Let me start off by saying that I like Consumer Reports. Most of the time they’re spot on and they obviously provide a ton of useful information. But if you’ve read their Car Wax Buying Guide you should know they missed the mark. That’s not to say that the product ratings aren’t worth checking out if you’re interested in one of the waxes they’ve reviewed. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind when looking at the report because much of the information they provide is misleading. Read past the break to find out everything you need to know before tackling their car wax product ratings.
Waxes and Polishes
One of the first things in the report that gave me concern was that whoever wrote the article seemed to be confused about the difference between waxes and polishes. In the article the author writes of wax and polish: “Both describe a product that provides a glossy and protective coating.” This isn’t correct. Polishes contain abrasives and are primarily designed to remove scratches and surface imperfections, not to gloss or protect. Both of those functions are characteristic of a wax, which should never contain any abrasives.
More importantly, that’s really the only mention of polish. Which seems strange because realistically a wax is only as good as the preparation put into the paint before it is applied. If you wax a car with tiny contaminants and debris stuck to the surface the wax will simply not adhere correctly. It’s so important to recognize that paintwork preparation is key in properly applying a wax. You should really clay, polish, and/or use a paint cleaner on the surface of your car before attempting to wax. If you don’t take these steps your wax won’t last nearly as long as it should.
Clean Or Wax
Which brings me to cleaner waxes. One of the major categories Consumer Reports weighed in their testing was “Cleaning” which they defined as “How well a product removes embedded dirt and surface oxidation.” The thing is, that’s not really the job of a wax. I understand that there are cleaner waxes out there designed to be a two in one clean and protect product. But these aren’t nearly as effective at cleaning paint as a standalone paint cleaner. They’re best used when the paint is already in relatively good condition and there isn’t much heavy lifting to be done.
So it seems odd that they would use this as one of their main categories when cleaner waxes really aren’t supposed to do a ton of cleaning, and wax should really be applied after the surface is already cleaned. But even worse is that many of the waxes in their report aren’t designed as cleaner waxes yet they still judged them in the “Cleaning” category. Why would you judge a product on something it is not supposed to do?
What About Polysealants?
Early on in the buying guide they state that none of the products reviewed could be rated excellent because most started to wear off within several weeks. This is pretty much par for the course when it comes to waxes. They don’t last long; that’s why most people recommend waxing every month or two. If they wanted to test a product that would really last a long time they should have looked at polymer paint sealants.
Polysealants don’t necessarily contain any wax, they’re made of synthetic polymers (basically they’re plastic) that provide much better protection on the paint surface. If Consumer Reports was so concerned with extended durability they would be testing these products against each other. And, in fact, there are several polysealants tested, but they make no mention of the distinction. It would make sense to test waxes against waxes and sealants against sealants, but they lump them all into one category.
So How To Choose The Right Wax?
It’s important, when choosing the right wax, to determine what you want the wax to do for you. There are several expensive, high quality waxes on the market which won’t last you more than a week, and they’re not supposed to. This doesn’t mean they’re not good waxes, it just means they’re designed for a specific purpose. They exist to provide an incredible glossy appearance, but not to protect the finish. You might use one of these before entering a car into a show or auction, when you need the vehicle looking its absolute best.
On the other hand there are some waxes (and this is where you might start looking for a polysealant) that are designed for daily drivers. They might not provide the most dazzling shine on the planet but they make the car look nice, last a long time, and they do a great job of keeping contaminants off your paint. So you shouldn’t necessarily pick a wax that has the most consistent ratings across the board, but instead choose a wax that excels in the particular area you need it to.
Well, I’ve ranted long enough, but definitely keep this stuff in mind when looking for the “best car wax”. There’s no such thing, there’s only the wax that’s best suited to your particular purposes. Have you read Consumer Reports Best Car Wax Guide? Let us know what you think, drop us a line in the comments.