known as car sealant.

Car sealants have the same function as car wax, but they differ when it comes to finish, longevity, and a few other things.

Head down to our article “Car Sealant vs. Wax – Which Is Best?”, to find out more about car sealant and wax.  

What Is Car Polish?

using polishing machine on car

Car polish is an abrasive liquid that smoothens the surface of the paintwork which in turn also gets rid of superficial scratches and debris.

It may sound scary to use an abrasive liquid on your car. While it is true that improper polishing can damage the paintwork, you are not in great danger if you know what you are doing.

To make your car look as good as possible it is necessary to polish the car, but only when needed.

Generally, it is not recommended to polish the car more than once a year. Also, polishing should be done when there is a need for it (dull paint, swirls present, scratches, etc.).

Polishing the car will get rid of previous damage done to the paintwork, mostly caused by oxidation, scratches, and debris from the environment.

To properly polish your car, make sure that you use the right technique to avoid damaging the paintwork and get the best results possible.

If you are unsure how to polish a car yourself, wikiHow offers a great explanation of how to polish your car. If you prefer learning by watching, you can also observe how polishing a car should look like.

The Best Choice For Your Car

car wax application

Polishing a car is not always necessary, especially if the last polish was within a year ago. On the contrary, you should wax your car every few weeks, depending on the wax used.

The reason why you should wax your car within a few weeks is that the layer added by the wax only holds for that amount. This does not apply to sealants, as they may last for months.

If your car has visible scratches, debris that is hard to get off, or similar problems, you should consider polishing your car.

However, as previously stated, you should not polish it more than once a year.

Should I Wax Or Polish?

Car Sealant vs. Wax – Which Is Best

You should do both!

To summarize, the question really should not be “Is car wax or polish better?”. Instead, the question is “When should you apply car wax and polish?”.

Wax and polish are complementary to each other. Waxing your car after a polish will give a great finish and protection for your car.

Keep in mind that you should never polish after applying wax but do the opposite. Also, waxing is done every few weeks, while polishing should not be done more than once a year.

If you polish the car yourself, make sure that you practice proper technique and remember that less is more in most cases when it comes to polishing and waxing.

To wrap it up and keep it simple, polish removes bad stuff, wax protects the good stuff which is left.

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Bajro Muric
Bajro Muric

Bajro is a big car enthusiast with a love for writing and teaching. He writes about anything regarding cars - from common problems and fixes to racing.