How to Wax a Car with a Buffer?

Why is it important to wax your car? Well, there are plenty of good reasons. You might be trying to sell it and to get the best price for a better looking vehicle. Or, you wish your car simply looked better, more like it did when you first picked it up from the dealership.

Whatever your reason, the most important one should be this: regular waxing of your car with a buffer helps protect its finish. Not just for a few months, but years and years and years.

Many people assume that waxing a car takes an excruciatingly long time. Not with a buffer. Check that, not with the right buffer.

Yes, when you wax your car, it can take time. But, it’s time well spent because not only are you protecting your investment, you are also feeling better about the vehicle you drive. You are also protecting it against the harmful elements of nature, including rain, road salts, and even sap from certain trees.

Which Buffer to Use?

There are plenty of car buffers and polishers available for waxing the finish of your vehicle. There’s a dual action orbital polisher and a variable speed rotary polisher. For beginners, the variable speed rotary polisher isn’t the best option because it can cause more damage to the paint when you don’t know what you’re doing.

So, for relative beginners, stick with the dual action orbital polisher, especially those that start up slower and then build their OPMs (orbits per minute) gradually. This gives you a bit more forgiveness during the process.

Know Your Waxes

There are basically three different types of waxes you can choose from: spray wax, paste wax, and liquid wax. The most common type of wax is the spray wax. That’s because it is simple to apply and you don’t have to work it in very hard.

The paste wax takes a bit more time and effort to apply, but it offers a better, longer lasting shine and protection for the finish. Finally, liquid wax is somewhere in between. You will have to figure out which one works best for you and your specific needs as you develop more experience waxing your car.

Now, Get Ready to Wax Your Car with a Buffer

Now is the time to get everything ready. When you plan to wax a car with a buffer, you need all of the essential tools at your disposal. The last thing you want is to run around scrambling for a microfiber towel or finishing pad while the wax is sitting there on your vehicle.

It’s also best to do this in a shaded area or in the early morning or late evening, when the sun is not pounding down at its strongest.

The most important things to have on hand when you wax a car with the buffer include:

  • The machine buffer, preferably a dual action orbital polisher that’s best for beginners.
  • A car wax that suits your preferences.
  • Car wash soap.
  • A clay bar.
  • Finishing pads.
  • Polishing compounds.
  • Microfiber towels.

First, thoroughly wash your vehicle to remove all of the dirt.

This may seem like common sense, especially given how dirty your vehicle looks sometimes, but believe it or not there are people out there who have never waxed their car before who go right to the waxing.

For some reason, they assume that applying wax is going to remove all the dirt in the process. On the contrary, that can actually drive the dirt into the finish, making it even more difficult to clean later on.

Don’t make that fatal mistake. Instead, spend some time thoroughly washing off your car. Use a clean sponge and clean water. If your car is completely filthy, it may be best to empty the dirty water bucket and start with fresh soap and clean water every so often.

It’s highly advisable to avoid cleaning the wheels, including the rims, until last. That’s because the brake dust and road dirt that gets caked onto the wheels and rims can be extremely filthy. It will dirty up the water and, if you’re not paying attention, you could end up unwittingly spreading that to the rest of your car.

Second, dry your car thoroughly as soon as you can.

Once you rinse off all the soap, use a chamois or terrycloth towel to dry the vehicle from top to bottom. If you allow it to air dry, you will likely have to deal with water spots, which is an unnecessary headache you shouldn’t have to deal with.

Third, mask the areas of your vehicle you want to protect.

Because the buffer rotates at a pretty considerable speed, it will generate heat. Some buffers will generate more heat than others as they have different OPMs, so it’s important to use the right protective measures for headlights, moldings, taillights, and other areas you don’t want damaged.

For example, if you don’t mask your headlights and the buffer runs across the plastic surface, it could burn. Then you’ll have damage you simply can’t buff out.

So take the time to use masking tape or even painter’s tape to protect these sensitive areas.

Fourth, apply a buffing compound.

When you buff, you’re helping to bring out a glossy finish to the vehicle. This covers up light scratches and helps to remove oxidation. The more abrasive the pad, the more experience you’ll need to avoid damaging the finish.

As you gain experience, though, using the right buffing compounds can help you remove scratches you thought were permanent.

Fifth, apply the wax.

Secure the wax applicator pad to the buffing machine. You can either apply the wax directly to the pad or onto the car’s surface. You can also do it to both, but do so before turning the buffer on.

While using a buffer to apply the wax, use a circular motion. The dual action buffers will have a rotating motion while they spin, but when you get in the habit of applying it with your own rotation, you are providing a more even finish throughout the entirety of your vehicle.

Avoid putting a lot of pressure on the buffer. Instead, use long, sweeping motions to spread across the car’s finish as evenly as you can.

It’s advisable to buff each section a couple of times. Make sure you use enough wax so that you don’t inadvertently damage the finish of your car.

Six, wait.

You want to wait for the wax to dry thoroughly before you set out to remove it (but don’t wait too much beyond that). The wax will get a cloudy appearance to it when it is dry.

Seventh, remove the wax.

Once you are certain the wax is completely dry across the entire finish of the car, now you’re ready to remove it. Use a microfiber towel, preferably several towels, and wipe away the wax in a straight line.

By doing this in a straight line rather than in swirling patterns helps you avoid scratching the surface. You will notice almost immediately a sleek, glossy finish coming through. When you start from the top and work your way down, you will start to see a completely different vehicle emerging from under that cloudy haze of wax.

Finally, remember to clean your buffer.

One of the most overlooked, yet vitally important, components to waxing a car with a buffer is actually cleaning up when it’s all done.

When you step back and admire the incredible job you just did, you’ll want to get out and cruise around. You’ll want to show off this amazing “new” car to your friends and family!

Don’t just throw everything in a bucket or box and stuff it in the garage or storage shed expecting to get to it later on. Clean the buffer as soon as you’re done with it.

If the pads or brushes need to be maintained, follow the instructions that came with your buffer. Close up the car wash and wax, sealing it properly to avoid contamination for next time.

Once you’ve cleaned up the buffer, put everything away. Then it’s time to get out and enjoy your handiwork.

Can You Apply Wax by Hand?

Sure, you can, and there are some auto enthusiasts who still prefer to do that, but there are plenty of reasons why waxing a car with a buffer is the best option.

Waxing by hand takes an awful lot of time. Yet, the best waxes require you to remove them once they have dried, not letting it sit for longer than it has to. A buffer allows you to get that wax applied evenly much faster.

Also, when you wax a car by hand, you are exerting a tremendous amount of energy. Doing this time and time again is going to wear you out. You will simply lose the passion and desire to take care of your car, and that’s the last thing you want.

Finally, if you choose to apply wax by hand, you are not likely going to get even coverage. That can be a serious problem when you are trying to protect the integrity of the finish on your vehicle.

Stick with a buffer when it comes time to wax your car.

About the Author
Steve Brown

Steve Brown

Hi, my name is Steve and I'm a car detailing expert.... Read more


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