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Why car-washing/waxing methods such an opinionated topic?

I’ve noticed folks seem to be able to discuss most car problems like “dead battery”, “won’t crank”, or “idles poorly” without being overly-opinionated. I’m not talking specifically about here, but in general. But when the topic of how to wash and wax a car, that seems to bring out a lot of strongly held opinions. I have my own weird opinions on the topic, like I leave the newly applied wax on the surface for a few weeks before eventually wiping it off with a towel. One time another driver noticed this as I was filling up my car at a gas station, came over as the gas pump was doing its thing, asking me what the white stuff on the paint was caused by? I told him I’d recently waxed the car and hadn’t buffed it off yet. He seemed very concerned by this reply, saying " you’re not supposed to do that!!" … lol … So I got to wondering why someone would go out of their way to voice their opinion about how to wax your car to a stranger at the gas station? I mean nobody has ever spoken up how to wash my windows with that squeegee thing at the gas station. So why the strongly-held opinions about washing & waxing? My theory is this information is often passed down from father to child, and if somebody does it differently it’s considered an affront to their father’s advice.

Because leaving the wax on for a long period of time does not make the wax job better and it looks dorky.
Read the instructions in the wax container.

When I was stationed in Japan in the 70’s, the Japanese left the wax on the car for days. I don’t think it helps but who knows.

One thing most of us will agree on is that what ever technique you use, it is better than not washing or waxing your car. Same for oil. We all have our preferences for oil but all agree that no matter what oil you use (brand that is), it is better than not doing the oil change.

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Once every 5 years if it needs it or not. Sure an 03, got some rust from the inside from the bottom of the door panels moving to the outside, do you wash and wax there?

Of course there are a lot differing opinions on this, just like with everything else automotive

Some people prefer Wagner brake pads

Some like Bendix

Some people like Turtle wax

Some like Meguiar’s

Some people think ceramic brake pads are the best thing since sliced bread

Others have a very different opinion

Some people feel cars should be waxed every month

Others feel once a year is enough

No mystery here . . .


A lot of the “techniques” for waxing cars are passed down from father to son. A lot of other automotive “truths” were as well. Some of this came from an era where there were 2 types of paint - enamel and lacquer - each requiring different techniques. Neither paint looked good for very long without care but heck, cars were rusted through after 3 years in my home state and no amount of polish and wax would help that. Modern cars with modern paint and clearcoat systems generally last for a decade with little care (Barky!) or can look even better with care (George!)

So the techniques were developed 70 years ago and no amount of discussion will dissuade folks from those “tried and true” techniques.

I volunteer at a car museum that has spent over 30 years developing techniques to preserving the paint without wearing away the paint. Techniques developed to preserve original, 100+ year old, paint jobs. There is a very clear difference in how you treat modern paint and old paint. Paste wax is applied with your hands warming the wax, sits for 2-3 days, and the wax is buffed. That is a technique the museum uses on original lacquer paint and apparently George uses on his car. Looks stunning afterwards and no paint is removed.

It doesn’t last as long as the modern waxes on modern paint, however. New paint, new products, new techniques to be passed down to the next generation of car owners, if there are any!


That’s fine in a museum, but freshly applied and not buffed wax is soft and sticky. Do this on a daily driver and you can and would attract dust and grit on the wax. Then when you buff, you are rubbing that stuff into the finish, scratching it all up and abrading it.

I’m pretty sure that for a museum piece, you are using a pure carnuba wax without the softeners and cleaners in it that is commonly sold in department stores and auto parts stores. The common everyday stuff is worse about attracting and holding onto to airborn dust and contaminants.

You are right, the stuff they use is quite hard from the can, no softeners. I’ve been told that’s why it is warmed by hand.

Someone said that academic politics is so bitter because the stakes are so small.

I don’t wash or wax my '87 Toyota pickup. I don’t think it ever had clearcoat. It’s lived outside in deserts with occasional high winds most of its life.

You don’t say how good, or bad, it looks. I’m guessing it lost its shine 2 or 3 decades ago.

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The environment probably plays a big role. None of my commuter cars has ever spent any time in a garage. I haven’t washed let alone waxed one in 40 years. Never had any issues with clearcoat delamination or any other issue for that matter. They look no different than most cars their age on the road except water doesn’t bead up on them. I currently have a 17 year old Camry hasn’t been washed or waxed since the day it came home new. Bet if I clayed and waxed it, you’d be hard pressed to pick it out from others that were pampered. We have a lot of salt in winter but generally cooler climate without super intense sunlight…

I never saw it shine, and I saw it 31 years ago. I’ve been run into a couple of times; a bear attacked it once, so I’ve had to paint portions of it. I didn’t bother to rub it to make the new paint blend in, so it’s variable I don’t see the point of removing paint that I just applied. It’s whole and unrusted. I have no reason to believe it isn’t as sturdy as it would be had I washed and waxed it.

I wash them occasionally, wax never, have had no paint problems before selling after 12 years or so. Garaged at home and work helps, I’m sure.

The weather here is very harsh on automotive paint that isn’t washed and waxed several times a year

my brother’s car is 12 years old, he washes and waxes it several times a year, but it doesn’t get parked in the garage

In spite of the frequent washings and waxings, the clearcoat is still flaking off

I guess if you want the paint to last here, you have to wash and wax several times a year AND park it in the garage, as well

Our homes generally don’t have basements or real attics here . . . for various reasons . . . so the garage is often the only place to store stuff, thus making it unlikely a car will actually spend any time in there

At my current job, everybody has to park outside, even the big shots

I have not waxad a car in about 5 years and doubt if I ever will again. Ir is a tan Camry,never looks good, never looks bas and can;t find it in a parking lot. Do wash it once in a while in the driveway in the winter to get the salt off. Wait for a above freezing day and I have one of those collapsing hoses for the winter.

Reminds me of the first and last time I ever used Blue Coral cleaner and wax (kit with both products in it). It was in the sixties (years, not temperature) and my 64 sea blau (sea blue) Volkswagen Beetle was beginning to fade.

This was long before clear coat finishes and I hand rubbed the entire car with the cleaner that turned the cloths sea blue as I removed oxidized paint in the process,

Next was that dang wax which was almost like rubbing a candle all over the car and then trying to buff it off. I was a young, fit, resilient guy at that time, but my upper limbs hurt for a few days following that one and only Blue Coral job.

That reminds me, I have to hand wash and wax the Grand Prix today!

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Since it is a body-on-frame design, the “sturdy” doesn’t come from the body, it comes from the frame. Also, wax is about protecting the beauty of the paint. More rust-thru comes from inside than outside, especially in the dry southwest…

If it doesn’t matter to you how it looks, there is no need for wax.

The body is whole and sturdy. If it had rusted through parts would fall off and it would be legally undriveable, even if practically driveable. It protects what it’s over.

Didn’t know: I thought it protected the paint, which protected the body.

Cars in the desert southwest take decades to rust through even as the paint fails. That is why it is the best place to buy solid sheet metal for restorations.

Not in my state, nor not in my birth state it wouldn’t.

Heh heh, I don’t think my dad ever waxed a car. At least not since I came along. I think I was 10 when I first waxed the car with Turtle Wax. Looked nice but I guess over the years you try many different products and methods and when you finally find what works for you best, that’s kind of what you stick with. But for me it’s Meguiars and I don’t like paste wax. I used Dupont and Blue Coral paste wax way back and man it was a bear to try and get off compared to liquid. Just not worth it. But over the years for rubbing and polish I’ve used everything from corn starch to 3M. Having a buffer and the new products though does it for me.