It's hard to wash and wax a beat-up car. You make do with what you have. So let's say your car is badly rusted or oxidized but it hasn't gotten to the point wherein your only recourse is to junk it.
Before you go to the nearest car detailer and pay a mint to have it fixed, you still have the option of cleaning the paint with a product formulated for oxidation removal.
There is also a product known as paint cleaner that's capable of removing surface contaminants on your paint finish after you've washed your car. This will make it more receptive to waxing or polishing as well as easier to wax or polish.
Deciding between Wax and Polish
- Comes in Many Formulas and Forms: Both polishes and waxes come in different formulas and forms. You can get them in spray-on, cream, and liquid formulas for one thing. You can even get some that match your paint color to ensure coverage of shallow scratches for another thing. They're all formulated to improve your car finish's overall appearance when push comes to shove. Furthermore, waxes are usually made of synthetic or carnauba wax.
- Waxes versus Polishes: Polish is when you rub your washed finish surface enough times that you can see your reflection on it, like it's a mirror. Wax is what you put on top of a polished surface in order to keep it from fading easier, with it serving as a protective shielding that itself adds to the finish's gloss. This is why waxes produce a much better shine than polish; it's because they're usually put on top of an already polished surface to boost the gloss. However, they need to be frequently reapplied to work.
- Polishes Can Sometimes Contain Wax: Certain polishing creams and liquids contain wax on top of their other polishing ingredients that keep your finish smooth and shiny. This wax isn't made of carnauba but instead is synthetic wax that contains polymers to better stick to the paint, thus giving the finish better protection right after you've shined and buffed the product all over it. Such a product saves you the hassle and time of polishing your car first before applying wax separately over it.
- Polishing Before Waxing: Why do people recommend that you polish your car before waxing it? This is because wax is supposed to boost what's underneath it. It can make your finish shiny when it's clean but it's usually better to polish your finish first then apply wax over it like Saran Wrap in order to give it a protected shine that should last for months. The idea here is that polish further makes the finish as shiny as possible while the coat of wax is there to protect that shininess.