Car wax can help protect your car during the spring bug season

Consumer Reports News: May 31, 2013 01:08 PM

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Spring is here, and for many motorists, this is the season for paint-smearing bugs. Whether you fear the 17-year Cicada Brood II apocalypse moving up the East Coast, love bugs in the South, or some other local winged horror, this is a great time to protect your car with a fresh waxing.

Beyond an imminent bugmageddon, spring brings pollen, tree droppings, and other natural hazards down on your beloved automobile. If you haven't given the car a proper spring cleaning, this adds urgency to the need to break out the elbow grease this weekend. Our tests have shown that a coat of car wax lasts only a few weeks, meaning you should plan on waxing three to four times year to protect the paint and preserve its factory shine. (Visit our car maintenance guide.)

Choosing the right car wax involves more than choosing whatever is on sale at your local box store. In fact, waxes can be abrasive, and the tiny particles in car waxes or harsh chemicals can leave fine scratches or a haze on a car's finish. Dark-colored vehicles show scratches more easily than lighter-colored ones, making it important to choose the right wax. With a black or dark-colored vehicle, be especially wary of products that scored low in our scratching and hazing tests.


Visit our car wax buying guide for quick access to the latest advice, Ratings, and cleaning tips.

In our tests, we have found that pastes performed no better than liquids overall, although the two top-scoring pastes were the only waxes to rated excellent for durability. Both wax types had similar scores for ease of use.

The good news is that some inexpensive car waxes hold up just as well as premium brands, based on our tests of 19 products. We have found that some moderately priced liquids scored near the top of our Ratings—better than some products costing twice as much.

In past tests, we found spray-on waxes were less effective than liquid or pastes in cleaning and weather protection. Plus, they were less durable. However, if you travel along insect ravaged roads, a spray wax can be useful for a touchup. Splattered insects can bake on the car, and some bug innards are corrosive enough to visibly damage the paint.

The best bet for protection is to clean the car thoroughly, wax it with a quality product, and be diligent about clearing off bug debris.

Check our latest car wax buying advice and Ratings.

Jeff Bartlett

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