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Video: How we test car waxes

Consumer Reports News: March 21, 2011 09:22 AM

Spring has officially arrived and that means it's time to think about spring cleaning for the car, including a good washing and a fresh coat of wax.
At Consumer Reports, we started getting ready for warm-weather waxing months ago, when we gathered up our latest batch of 19 new liquid and paste waxes for testing. Our engineers have been putting them through their paces in the lab, on employee cars, and even up on the roof of our Yonkers, NY, headquarters, where dozens of identical waxed steel panels have been weathering for months.

It was a tough winter in the northeast, making it a perfect one for finding out which waxes hold up and which ones don't. Admittedly, I don't envy the technicians who brave the elements to go up on the roof every week to bring the test panels back into the lab for evaluation. (Learn more about car waxes.)

If you're in need of a refresher course after a long winter, remember that a thorough washing and drying away from the sun is key to a good wax job. Sun can soften the paint and make the finish more susceptible to scratching.

Here are some other tips:

  • Use a lamb's-wool mitt for washing and soft cotton rags or microfiber towels for waxing.
  • Do not use rags for washing; they can trap dirt and scratch the finish. Likewise, synthetic fabrics and brushes can also scratch a car's finish.
  • Wash and wax in small sections. This saves time and if the wax stays on too long, it can be difficult to remove.
  • Our previous tests have shown that paste waxes are easiest to apply, but contrary to what you might think, they don't offer as much protection as liquid products. Spray on/wipe off quick shine products are easiest to use, but our tests have shown they don't provide much protection at all.

For more advice, read our washing and waxing tips.

--Jim Travers

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