When you bought your current car at the dealership, you were probably astonished by the paint job: the striking color that stretched along the smooth contours of the hood, over the roof and down the sides. If your car doesn't have the same luster, the right wax job can return your automobile to its former beauty.

To make your car shine again, you will need the following:

  • car wax
  • cotton terrycloth, rags/towels
  • a wax sponge
  • car wash soap
  • water

Choose your car wax
The type of wax you choose should depend on your car's specific needs, as specified in the owner's manual, and how you waxed your car the last time.

Terry Haltom, education manager for the collision repair and refinish (CRRT) program at Universal Technical Institute (UTI) in Sacramento, Calif., recommends 3M waxes, saying, "The special blend of carnauba and imported waxes, in combination with an extremely fine polishing abrasive, is capable of removing light oxidation and minor clear coat imperfections while producing a durable, high-gloss finish."

Additionally, there are liquid, soft and hard waxes. Liquid waxes are easy to apply but don't last as long. Soft waxes are also easy to apply and often contain cleaners, which means they shouldn't be used for every wax job. Hard waxes take the longest amount of time to apply but also offer the greatest level of protection.

Abrasive wax can damage dark-colored paints or cars with clear coats or lacquer finishes, so use a gentle wax on these surfaces. Many auto-experts recommend car wax with carnauba, which comes from the leaves of Brazilian carnauba palm trees. The wax is hard because it needs to protect the leaves from intense tropical sun.

Park your car in a shady spot because you don't want the sun to bake the wax. Before you start waxing your vehicle, you will need to wash it down with mild car wash soap and water. Don't use dish soap -- you can damage your car's paint job.

Put the car soap into a bucket and fill it about 75 percent full with warm water. Use a hose to remove any dirt off the car. Lather a sponge in the soapy water and apply it to one side of your car. Rinse off with a water hose. Proceed to the next side and repeat. Dry the car thoroughly with a towel. If desired, wash the car once over again with plain water.

Now that you have the dirt and grime off your car, it is time to make it shine. Apply the wax to either a damp wax sponge or directly to your car.

Apply the wax evenly across a particular section of your vehicle using a circular motion. Let the wax sit for as long as the wax bottle specifies, usually a few minutes. Make sure it doesn't dry out completely.

Remove the wax with a soft cotton rag in the same order that you applied it, polishing the car. When you remove the wax, you will unveil your car's new shiny look. Repeat for the rest of your car.