Car Wax Terms

If you own a car, at one point in time you will have to think about applying a wax to protect it. There are so many different terms, brands, and products out on the market; you need a secret decoder ring to translate it all.  Fear not because we have all of your terms covered so that you will be able to understand the language and know what is best for your car. We have a list of all the terms and names that “car guys” talk in their language (your decoder ring).


Car wax termsNatural or synthetic particles (grit or media) found in polishes or compounds which cut
the paint surface to remove imperfections


How well a product bonds to the surface to which it is applied.

Auto Detailing

The process of cleaning, polishing & waxing the exterior of the car to bring out a show-quality level of gloss to the exterior. Detailing can help improve the appearance as well as the resale value of the car as well.

Base Coat

The foundation layer in the basecoat/clearcoat automotive finishes comprised of a layer
of dense pigment applied over primer coat. Also referred to as color coat.


Paint finish turns milky or cloudy shortly after polishing new paint. Solvents have not
finished evaporation from the paint.


A piece of equipment used by skilled technicians to apply products to a vehicle. Reduces
the time spent and improves the quality of work performed.

Carnauba Wax

This is a wax made from a palm plant commonly found in Brazil.  This is a cheap natural way to protect your car, although it only lasts about eight weeks.

Clay Bars

These are detailing bars that clean the paint below the clear coat surface. Used by professionals, these help remove contaminants inside leaves smooth and glossy surface.

Cleaner Glaze

Combination of a light abrasive cleaner and silicones that allow the user to clean
and to provide shine in one step. Cleans and shines.

Cleaner Wax

A cleaner wax is a one-step type of product that contains chemicals and abrasives to clean and treat the surface of the paint on the car. Overall, the job of this wax is to clean, polish and protect the surface.

Clear Coat

A thin transparent layer of paint (may be enamel or lacquer based) applied over a
pigmented layer of paint (basecoat) to provide a deep, rich, shiny finish.


To clean item by item each minor part of a vehicle to the completeness of the work.

Dwell TimeAuto wax terms

The amount of time in which a product is encouraged to remain in an active state during
application.  During cleaning, a product may be required to sit or dwell for several minutes before
being rinsed.

Finishing Wax

A finishing cannot clean the surface of the paint. Use this product only on new or excellent condition paint finishes to get the maximum shine and surface from the wax.


Product designed to produce a quick high shine. Not as durable as waxes or polymer

Orbital Buffer

A mechanical buffer with a pad that travels ellipses instead of rotating on a fixed
axis. Used when waxing to simulate the movement of the human hand


The fading of the paint over time due to exposure environmental the elements.  The car paint will alter chemically, causing loss of color and fading.

Paint Sealer

A product applied to a clean surface to protect the paint.  Durability and degree of
gloss will vary.


A light abrasive product normally applied by machine polisher designed to
smooth out and eliminate the scratches and swirls left by compounding. May remove minor surface
imperfections and light to medium oxidation. The second step in the detail process


First step in preparing a vehicle for detailing.

Random Orbit Waxer

A buffing tool used with detailing the car. The waxer has a bonnet placed on the end of the spinning disk that allows abrasive chemicals to be placed on to buff the surface of the paint. The orbital waxer allows a thorough surface treatment while leaving the surface a high quality finish.


A protective product that penetrates surface to bond with existing paint finish. Polymer
resins create a protective film much more durable than wax. Subject to the same elements but much
more longevity.
Silicate- A hard glossy compound usually some form of the dioxide of silicone (Si 02) used in waxes,
polishes and dressings.

Spray Car Wax

This was applies  to the car by spraying it from a bottle, then allow it to set for a bit, then you buff clean with a rag. The spray variety of wax is used for maintaining protection on the vehicle. It’s recommended using a full detailed wax protection prior to upkeep with the spray on application.

Synthetic Wax

This is a wax made of a polyethylene or polymerized olefin base material that provides a shine and UV protection to the paint.  A man made solution as opposed to natural.

Wax Paste

The paste form of wax is used for many of the hand applications on the surface of the car. This is generally easier to control the amount on application and lasts longer in the can. Since you are constantly dipping into the can, you do run the risk of contamination of the wax (getting it dirty).

Wax Liquid

Liquid form of the cleaner can flow evenly across the surface of the car. This works well with using powered buffing tools to quickly finish and detail the exterior (if time is of the essence).

Wax Removal Bonnet

A microfiber bonnet that goes over a Random Orbit Waxer that can take the coating of wax off a car.


May be in paste or liquid form for application by hand or polisher. Designed not only
to provide protection but also enhance shine. Final step in detail process.


The change or failure in paint caused by exposure to weather.

Wet Sanding

A procedure of simultaneously sanding and rinsing an automotive finish to remove imperfections. Regarded as complicated and should only be attempted by professionals.

You are now well on your way to understanding the world of detailing and polishing.  There are so many different brands, types and names of waxes; it can be very easily confusing to a beginner. Since know all about the language of the world of wax, it is time to put away that secret decoder ring. Now you are able to talk with the car enthusiasts and professionals about getting the best quality looks from the paint.

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