Transportation Science

How often should you wax your car?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. Maintaining your car's exterior by waxing it on a regular basis is essential. Aside from cosmetically preserving the car's original appearance and keeping its resale value high, waxing the car preserves oils in the paint job that protect against oxidation and rust. Oxidation occurs when oxygen molecules in the air react with the free radicals in the paint, dulling the car's color. Waxing also prevents the car's exterior from damage caused by exposure to elements such as wind, hail, smog, ultraviolet light, bird droppings and tree sap.

    How frequently you should wax your car depends on the quality of wax you use, how shiny you prefer your vehicle to be and how exposed your car is to the elements. For example, cars parked in an indoor garage can go longer without needing to be waxed. Two at-home methods can tell you if your car needs a new coating of wax: the water beading test and the terrycloth towel squeal. For the water beading test, check the condition of the droplets on the car while it's being washed. If the water beads up, the old wax job is sufficient; if the water forms sheets on the exterior, it's time to apply a new coating of wax. The terrycloth towel squeal test involves rubbing a rolled-up terrycloth towel over the surface of the car. If you hear a squealing noise, your car needs waxing.

    An interesting thing to note is that your car might have some built-in paint protection right out of the factory. Your car probably has a few layers of paint on it: a primer coat, a base paint coat and a clear coat. The actual color is usually located in the middle layer, and the clear, top coat is meant to protect the color beneath it. This transparent, protective layer is really just another layer of base paint without pigment to give it color. It’s meant to safeguard against bird droppings, tree sap, ultraviolet rays from the sun, oxidation, rain, hail and wind. If you want to check and see whether your car has a protective layer of clear coating, rub some wax on the car with a light-colored rag. If the rag gets some of the paint’s color on it, the car isn’t protected.

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