Car waxing differences

Waxing or rinsing - how do different waxing programmes differ?

In addition to the washing phase, modern carwashes have waxing and finishing programmes at different prices and with different functions. The final result and durability of the wax treatment is directly dependent on the coverage, evenness and thickness of the wax layer. The following article describes the different waxing methods and their differences. 

Car waxing is used to protect the car's paint surface from wear and tear and UV radiation, among other things. A waxed paint surface makes the car easier to keep clean, while at the same time improving the aesthetic qualities of the car, such as the brightness of the colours. Quality waxing also increases gloss and makes surfaces water-repellent (hydrophobic). Some waxes aim to reduce dirt adhesion and increase the so-called smooth effect.  

Water-based waxing or hand waxing?

    • In hand waxing, hard wax or solvent-thinned liquid wax is mechanically rubbed into the surfaces of the car. The wax film must be thick enough to fill surface scratches and withstand the abrasive effects of environmental factors. If solvent thinned wax is used for hand waxing, it must be allowed to dry before the car surface can be polished. 

    • In roll-over machines, the wax is dispensed after the washing phase. The product is scrubbed onto the surface of the car by rotating brushes. In two-piece washing lines, i.e. Takt machines and car washes, there are often separate polishing brushes for waxing.

    • In water-based wax application methods, the wax product is dispensed by injecting the substance into the water. The washing machine then sprays water from the arc of the washing machine onto the car, either as a liquid or as foam. The water-based wax application method is sold to customers as, among other things, achieving a hand-waxing result, forming a dirt-repellent film on the car surface, repairing scratches on the paintwork and providing a unique gloss finish.

We decided to test it. In the test wash, the following factors affecting the final result were measured: 

Wax product consumption per car: 40 ml

Dilution water: 4460 ml

Amount of solution left on car surfaces before polishing: 2000 ml

Wax product content: 0,9 %

    • Measurements showed that nearly 2,500 millilitres (2.5 litres), or 66% of the sprayed application solution, was either sprayed past the car or spilled from the sides of the car onto the floor before the polishing brushing operation. On this basis, a maximum of 18 millilitres of wax product was left on the surfaces of the car.

    • In reality, the brushes also "splash" the application solution. As a result, the effective amount of wax remaining on the car's surfaces was probably considerably less than the reference value.



Air waxing, water-based waxing or hand waxing?

    • The wax product can also be dispensed in a mechanical waxing process by spraying the wax directly onto the car surfaces using precisely targeted nozzles.
    • This method is called air waxing. In air waxing, the wax is applied mechanically without water, resulting in a much thicker wax layer on the surface. Air waxing is similar to hand waxing. The wax is not diluted with water but is applied to the surface of the car as a 100% wax. A typical dosage of the sprayed wax product is 50-150 ml per car.
    • We modelled water-based wax spraying and air-waxing in the laboratory. The test results were compared to the results obtained with hand waxing.
    • On a 0.2 m² auto-coated panel, a waxing product intended for a water-based dispensing system was dispensed on a horizontal substrate at a concentration of 0.9%. Another similar test panel was sprayed with an air wax product at 100%. Finally, the sheet surfaces were lightly polished with a cloth. Both plates were then weighed with a precision balance.

After air waxing, a slight increase in weight was observed. This indicated that wax had been left on the surface of the piece. In the water-based method, on the other hand, the weight of the plate did not increase from the initial level. 

This suggests that the 18 ml of wax product left on the car's surfaces after water-based spraying and polishing left virtually no measurable wax film. On the other hand, the surface gloss was on average 10% higher than the gloss increase achieved by washing alone. This suggests that a very thin wax film of less than 0,01 µm was formed on the surface. A slight increase in the weight of the plate was observed in the air wax test. Based on this increase, a film of 0,4 µm was calculated to have formed on the surface. The gloss was measured to have increased by an average of 40 %.  

For comparison, a hand wax test was also performed on a similar paint surface. The plate was weighed and the recommended amount (8 ml/m²) of commercial car wax was applied to the car surface. The wax was allowed to dry for a short time and then the surface was polished with a cloth. The cloth was also weighed before waxing to allow for the amount of wax absorbed during polishing. 

After polishing, both the plate and the cloth were re-weighed. The wax film thickness was calculated to be 1 µm.

The study investigated the quality of mechanically applied water-based wax and air wax coatings. The results obtained were also compared with hand waxing. The calculations were based on measured wax quantities and the paint area of a passenger car (12.5 m²).

  • The film thicknesses and corresponding increases in gloss were determined by laboratory testing.

  • The results suggest that the equivalence of mechanical waxing treatment with hand waxing is questionable, especially for water-based treatment. The wax film left on car surfaces by mechanical waxing is at least a hundred times thinner than with hand waxing.

  • The results show that the final result of mechanical waxing can be improved by using, for example, the concentrated wax application technique made possible by air waxing technology.

Water-based waxing treatment: < 0,01 µm, outside the measuring range

Air gap: 0,4 µm

Manual waxing: 1 µm