1. What is the difference between a polish and a wax?
Polishes contain compounds designed to remove scratches from the surface of your paint,
while waxes protect your car with a clear, hard coating. Waxes can be either synthetic or
natural, though high-grade carnauba wax delivers the best combination of lasting protection
and deep gloss. Polishes provide the “shine” for your paint, while waxes provide the
2. What is a clearcoat?
“Clear coat” is a name given to the multi-stage paints used today. A “base coat” is applied
with a pigment (color). Then, a top layer of clear paint is applied over the top of the base
coat to add depth, brilliance and provide protection for the base coat.
Clear coats still require the same care as the old single-stage paints. Just because the top
coat of paint has no pigment in it doesn’t make it impervious to environmental conditions.
Top coats of clear paint still oxidize, and the softer paints used today also allow
contaminants to easily embed in the surface. These softer paints require modern
formulations and technology to protect them against damage.
In short, the need for proper care and maintenance of clearcoat paints is just as important
as years ago. Actually, because of their softer, fragile nature, they really should be
maintained better than the older single-stage paints.
3. How often do I need to wax or polish my car?
It depends on environmental elements your car typically endures. If your vehicle is kept
garaged on a daily basis, then a polish or wax can last as long four to six months. If your car
is kept outdoors under harsh conditions, then it will need to be waxed as often as once a
month. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend that a light colored car be polished and
waxed at least every two to three months. Dark colored cars on the other hand, will usually
require more frequent and specialized attention.
4. What is a Sealer and Glaze?
When applied before waxing, a Sealer and Glaze helps hide minor scratches,
spiderwebbing, swirl marks and other surface imperfections. It enhances clarity and shine,
while giving paint that deep, wet look. If left unprotected, a Sealer and Glaze will not last
long. It therefore needs an immediate coating of protective wax to truly have long lasting
5. Why can’t I use household cleaners to wash my car?
Household cleaners like dishwashing detergent are specifically designed to dissolve
grease. Because wax is essentially a grease, household cleaners will remove your car’s
wax finish; leaving you with little shine and no protection. Also, some household detergents
have micro-fine abrasive in them. These can permanently scratch your car’s surface. Always
use a premium quality, commercial liquid car wash. They are formulated to dissolve dirt and
grime without removing your car’s beautiful wax finish.
6. What about once-a-year wax and polish products?
Your car deserves better than once-a-year products. It is likely the second largest investment
you’ve made, after your home. Don’t scrimp on the quality of the products you use to
maintain it, or the care you give your vehicle. A regular regimen of washing and waxing pays
enormous dividends for years down the road. The intrinsic weakness of once-a-year
products will become painfully apparent as the years pass.
7. What’s the best way to remove bugs and tar without dulling paint or
Use our California Gold® Car Wash full strength with a soft scrubber sponge before
washing. The undiluted Car Wash will help remove bugs and tar without stripping wax or
dulling paint. Our Bug Bird & Tire Wipes are effective and convenient — carry a container in
your vehicle for fast, easy clean-ups.
8. How can I tell if I have a clear coat?
Most modern paint finishes are clear coat. The easiest way to tell is to check the paint code
on the inside of the glovebox door or door jamb (depending on vehicle make), or by
checking your new car’s window sticker. A more ”hands-on” method is to check your
applicator (sponge or towel) whenever you use a polish like Mothers® Pre-Wax Cleaner,
Sealer and Glaze, or Carnauba Cleaner Wax. If the color of the paint is transferred to the
applicator, then you do not have a clear coat. The color you see is the oxidized dead paint
being removed by the polish. With a clear coat, the top layer of the finish is transparent and
has no color to transfer to the applicator. The color of your vehicle will not transfer to the
applicator if the clear coat is intact.
9. Can I wax my vehicle in the sun?
We recommend you wax out of direct sunlight. When your paint’s finish gets hot, it ”bakes”
the wax, hardening it to a point where it can be difficult to remove. Try early morning or late
afternoon when the sun’s at a low angle, or try pulling the vehicle under a tree or into the
shade of a building. And, applying a wax or polish in sunlight can ”shock” your paint, much
like biting into ice cream.
10. How often should I wash my car?
As often as practical. Most enthusiasts wash their vehicles at least once a week. Some folks
wash their cars almost every day. If you don’t have time to wash, try using Mothers®
Showtime® Instant Detailer before your vehicle gets dirty. Its unique formulation restores
your vehicle’s show car shine in-between regular wash and waxing. But, remember,
Showtime® is not a replacement for waxing — it’s a supplement.
11. Can I Wax without using Pre-Wax Cleaner first?
If your paint is perfectly clean, sure. Try this test. Run the backside of your hand over the
paint after washing and drying. If you feel anything but perfectly smooth paint, it’s time to
clean using Mothers® Pre-Wax Cleaner or Mothers® California Gold® Clay Bar System.
Pre-Wax Cleaner is also a great way to ”feather” the edges of minor scratches and swirls,
making them less visible to the eye. Follow the Pre-Wax Cleaner or Clay Bar with Mothers®
Sealer and Glaze and give your car or truck’s finish extra depth and richness. Then, apply
the Mothers® Natural Formula Pure Carnauba Wax to protect the polished finish.
12. What is a Clay Bar?
Clay bars, like the one in our Mothers® California Gold® Clay Bar Paint Saving System, are
used to remove contaminants from painted surfaces. With today’s soft paints any
contaminants that sit on your paint can quickly become embedded and cause damage.
These contaminants aren’t easily removed, even by washing or waxing, but the clay makes it
If you can feel bumps in the paint after washing and drying, chances are you’ll benefit from
using a clay bar on your vehicle. Remember to wash your car before using a clay bar, and to
always wax afterwards (clay bars will remove wax from your car’s finish).
13. Can I wax too often?
Today’s paints are softer and thinner than previous years. If you’re going to wax less than six
times a year, our Mothers® Original Formula Wax with Cleaners (either paste or liquid) or
Mothers® Reflections® Polish are great products to use. If you’re going to wax more often,
consider stepping up to our Ultimate Wax System® — this way you can control the
frequency of cleaner being used on your paint, and the added step of Sealer and Glaze will
give you that extra ”pop” in your paint finish.
14. My wheels have dulled — how can I make them look good again?
If you own a newer vehicle with original equipment alloy wheels -- and they are not chrome or
chrome-clad -- chances are they have a clearcoat. Unfortunately because of the heat
involved with wheels, the finish is even softer and more fragile. For these, we recommend
your favorite Mothers® car wax for routine shine and protection. Tougher jobs may require
either our Plastic Polish or our PowerPlastic® for the unique plasticized clearcoat — both
work equally well on clearcoated wheels. Follow each wash with your favorite spray wax —
FX, Mothers® or Reflections® — for added protection, quick and easy. Mothers® offers a
solution for every type of wheel: non-coated aluminum (use our world famous Mag &
Aluminum Polish, the standard by which all others are judged), chrome plated (use our
Chrome Polish — formulated for today’s show quality chrome plating), billet (our Billet Metal
Polish is just the ticket for those high end billet or forged wheels). A PowerBall® or
PowerBall Mini® makes short work of wheel polishing.
15. Is liquid wax easier to use than paste wax?
No, not at all. With today’s modern formulations, paste waxes are just as easy to use as
liquids. And, they’re more economical. A can of paste wax will often last through twelve or
more applications, while liquids frequently are used up after four or five applications.
16. What can I do to make waxing my car easier?
Well, for starters, read the directions on the package. We’ve put an enormous amount of
research into each of our products. The directions on the package are the direct result of
this testing, and are written specifically to minimize effort and maximize results.
17. What about those free car washes at the gas station?
Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. Many of those car washes use mechanical
brushes which can damage your paint surface. In most parts of the country, the water is
recycled, meaning your car is getting the same water applied as the rusted out 1974
Plymouth Volare that just pulled out (unless your car just happens to be that Volare). While
filters can catch small particulates, they can’t filter out the dissolved salt from winter use, or
all those hoards of other nasty chemicals.
18. What type of towel should I use to dry my car?
For years we have used and recommended 100% pure cotton thick-loop terry cloth towels
for drying. And though we still like cotton, we have found that the new ultra-plush microfiber
towels have won us over.
Microfiber towels come in various blends, qualities and sizes. A thick, soft weave of 80%
polyester and 20% polyamide in a size of about 16-inches square is ideal for drying. They
have tremendous absorbency power, wring easily, and are scratch-free (don’t forget to
remove the tag). You’ll find you can dry an entire car with only one or two towels. Some
people like a larger size, which are often also available in a waffle weave. Whichever you
choose, as with cotton towels, launder separately and without fabric softeners (the fabric
softener scratches paint).
Microfiber towels also come in a variety of colors so it makes it easy to identify one color for
each task; i.e., drying, polishing, waxing, etc. We find that a 70/30 blend towel works well for
product removal. Buy an assortment.
We also get a lot of questions about the use of a chamois to dry your car. We have found
that people who have chronic problems with swirl marks in their paint, especially after the
first washing following a flawless detail, are using a chamois. Try microfiber; you’ll be glad
19. If a little car wash soap is good, is a lot better?
No. Too much car wash concentrate can leave a film on your vehicle. Use about an ounce of
car wash per gallon of water.
20. Is it a good idea to put a “thick coat of wax” on your vehicle before
We don’t recommend it. You’re only going to waste product. If you apply a thick coat of wax,
removal will be more difficult, and you may encounter streaking, smearing and pilling (tiny
wax balls accumulating on the paint) and your buffing towel may become saturated with wax,
causing extra effort in the removal stage. When properly applied, the final wax layer should
only be a few mils thick. There’s no way to make this layer thicker. Our suggestion is wash
your vehicle as often as possible during the winter months (on those days that get above
freezing). If a warm spell comes along (over 50° F), consider washing and waxing your
vehicle while you have the chance.
21. What can I do about water spots on the paint?
Simple — get them off as soon as possible. Carry Mothers® Showtime® Instant Detailer
and a clean terry cloth or microfiber towel in the trunk. Attack those water spots before the
sun has a chance to evaporate them, and they’ll come right off. Showtime® also works great
on gas spills when refueling.
22. Are silicone car care products a bad thing?
Not necessarily. It’s the type of silicone that’s important. Some low grade silicones are not ”
body shop friendly,” meaning they cannot be removed with standard paint prep before body
work and painting. All Mothers® products are ”paintable,” meaning they can safely be used
in and around body shops, since body shops have the chemical cleaners to prep the surface
23. Why can’t you make your car care products less expensive?
At Mothers® we use only quality raw materials in our car care products. Premium
ingredients cost more, but the superior results are readily apparent throughout our entire line
of Mothers® products. Remember, with car care products you get what you pay for (which
means you might think twice before smearing a $2.95 product on a $30,000 vehicle).
24. I lease my car, why should I care how it looks?
Chances are, you’ll care when the lease ends. If you check your contract, you’ll find that you’
re probably responsible for the appearance of your vehicle when it is returned. If the paint is
dull and lifeless (because it was never washed, polished or waxed) you could be hit with a
reconditioning fee of $500 to $1,000!
What’s So Bad About Bugs?
Yes, bugs look awful dotted across your front bumper
and hood, but they’re also very destructive. Maybe it’s
revenge, but bugs can damage the paint long after
they hit the car. As insect remains decompose, they
produce enzymes intended to break down the carcass.
These enzymes also break down automotive paint,
resulting in etching.
Here in Florida and across most of the Southeast, love
bugs are the primary culprit. Love bugs in particular
have very fatty bodies, which produce a lot of enzymes.
Plus, their sheer number and affinity for busy roads
make them unavoidable. And, since they are love
bugs, they hit your vehicle two at a time.
Water spots are mineral deposits that have etched their
way into the paint and they can be very tough to remove.
When a drop of water evaporates, all the minerals
contained in that water remain on the paint. Etching is a
gradual process, but those little spots will accumulate
before you know it. The best way to avoid them is to dry
your vehicle each and every time it gets wet. If that sounds
too ambitious, at least dry it after washing and after a rain.
If it’s already too late, here are some tips for removing
those cloudy spots.
Smoker's Film is an oily film that builds up on the inside of a
car's windows when someone smokes while inside the
vehicle. Not only does this make the glass dirty and hard to
clean, but it will also impair your vision, especially when
there is direct sunlight hitting the glass. Headlight glare
from oncoming traffic at night is another time when dirty
glass can be hazardous to your health.
Standard glass cleaners lack the powerful cleaning ability
necessary for removing this vicious contaminant. Rather
than resorting to using Isopropryl Alcohol or heavy duty
cleaners, which has a very negative effect on the
dashboard should there be contact, you need a cleaner
that is both powerful enough for removing smoker's film,
and gentle enough that it will not cause damage by
Are you washing weekly or weakly?
Weekly washing is best because some contaminants
quickly do serious long term damage to paint if they are
allowed to remain. Two such organic compounds are bug
remains and bird droppings. These bio-hazards contain
complex proteins that bond to the surface and organic
acids that penetrate and break down the surface, eating
into your clear coat if not removed promptly. Weak spots in
the clear coat make your vehicle susceptible to corrosion
Another problem contaminant is brake dust. It contains
metal shavings from the rotors and adhesives used in the
production of brake pads. Try to picture the dirty plume of
brake dust and roadway chemicals that travels along with a
moving vehicle. This fog of chemicals shower the lower
portion of your vehicle with a clinging, nearly invisible mist.
Brake dust itself, is highly corrosive and very sticky.
Washing your vehicle weekly will remove these
contaminants before they have the opportunity to do
unsightly permanent damage.
Mechanical Car Washes
NEVER bring your car to an automatic car wash that has
vinyl, rubber, or felt strips that touch your car – they’re
loaded with dirt and grit and will really mar the clear coat on
your vehicle’s finish. If you must use an automated car
wash, go to the “touchless” type
Again, when drying your car, use high quality microfiber
towels – nothing else. Using any old towel you have lying
around will cause micro-marring in the finish – those swirl
marks you see when you look at cars’ finishes in the sun
Contamination of your car paint
Every car regardless of age; new or not, will have some
form of contamination attached to the paints surface. This
will give your paint a rough, gritty feel. This is nothing more
than pollution from the air that contains particles that attach
to the clear coat and will have to be removed with a
separate process. Trust me on this one as most people will
either not understand this process, or they will get lazy.
Skipping this step will deliver disappointing results and will
diminish the end result of all your efforts. Like car washing
and waxing, this is not a one time only process; you may
have to do it once a month or once a year. Every case is
|The Professional Detailer:
by Prentice St. Clair
|How to Videos
Severe Damage Headlight Restoration
Cleaning Wheels & Tires
Waxing by Hand
Waxing with PowerBall® 4Paint®
Using Clay Bar
Polishing Metal by Hand
Polishing Metal with a Power Tool
Interior Rubber & Vinyl Care
Exterior Trim Restoration
Polishing Chrome by Hand
Mothers Detail Guide
Carnauba Car Wax vs. Paint Sealants
Proper Washing & Drying Technique
Car Wax & Paint Sealant Application Techniques
How to Use Auto Detailing Clay
Interior Cleaning and Conditioning How To's
How To Remove Bugs and Tar
Glass Cleaning Facts & Tips
Proper Care of Trim & Molding
How to Detail Wheels & Tires
How to Polish Metal
How To Care for Your Convertible Top
Paint Condition Chart