By on December 4, 2009

Wax on, wax off?

Longtime TTAC Commentator mikey writes:

Sajeev I have a 2009 black Impala and I plan to keep it a long, long time. I’ve always been a twice-yearly wax guy. Black paint is always different. Should I wax twice yearly? Do I need to buy different wax?

Sajeev answers:

Black paint isn’t different than other colors, aside from its inability to mask any scratch or blemish. As mentioned in my Turtle Wax Black Box review , there are ways to perfect black paint with less effort. I enjoyed this product and would recommend it for your application. Even though it’s a carnauba-based wax, your cool climate (Ontario) is easier on paint protectors and should easily last your twice-a-year regiment. And it makes Black paint look perfect without leaving white residue everywhere. Throw away your detailing toothbrush! Or not.

Then again, cosmetic counseling has opposing views of equal validity. So off to you, Best and Brightest.

[send your questions to [email protected]]

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32 Comments on “Piston Slap: Mikey Likey The Black Impala...”

  • avatar

    Ooops, sorry didn’t realize we a re talking about car

  • avatar

    Cudos on finding a car you like, even if other people might hate.  Personally I woundn’t turn down a good deal on an V8 SS version, one with a 3.8v6 (either naturally aspirated or supercharged), or a nicely optioned 3.9V6.  Hope she treats you well, even after the warranty expires.

    I usually wax at the begining of winter (just as it’s starting to get too cold durring the day to do it) and then again when the weather gets nice.  I’ve had good luck with Nu-Finish as long as I put two coats on.  My motivation for using Nu-Finish originally is that I’ve had no trouble putting it on in direct sunlight, I was an apartment dweller for many years and even with a 1-car garage now, the garage isn’t wide enough for my F-150.  (House was built in 1953 but what did they expect to park in the garage, a Nash Metropolitan?  Who was my contractor, George Romney?)

  • avatar

    Trying to keep a daily driver – especially a black one – looking new for years with nothing but magic elixirs and elbow grease  is a recipe for disappointment.    It is going to get scratched and dinged and chalky no matter what you do, and the most a bottle of wax can do is hide some of the damage for a few weeks.
    I suggest a little liquid wax in your wash bucket, to keep the water beading and discourage environmental stains, and maybe the occasional polish when the paint visibly needs it.   Beyond that, “preventative maintenance” for paint is a sucker’s game IMO.

  • avatar

    I’ve got a black 2002 4Runner special ed at home in addition to the Viggen. Starting with the acknowledgement that Toyota paint is thin, and that I live in Central Texas where the sun is unforgiving, black is impossible to maintain long term. Looks great in the show-room, ages very poorly in the real world. The paint on the 4runner looks awful, and if I did repaint it, it would definitely not be black.

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    Autopia has a lot of info, and BITOG has a nice detailing section too.
    (Sorry Mods if referrals are not allowed).

  • avatar

    Nu Finish paste. Easy to identify, in the bright orange tin. Or bottle if your preference is the less viscous variety.
    Of course, you will need to keep that toothbrush handy. But this stuff lasts a long time. Twice a year application will work fine. Its longevity outweighs the inconvenience of the small amounts of chalky white residue. My opinion. YMMV.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed… Nu Finish lasts.   Even the liquid form.    But for all the rubbing and polishing and toothbrushing of crevices, what real benefit does it provide that a squirt of liquid wax in every wash bucket does not?    I spent 20 years with buffers and wax before switching to the convenience method, and have noticed absolutely no difference except for the fact that I have more time for beer now.

  • avatar

    My condolences on owning a black car.  I’m just getting rid of a black car I had for 14 years.  I’ll never own a black car again.
    I recommend you park in really narrow spaces at shopping malls during the holiday season, that way you can get lots of door dings and shift to the post-honeymoon phase of black-car ownership ASAP.  Once you have a couple of dings, you just stop worrying about it.  I highly recommend an altercation with one of those metal shopping carts.
    Do enjoy the one advantage of a black car. Park it outside on those lovely, northern “sunny and cold” days–the interior will be nice and warm when you get in.

  • avatar

    My neighbor kept an older black Integra for 11 years looking absolutely perfect and all he used was regular NuFinish.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    My black 2001 9-3 still looks pretty good if I say so myself, but I do have an advantage in that it’s garaged both at home and work. 

    That said, I find that using a spray wax detailer like Eagle 1 Wax As You Dry seems to work well for my car every other wash or so, wiped away using an ‘Absorber’ synthetic chamois I originally bought in 1986 and which still does the job better (IMO) than natural skin chamois.  I also have used Kozak cloths for years on all my cars for those times when just a dusting off is needed, and black is no exception. 

    I did try the Turtle Wax Black Box, and like the system enough to keep using it, especially since with the years/miles the front of the hood has road rash that the black cleaner and wax helps to cover up.  However, any wax residue left on the car will eventually turn not white, but a gray color that’s still visible and has to be removed. 

  • avatar

    +1 for Autopia – many of the contributors to the forums are detailers and knowledgeable.  Stay out of car washes the use brushes – that is where all the swirls come from.  You might consider using an acrylic system instead of wax for harder, longer lasting finish.

  • avatar
    Facebook User

     I spent 20 years with buffers and wax before switching to the convenience method, and have noticed absolutely no difference except for the fact that I have more time for beer now.

    I agree with this. Hell drinking all that beer, even if it looks bad,  you won’t care.

  • avatar

    There’s something strangely appealing to me about the Impala…rented one about a year ago (LTZ, fully loaded) and was impressed over the week I had it. 

    As for cleaning/waxing…I used to be the guy that spent the entire weekend detailing a car (so much so that I became the “go to” guy in the family for cleaning everybody’s car…I guess there was something “zen” to being out all day, just me and the car.  Back then, I bought into the whole Zymol product line and (probably) spent way too much money on all of that.  I still love the look of a well polished car, just haven’t owned one worth worrying about (currently drive a 1997 Toyota Tercel with 190k on it…paint is, um…faded).

  • avatar

    Asking a car nut about wax is like asking a gun nut about calibers and/or ammo.  But I find the comments here reasonable.  I’ve used NuFinish with good results.  The problem with dark paint is that it looks nice new but, as everyone knows, shows flaws very easy.
    The best paint I ever had was an ’89 Audi 90 with pearl white paint.  Waxed, it seemed a foot deep, and people come across the parking lot just to look at it.  My current car is a silver Passat.  I never had a silver car and didn’t think I’d like it (my wife’s choice), but I must say that waxed (using something called Black Magic I found in Wal Mart or Target) it looks great, and the light color is so much easier to polish than black or red.  That being said, if I had your car I’d probably use the NuFinish (or something similar) every quarter.  You can buy an orbital buffer that might help with swirls pretty cheaply.  Keep it washed and buy a chamois cloth to keep the water marks down.

  • avatar

    I’ve kept my Pontiac Fiero shiny for 25 years on its original paint.   Wax at least twice a year, wash often.  Especially in the winter time.    Remember to give the nooks and crannies a good spray.
    If you really want to baby your car,  claybar your car once a year then apply wax.

  • avatar

    +1 to the poster commenting on black paint. I’ve had 2 cars w/ that color, though the first was a metallic paint it was not nearly a hdeous experience as w/ the 2nd one (normal paint), as they say, I’m done w/ that!

    +1 toMikey to for always courageously defending GM and its workforce. Perhaps you could post a news item mow and then as to how the car is holding up. Maybe this will give some GM naysauers some pause.

    Disclosure: I’m not in any way associated w/, neither have I ever been w/ GM. Neither do I own, nor have owned, nor intend to own (in the foreseeable future) a GM product. But my point is that it’s always nice to have as many car makers in any market at any time, as that can only be beneficial to you and I in the future. So I hope Gm makes it.

  • avatar

    When I lived in San Diego I had a dark burgundy Sierra that I used Meguire’s three step system on with excellent results. First step was a cleaner, second a polish and third a sealant. I also used their spray cleaner between washes (spray on, towel off) and the truck always looked like it had just been waxed. Took a long time on such a large vehicle to do it three times but the results were outstanding. I did it twice a year.

  • avatar

    You’ve got a nice looking car, Mikey. (Though I must say I’m surprised to see from the photo that Ontario looks a lot like Arizona or southern California.) The lines are clean and the proportions are right.  I think Malibu sales are hurt by its gunslit windows.
    I’ve not had a chance to drive a current Impala, but the LaCrosse was built on the same line and platform so I would expect both cars to be nice cruisers. Buick, of course, claimed it had “quiet tuning.” Now that you’re retired, Mikey, maybe you can answer this question: just how much difference is there between the Impala and LaCrosse in terms of sound insulation and other “out of sight” components in the structure and trim?

  • avatar

    I have recently become a huge fan of taking my vehicles to a decent detail shop and paying about $150 to let them do the whole shebang a couple times a year. It’s totally worth getting the 2 Saturdays back, and a competent detailer has the tools and products to to a far better job than I ever could. Just a thought.

  • avatar

    A black car in southern Ontario…  Mikey, you’re a braver man than I.
    First, resign yourself to the fact that it will look like hell in winter and will, eventually, scratch.  Actually, resign yourself to it’s looking less than optimal often because what you want to do is protect the paint for the times you want it to look really nice.
    Second, don’t both trying to keep it looking good all the time; instead, try to protect as much of the clearcoat as you can.  Don’t ever use an abrasive chemical or physical process and for the love of pete, don’t take it to a carwash where they’ll do either.  No rags, no polishing.
    Third, put the wax on thick in winter.  When it comes time to clean it, do as much as you can with non-abrasive methods.  The less harm you do to the clearcoat, the more likely you’ll be able to make it look really good on occasion.  On that note, get yourself a hood edge guard.  You’ve a black car and it won’t stand out as much.

  • avatar

    If you’re serious about keeping the paint in good shape, you’re probably going to need to wax it more than twice a year-think more like 3-4 times a year. You’re also going to want to use some decent wax, not some Turtle Wax/NuFinish/Meguiar’s/Eagle/etc. garbage. Detailing a car properly is not difficult. It is, however, time consuming.

    Use a decent soap; P21S offers a couple that are ok-and their “Total Auto Wash” has the advantage of being strong enough to strip old layers of wax and such if you use it at higher concentrations. Dodo Juice also makes a couple of excellent soaps as well-ones that won’t remove old layers of wax, which is, obviously, important for washing the car between waxes. Good soap is important-particularly on a black car-as they can loosen dirt more easily and will tend to be slicker than a cheaper soap, which will help prevent scratches and swirl marks from contaminants on the paint. Consider getting a foam gun as well. Not only are they fun to play with, but getting some soap on the car and letting it start dissolving stuff before going at it with the wash mitt will also help prevent scratching and swirl marks.
    Consider getting a grit guard (google it) for your wash bucket. I’m not 100% convinced of the efficacy of the things, but they’re so cheap that it doesn’t really matter.
    Use a decent wash mitt (wool, preferably), stop using it if you drop it, and wash it thoroughly after each wash. Use a separate one for the wheels, and consider using a third one for the lower parts of the doors and bumpers and rocker panels that get hit with a lot of tar and road debris.
    Dry the car with clean, microfiber or cotton towels. Don’t use those water blade things. Dust and small dirt particles can stick to the silicon blade and they can scratch the paint.
    If you’ve never clayed the paint on the car, do it now. The Mother’s clay bar kit is actually surprisingly good. I suggest you pick up a second bottle of their quick detailer as well; it’s used as a clay bar lube and the kit only comes with one bottle. I usually find that I need a second one. Follow the instructions on the clay kit, and if you drop the clay, throw it away.
    Now you get to the fun part. Polishing and waxing. I suggest you start with an acrylic product, specifically Klasse All In One. It’s both a mild polish and a synthetic wax, and it’s excellent. It’s a little bit more difficult to work with than some other products (it doesn’t always come off easily) but the results are awesome and the ‘wax’ component is fairly durable. I’ve completely corrected the oxidation on the hood of a black ’92 400E that hadn’t been waxed in years (the black had faded to a chalky dark gray) with this stuff. By hand. It’s good stuff.
    Follow the AIO up with Klasse’s Sealant Glaze; it will help fill very small scratches (swirl marks, for instance), making them less noticeable, and it will add another layer of acrylic ‘wax’ protection. Put down as many layers as you care to; one is sufficient, two or three might make a slightly noticeable difference to the appearance of the paint. More than that is probably overkill.
    (Optional, but recommended) Cover the Klasse products with a GOOD Carnauba wax. There are a number out there, my preference is for the Dodo Juice products. Hard vs. soft wax is pretty much a personal preference thing. The “Purple Haze” and “Blue Velvet” are their soft and hard waxes, respectively, for dark-colored cars. If you want to cough up a bit more money, their Supernatural wax is absolutely amazing and well worth the cost imo. I’ve heard good things about the P21S waxes and the Pinnacle Souveran wax as well, but I’ve not tried either personally.  Do NOT use a “Cleaner Wax”; they have a polish component in them as well and you’ll just strip off the Klasse that you just spent all that time putting on.

    If you keep the car washed properly (once a week, maybe once every other week, depending on how much dirt you have to deal with), you should be able to get by with doing this once every 4 months. You might get lucky and be able to get away with it for longer than that if the car is garaged regularly and kept clean. If water stops beading as well as it was it’s time to re-wax it (just reapply the last layer you used). If, however, when you’re washing the car, you run your hand over an area that’s been cleaned and you feel little pieces of stuff still stuck to the paint, it’s time to repeat the whole process all over again.
    Also keep in mind that putting Klasse and/or wax on your wheels will make getting brake dust off a LOT easier. The Klasse products also do an excellent job of removing light clouding and scratches in plastic lenses in my experience, and they add a noticeable shine to them as well. Oh, and avoid automated car washes like the plague.

    • 0 avatar

      Geeky1 –   Actually that is exactly what I do (without the wax).  Only have to do it twice a year as the 4Runner is garaged.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, garaging it helps. I do the same thing with my cars, but they all sit outside. By the 3 month mark, there’s enough garbage stuck to the paint that  they need to be clayed again-if they even make it that long.

  • avatar


    I have always enjoyed your comments and insights so I’m happy to give you some advice on something I have some first hand knowledge of. Your question can be addressed by three basic parameters: Product, process, and interval of application.

    Product: This is the part that most people argue over. It’s just like cars. Some like this make, some hate it. Some like this wax, some like something else. You will have to research, talk to folks (like us!) and experiment. I would try some of the detailing boards like Detail City ( and Autotopia ( You have two primary pieces of info to give any would-be advisors: your car is black, and it’s new or relatively new. That should give any detail afficianado enough to give you a reccommendation. I will only give you two pieces of advice: DO go with a sealant over a wax for protection and DON’T get suckecd into the Zymol cult. :) Sealants will last longer and I think protect better than any carnauba wax. The only drawback is some think that the shine isn’t as good as a wax. Me, I can’t see the difference. Zymol works but it’s way too expensive and time consuming for the results it gives you. You can get results just as good with other products for way less money.

    Process: This is what really makes or breaks a detail, not the product. It also separates the real pros in the detailing biz from the pretenders. You have to know how to use the stuff you buy correctly to get the best results. That means read the directions and use the right tools (towels, pads, buffers, etc.), the right way. If you’re not sure there is plenty of places on the web like the sites above that will give you the info you need. If you want to just apply a coat of wax or sealent twice a year then all you need are some towels and applicators, maybe an orbital buffer (they should be called wax/sealent applicators because they don’t “buff” or polish anything).

    interval of application: Twice a year is fine for most people. You could go to 3 or more. It depends on your situation. If they use a lot of road salt and the winters are harsh you may decide to step it up. Hot climates can also call for more applications. For the best results consider having the car professionally detailed once a year. A pro will be able to remove scratches and micro marring that you may only be able to hide at best. A lot of detailers can also take care of small dents and dings by using paintless dent repair. There are some websites that list detailers by location. If your interested I can give you links to them. Of course asking around works too. You at least know who the ones to stay away from are.

  • avatar

    My fellow ‘B & B’s’, wax alone will not protect or maintain any finish for long,  especially black.  Keeping black paint at the aforementioned Autopian level is a part time job.

    After a few dancing brushes or ground kissing towels hit that finish, it will be swirl city.
    You will need to polish it eventually, to keep it’s depth of shine.  Something in the Meguiars family like D151 or #105/205 should do-then wax it. Of course, if you’re not into 6 hour wax on-wax off marathons, you will need a power buffer too.
    Beauty is ultimately in the eye of the beholder however, and one man’s swirlicious special is another’s new finish. It all depends on how fussy you are.

  • avatar

    I don’t for the life of me understand all this whining about black cars being hopeless to keep attractive. I just sold a ’92 Nissan that I bought new. It had numerous little dings and even a rust hole, but it looked sharp and shiny.
    Wax with black dye (sold by Turtle Wax and others — all the brands seemed the same to me) covers a multitude of sins. That “rust neutralizer” stuff for rusted areas turns gloss black and disappears into your finish, so it’s perfect only for black cars. My car had black-painted “sporty” trim, but I could just wax it right along with the paint job. And cars that have black plastic can be fearlessly covered with black-dyed wax only if they’re also painted black.
    Another advantage of black paint it that, while it shows flaws in its own finish, it hides the cutlines and busy-ness of the overall car like no other color. Check out any given car in black vs. a light color. The black one is the only one that won’t distract you with, for example, the door cutouts.
    And one more: black is the easiest color by far to touch up. Any maker’s black touch-up paint will match. Follow up with a nifty little product called Langka that blends the touch-up paint after application so it doesn’t stick up as a big blob. I did this two-step, and a stranger shook his head in wonderment that my bumper wasn’t covered with those wounds that leave the taxicab-yellow plastic showing through.

  • avatar

    I’m only chiming in to say that here’s a gentleman with an Impala and not ashamed to let the world know it.  Kudos to you, bub.  Two thumbs up!

  • avatar

    Hey Mikey: I always had a mental picture of your storied Impala as being cranberry red metallic. Never thought it would be black.

    Nu Finish is a good product and it lasts. It was one of Consumer Reports best for longevity, shine and ease of use followed by Turtle Wax 2000 or what ever it was called. Plus it’s been around for many many years. Remember the “this car went through 52 car washes” commercials and the spokesman in the junkyard bringing back the shine on an old pile from the 70s ?

    For me it always lasts longer than anything else in L.A.’s air which always used to leave a black sort of toxic grit/dew on your car after it sat all night.
    What would that be called “acid dew” ?

    Lasts longer than Maguire’s ever does in this particular climate, I’ve found.

  • avatar

    Actually, I’ve seen my truck in black and think it’s the worst color. Silver and white usually just do it for me. Clean and simple, and they don’t show dings and scratches.

  • avatar

    Whoa! I made a TTAC headline. The car in the photo is a clone of my Impala perfect match! And here I thought I had the only one.

    Sorry I’m late to the party,but this old autoworker wasn’t quite ready for the rocking chair. Working in the non union <grey/white collar world,eats up a hell of a lot of my free time.

    Yes,black is a pain in the butt. But when it’s clean and detailed its an eye catcher. Believe me folks,the car has been trouble free from day one. 20 year old platform and all,the car is a pleasure to drive and to own.

     Thank’s Sajeev,and everybody else for the advice. Some of the products recomended are not available here in Ontario. However I might find myself in the U.S. south in the near future, I think I might just end up with a suitcase full of detailing products,for the trip home.


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