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Virtually all car owners agree that having clean, clear car windows is important. There is less agreement, however, over how to properly clean your car windows to get that see-through look for the best results and safety. Some people stick with a simple homebrew cleaning solution or the good old hose and water. Others spend a lot of money on dedicated window cleaning products that promise a great look, magical water-repelling capabilities, and more.
But what about just waxing your car’s windows? You may think car wax is just for the body panels to get that deep, wet shine all true automotive enthusiasts pine for, but most waxes are more versatile than that. In fact, it’s fairly easy (and recommended by us) to add a durable, long-lasting layer of wax to all of your car windows.
Here’s how to do just that.
To Wax or Not to Wax (Your Windows)
Waxing a vehicle is often the last step in properly detailing the exterior. In combination with a good car wash and polish, a wax layer enhances the look of the surface and protects the paint from dirt, debris, UV damage, water, and more. While it doesn’t have quite the same effect on glass, waxing your windows is still a good step to take if you want to increase the longevity of the part you see out of while driving.
Waxing glass does offer a little bit of shine and visual enhancement to the exterior of the windows but not as much as on body panels. Instead, the true benefit of waxing your windows is all about the protection. Waxing car windows offer some basic water-repellent capabilities and good UV protection that can benefit the interior of the car. As a result, it can help keep the surface of the glass clear and free of blemishes and water spots much longer than just a simple wash alone.
How to Wax Your Car With Windows
If the idea of applying your favorite wax to delicate automotive glass is somewhat frightening to you at first, don’t worry, the process is actually quite simple and safe. In fact, applying the wax to a glass surface is virtually the same as putting it on the body of your car.
If you grew up learning to wax through Mr. Miyagi’s “wax-on, wax-off” karate tutorial, you’re already on the right track.
Step One: Preparation
Just like waxing the body of your car, getting the best results for your car windows is all about proper preparation. In particular, it’s best to wax the car in the right environment. This will be out of direct sunlight, away from a lot of dirt, debris, plant matter, or anything else that could get onto the vehicle and ruin your work.
Covered places like garages and carports tend to be the best locations to wax any part of your car. If you don’t have the luxury of putting a roof over your car, however, you can also wait for a cloudy day or find a shaded tree (just watch out for falling leaves, sap, and other tree droppings).
Step Two: Wash the Windows
Waxing your vehicle should never be your first step in the automotive detailing process; the same is true for your windows. If you simply apply the wax without properly treating the windows, you will only be sealing in whatever smudges and debris are already clinging to the glass, making matters worse and visibility even poorer. So, it’s time to bust out the good old garden hose.
Actually, it doesn’t really matter where you get the water. Hose or bucket, the first step is to give the windows a quick wash to remove large debris that just needs a little liquid persuasion to vacate the premises. Make sure you start from the top and work your way down so the water doesn’t carry dirt down to previously clean areas. After this, it’s a good idea to let the window dry or give it a little help with a towel. Don’t worry too much about streaks and blemishes at this point. Lift the windshield wiper blades, however, to get to any hard-to-reach spots.
After this, a more thorough washing is required to get anything the water has missed. You can use car soap or glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth to work your way down, scrubbing the surface in small, circular motions as you work.
When everything is said and done, the glass should be free of any dirt, debris, or other blemishes that obstruct your view. This way, you won’t be sealing in anything with the wax in the next step.
A good dousing is usually all that is required to get a good start on the cleaning process.
Step Three: Applying Wax to the Glass
Now comes the moment of truth: applying the actual layer of wax to the glass. This process is very similar to how you would apply wax anywhere else on the vehicle, but you have to take a few cautious steps to make sure you aren’t damaging the glass underneath as you work. This is why we recommend applying the wax by hand with a microfiber cloth or pad. Many power applicators can be used on glass, but you will have better control and less chance of scratching anything if you do it by hand.
Start by applying the wax to the applicator. This will help you control where the wax goes on the window without getting any extra on other parts, like plastic seals, around the window. Like before, start at the top and gently apply the wax using the applicator to the glass. Work in small, circular motions and move down until you reach the bottom. Once you have one “row” of wax, proceed back to the top and start again. Repeat, repeat, and repeat until you have covered the entire surface area of the window.
The wax should go on as a hazy film that darkens as it starts to dry. As a result, it should be easy to tell where on the windows surface you apply the wax as you work. Once you have finished, leave the wax to dry before moving onto the next step. If you try to remove the wax before it’s dry, you won’t get the best results and protection. The drying time will depend on the specific wax you have chosen, but most take a few minutes to a half hour.
Step Four: Buffing the Wax Off
To remove all the hazy wax that now sits on your window, it’s time to start buffing. First, however, you need to test the wax to make sure it has dried completely. Simply take a fingertip and drag it across the surface of the window. If the wax doesn’t come off easily, it’s not ready yet. Let it dry for a few more minutes and try the test again until it does.
Once it is ready, take a clean microfiber cloth and start buffing it out in circular motions once more. The wax should lift right off without much pressure or strength required. The finished result should be the same clear glass you had before applying the wax in the first place. Work your way across the entire surface of the window until you have removed all of the haze.
Step Five: Apply Some Water-Repellent Solution to the Window
The finished results should give your window a decent shine and a great protective coating over the surface. At this point, you can choose to move on or call quits, but there is an extra step you can take if you want the most protection possible: add some water-repellent solution like Rain-X.
It’s easy to think that a coat of wax will replace the water-repellent coat products like this offer, but the truth is you can have the best of both worlds for just a little extra work. Most waxes don’t have the same water-beading properties as a true water-repellent solution, so applying this type of solution over the wax is a great way to give yourself the best visibility possible in bad weather conditions.
Applying the solution should be similar to the waxing process, but follow the directions of your chosen water-repellent product. Once done, everything should be as watertight as you can make it.
The Best Wax to Choose
It can be difficult to know what kind of wax to use when applying it to different parts of the car other than typical body panels. For glass, almost any wax should be applicable with varying results. The trick is finding which wax will give you the best results and the easiest application.
We recommend you go with either a liquid or paste wax for the most amount of control. Many spray-on waxes can be used on windows, but they are more difficult to control in order to avoid applying the wax to other parts around the window. With paste or liquid waxes, however, you can apply them directly to the applicator so you aren’t getting the wax on unintended parts. This is also a good way to minimize the amount of wasted wax since you won’t be dealing with overspray.
For the specific wax, this may require a little bit of trial and error if you don’t have your own preference ahead of time. For any wax you want to try, choose a small spot on a window as a test bed. This will allow you to see how difficult the wax is to apply or buff out on the surface. You can also try other glass surfaces other than your car.
- You can apply more than one layer of wax onto the surface of a window. We recommend starting with a synthetic wax layer, letting it dry, and then applying a natural wax.
- Take time when it comes to washing the window before applying the wax. It is important to get as close to a spotless surface as possible.
- You can apply window spray cleaner directly to a cloth to avoid a lot of oversprays when you’re cleaning the window before waxing it. This will increase the lifespan of the cleaning product and help you get as much cleaning solution onto the window as possible. You can spray the window directly if you have a lot of surface area to cover in a short amount of time.
- Any applicator you use should be safe for glass use. Old rags and towels tend to scratch up glass fairly easily. Instead, use anything made of microfiber cloth.
- Wash your applicator every now and then when waxing the windows to avoid moving dirt and debris around to different areas of the vehicle. Be careful not to use the same water (in a bucket) that you use to clean the windows first. You can also use multiple applicators if desired.
- All waxes degrade and lose effectiveness over time. This means you’ll have to reapply a new coat at some point. Depending on the wax you choose, develop a regular waxing routine. This can coincide with waxing the rest of the vehicle, especially if you’re using the same wax.
- Clean the inside of the windows as well. While they aren’t likely as dirty as the exterior, the dust has a habit of settling on interior surfaces. To clean the inside, you can use a simple glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth. It’s best to spray the cleaner directly onto the cloth to avoid overspray on the dashboard and other interior surfaces.
It’s important to keep your car windows as clear and clean as possible for the safety of yourself and passengers. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to get dirt build-up and swirl marks off before sealing it with a good layer of wax. If you have the right tools, products, and routine, all it takes is a little bit of extra work to get the best results.
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