Best Car Waxes: Wax On, Wax Off

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

Top 8 Best Car Waxes

best car waxes wax on wax off

The title for this post is as predictable as your author’s propensity to fix himself a bacon sandwich at dinnertime. All the same, we’re betting you lot tend to take care of your cars, so an article about car wax should be useful.

And prior to the peanut gallery chiming in as self-proclaimed experts, we’ll clarify there is indeed a difference between polish and wax. It’s generally accepted that a car polish is intended to remove fine bits of crud on the paint while the purpose of a wax is to leave a layer of protective material on your car.

Accepting this description, polish and wax actually do the exact opposite of each other: one removes stuff while the other applies it. One is also better fodder for terrible Karate Kid references.

Table of Contents

1. Editor's Choice: Chemical Guys Butter Wet Wax

Compared to some of the other brands on this list, Chemical Guys is a relatively young pup. Heck, using the same yardstick, some of the authors on this website aren't too old, either. This ego-boosting revelation helps this product land atop our list.

It's more than that, of course. This carnauba-based wax has great reviews from nearly 4000 customers and lays claim to providing a deep and wet look to automotive paintwork. Coupled with the good juju garnered by this brand thanks to its high-quality product (your author has a bin full of it paid with his own money), that's more than enough to recommend this wax.

Pros

  • Great brand, excellent results

Cons

  • Piddly little 4oz bottles are sold for reasons unknown

Bottom Line

  • Pop for the 16 oz or 64 oz tubs

Compared to some of the other brands on this list, Chemical Guys is a relatively young pup. Heck, using the same yardstick, some of the authors on this website aren't too old, either. This ego-boosting revelation helps this product land atop our list.

It's more than that, of course. This carnauba-based wax has great reviews from nearly 4000 customers and lays claim to providing a deep and wet look to automotive paintwork. Coupled with the good juju garnered by this brand thanks to its high-quality product (your author has a bin full of it paid with his own money), that's more than enough to recommend this wax.

2. Turtle Wax Super Hard Shell Paste Wax

We're going to lay a solid wager that this type of wax, or one like it, was the first car wax ever seen by most of our readers. Don't knock the switch to a plastic container; anyone who used the stuff in metal tins knows that those vessels eventually rusted if left in damp conditions for too long. The tub makes no difference if the product inside has remained of the same formula.

Fortunately, it seems that it has. The now-plastic green circle is four inches on the round, meaning it'll fit just fine in that bucket of car products you're schlepping to a show n' shine. This particular option is a paste but the formula is also available as a liquid. As old as time itself and familiar to gearheads around the world, this stuff is likely to be produced into the next century.

Pros

  • They wouldn't still be selling this stuff if it didn't work

Cons

  • Some might accuse you of being old school

Bottom Line

  • It's the leading car wax ... in the world

We're going to lay a solid wager that this type of wax, or one like it, was the first car wax ever seen by most of our readers. Don't knock the switch to a plastic container; anyone who used the stuff in metal tins knows that those vessels eventually rusted if left in damp conditions for too long. The tub makes no difference if the product inside has remained of the same formula.

Fortunately, it seems that it has. The now-plastic green circle is four inches on the round, meaning it'll fit just fine in that bucket of car products you're schlepping to a show n' shine. This particular option is a paste but the formula is also available as a liquid. As old as time itself and familiar to gearheads around the world, this stuff is likely to be produced into the next century.

3. Meguiar's Hybrid Ceramic Liquid Wax

Gearheads long of memory will recall the Saturday morning Power Block of television programming, one in which Barry Meguiar himself used to present a show about classic and collector cars. There would be plenty of not-so-subtle product placement, of course.

Had this stuff been around back then, it surely would have made an appearance. The company says it contains the latest advanced hybrid SiO2 technology, which my high school chemistry tells me stands for silicon and oxygen. They also say it applies like a traditional liquid wax and is easy to use.

Pros

  • Non-whitening on non-painted trim and rubber gaskets

Cons

  • Expensive for 16 oz

Bottom Line

  • Rave reviews abound

Gearheads long of memory will recall the Saturday morning Power Block of television programming, one in which Barry Meguiar himself used to present a show about classic and collector cars. There would be plenty of not-so-subtle product placement, of course.

Had this stuff been around back then, it surely would have made an appearance. The company says it contains the latest advanced hybrid SiO2 technology, which my high school chemistry tells me stands for silicon and oxygen. They also say it applies like a traditional liquid wax and is easy to use.

4. Griot's Garage 'Best of Show' Spray Wax

Here's a product that doesn't apply like a traditional wax, instead asking that it be sprayed on in a fine mist before buffing. Griot's says its rich carnauba/polymer formula creates class-leading paint protection and is safe for use on paint protection films. Ceramic coatings, too, apparently. Reviews are strong, with nearly 1000 customers combining for a 4.7 out of 5-star rating. Given how picky gearheads are about their car care products, that's remarkable.

Advertised as a true carnauba, the wax content of Best of Show Spray Wax is said to add 2-3 times the durability of other spray waxes to your car's paint finish. This gives longer protection between uses and means you can spend more time driving your car instead of waxing it. A gallon bucket is available for refills.

Pros

  • Easy spray application

Cons

  • They'll try to upsell you the Detailer

Bottom Line

  • Bring yer own buffing and drying towels

Here's a product that doesn't apply like a traditional wax, instead asking that it be sprayed on in a fine mist before buffing. Griot's says its rich carnauba/polymer formula creates class-leading paint protection and is safe for use on paint protection films. Ceramic coatings, too, apparently. Reviews are strong, with nearly 1000 customers combining for a 4.7 out of 5-star rating. Given how picky gearheads are about their car care products, that's remarkable.

Advertised as a true carnauba, the wax content of Best of Show Spray Wax is said to add 2-3 times the durability of other spray waxes to your car's paint finish. This gives longer protection between uses and means you can spend more time driving your car instead of waxing it. A gallon bucket is available for refills.

5. Armor All Car Wax Spray

Last summer, whilst shopping for a second-hand pickup truck, your author had the misfortune of climbing aboard a Ram 1500 which had so much Armor All applied to its interior I nearly slipped off the seat and onto the vinyl floor. Hockey rinks are not as slippery. The seller was attempting to cover up the stifling smell of cigarette smoke, created by a previous owner who must have consumed three packs a day, such was the stench.

It's unfortunate that's the first thing that pops to mind when I hear this brand name since Armor All is a brand that has been around forever and makes a number of quality products - including this spray wax. As a spray, it offers a fast and easy application that apparently requires no buffing. It can be used on wet or dry surfaces, which is very handy if you're trying to hit the road and left car washing duties 'til the last minute. Perhaps I'll pick up some of this stuff to change my perception of the brand - after all, the actions of that salesman weren't their fault.

Pros

  • Single-step application, no buffing required, wet or dry application

Cons

  • Chance of using too much thanks to a spray nozzle

Bottom Line

  • I definitely did not buy that Ram pickup

Last summer, whilst shopping for a second-hand pickup truck, your author had the misfortune of climbing aboard a Ram 1500 which had so much Armor All applied to its interior I nearly slipped off the seat and onto the vinyl floor. Hockey rinks are not as slippery. The seller was attempting to cover up the stifling smell of cigarette smoke, created by a previous owner who must have consumed three packs a day, such was the stench.

It's unfortunate that's the first thing that pops to mind when I hear this brand name since Armor All is a brand that has been around forever and makes a number of quality products - including this spray wax. As a spray, it offers a fast and easy application that apparently requires no buffing. It can be used on wet or dry surfaces, which is very handy if you're trying to hit the road and left car washing duties 'til the last minute. Perhaps I'll pick up some of this stuff to change my perception of the brand - after all, the actions of that salesman weren't their fault.

6. Torque Detail Mirror Shine

Just because I've never heard of a brand doesn't mean it should be dismissed like a Facebook rumor. After all, that's why we read the reviews that go with these things before putting them in our recommended lists.

In racing, it is generally accepted that horsepower is how fast you crash into the wall while torque is how far you move the wall. Turns out, Torque is also a brand name of car wax products, a company that's been racking up positive reviews while expanding its product line. This spray product apparently comes with a 60-day refund program if you don't like the results.

Pros

  • Big reviews, discounts for 2 bottles or more

Cons

  • Relatively unknown brand

Bottom Line

  • Made in 'Murica

Just because I've never heard of a brand doesn't mean it should be dismissed like a Facebook rumor. After all, that's why we read the reviews that go with these things before putting them in our recommended lists.

In racing, it is generally accepted that horsepower is how fast you crash into the wall while torque is how far you move the wall. Turns out, Torque is also a brand name of car wax products, a company that's been racking up positive reviews while expanding its product line. This spray product apparently comes with a 60-day refund program if you don't like the results.

7. Lucas Oil Slick Mist Speed Wax

Similar in intent to some of the other spray waxes on this list, the product you see here bears a brand name that's familiar to anyone who's either wrenched on their own vehicle or watched any sort of sanctioned off-road even in the last few years.

This is a 24 oz bottle of slick mist speed wax, intended to add extra shine to your vehicle while intensifying paint gloss. Lucas says its great for cars, trucks, boats, and airplanes (though the latter applies to exactly none of the people who work here).

Pros

  • Big bottle size, low price

Cons

  • A few churlish feedback comments

Bottom Line

  • Difficult to go wrong at less than ten bucks

Similar in intent to some of the other spray waxes on this list, the product you see here bears a brand name that's familiar to anyone who's either wrenched on their own vehicle or watched any sort of sanctioned off-road even in the last few years.

This is a 24 oz bottle of slick mist speed wax, intended to add extra shine to your vehicle while intensifying paint gloss. Lucas says its great for cars, trucks, boats, and airplanes (though the latter applies to exactly none of the people who work here).

8. . Mothers California Gold Carnauba Wax Paste

Ranking right up there with the Turtle Wax entrant on this list as a blast from the past, this product from the world-famous Mothers brand also reaches deep into the pages of history for a lesson in car care. In fact, the 'California Gold' name borders on nostalgia for some of us in the audience, ranking right up there with the as-seen-on-TV California Duster (remember those?).

This paste-based wax is promoted as being able to 'clean and protect' in one act and is also good on fiberglass and gel coats. This explains its popularity on high-end campers and RVs. It is said to contain heat-resistant carnauba wax for a long-lasting shine, while also providing long-lasting benefits with regular use. That last bit sounds like a toothpaste commercial. Reviews are overwhelmingly positive.

Pros

  • You know this stuff works, hit of nostalgia

Cons

  • Will require more work than a modern spray-on product

Bottom Line

  • Elbow grease often pays off

Ranking right up there with the Turtle Wax entrant on this list as a blast from the past, this product from the world-famous Mothers brand also reaches deep into the pages of history for a lesson in car care. In fact, the 'California Gold' name borders on nostalgia for some of us in the audience, ranking right up there with the as-seen-on-TV California Duster (remember those?).

This paste-based wax is promoted as being able to 'clean and protect' in one act and is also good on fiberglass and gel coats. This explains its popularity on high-end campers and RVs. It is said to contain heat-resistant carnauba wax for a long-lasting shine, while also providing long-lasting benefits with regular use. That last bit sounds like a toothpaste commercial. Reviews are overwhelmingly positive.

Car Wax FAQ:

How best to wax a car?

This is a post all by itself, but we'll attempt to answer it quickly with the caveat there is more to the process than in a short FAQ response. Make sure your car is clean, and either wait for it to dry or use a proper towel if the water you are using is prone to leaving water spots. Only apply wax to cool surfaces and never in direct sunlight. If a foam applicator of some sort is required, work in small areas and take your time. Finally, buff off the residue - if the product you are using leaves any - and enjoy the shine.

How often should you wax your car?

Experts commonly recommend that you should apply a car wax to your vehicle once every three months at the least. Remember that since wax is technically an addition to your car's paint, it is possible that it will wear off over time and with regular car washing. Those 'once a year' car polishes are completely different. For those obsessed with maintaining a perfect wax finish, consider interim products meant to be used every few days.

What’s the difference between different types of car waxes?

As mentioned up top, It's generally accepted that a car polish is intended to remove fine bits of crud on the paint while the purpose of a wax is to leave a layer of protective material on your car. As for wax itself, applying a slick mist type of product will be easier than smearing on - then buffing off - a paste wax but there is a better chance of overspray and missed spots with the modern stuff. Follow the directions and take your time.

Changes:

Updated descriptions of numbers 2, 4, and 5

Replace FW1 Wax with Mother's at #8 due to availability

Revised introduction

Added FAQ

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our [s]‘90s sedan shopping habits[/s] operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Rental Reviews, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main Photo Credit: Bhakpong/Shutterstock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

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  • Volvo Volvo on Aug 28, 2020

    I wax just to help protect the clear coat from acidic bird and tree droppings. For me easy application is #1. I have found that the Turtle Wax Hard Shell liquid wax goes on easily and primarily removes easily. Working time between application and polishing/removal seems longer than with Meguiar’s products which I also have used. I hand remove not using a machine. Also the turtle wax does not seem to adhere as firmly to rubber/silicon gaskets around windows and trim as carnauba or polymer based products do. The spray on type waxes certainly go on easily but polishing the haze off can be problematic.

  • Da-jonesy Da-jonesy on Aug 11, 2021

    Nah, I'm all Turtle Wax ICE Seal N Shine now: easiest and best. 10 bucks too much? Then Turtle Wax 1-Step Wax & Dry will get you mighty close for six-fitty. I've pretty much thrown away my Klasse carnauba.

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