Does Car Wax Prevent Scratches In Your Paintwork?

Keeping your car’s paintwork in pristine condition is an eternal challenge.

Your car rolls off the production line, paintwork looking all sparkly and new, and very quickly the world is throwing everything it can at your car to try and ruin that paint.

Look at any car that’s more than a few hours old, and you’ll probably find scratches on the paintwork – some cars having this much worse than others.

Scratches can ruin the look and feel of your paintwork, and be a pain to correct and fix.

As the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”, so you might be looking for ways to prevent your car from getting scratched in the first place.

Car wax sounds like a plausible option, as car wax manufacturers are always touting the protective benefits of their products.

But does wax prevent scratches? In this edition of Car Facts we are going to explore that topic in more detail, to determine whether you can really protect your car’s paintwork from scratching by using car wax.

What Does Car Wax Do?

The primary purpose of car wax (and in this I’m including natural wax, as well as synthetic ‘sealants’ like Meguiar’s Ultimate Liquid Wax) is twofold.

Firstly, to enhance the luster and shine of a car’s paintwork and make the car look better.

Secondly, to protect the paintwork from environmental contaminants such as the sun’s UV rays, dissolved minerals/compounds in rainwater, bird dirt etc. If you take two identical new cars, and wax one regularly (while never waxing the other) and use them in the same conditions, store them similarly etc, you will find in a few years’ time that the waxed car has a far superior paint finish.

It is this second point (protection against environmental contaminants) that is particularly relevant to today’s discussion.

Does This Mean Protection From Scratches?

Not really.

A standard car wax (whether a natural carnauba-based wax or a synthetic “sealant”) might help to prevent some swirling and light scratching on your car’s clear coat, but beyond that isn’t going to do much.

Scratching is a “mechanical” process, e.g. a piece of grit embedded in your car cleaning mitt winds up damaging your paintwork during a clean. 

Wax simply won’t be able to prevent that. It is a soft product that doesn’t create any kind of hard barrier that is going to be able to resist the typical causing of scratches, such the zipper of a jacket rubbing against the paintwork of your car, or an errant tree twig catching the side of your car as you back out of the driveway.

Does This Mean Waxing Your Car Is A Waste of Time?

Not at all!

You should definitely continue to wax your car, using a quality product such as Meguiar’s Ultimate Liquid Wax.

As mentioned above, there is some light protection offered against surface level scratching on your clear coat.

Beyond that, regular waxing will reduce the damage from sunlight exposure, rain, and other environmental contaminants.

You just cannot rely on car wax to act as some kind of “hard shield” on your paintwork that is going to stop all scratching. Sensible precautions still need to be taken, such as properly washing your car using clean implements (and ideally the two bucket method) avoiding tunnel washes – especially those with brushes – and trying to avoid scenarios where your car is more likely to get scratched e.g. parking in tight parking spots, driving on roads with loose surfaces where gravel can flick up and so on.

Recap – Does Car Wax Prevent Scratches In Your Paintwork?

Long story short, car wax isn’t really intended to fully prevent scratches. Don’t assume that because you have waxed your car, you can skip out on other scratch-prevention measures (I.e. don’t take your car straight around to the local machine wash).

A quality wax will provide some marginal protection, primarily to the clear coat layer of your paintwork. However, it is not going to act as some magical shield that will prevent your paint from scratching. 

You should – without any hesitation whatsoever – continue to wax your car. This is one of the best things you can do to enhance the finish of your paintwork and protect it long-term.

However, you shouldn’t rely on a soft wax product to act as a proper scratch barrier. Instead, you’d need to look at investing in a physical barrier such as a paint protection film (aka ‘PPF’). This is going to be a more substantial monetary investment, but if you are absolutely dedicated to reducing the risk of scratches on your paintwork, then you might want to consider such an option.

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  • Ben

    From his early days playing the original Gran Turismo and with his Hot Wheels car set, Ben has had a long interest in all things automotive. His first foray into the world of automotive journalism was way back in 2009 and since then he has only grown more interested in the industry. Ben also runs and heads up the video production side of Garage Dreams, focusing on small informative documentaries about some of the world's most legendary cars.

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