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Car Detailing

Hand Waxing Your Car or Truck vs Waxing with a Buffer

orbital buffer on a car

Waxing a car is paramount to its well-being from a visual standpoint. A good layer of wax will give the car a nice glossy look while also acting as the first layer of defense against the elements of nature such as rain and the sun. The layer of wax has to be buffed really well to give it that nice glossy look while also making it resilient to everything that could harm the exterior of the car and that is where a big debate arises. Should you wax using your hands or should you use a dedicated buffer? The answer isn’t very simple as a lot of factors decide what is right for you. We will go over the pros and cons of both methods so you can make an informed decision as to which method is better suited for you when detailing your vehicle.

Hand waxing:

This involves as is quite obvious using your hands to wax the car. This doesn’t require any specialized tool and all you need are some high-quality applicator pads and microfiber buffing towels. This is the perfect method for people who are new at buffing. The steps involved in hand buffing are as follows.

  1. Park the car in the shade, wash it nicely and let it dry. Make sure that there is no moisture or dirt particles stuck on the exterior of the car. This is important as the wax needs to adhere to the entire car uniformly. Ensure that the car is dry but do not wait too long as it can get a layer of dust that can impede the layer of wax.
  1. More isn’t always better and car wax is definitely one of those things where less is often more. Many people are under the false impression that applying a thicker layer of wax will result in a glossier surface. This is not true as the more wax you have on the car, the more you have to work to properly buff it. Apply a thin layer that is easier to work with. The key is to get a uniform layer.
  1. Work over a small area. This is where this method can get tedious. Take a small amount of wax the size of a small coin on the center of the applicator pad and gently move in straight lines in a vertical direction. Avoid the instinct to go in a circular motion as this will leave swirl marks. Work over an area of about 2-3 square feet and then move on to the next section. Divide the entire car into workable sections and finish one section completely before moving on to the next one. The first couple of sections would feel easy but the then it can become really tiring and this is where it is necessary to persevere. Try to work at a gradual pace and do not apply too much pressure as this will tire you easily while also spoiling the coating of wax. Once the entire car is covered in wax, buff it to a nice shine with the microfiber cloth using long vertical strokes.
  1. If a second coat is needed then wait for the first layer to dry and cure properly. Usually, this will take about 12 hours. This is a great way of improving the protective nature of the wax coating. Just make sure that the wax layers are thin and uniform.


  • Allows you to take your time
  • Is easy on the paint surface
  • Risk of causing damage is non-existent
  • The best option for water-based paints used on modern cars.


  • Can be time-consuming
  • Requires a lot more effort
  • A lot of care has to be taken to get an even coating

Waxing with a buffer:

Here you need a buffer and it is best to get a buffer specifically designed for cars. Using just about any buffer can be dangerous to the surface of the car as most buffers meant for other surfaces rotate at a higher RPM, which can leave swirl marks and even damage the layer of paint. It is also very important to be delicate to avoid leaving any marks or scratches on the car’s bodywork. The steps involved in buffing with a buffer are as follows.

  1. Park your car in the shade, have it cleaned and let it dry. A clean dry surface is absolutely necessary to get a nice even coating of wax.
  1. The buffer should have a wax applicator pad. Attach it to the buffer and put a small amount of wax on the center of the pad. It is very important not to turn on the buffer just yet. Apply the first layer of wax gently with the buffer still off. Put some more wax on the pad and turn the buffer on and let the next layer of wax be spread over the car. It is again very important not to exert any force on the buffer. Let the machine do all the work. If you press down on the buffer then it can lead to unevenness in the wax layer and possibly even damage the paintwork.
  1. Remove the wax applicator pad and attach a wax removal cloth to the buffer. The best method is to use long strokes and avoid going in a circular motion. Doing so will leave swirl marks. Make sure to just guide the buffer with just enough force to keep it working on the area you want without pushing down on the buffer.


  • Requires little effort
  • Can be done quickly
  • You can get a better result


  • You need to be really delicate to avoid damaging the car’s exterior
  • A good buffer can be expensive


hand waxing vs buffer waxing

Which is better?

As we mentioned earlier, there is no right answer here. The method that will be better for you is the one that seems more practical. If you are short on time and do not want to physically exert yourself, then a buffer is a good idea provided you can be delicate with it. If on the other hand, you aren’t very comfortable using a power tool and don’t mind the extra work and time needed then waxing with your hand is the better solution.


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