How to wax your car properly: by hand or with a buffer (full guide)

Looking to get that showroom-fresh shine on your car – and want to ensure it lasts? Whether you’re working by hand or with an electric buffer, here’s the Turtle Wax guide to using specialist automotive wax to get your panels gleaming with a durable protective finish.

Few of us have the luxury to spend countless hours pampering our vehicles. However, by using the right car-care products, it takes only a fraction of that time to transform dull, tired paintwork into a mirror-like professional finish. Doing so can help protect your panels against future damage from the sun plus environmental and cosmetic factors, as well as maintain your model’s beauty and value.

Most of car wax tend to consist of the carnauba wax, which derives from Brazilian palm leaves and is used in many commercial industries. It is then supplemented by other natural waxes and synthetic polymers, which gives your car surface that deep glossy shine at the end of the car waxing process. We have a number of different wax product formulas due to specially developed formulas, such as our Hybrid Technology, which allows you to pick and choose the right product for you depending on desired application method and final result.


Preparation for waxing

Remove dirt & grime

  • After extensive washing with a specialist shampoo to take off loose dirt and grime, use plenty of clean water to remove any trace of suds and then dry the panels thoroughly.
  • Turtle Wax produces a wide range of car care shampoos, including the ever-popular Turtle Wax M.A.X.-Power Car Wash, which is the only wash that increases the pH cleaning power making it suitable for any cleaning task and even toughest dirt. 
  • Alternatively, give the new Turtle Wax Hybrid ICE Snow Foam Shampoo a go. It can be applied by hand or with a foam gun and leaves a luxurious lather which won't strip waxes and sealants on the car surface, which is especially important for those who frequently detail their car.

Tackle defects

  • Polish car surface. Next, carefully polish the panels to tackle defects. Applied properly, the polish’s slight abrasive qualities should remove any previous layers of wax, as well as grease & dirt.  Try Turtle Wax Polishing Compound for the best effect.
  • Remove paintwork imperfections. If you see any noticeable swirls and light scratches on your car surface, it would be a good idea to use a more abrasive product in order to renew the paintwork. Our new Turtle Wax Scratch Repair & Renew was specially created for these problems. It uses Heal & Seal technology with protective resins to help repair years of damage in one use and deposit a barrier for permanent paint restoration.
Car surface shine following a car wax - Turtle Wax guide to waxing Car surface shine following a car wax - Turtle Wax guide to waxing

Benefits of waxing your car surface

  • Implementing waxing into your car maintenance routine protects that freshly revealed coat.
  • Done properly, it will act as a protective layer to keep your car looking glossy and new, whatever the vehicle’s age.
  • Ultimately, it can cut down the need or frequency of car polishing altogether.
  • With the increased protection and the overall improved appearance, the resale value of the car becomes higher. Hence, if you're someone who likes to rotate cars, it might be a good idea to start implementing this if you don't use wax products currently. 
sun shining on black car surface sun shining on black car surface

Best conditions for waxing

  • First things first, don’t attempt the process in direct sunlight or freezing conditions. Waxing in direct sunlight might do more damage than good, as the heat will make it 'bake' onto the car, resulting in hard to remove product deposits.
  • An especially important tip to make for those living in the UK: make sure to apply car wax during a dry weather spell as any moisture will affect the application and results.
  • Car wax works best when used at the optimum, cool temperature, so work in the shade on a hot day, or in a garage on a cold one.
  • Another bonus to working indoors is that you avoid contamination by bird droppings and other airborne contaminants.
different types and formulas of car wax sold by Turtle Wax different types and formulas of car wax sold by Turtle Wax

What type of wax should I use?

  • Waxes come in various guises, with the most popular being sprays, liquids and pastes.
  • Spray wax is generally the quickest to apply – but make sure you shake the bottle well first.
  • Paste wax tends to be harder to apply therefore is more time consuming, however provides longer-lasting results.
  • Liquid wax sits somewhere in the middle of the effort vs results spectrum. Again, shake before using, in order to mix the ingredients.

Our range of car waxes is extensive and covers all of the previously mentioned types of car wax so you can choose the product that is right for you and your requirements. The budget-friendly products also allow you to test a couple of different formulations without breaking the bank.

How to wax a car by hand

Turtle Wax Hybrid Sealant Wax Spray being used on a black car to wax the surface with a microfiber towel Turtle Wax Hybrid Sealant Wax Spray being used on a black car to wax the surface with a microfiber towel

Spray wax application

Ensure that your car has been freshly washed and rinsed prior to starting the waxing process.

  • Step 1: Spray the wax, such as our best-selling Turtle Wax Hybrid Sealant Hydrophobic Wax, directly on car surface, working on one section at a time.
  • Step 2: Rub in the wax with one side of a damp microfiber towel. Take your time on each panel to achieve the best result.
  • Step 3: Buff out the remaining product with the other, clean side of the microfiber towel.
  • Step 4: Repeat the process if needed.


Turtle Wax super hard shell paste wax Turtle Wax super hard shell paste wax

Liquid and paste hand application

The process takes a little longer, but the result will be well worth your elbow grease.

  • Step 1: When applying liquids and pastes, such as Turtle Wax Super Hard Shell Liquid Wax, a dampened special foam applicator pad will be invaluable.
  • Step 2: Apply a small amount onto the foam polishing pad and buff using circular motions.
  • Step 3: Reapply if needed using the same motion.
  • Step 4: Use a clean, soft microfibre towel to give the bodywork a thorough wipe over and buff, checking reflections and gaps from all angles to ensure you have removed every last trace of product.

Waxing with a buffer/orbital

why and when to wax a car with an electric buffer or orbital - turtle wax guide to waxing a car why and when to wax a car with an electric buffer or orbital - turtle wax guide to waxing a car

When to use a buffer / DA orbital

  • As an alternative, using an electric, battery or pneumatic powered buffer reduces the amount of time you need to spend waxing.
  • However, do give yourself time to familiarise yourself with the process before tackling your pride and joy.
  • Make sure to choose a wax that is safe to use with buffer application and the wax is not too abrasive.
  • With buffer application, it's especially important to remove any particles on the car surface as that can result in damage to your car's paintwork, in the form of swirls.
  • Buffers are more suited to vehicles with large, flat panels. Smaller cars with numerous undulations and crevices can present more of a challenge so bear that in mind before choosing the right application method for you.

How to wax a car with an orbital polisher

  • Again, you can first use Turtle Wax Scratch Repair & Renew with an electric buffer to improve minor scratches and swirl marks to enhance your wax results and give it a flawless finish.
  • Step 1: Apply the wax using a specialist applicator placed over the buffer pad.
  • Step 2: Initially, don’t turn the buffer on, but apply the wax to the vehicle using a large circular motion.
  • Step 3: Now switch on the machine and glide it across the surface while applying minimal pressure.
  • Step 4: Work in the same direction as the metal ‘flows’, and then, when the car is completely covered in product, let the wax completely dry to a haze.
man removing wax from car surface with a microfiber cloth for shiny finish - turtle wax man removing wax from car surface with a microfiber cloth for shiny finish - turtle wax

Finishing steps

  • Step 1: Now swap the buffer’s wax applicator for a microfiber cloth, and if you can a special wax remover microfiber cloth to speed up the process.
  • Step 2: Use this to buff off the dried wax using long smooth strokes. Avoid buffing in a circle, as this will leave swirl marks on your paint.
  • Step 3: Most importantly, simply guide the tool, and do not apply too much pressure.
Turtle Wax Jet Black Spray Wax - to use for black car paintwork Turtle Wax Jet Black Spray Wax - to use for black car paintwork

How to wax a black car

  • Due to black car paintwork showing up imperfections more easily, specialized coloured wax products are recommended for a flawless finish. Turtle Wax have a range of black wax and polish products specially made for black cars that fix the imperfections and help protect the black paintwork which can often suffer from UV damage and swirl marks.
  • We recommend using the Turtle Wax Color Magic Jet Black Wax with an industry leading black tinted formula.
  • Step 1: Shake well prior to the application. Apply on a clean surfaceand out of direct sunlight.
  • Step 2: Test product on a small area to check the colour match.
  • Step 3: Apply a small amount of product onto a damp foam applicator or cloth and spread evenly on one section at a time.
  • Step 4: Allow to dry to a haze.
  • Step 5: Remove excess with a soft cloth. Buff lightly to enhance gloss and colour depth.

How to remove wax from car trim

  • Depending on the wax product and application method used, you might find yourself with residue build up on the trim. To avoid this, make sure to check the product instructions to see whether it's safe to use on trim and if it's not, make sure to cover the area prior to application.
  • However, if you've found yourself in this situation and trying to find a way to remove the wax from car trim, try out Turtle Wax Tyre & Bumper Trim Gel which restores the original appearance and shine of the trim.
  • Step 1: Shake well. Squeeze a ribbon of product onto foam applicator.
  • Step 2: Wait 5 to 10 minutes for products to penetrate. 
  • Step 3: Lightly wipe with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.
  • Step 4: Additional application is usually needed for trim with wax residue so assess the results and repeat the steps if needed.


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