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How Often Do I Need to Wax My Car?

CARS.COM — How often do you need to wax your car? This is easy to remember no matter your level of auto adeptness: If your vehicle is usually parked in a garage or otherwise sheltered from the elements, waxing it twice a year should be enough to protect the paint finish. But if your car is frequently exposed to snow, rain, road salt or even just spends most of the time outdoors, it probably should be waxed every three to four months.

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Wax not only gives your car an appealing shine, it also adds an extra layer of protection against harsh weather, salt, bird droppings, tree sap, ultraviolet rays, vehicular and industrial pollution, and other assorted crud found in the air and on roads. By not waxing your car on a regular basis, you are giving these corrosive substances a better chance of damaging the clear coat (the finish on top that seals the paint) and exposing the paint below. In addition, you’re making it harder to clean the car. If you have to rub and scrub an unwaxed car with a cloth or pad to get it clean, you risk scratching or rubbing through the clear coat and into the paint, which will result in visible surface scratches and swirls — especially if you have a black car.

Regularly washing your car gets rid of much of this stuff, but some, such as bug splatters and tar, can require additional elbow grease to remove. Many automatic car washes will “wax” your car for an extra fee as it rolls down the line, but these generally are just a thin-coat application that may not last weeks, let alone months, as a proper wax job should.

Whether you do it yourself or hire someone, a thorough wash of the exterior and applying a good-quality paste or liquid wax by hand at least twice a year can keep the paint finish on your vehicle looking almost new for years.

Rust isn’t nearly as common on cars as it was 30 years ago, but it is still the silent killer that never sleeps if you let salt or other corrosive materials accumulate.

If you live in the snow belt or near an ocean, the best medicine for protecting your car from salt damage is to get it washed on a regular basis, such as weekly. Even if it hasn’t snowed, there is still salt residue on the roads that winds up on your car, especially underneath on brake, suspension and other parts you can’t easily see.

Though some vehicle owners avoid automatic car washes because they fear the brushes can scratch or dull the paint, most car washes give the underside of vehicles a good cleaning, so salt and road crud doesn’t build up and cause corrosion.

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