Five things you should know about wax and polish before shining your ride – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

Winter, it seems, is finally behind us, even up here in the northern climate where it has a habit of lingering into early May. It’s time to get the vintage vehicles out of hiding and prepped for a summer of enjoyment. First on the list should always be a wash and wax. Or was it wash and polish? Wax, polish – what’s the difference, right? Therein lies the problem: More often than not, there’s a misconception about wax and polish, and what they should be used for. They are two different products that serve distinct purposes, so here are a few points to ponder after you’ve given the ol’ ride a proper wash.

1. Polish

After washing your vehicle, the first product you should reach for is polish. The misconception about polish is that it produces a nice shine. In truth, its primary purpose is to remove minute imperfections such as grease, dirt, and oxidation from a vehicle’s paint (or clearcoat) that in many instances normal washing will not alleviate. Polish also fixes minute scratches, scrapes and swirls. Here’s the catch, though: a single polish does not solve all of these surface maladies with a single stroke of application.

There are actually two types of polishes, the first being a chemical polish. Its non-abrasive formula essentially cleans the surface, removing (as mentioned) grease, dirt, oxidation, and – if caught early on – even some stains. Abrasive polishes help eliminate/repair swirl marks and scratches before they become an eyesore. This is accomplished by the abrasive compound within, which removes an incredibly thin layer of paint or clearcoat. The abrasiveness varies from one product to the next – from fine to course – to suit various needs, and some are so fine that they are not referred to as abrasive compound polishes, which means it’s important to read the label’s small print. In either case, polish is often found as a cream, spray, or liquid product, and while the surface will look fantastic when the job is completed, it’s important to remember that polish does not seal or protect the paint/clearcoat

2. Car Wax

Car wax is pretty straight forward. It’s been in use – in some form – since the early 1800s, when extending the look and life of an ornate wooden carriage was important to the family budget. It’s carryover to the automotive market was seamless. Unlike polish, wax becomes a barrier between your vehicle’s paint/clearcoat surface and the litany of contaminants that attack it, including UV rays and other airborne pollutants, not forgetting that it helps stymie corrosion. Wax also creates, or more accurately, enhances, the glossy finish many car owners aim for. Because it seals a vehicle’s surface, it’s important to apply wax after polishing the surface, lest the contaminants be locked against the surface, expediting potential damage.There are two different types of automotive wax available: natural and synthetic. As one could guess, the former has been formulated from natural occurring resources, such as waxes, oils, and solvents (crude oil distillates, ethanol, mineral spirits, petroleum, and more). A natural wax offers an incredible shine with great protection, as does a synthetically manufactured wax; however, it does not last as long as synthetic.

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Categories: Detailing, Hemmings, Matt Litwin

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