Piston Slap: Your Turtle Wax Questions Answered

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

The Turtle Wax junket was a learning experience for everyone involved. Look for a branding-minded editorial and a product review in the not-too-distant future. But for now, let’s answer the B&B’s questions about Turtle Wax. Surprisingly, the amount of controversy over their ICE lineup was enough to merit a separate section. As always, The Truth About Cars is here for you, so don’t be shy if you need more info than what I’ve provided.

Harleyflhxi: Will Turtle Wax be coming out with a product to compete with the “Mr. Clean” carwash system?

Sajeev Mehta (SM): Turtle Wax says the Mr. Clean system uses parts and chemicals that aren’t part of Turtle Wax’s core strategy. Turtle Wax also says the Mr. Clean system isn’t doing well in the market; Turtle Wax isn’t feeling any pressure to revise their product technology or strategy.

Schm: What would be the best method for eliminating water spots (without buying a buffer)? I own a black car (I’m a masochist) and I can never seem to get rid of them. Is there a Turtle Wax product that can help me? I own a microfiber towel, and always dab dry; I just can’t seem to get rid of water spots. And I don’t want to spend a fortune.

SM: A water spot’s natural enemy: a slick, freshly waxed body. For a small spot, a quick detailer should work quite well. Even on black paint. Turtle Wax did a product demo of their “Black Box” paint care system: it easily waxes black paint and makes swirl marks disappear. The liquid carnauba wax is tinted black, which supposedly makes residue less of a problem but still gives the wet look of carnauba. Ditto the black tinted detailer spray. I’ll see if I can snag a box for an actual review, but the finished product sure looked great.

kurtamaxxguy: Please discuss their polymer technologies. A number of car finishes (REJEX was one of the first) promote this type of sealant as superior to wax.

SM: From the generalized responses I got from Turtle Wax, I suspect trade secrets are a big concern. Turtle Wax mentioned that each manufacturer makes different blends to meet the needs of their customers. While some originally catered to the body shop industry, Turtle Wax has been retail-focused since day one and believe in paint protection über alles. Comparing polymers without your own lab and chemists is like asking people why Coke tastes better than Pepsi. Or not.

slateslate: Does anyone have experience with a cilajet wax treatment?

SM: Turtle Wax didn’t have this company on their radar, and after looking at the website it appears to be a paint sealant that dealerships provide as a way to funnel more money out of your pocket. Depending on the installed price and the quality of work, it could be cheaper than buying waxes at Wal-Mart. I am skeptical.

Diewaldo : Could you please ask if hot wax or cold wax is better?

SM: Hairy guys like me stay away from either. But seriously, Turtle Wax does not offer hot wax treatments for the retail market. I do not recommend hot waxes at car washes because it smears your wiper blades to hell. Hot wax is made to stick, but I think using a clay bar beforehand is a better way to get wax to adhere to paint.

golden2husky: Why doesn’t wax, or whatever you wish to call it, last longer? Couple of washes and most seems to go away. While I am told that it is bad, I love the beads of water. Is beading really bad for the finish? “Sheeting” action makes me thing of Jet Dry, which a friend of mine uses in his car wash water.

SM: Turtle Wax believes that beading is better because it protects the paint from whatever pollutants touch the paint. From their demonstration, sheeting action appears to make a nice bed for dirt and contaminants to rest. As far as longevity, Turtle Wax says their ICE wax (not carnauba) lasts up to 12 months. I’ll review it to see how long it lasts in a Houston summer.

volvo: Encourage them to continue making their classic green Turtle Wax liquid car wax. Yes I know it is a product made for lamers but it is easy to apply and the residue is easy to remove. I would rather do my car every Turtle Wax months with that product than every six months with the hard carnauba (real) wax that requires 10X the elbow grease.

SM: Message delivered. In some ways, the liquid wax media goes a better job filling in swirl marks than pastes or newer silicone based sealants. (Side note: Turtle Wax’s own kit for black cars uses liquid carnauba, not their ICE sealer.) From the sounds of it, they will never cancel this product because of customer loyalty to carnauba waxes and the easy to use nature of liquid wax.

Austin Greene and volvo: What is the easiest way to remove wax residue from rubber molding which is flush with painted surfaces?

SM: Like volvo said earlier, I too often use the liquid Turtle Wax (green bottle) that is super easy to clean off when dry. After this junket, I see the benefit of the ICE product for your question: there is no residue, even if the ICE polymer pools in hard to reach places (like grille teeth) the Turtle Wax folks insist it will dry and not collect dust.

tparkit: Is there a difference in the result between paste wax and liquid wax of the same brand? I sometimes give my car two coats of wax. Am I getting any benefit (other than my feeling of having done a good job)? Sometimes I leave the wax on for a while, and it dries up hard before buffing (this usually happens when I try to apply wax to too much surface area before buffing). Am I losing any benefit when this happens?

SM: The Turtle Wax folks tell me that paste is more durable. But it’s much harder to remove than liquid wax. There is no loss in performance to letting the wax dry and turn hard, but your elbows might beg to differ. Waxing a car twice might help if you are concerned about missing spots (a big problem if you wax the roof of an SUV) but there’s no proof that double waxing is better. Apply it right the first time instead.

bandwspeed6: I have a car with a black and white leather interior. The white parts of the drivers seat now look more gray then white. Can anyone recommend a product to bring back the white without damaging/harming the black part? Does Turtle Wax make such a product?

SM: The Turtle Wax folks recommend upholstery cleaner with a built-in scrub brush, like their ICE product. If you have the following lying around, I recommend Simple Green and water solution with a fair amount of time for it to soak into the grained leather. Use a soft toothbrush and follow up with leather conditioner to bring back the oils that the Simple Green took out. If that didn’t bring the color back, I’ve had luck with Windex or straight Simple Green on trouble spots.

superbadd75: Is there anything you can put on interior trim that won’t cause the rubberized coating to peel off? Also, what’s a good product to use on textured interior surfaces (interior door panels on the wife’s SLK350 are brutal) that will clean filth and leave the surface looking nice and new (ish)?

SM: For the first question, I think absolutely nothing is the only safe bet. Clean with soap and water, that is it. Turtle Wax says to avoid products with petroleum distillates and go with non-solvent upholstery cleaner or leather cleaner. Turtle Wax recommends their ICE interior care for your second question. After seeing the demonstration and touching the final product, it is super quick and quite effective.

Pig_Iron: Is that wax still hand scraped from the carnauba leaf? I read that on the side of a tin once. Apparently that was a selling feature, but instead it made me feel guilty for exploiting South American workers living on subsistence wages so I could have a shiny car.

SM: Turtle Wax said the carnauba is bought from local farmers in Brazil. The discussion stopped there (by their choice). No doubt, many corporations turn a blind eye to third party labor abuse in far away lands. Given the flat(ter) management infrastructure of Turtle Wax and the limited appeal for carnauba, I betcha this is less of a “Blood Diamond” affair and more about supporting a local economy. But that’s only my best guess.

dimitris : I’ve heard over the years, usually coming from detailers or producers of detailing products, that exposure to “road grime” and other pollutants without waxing or other paint “sealing”/protection will cause permanent damage to a car’s paint. Are there any credible, independent sources for that claim?

SM: I’ll speak outside of the Turtle Wax junket. There are few things that cannot be removed by compounding (or if needed, color sanding) the paint to give a fresh start. My only caution is to remove bird shit from your paint as soon as possible, depending on what that little guy ate, it can dig into your clear coat and make a royal mess. If you choose not to do any waxing or sealing, I would let the paint oxidize and become a rough topcoat that protects the “good” paint below. When you want a nice shine and are ready to wax somewhat frequently, cut the old stuff off with polishing compound.

romanjetfighter: Know where a good how-to is for waxing? Can’t find one on the web. Also, best soaps and wax available at your standard auto store, like AutoZone or Kragen or whatever?

SM: Turtle Wax’s website has a few good how-tos, and I think the knowledge transfer for any brand is there. While there are great websites like autopia.org, this is one subject that a well-written book for a long plane trip or bathroom breaks comes in handy. Applying wax and detailing cars is a craft in itself; read a detailing book to get the full picture.

Austin Greene: Why did 1970s vintage Turtle Wax destroy the plastic chrome on aftermarket trim on my Dad’s ’78 LeMans?

SM: You really got Turtle Wax’s collective gears working on that question. They had concerns as to the quality of plating. Which I’m inclined to believe, since I’ve waxed my 1983 Continental’s aluminum-chrome bumpers with zero concerns for the past 20-something years.

Austin Greene: What’s that cute turtle’s real name?

SM: His name is Tommy. Company folklore says the founder stopped by a creek on his way to a business event, saw shiny turtles playing about, and instantly had a great idea for marketing his (then regionally) popular car polish. It sure as hell worked. You will hear more about the little guy in a forthcoming branding editorial.

Austin Greene: Is Zaino really worth the hype?

SM: It depends on you. For some people, waxing isn’t even worth the hype. It’s a boutique brand that I’ve used and loved, but never buy for my own cars. But I’m more price sensitive than most Zaino users.

Austin Greene: Why does my Father—born in 1934—insist on waxing his windshield?

SM: The beading effect (before Rain X was invented) is great for use on an old windshield with nearly useless wipers. I tried waxing my windshield once (on a much newer car) and the wiper streaks were unbearable. I cleaned the whole thing with rubbing alcohol and bought new wiper blades. Wax and windshields don’t mix for any car designed after the creation of the interval wiper.

Harleyflhxi: Which Turtle Wax products are most suited for protecting parts of vehicles that accumulate smashed bugs, like motorcycle fairings? My motorcycle’s fairing has both painted and clear (windshield) sections.

SM: Like many other companies, Turtle Wax has a bug and tar remover. It went on nicely on both paint and glass in the product demo. I rarely hit enough bugs to need more than a dab of WD-40 or PB Blaster to get them off, however. Remember that a regular coat of wax/sealant makes removing these much easier.

And without further ado, questions and answers about the Turtle Wax ICE:

segfault: Turtle Wax is junk. Most low-end car waxes and polishes will leave a chalky mess on black plastic trim if you’re not careful. Synthetic polymer waxes (I use Zaino, but there are many others) last much longer, and don’t leave a mess on trim.

SM: You just described the attributes of ICE quite well, and gave the folks at Turtle Wax a nice wake up call to how and where the Turtle Wax brand and the ICE products line up in consumer’s mind. Or in this case, not at all.

bevo : What the hell is the Ice line? How is it different than other products from Armour All and 303?

SM: ICE is a lineup of somewhat-premium products for paint, wheels, tires and interior care. I don’t think that is clear to the consumer, much less its connection to Turtle Wax. Aside from the unique-ish polymer foundation for the ICE wax, I think ICE’s ergonomically-designed wheel and tire spray bottles are the coolest things on the market. The removable brush is a great idea, especially for the tire shine.

Harleyflhxi: Which are the best Turtle Wax products for preserving the finishes of a vehicle that has to be parked outside all of the time in a hot summer area, like So Cal? By “finishes” I mean not just paint, but matte black, plastic and rubber.

SM: Polymer based “waxes” are better than conventional carnauba waxes for hot climates. Turtle Wax recommends ICE polish for this, and I hope to review it in the Houston summer very soon.

Nopanegain: The ICE line was specifically developed to infuriate the end user by leaving a greasy residue that takes more microfiber than China can produce to remove. I got so pissed I reverted to wiping the paint with mineral spirits and starting fresh with 3M and Meguiar’s products.

SM: This comment really got the Turtle Wax people talking. They went out of their way to show how ICE should be applied to keep this problem from happening. Done right, the product wipes on/off like magic.

DweezilSFV: ICE is terrible. Greasy crap. One of the worst products I have ever used, and I have been waxing cars since I was 10 years old. The first time using “Turtle Wax.” Liquid, in a glass bottle. That’s a long time. Mcguiars doesn’t hold up for me in LA and NuFinish seems to last the longest here.

SM: See my previous comment. And the one below.

shaker: Yes, ICE is not the panacea, but if you stray onto rubber or plastic parts, it doesn’t leave a white residue. Unfortunately, ICE has no ability to remove minor stains in the paint due to bug guts; you need to prep it first. Which brings me to the ICE “Liquid Clay Bar”—it is a decent polish for removing minor scratches/bug stains in the clear coat.

I’m not selling the stuff—I’ve found that all car wax products will exacerbate your bursitis, then not last over the winter (or two months in hot sun)—the work/benefit ratio seems to drive people to try to find that “magic formula”; which is why billions are spent on products that have all different ingredients/formulas but seem to get the same results. So, yeah, it’s a scam (I mean a lucrative business).

The “trick” to using ICE is to use less than you think you need on the pad, then spread it as thin as possible. Then, there will be “enough microfiber in China” (BG) to remove the residue.

SM: Brilliant analysis. Couldn’t say it better myself. So I won’t.

mtypex: I live in Illinois and am looking for work. I sent them a resume. So the question is, do they have my resume?

SM: Call the HR department. Try to make an appointment: the Turtle Wax’s headquarters is one of the more positive work environments I’ve seen. There’s a brainstorming lounge, big offices, nice community environment and plenty of shiny cars in the parking lot.

[Turtle Wax paid for Sajeev’s airfare, transfers, hotel, meals and accommodation. They have also provided sample products for review at no charge. Send your mechanical (car care?) queries to mehta@ttac.com]

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Bandwspeed6 Bandwspeed6 on Apr 24, 2009

    thanks, it just so happens that i was at the store today and picked up some simplegreen (had a coupon) and tomorrow i need to get the car cleaned for a show, so, i pray that these suggestions work, I'm also gonna try out the ice clay bar kit. and i need to get my hands on some of that wheel cleaner, you were absolutely correct, those cleaning scrubby things look like the would help a lot. Anyone with stock mazdaspeed6 rims knows how much of a pain it is to try and clean them...its like trying to clean a Thomas's english muffin.

  • Bandwspeed6 Bandwspeed6 on Apr 25, 2009

    So, i tried to the simple green mixed with water and a soft toothbrush, worked like a dream. needed quite a bit of elbow grease, but, in the end it was definitely worth it. Now, i just have to make sure that that never happens again...Also, the wheel cleaner was great, as was the tire cleaner. And the clay bar kit was exactly what i had hoped, i went ahead and finished it off with ice liquid wax, and my car looks amazing now. Thanks Sajeev, great advice.

  • V16 I'm sure you could copy and paste most of the "NO" responses to 1960's Japanese sourced vehicles.
  • Canam23 I believe the Chinese are entirely capable of building good cars, BYD has shown that they are very forward thinking and their battery technology is very good, BUT, I won't buy one because I don't believe in close to slave labor conditions, their animosity to the west, the lack of safety conditions for their workers and also the tremendous amount of pollution their factories produce. It's not an equal playing field and when I buy a car I want it made with as little pollution as possible in decent working conditions and paying a livable wage. I find it curious that people are taking swipes at the UAW in this thread because you can clearly see what horrific labor conditions exist in China, no union to protect them. I also don't own an iphone, I prefer my phones made where there aren't nets around to catch possible suicide jumpers. I am currently living in France, Citroen makes their top model in China, but you see very few. BYD has yet to make an impression here and the French government has recently imposed huge tariffs on Chinese autos. Currently the ones I see the most are the new MG's, mostly electric cars that remind me of early Korean cars, but they are progressing. In fact, the French buy very little Chinese goods, they are very protective of their industries.
  • Jerry Haan I have these same lights, and the light output, color, and coverage is amazing!Be aware, these lights interfere with AM and FM radio reception with the stereoreceiver I have in my garage. When the lights are on, I all the AM stations havelots of static, and there are only a couple of FM stations that are clear. When Iturn the lights off, all the radio stations work fine. I have tried magnetic cores on the power cords of the lights, that did not makeany change. The next thing I am going to try is mounting an antenna in my atticto get them away from the lights. I contacted the company for support, they never responded.
  • Lou_BC Are Hot Wheels cars made in China?
  • DS No for 2 reasons. 1-Every new car pipelines data back to the manufacturer; I don't like it with domestic, Japanese and Euro companies and won't put up with it going to Chinese companies that are part financed by their government. 2-People have already mentioned Vinfast, but there's also the case of Hyundai. Their cars were absolutely miserable for years before they learned enough about the US market