Layering Waxes

Layering Car Wax on Blue Aston Martin

Maybe you’ve heard of the practice, maybe you haven’t. Either way, layering waxes is widely used throughout the cosmetic car care world, and for plenty of reasons. The main two? Shine and protection. That said, all layering is not created equal. You’ll soon see that the product(s) you choose make all the difference, but at the end of the day there really isn’t “one” way to layer waxes. In fact, there are many scenarios that you’ll find yourself (and your car) in – each requiring a different product combination and technique.

Going to the car show

For show cars and collectables, there’s no question that this is one of the more popular reasons for layering waxes. The goal is, obviously, to get the best shine possible. Typically those in this specific scenario aren’t too worried about durability, which as we know is on a sliding scale with shine. Therefore, if you’re layering to go to the car show, you’ll want to aim toward a light and fluffy carnauba paste wax. Carnauba creates a warm, delicate glow to the car’s natural finish – especially on darker cars. Nothing can beat a natural ‘nuba shine, and when layered, it can be quite the sight. With carnauba waxes, you can layer right over each layer as many times as your heart desires. All you have to look out for is that each layer has cured before adding more wax – simply let it haze, buff the excess with a microfiber towel, and reapply. It’s really quite simple and can yield unbelievable results through a deep, wet looking finish. TIP: Never layer with a cleaner wax, you will weaken or remove the base layer. Make sure your layering carnauba wax doesn’t have heavy solvents or cleaners (as most car waxes do).

Daily driver protection (seasonal protection)

I must admit, this is a bit of an oxymoron. You see, most daily drivers don’t protect their vehicles. The vast majority will hit up an automatic car wash once or twice a month and that’s about all the love their paint finish will see in it’s lifetime. Nevertheless, you’re here because you care. The most practical and efficient way to keep your car protected on the road and keep a good looking shine is with a paint sealant and carnauba wax. The paint sealant will act as a durable base layer for the carnauba, which adds a deep luminous shine over the durable sealant layer. The one thing to watch out for in this case is that you must allow the paint sealant to fully cure (24-48 hours) before adding the carnauba. This is because carnauba as it naturally exists is acidic (read more), and if applied to an un-bonded layer of paint sealant, it will actually weaken the durability of the base layer. After the paint sealant has cured, however, you can apply the carnauba no problem and you’ll experience the best of durability and that richer, deep, wet look at the same time. TIP: Using Formula 1201, which bonds immediately to the surface by using water, can save you loads of time. After applying 1201 you can immediately begin on the carnauba layer without having to wait.

Winter driving & storage season

Typically nicer cars don’t see winter’s teeth too often unless you live relatively close to the equator. If you’re more polar on the North or South hemisphere, you know how brutal it can be for your car with a few months full of road salt, sludge, snow, and just plain wetness. At the same time, if your car’s under wraps for a good 3 months, there’s no telling how much dust can build onto the surface; and when you go to take off the cover, you don’t want to be dragging that across your finish. Whether you’re packing up your wheels or throwing chains on them, you want to make sure your paint has the utmost protection against the elements. Shine is not of importance, so forget the carnauba. It’s time to bust out the big guns and lap on two (or more) layers of paint sealant. That means allowing the sealant to cure, then going back and reapplying (unless you use 1201 of course). The added durability will make sure nothing’s causing harm to your paint whatsoever.

Layering FAQs

  • Does 3 layers mean 3 times the protection? | Not so much. With layering waxes, the law of deminishing returns does apply. Three layers of wax will last longer than a single layer might, but it’s certainly not an exponential return.
  • Can carnauba go immediately over a polymer paint sealant? | Yes, so long as you’ve let the sealant cure (~1 hr) and bond (~48 hrs) fully. If you use Formula 1201 to seal the paint, that process is immediate – therefore you can go right ahead with a carnauba.
  • Isn’t one thick layer of wax better than a lot of thin layers? | No. If you glob wax onto the surface, you’re only going to have to remove what didn’t bond anyway. A thin layer is all that’s going to adhere, so in every way, thinly layering is actually much more effective than a thick application.

At the end of the day, layering can provide you and your car with some definitely advantages. More protection, durability, and less cleaning to name a few. Trust me, it’s worth trying out even if it’s just a seasonal thing. You’ll see the difference immediately (and so will everyone else).

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  • richj

    What about carnuba first to deepen & gloss the finish even more AFTER polishing and then follow with ultimate wax to ‘seal’ in all the benefits of the carnuba?

    • The top layer will only last as long as the bottom layer. If you put a paint sealant on top of a carnauba it will not bond correctly and will weaken along with the carnauba (typically somewhere between 3 weeks and 3 months depending on brand). I recommend always using a paint sealant as your base layer unless you’re just adding layers of carnauba.

      Hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions.

      – James

      • Jake Rosendahl

        Then the way i see it, you can re apply the carnuba every 3-6 months and reapply the sealant once a year. Am I right in thinking adding on the second layer to protect the base layer, would make it stick longer?

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