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How to Wash and Wax Your Corvette’s Paint


Well-known member
Nov 2, 2000
The Land of Enchantment
In the market
Guess what I spent the day doing? Yep, washing and waxing my car. Apparently I recently parked under a tree that was dripping sap. Now I’ve got 4 dime sized spots of sap on my car. I have not had a chance to detail her paint yet this year, so this is the perfect excuse. I figured I would write up the procedure I use, and hopefully answer some of the questions people have about waxing their car.

Be warned, I am pretty anal about this, so it is a pretty long procedure. It usually starts on a Friday evening after work, and I’m usually finishing up around lunch time Sunday afternoon. And remember what they say about free advice: you get what you pay for.

The Tools of the Trade

The bottom 2 drawers of my tool box are filled with various things I use while detailing my ride. For the most part, this stuff should be available from your local auto parts store.

·Micro-fiber towels: I’ve got quite a stack of micro-fiber towels from Griots Garage. They are kind of spendy, but they are definitely better quality than what is available at the auto parts store. I take very good care of these towels, and they are pretty much the only thing I use to touch the paint.

Micro-fiber sponges: I’ve also got 2 micro-fiber sponges from Griots Garage. One for the top of the car, and one for the bottom.

Cotton Applicators: The applicators are used to apply wax and polish.

Latex Gloves: The wax and polishes I use dry my hands out, so I started wearing latex gloves. There is an added benefit of not leaving fingerprints on your freshly washed and waxed paint.

Clay Bar: I’ve tried a number of clay bars, and I’ve not seen much of a difference between them, so I usually use Meguiars clay bars. The bars are used to clean any impurities off the paint and make it perfectly smooth in order to give the best reflection possible from 10 layers of wax and polish.

Car Wash: I also use Meguiars Gold Class car wash. It comes in a big bottle, it is cheap, works well and I’ve been using the same bottle for almost 2 years. What more can you ask from car wash soap?

Dawn Dishwashing Detergent: I’ve also got a bottle of Dawn in my tool box. It is used to strip the old wax and polish from the paint to make way for new polish and paint.

Wax and Polish: I’ve used wax and polish from many companies, and I’ve found that Zaino products are the best out there, but like I mentioned above, you get what you pay for. I use Zaino’s Z2 clear coat polish. A year or so ago, they came out with a new product called Zfx, which is an accelerant that speeds up the drying time of their polishes. Previously, one would have to wait at least 12 hours between application and removal of the Z2, in order to get best results. The Zfx accelerates the drying time. Now we only have to wait 30 minutes.

Spray Detailer: I use Zaino’s Z6 between applications of the Z2. It definitely brings out the shine. For normal spot cleaning I use Meguiars spray detailer (which as an added bonus is included with the Meguiars clay bar kit). It is cheaper than the Z6, and easier to get, as all the Zaino stuff is mail order only.

Work Light: This is a new addition to my tool box. On my car it can be difficult to see if I’ve waxed a particular area, as it is only apparent if the light hits the paint at a certain angle. Instead of bending and contorting every which way to find that magic angle, I use a work light. This helps to make sure I’ve hit every square inch of paint, both in the application and the removal of the polish.

Leaf Blower: I thought I was so smart when I realized I could use a leaf blower to dry my car. Only to find out that I am by far not the first person to realize this. I use a little blower from Home Depot. It is small and light enough for me to use it one-handed. It is great for hitting those trouble spots like the brake lights, wheel lug nuts and where ever else water likes to pool. And, if you’ve got a decent wax job on your car, the blower will just blow the water right off. Does not work so well with no wax though.

Boars Hair Brush: Used for detail work, to clean wax build up in places that you cannot get rags into


In order to get the most out of your detailing efforts, you’ve got to lay the proper ground work. I have found that washing and waxing your car in direct sunlight does not give the best results. Sun can cause the water to dry too fast after a wash, possibly leaving water spots. Besides, detailing a car is a lot of work, and doing it in direct sunlight makes it that much harder. I do all my detailing work in the garage.

The first thing I do is move Lust out of the garage and into the drive way, and sweep the floor of the garage. There are a couple reasons for this, namely because I’ll be spending a lot of time sitting and lying on the floor and I want to minimize the amount of dirt I have to deal with. Also, if (when) I drop something, there is less of a chance that it will pick up a rock or piece of dirt if the floor is clean. The last thing I want to do is wipe my car down with a towel that has picked up some dirt. That is a great recipe for scratches and swirl marks.

And while I’m on that subject, if I happen to drop a micro-fiber towel, I’ll inspect it very closely to make sure it did not pick up any rocks or dirt, then I’ll throw it in the dirty towels bin, and get a clean one. I’ve got a big stack of micro-fiber towels… If I happen to drop a clay bar, I’ll inspect it and remove any obvious rocks or debris, then fold it over on itself a couple times to get a fresh surface and continue. I’d love to be able to toss the bar, but they are too expensive to toss every time I drop one.

What you wear while detailing is important too. No, I’m not going to give any fashion advice, but I will recommend a 100% cotton t-shirt and 100% cotton pants or shorts. Make sure there is no exposed metal, such as belt buckles or rivets in pants. The last thing you want to do is put a nice big gouge in your paint from a belt buckle while you are washing or waxing your car.

Now that the garage floor is clean and I’m properly attired, I move Lust back into the garage and I start washing her. I’ll dump a little of the afore mentioned Meguiars car wash into a 5 gallon bucket and fill it up with water. Then I take my green micro-fiber sponge (all my towels and sponges are color coded, green sponge = top of car) and start washing her. I start at the top and work my way down to the belt line with the green sponge. I do not touch the rear end with the green sponge though. Something about the aerodynamics of Corvettes sucks road grime back onto the rear of the car. It is not unusual for my car to be pretty clean, but the rear end is caked in road grime. Cleaning the lower portion of the car and the rear end is done by my red sponge.

The reason behind the two sponges is that the bottom of the car is typically dirtier than the top. I don’t want to wash the bottom of the car with the same sponge as the top, because I don’t want to take any chances that there might be dirt or rocks trapped in the sponge that might scratch the paint on the top half of the car. I also change the water when I change sponges. And if she is really dirty, I might break out a second bucket that I use as a rinse bucket. I’ll dump the sponge in the soapy water, wash off a portion of the car, then dump the sponge in the rinse bucket to rinse off the grime, then back into the soapy water to wash some more.

If I was just washing my car, then I’d break out the leaf blower now and blow her down, but I’m not. This time I’m doing a whole wash and wax job, so it is not quite time to dry her off yet. Now that most if not all the dirt and grime has been removed, it is time to strip the old wax and polish.

To do that, I put some Dawn dish washing detergent in my 5 gallon bucket and fill it up with water. Dawn’s “Grease Cutting” ability is great for stripping wax too. Since the car is already clean, I use my green sponge with the Dawn. Depending on how much wax and polish is on the paint, you might have to wash the car two or three times to get rid of all the wax. I had to wash mine twice, with a lot of Dawn both times.

An easy way to determine if all the wax has been removed is to watch the water on the flat surfaces of the car. If the water is beading up, then there is still wax in that area. If the water does not bead up, then the wax has been stripped.

Once the wax and polish have been removed, it is finally time to dry the car. In this case, I use a towel to dry the car. I found that the blower only really works if there is a good coat of wax on the car. If there is no wax, it is actually easier to towel dry the car. I do use the blower on the lights and wheel lug nuts though.

Now that that is done, it is time to clay bar the paint. As I mentioned above, I use Meguiars clay bar, though there does not seem to be much difference from one brand to another. The purpose of the clay bar is to remove any contaminants from the surface of your paint, so that it is perfectly smooth for the application of the wax and polish. “But, Jason, I just washed my car THREE times! The paint is clean,” you say. Wrong. Take a plastic sandwich bag and put it on your hand. Now run your hand across the hood of your car. All those little bumps and imperfections you feel will detract from the shine you get from your wax and polish.

In order to get rid of those imperfections, we have to use the clay bar. Meguiars recommends using their spray detailer in conjunction with their bar, and that works fine. I like to use a mix of Dawn and water in my own spray bottle. For one, my mix is free, and two, the Dawn will help strip what little wax and polish might be left on the paint.

Now spray that spot on the hood that you just checked out. Rub it down with the clay bar, and touch it again with your plastic bag covered hand. All nice and smooth. Now do the same thing on the rest of the car. If you drop the clay bar while your working on the paint, make sure you clean it as best as you can, then fold it over until you get a clean surface to continue. The Meguiars clay bar kit comes with two bars. I use them both. Half the car for each bar. Don’t let the spray dry on the car. When you are done with an area, wipe the spray off. If there are streaks, don’t worry about it, we’ll take care of them shortly.

As I mentioned above, I had four spots of sap to contend with. I had hoped that the clay bar would remove them, but the bar did nothing but smear the sap around. So much for that idea. I used a can of road tar/bug gut’s remover, which worked well. It also did a good job of stripping the wax and polish where the sap was. I recommend testing this stuff on an out of the way piece of paint just to make sure it is safe for your paint. Be sure to use A LOT of water to rinse any residue off the car.

Now the paint is all nice and smooth, and guess what, it is time to wash the car again. This time you can use regular car wash soap, or Dawn. I usually use Dawn. Guess I’m really paranoid about their being wax on my car. The purpose of this wash is to get any residue from the clay bar, and spray off the paint. Again, the car is clean, so I use my green sponge for the whole thing. Once that is done, towel dry the car again. Take extra care to get all the water this time. We want to make sure the paint is completely dry when we start to apply the wax. Once I’m done drying the car, I will usually wait overnight before I start waxing her.

And there you have it, the procedure I follow just to prep the paint for wax and polish.

Applying the Wax and Polish

First, I should start by explaining what polish and wax are and what they do.

A polish is what creates the shine we all know and love. It will typically have some mild abrasives in it. The abrasives will remove the dull paint and reveal the shiny paint below. It is also used to clean up swirl marks and light scratches. According to Zaino’s website, their polishes do not contain any abrasives, so there is no need to worry about their polishes scratching the paint. I can tell you from experience that on a car with good paint, Zaino’s polishes do a great job of bringing out the shine.

Waxes are used to protect the paint and polish. Usually, to get the best results out of polish, you would want to seal it with a coat of wax. For each coat of polish, follow it with a coat of wax. In the case of Zaino, they recommend using their Z6 or Z8 sprays to seal their polishes.

Applying the wax and polish is relatively simple. Start with the polish and apply some to an applicator. I use the cotton applicators from Zaino. They are made of good quality cotton, and they are easy to hold on to. I do not recommend any foam applicators, unless they are covered in cotton.

Personally, I start with the hood and work my way around the car, doing one panel at a time. Once I’ve applied polish to the entire car, I get my work light and go over the car with the light. I shine the light on the car to make sure I covered everything. Once everything is properly coated, we wait. The length of the wait depends on the polish and wax being used. With Zaino’s Zfx, I only have to wait 30 minutes for the polish to dry. What you do while your waiting is up to you. Normally, I take this time to work on the wheels and tires.

The wheels and tires are simple. I use a rag to wipe the brake dust off the wheels, taking care to get the lug nuts and between the spokes. For the tires, I wipe them down with a rag, and then I apply a coat of Meguiars tire dressing. It does a good job of making the tires shine, and if you don’t use too much, there is not much of a chance of the residue being slung onto your freshly waxed paint when you’re driving around.

After half an hour, the polish should be ready to wipe off. To check, take one of your micro-fiber towels and wipe a small portion of the polish off the paint. If the polish comes off, then it is ready to be removed. If the polish just smears, then it is not dry yet. Wait another 10 minutes. Drying time will vary depending on the temp. The hotter it is, the faster it will dry. I don’t recommend waxing your car if the temp is below 75F.

Once I’ve got the polish wiped off, I get my shop light out again. If you do this step, I hope you have a strong stomach. If your paint is anything like mine, it looks great, but when I shine the light on my paint, every little scratch and imperfection comes out.:puke It also highlights any spots that I missed while I was removing the polish. Go over any remaining spots with your micro-fiber towel.

Now that all of the polish has been removed, I use Zaino’s Z6 spray detailer and wipe the car down again. The Z6 works with the polish and really brings out the shine. If you are not using Zaino, this would be where the wax is applied, same as the polish explained above. I will usually apply three layers of the polish and spray.

If you wait any time between applications of the polish/wax I recommend wiping the car down with a California Duster before the next application. The duster will remove any dust or pollen that might have settled on the paint.

Finally, I break out my boars hair brushes for the detail work. There is always someplace that you can get wax and/or polish in, but you cannot get a rag into, to remove it. That is what the brushes are for. The normal culprits are the badges on the nose and tail, as well as the side marker lights. Anywhere that body panels meet is also a good place for wax build up. I go around the car with my trusty light and hit the usual suspects. The brushes require a delicate touch though. Press to hard and they can scratch the paint.

And that folks, is how I wash, (and wash again, and probably wash her one more time), and wax my car. As you can tell, it is a lot of work, so it usually only happens once a year.

:thumb Jason
Wow....learn someting new everyday...am printing this and will frame it in the garage. :thumb
Jason, that is a very informative, detailed, and well written procedure. :upthumbs I am sure that it provides great results:cool and it is very timely, as I am planning on doing my '86 next weekend. Black is always fun:D Anyway, thanks for taking the time to share the info:beer :w

Outstanding guide to the proper way to wash and wax!! Whew...I'm exhausted just reading it! :L


Outstanding guide to the proper way to wash and wax!! Whew...I'm exhausted just reading it! :L


:wI agree, it took me longer to read it that it did to wash mine! Good job twiget lots of good information here.:thumb

Excellent "how to" for a proper detail, Jason. Thanks for sharing it with everyone.

I use the Zaino products also. I stopped using wax years ago when I realized the waxes just don't give the same result or last very long here in the deep South.

Like you, I do this procedure about once a year and then simply wash, dry and use the detail spray otherwise.

As long as water beads up, I'm happy. :cool

:wJane Ann
I'm glad you guys liked it. After 10 years and 3 Corvettes, I think I'm starting to figure out how this detailing stuff is done. :W I'll try and post some pics later today of Lust, after her make over is complete.

:thumb Jason
I think that you did a great job here writing it up. The only difference that I do is, if I look at the surface and see the spider web swirl marks I break out my Porter Cable 7424 orbital polisher.

The Zaino swirl reducing polish just wasn't doing it for me, so I took the next step....paint correction. These steps take time, but the effort is well worth it. Because of the fact that Zaino doesn't have the correction products I have been converted over to Adams Polishes.

I use the Swirl and Haze Remover along with an orange pad on my PC. This will remove the swirl marks leaving you a better base to start the polishing steps.

The second step is Fine machine polish on a black pad. This carries the polishing started by the SHR (Swirl and Haze Remover) to the next level.

I finish up with the Machine SuperWax on a white pad the results are amazing.

If you want to put Zaino on after this go ahead the products seem to be compatible.

Another member here got me started, Junkman2008. When I first watched his homemade videos, he too, was using Zaino products but, like me moved on to Adams line. Here is a link to one of his videos on washing a car.
YouTube - Car Wash & Waxing 101 - Part 2
Tom, I think those Adams products are amazing. They seem to keep a keen eye on ease of use. Read: More time to drive the Vette, less time spent on cleaning and waxing! :beer

The other great thing about Adams is their customer service is without a doubt the best I've EVER run across.
I think it might be a "tie" with Jon of Fuel Injector Connection. :upthumbs

I think it might be a "tie" with Jon of Fuel Injector Connection. :upthumbs


I think that you may be right Gregory, Jon is top notch as well.
I've never used an orbital before, so I am pretty hesitant to use it on my 'Vette. I might work up the initiative to wax my Suburban with an orbital. It needs to be repainted anyway, so if I burn the paint, oh well.

This last round of detailing used up the last of my Zaino. I might try Adams for next years detailing job.

And here are the promised pics:




The paint on the hood is really not this bad, I forgot my California Duster...


:thumb Jason
Jason, you almost have to try to burn the paint with the orbital. They actually very delicate on the paint.
Jason, that is a very informative, detailed, and well written procedure. :upthumbs I am sure that it provides great results:cool and it is very timely, as I am planning on doing my '86 next weekend. Black is always fun:D Anyway, thanks for taking the time to share the info:beer :w

Personally, I think black is the hardest color to take care of. I have been wanting to post this in the C4 section as it does pertain, but is also a care and detailing subject point. I got tired of getting wax in places it isn't supposed to be!


Yep that is Blue Painters tape!! Took all of about 10 minutes maybe!
I may resize some pictures and post of the hole car. For now that is about the best detail I can provide. It actually looked, in a good way weird to see the blue on the car.
Jason, thanks for that fine info. I have no questions about washing & waxing my Vette at all. Super!!
Nice work

Thanks Jason.

Printing it now. Hope to pick up new GS convertible in about a month.:rotfl

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