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How to make your car shine: We look behind the sheens

We speak to car polish experts as they give away their trade secrets on wax...

As cars develop over the years, so does the aftermarket sector. And waxes are a prime example. With new metal surfaces, paint finishes and tougher customer demands, producers now have to come up with more versatile solutions. 

As with any aftermarket product, a huge amount of science, research and trial and error goes into each wax compound. Natural waxes often come with the highest gloss, while synthetics generally last longer. Striking the right balance between the two is essential. 

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So how do manufacturers innovate, and what are their research, development and testing procedures like? To find out, Auto Express spoke to four producers, covering everything from small UK operations to large multinationals.

Autoglym

Location: Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire

Autoglym wants its products to touch every single car, and while CEO Paul Caller admits there’s a way to go, the ingredients are there. Caller says: “Part of our company policy is to encourage our R&D staff to spend 20 per cent of their time on their own projects.”

This focus on innovation, plus a hi-tech lab with rare chemicals and state-of-the-art testing facilities, keeps the firm at the cutting edge. Director Paul Coley explains: “Rapid Aqua Wax was a prime example of forward thinking.” This product was developed to meet demand for a quick shine.

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It can be put on a wet, freshly washed car in a fraction of the time wax usually takes to apply. At the other end of the spectrum is Autoglym UHD Wax, a high-gloss and shine wax developed with the help of a ‘super group’ of pros and enthusiasts to which the company turns for all its products.

Dodo Juice

Location: Elsenham, Essex 

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Dodo Juice takes a scientific approach to its waxes. All are made in-house with an R&D team testing different compounds. “Natural wax like beeswax has large molecules; these fill gaps in the paint, giving a smooth, even look and lovely shine,” says boss Dom Colbeck. “But they don’t stay on for long.” 

This is partly why the firm began working on nano ceramic waxes. Already used in the aviation sector, nano ceramic coatings have made their way to cars due through the likes of Dodo Juice and Angelwax. “Based on nano tech that has incredibly small molecule particles, the wax has more adhesion and is thus more durable,” adds Colbeck. “This means the glossy finish stays on for longer, and the car is better protected.” 

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To get the best of both worlds, Dodo Juice blends natural wax with nano tech. But to reach this point takes years. It tests mixtures for months at its R&D facility before they’re validated for production.

Simoniz

Location: Stretford, Manchester

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Simoniz uses carnauba wax for all of its polishes. This Brazilian tree has a waxy leaf surface that retains moisture. Simoniz’s waxes use the same properties to prevent moisture and dirt from damaging paintwork. 

Carnauba also gives a shiny gloss finish, but it can be difficult to buff, although mixing it with synthetic polymers and using new binding techniques have got round this. Product development manager Rich Hitchman explains: “Initial material and formulation screening tests are conducted in the lab. This allows us to test in all weathers. Once we have formulations that look promising, we begin real-world tests.”

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Hitchman says testing can last up to 12 months. One of Simoniz’s latest products is Diamond Wax & Polish. Because it’s water-based, it can be used with high-speed polishers without the risk of burning the paint – unlike normal solvent-based formulas.

Angelwax

Location: Glasgow, Scotland 

Founded in 2011, Angelwax is relatively new. Head chemist John Hogg, whose lab coat is emblazoned ‘Evil Genius’, says that because it creates its waxes from scratch, it has total control over development. 

Starting with four to five base waxes, Hogg has used his surface-coatings background to innovate. Some waxes contain titanium for added shine and durability, and to aid buffing he’s used lipstick ingredients. “Our waxes are easy to put on and last,” he says.

Hogg has also worked on new nano ceramic waxes, and because Angelwax manufactures, tests and researches all of its waxes, he has a lot of freedom. “One of our Revenge sprays didn’t win an Auto Express test, so we tweaked the formula,” he recalls. “We won the next test.”

“My car is always filled with new products and ideas,” Hogg adds. “And if we want a wax to last for a year, we test it on a car for a year.”

Enjoyed this car care feature? Then take a read of our best car cleaning and car care tips article.

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