People often ask me how I make (and keep) my cars in showroom condition. The question that comes up most is, “What wax do you use?”
Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.
Determining If You Are Ready
Of course, everybody wants shine perfection. You can also have it…
But, here’s the deal:
It requires a little work. Maintaining a finish (hopefully) is part of that work.
Take it from me…
Show car detailing (AKA the perfect shine) is easily doable on a relatively new car that’s in excellent condition.
What about a typical vehicle that’s 5 or more years old? Have heavy oxidation, a bunch of paint scratches or other paint correction problems?
The truth is more time will be needed before perfection is possible.
Visit the Finish Repair section as a precursor to a perfect shine.
For those of you who think they already have a pretty good paint finish…
Are you 100% sure?
The Six Strict Requirements
The perfect shine calls for a car paint finish that’s in outstanding condition.
To be clear…
You must strive for no surface contamination, fully polished, glazed, protected and waxed.
Let’s look at each of these individually.
Tip-Top Paint Condition
This means the paint is relatively oxidation-free. You do regular washing and protection.
Don’t have time to wash weekly?
Try Quick Detailing.
Road debris (i.e., tar, oil, bugs, etc.) will attach to your car’s paint. The longer this stuff remains, the more difficult it is to remove.
This is one reason why regular washing is so important.
That’s not all…
While outside, your car will also collect various other kinds of contamination.
Trust me. You cannot wax over foreign contaminates and expect to get a true show car finish.
The easy way to remove any surface junk? Clay bar detailing.
Polishing is necessary to remove minor blemishes.
This includes surface scratches, swirl marks, pitted areas (minor road stone nicks) and scuffs.
When polished, a paint finish will feel perfectly smooth. Your hand (and polishing towel) will literally glide over the surface.
Feeling a perfectly polished car is something else! There’s nothing like the polished fenders of a curvaceous Porsche, Ferrari, Viper or Corvette.
Glaze is a term that’s misused in detailing products.
Let’s quickly clear up the confusion:
Glazes are paint treatments that fill small surface scratches and swirl marks.
In The Perfect Shine, ultra-fine polishes are used to refine a paint finish to achieve or restore full gloss.
Paint is protected when it’s sealed from the elements.
Synthetic paint sealants offer the best protection. They’re easily 5 to 10 times more durable (longer lasting) than Carnauba waxes.
You’ll get extended protection and also create a super-slick surface.
My Perfect Shine process calls for an acrylic sealant called Klasse High Gloss Sealant Glaze.
This fantastic product also hides (or at least minimizes) fine swirl marks.
Note: I actually haven’t found a polymer sealant that works in the Perfect Shine method (I’ll explain why later).
Waxing is the final step of The Perfect Shine.
We’re not talking just any wax here! You need a pure, natural Carnauba, like P21S Carnauba Wax.
Real carnauba waxes don’t have cleaning properties or synthetic compounds. They’re made from a blend of carnauba waxes, beeswax and natural oils.
Only a quality show car wax will give your paint true depth and warmth.
I know, I know, it sounds like we’re talking about a fine wine or something. Just don’t underestimate the value of a great show car wax!
Now that we got that mandatory checklist out of the way…
The Perfect Shine – Revealed
You’re ready to get the best paint shine possible and do it reliably.
Here we go!
Follow these steps and recommendations:
Step 1: Wash & Dry
Wash your car twice with a high concentration of car wash solution.
Use a quality car wash soap. Don’t use a wash ‘n wax type product.
The goal is to get all of the dirt and wax off.
Is your car is excessively dirty?
You can use Dawn dish-washing liquid. If you do, be sure to rinse thoroughly.
NOTE: Don’t use Dawn or another dish washing detergent as your regular soap. It may eventually strip wax protection. However, it’s generally safe for thorough cleaning before you wax your car.
Be sure to use a proper car wash mitt.
I must warn you. People are always doing damage to their paint using household wash cloths and sponges.
For more helpful tips on this topic, see our Car Washing & Drying guide.
Dry your car thoroughly after washing.
I recommend a satin-edged waffle weave microfiber towel. These things are fantastic, and they absolutely won’t scratch.
You need to stop using an old bath towel. They are scratching, swirling and causing your car’s finish to dull.
Chamois are okay, BUT they’re nowhere near as good as a quality microfiber drying towel.
Step 2: Clay Bar Detailing
Examine your car’s paint with your hand after washing and drying.
Is the paint perfectly smooth? If not, use a clay bar and clay lubricant to remove any surface contamination.
It’s very easy, fast and safe.
In fact, you should be using a detailing clay 3 to 4 times a year BEFORE you apply car wax.
Work with a clay bar awhile and soon you’ll discover something really cool…
You can utilize it after washing and before drying. Just mix a bucket of car wash soap and the soapy water is your lubricant!
Step 3: Repair Paint Damage
At this point, your paint is clean and free of surface contamination.
Examine again for minor surface damage. You may still find some heavy scuffs or surface scratches.
Repair these flaws with a fine compound or scratch remover car polish.
It’s best to use a swirl remover car polish if the paint has swirl marks and/or minor micro-marring.
NOTE: The car polish industry’s technology had improved. It’s no longer necessary — or desirable — to use a heavy rubbing compound to remove paint damage (like scratches, water spot etching or severe swirl marks).
The very best over-the-counter paint restoration car polish these days is Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound.
Use it by hand or machine. It works!
2ND NOTE: Removing swirl marks, fine scratches, water spot etching and other paint damage by hand is difficult work. It can be done, but it isn’t easy. Clearcoat finishes on most new cars are very hard.
I highly recommend that DIY car owners invest in a polisher. The Porter Cable 7424XP remains #1 with detailing enthusiasts.
Step 4: Restore Finish Clarity
Now it’s time to bring out your car’s full shine and gloss potential.
For this, go with an ultra-fine swirl remover polish.
These specialized polishes are designed to remove fine swirl marks (not the heavy paint damage talked about in the previous step).
You can skip this step if your paint is already in perfect condition.
There are so many different swirl remover polishes. It can be difficult to choose.
My favorite for more than twenty years has remained the same: Klasse All-In-One.
I keep trying new products, but in the end I keep reaching for the Klasse. It just works.
Another excellent polish is Meguiar’s M205 Mirror Glaze Ultra Finishing Polish (machine application only).
Step 5: Seal and Protect
Once perfectly polished, your paint is ready to be sealed. For this I use a product that’s been protecting my cars since 1987, Klasse High Gloss Sealant Glaze. The Klasse acrylic formula has proven its quality to me again and again. Klasse Sealant Glaze protects paint for months with a durable acrylic finish.
The best way to apply Klasse is with a microfiber applicator. The secret is to put it on as thin as possible. If you apply a heavy coat you will suffer through wiping it off. Apply it whisper thin and wipe off is a breeze. Better yet, do what I do and use a car polisher!
One of the most awesome things about Klasse Sealant Glaze is that you can apply layer after layer to achieve a deeper, high-gloss shine. Klasse Sealant Glaze does not contain cleaners to remove old wax. It’s a pure acrylic sealant. Additional layers of Klasse increase the protection, too!.
For more information about Klasse, check out our Klasse Car Wax Guide.
Step 6: Make it Pop!
You’re almost there!
The final step, the literal icing on the cake, is waxing.
You may be asking, “After polishing and sealing, why wax?” The answer lies in the richness of color, depth and clarity that only a quality carnauba wax can bring out on a polished surface.
For this job, I reach for P21S Carnauba Wax. It’s a true show car wax.
Compared to other show car waxes of similar formula, for the money, P21S offers the best finish.
It brings out a warmth and depth on red and yellow that I haven’t been able to duplicate. Paint looks like a reflection in a pool of water on black and dark blue cars.
On steps 4 – 6, I use a quality foam applicator to apply product (except Klasse Sealant Glaze, which requires a microfiber applicator).
I use a quality Microfiber Buffing Towel for final buffing of the P21S Carnauba Wax.
How to Best Maintain Your Car’s Perfect Shine
You’ll need to do some light maintenance to keep your perfect shine, well, perfect.
Relax. It’s really easy!
Just wash weekly and quick detail after each outing.
I recommend P21S Bodywork Shampoo car wash.
It’s very gentle. It won’t remove the wax, and it smells great!
Choosing a good detailing spray (for quick detailing) is also key. It doesn’t have to be a super expensive product, either.
Meguiar’s Ultimate Quik Detailer won’t break the bank and it’s amazing.
Quick detailing normally takes no more than 5 to 10 minutes.
You can apply a fresh coat of P21S wax as often as you like. I recommend reapplying monthly, or whenever you want your car to look its best.
The Klasse protection will last 5 to 6 months.
Plan to repeat The Perfect Shine process twice yearly to keep your car’s paint in showroom condition.
How The Perfect Shine Actually Works
There’s no particular magic to my process, though two ingredients are essential.
But, first I want to stress something…
Finish preparation is the most significant function of the process.
The paint finish must be refined through a couple grades of polish. This is how jewelry makers create gems of radiant beauty.
The key ingredients are Klasse Sealant Glaze and P21S Carnauba Wax.
The reason these two products work together, where others do not, is pretty simple.
Klasse is an acrylic resin coating. It’s not a petroleum- or water-based product.
Being an acrylic, it dries hard. Most synthetic sealants are polymers based on the element silicone.
To my knowledge, all polymer sealants are based on an emulsion system containing petroleum distillates. As a result, even the mildest petroleum distillates remove polymer sealants.
Zaino Show Car Polish is the only polymer sealant that I’m aware of that can be successfully layered (a new application of Zaino Show Car Polish does not remove previous applications).
More on Carnauba Waxes
Likewise, carnauba waxes contain petroleum distillates.
You see, in waxes, petroleum distillates are used to soften the carnauba (which is rock hard in raw form).
This additive allows for better blending into a paste or cream.
In particular, P21S Carnauba Wax formula uses a highly refined petroleum distillate. It’s similar to what’s used in cosmetics (i.e., lipstick wax).
The solvent content in P21S Carnauba Wax does not affect the cured Klasse sealant.
I’ve personally conducted side-by-side durability tests to confirm that Klasse remains solidly intact.
Here’s a bit about how my discovery came about!
How A Super Shine System Started
As it happens, I stumbled on this special process by accident.
Simply fooling around in the garage, I applied a Carnauba wax over a paint sealant on my red Porsche 944 Turbo.
I could not believe my eyes when I pulled the car out of the garage!
The finish was noticeably deeper, richer and more vibrant. The paint had taken on a new depth, like it had a clear-coat finish.
Years went by as I evaluated the process on a few dozen cars.
I concluded that it works on all finishes (in decent condition). BUT, it has the most dramatic effect on dark colors.
I decided I would give the process a name due to the very consistent results.
I called it The Perfect Shine.
Note: In all fairness, I was not the first to discover “layering” car wax products. Autoglym and Klasse both beat me to it with their 2-step systems.
However, I do believe I was the first to discover and document one technique:
Applying a pure Carnauba wax over a sealant for the deepest, darkest shine possible.
A Final Message
The technique discussed here is, of course, not the only effective method.
It’s simply the Perfect Shine process that works for me. BUT, it has been proven by hundreds of other detailing fanatics.
It came from years of experimenting with dozens of car polish and car wax products.
I hope you find it useful for years to come!
Next, learn how to create Show Car Tires & Wheels!