Is It Necessary to Polish a Car Before Waxing?

Ollie Barker

Is It Necessary to Polish a Car Before Waxing

Is It Necessary to Polish a Car Before Waxing

Many people wax their cars frequently, eager to keep them in excellent shape. However, many of them are confused is it necessary to polish a car before waxing? If you wax your car without polishing it, is it a big mistake? Let’s find out.

Briefly Explain: The Differences Between Car Waxing and Polishing

As you know, car waxing is a process of adding a protective layer to the shiny surface of cars. When the car is waxed, any tiny scratch or fingerprint will be erased and its appearance will never fade again.

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Polishing, on the other hand, is a process of smoothing car paint itself. If we apply polishing products to the surface of cars regularly, it can prolong the lifetime of car paint and make it look brighter. Polishing is a great method to deal with scratches, swirls, and dead coatings.

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As you can see, car waxing doesn’t necessarily require polishing. If you want to paint a layer on your car’s surface to make it look better, waxing is probably a better choice. However, for the best possible results, you should polish your car before waxing it.

Is It Necessary to Polish a Car Before Waxing?

With many years in auto detailing, I can say that the answer is YES and NO. It all depends on the paint condition of your car.

Firstly, if your car’s surface paint has no swirl marks, scratches, or dead coatings, it’s not necessary to polish your car before you wax it. If your car has smooth surface paint, you don’t need to polish the car first. You can skip this step and directly wax the car. The wax will help cover any tiny scratches and make the paint look even better. However, do remember to give it a good wash before waxing it.

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Secondly, if your car’s surface paint has swirls and scratches to remove, it’s better to polish your car first. Usually, most of us think that polishing can actually damage the paint on our cars. However, this isn’t true. Any scratches that are deep enough will not be removed by waxing them. The main purpose of polishing is to remove the scratches and enhance the shine of a car.

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When Should You Polish Your Car Before Waxing?

To make it clearer, you should polish your car before waxing in the below cases:

  • If you want to remove scratches and swirls on your car paint.
  • If you want to make sure that the wax will have a smooth surface to cover.

With these two points in mind, it’s clear that it’s necessary to polish your car before waxing it.

When You Don’t Need To Polish The Car Before Waxing?

  • If your car paint is in good condition, it’s not necessary to polish the car with a machine before waxing it.
  • If you want to cover scratches with wax, you do not need to polish your car first. The purpose of polishing is to remove swirls and scratches on the surface of your car. If there are no swirls and scratches on the surface of the paint, you do not need to polish your car before waxing it.

Other Things You Should Do Before Waxing The Car

You should make sure that your car is clean and neat before waxing it. This means that you should vacuum the car thoroughly and wipe away any dust particles from the carpets, floor mats, sunroofs, etc.

If your car has a fresh wax coat on it, you do not need to wash it with water before waxing it. If your car has just been waxed, clean water can remove any unwanted particles on the surface of your car.

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You should check that the wax coating on your car is adequately removed with a test wax.

You can do this by taking a small amount of the wax and rubbing it onto your hand. If it leaves a good feeling, then you can apply that amount of wax to your car.

What Happens If You Wax Without Polishing

If you have examined your car and you see swirls and scratches on it, then you should polish your car before waxing it. Polishing is a more difficult task than waxing and should be done by professionals. The process of polishing removes the swirls and scratches on the surface of your car and gives it a better shine. After polishing, you just need to coat the wax on top so that it stays there while cleaning the dust particles or water droplets off it.

Even though it is a difficult task to do, you can still try it by yourself as you do not require any special tools to polish your car. There are some tips that you may follow while polishing your car, but waxing and polishing are two different tasks.

If you skip polishing the car and wax it right away even there are scratches and swirls on the paintwork. What happens? Well, you won’t get the result that you expected. The finish will be uneven and not shiny.

Tips for Polishing and Waxing

I listed here some useful tips to get a better result after polishing and waxing the car:

For Polishing

  • Be careful when polishing. Make sure that you clean the surface of your car thoroughly and dry it perfectly.
  • Polish by holding back the buffing pad towards you while polishing, so that the surface of your car won’t get scratched with the abrasive particles in it.
  • Use a clean and soft towel to wipe off the polishing particles from your car’s surface after polishing.
  • Always remember to hold onto your jack while polishing your car’s surface.
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For Waxing

  • Use high-quality wax. Don’t use any cheap wax as it would easily come off from the surface of your car.
    A good car wax must have the ability to be applied by hand or with a machine. You can apply it to your car with either of them.
  • Make sure that you clean your car before applying the wax.
  • If you use carnauba wax, heat it first to get a better bonding.
  • Apply enough wax to get an even coat.

Frequently Asked Questions

#1 How Should I Prepare My Car for Waxing?

A clean and dry vehicle is the most important condition before you apply wax. After cleaning all the dirt and grime, you can adjust the paint surface and decide whether you need to polish it before waxing.

#2 Is It Best to Wax or Polish a Car?

High polish but low wax means a car that looks clean but not shiny. On the other hand, a lot of wax applied with even less polish gives the car a dull-looking and feeling surface. This is because when the wax is applied to dirtied paint, it won’t look so good.

#3 How Much Wax Should I Apply on My Car?

There is a wide range of car waxes available on the market and all of them have different amounts of wax. You should choose the wax that suits best to your vehicle. If you want to have a better look, you can apply a complete layer of wax to the surface of your car. However, usually car owners choose a blend of wax to get the best result from it.

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#4 Is Polishing Bad for Car Paint?

When you polish your car, a thin layer of paint is removed. So, if you overpolish it, the clearcoat will be worn off and the undercoat will be exposed. That’s why we only polish when necessary and then, apply a layer of wax to protect the paint.

#5 How Can I Make My Car Shine Without Wax?

If you don’t have time to wax your car, there are quick tricks to make it shine. You can use a hair conditioner and water to make your car shine without waxing it. For the headlights, you can use toothpaste to make them sparkling again.


It is true that many people think that polishing a car first is unnecessary. However, this is not a fact. Polishing can greatly enhance the appearance of your car’s surface paint and give a stronger layer to the painted finish. However, if you don’t polish your car, waxing will be enough to polish it and make it shine again.