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Everyone, especially people who love washing and waxing their cars, has been telling me about the long-term benefits of regular waxing. They tell me that the layer of wax acts as a protective shell and will prevent contamination (such as UV radiation, bird droppings, tar, etc) from "burning" into the car's paint. As a consequence the car's paint would keep it's good looks longer, and ultimately the car would even have a higher resale value.

I find that hard to believe. I don't know anything about chemistry so probably my thinking is not making sense at all, but the way I see it is that car waxes contain a number of natural and less natural ingredients but basically I think every car wax is in fact just grease. So you put a layer of grease on you car, which indeed makes it shine more and causes water to not stick as much to the paint. But I have a hard time believing that this thin layer of grease is going to cause any long-term beneficial effect. I bet if you wash the car regularly, that after 5 times the wax is simply gone and even if it does stay on the car, can this really have a significant protective effect? If yes, I would like to understand how.

The problem I have is that everyone who is telling about the benefits only refers to personal experience. Is there any real scientific and independent test result that proves these claims?

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Partial answer only:

Wax doesn't protect the car from acidic rain:

Does wax protect from acid precipitation : Waxed automotive finishes in the Acid Dew and Fog Test, SCHULZ U.; ZWICK W., European Coatings Journal 1997, no9, pp. 784-790

Tests with seven different wax recipes and two current types of coating showed that wax on coating surfaces is not a barrier against acid atmospheric precipitation. Waxing can both slightly inhibit and enormously increase the harmful effect of aggressive precipitation on the coating.

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    I was curious about where acid rain falls -- you might add that to your answer (wiki on acid rain affected areas for one starting point). The current answer won't be relevant for areas unaffected by acid rain. – Hendy Sep 5 '11 at 21:01
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    actually, it's quite relevant as it debunks one of the claims made in the original question (bird droppings work similarly to acid rain on the paint of your car, them being highly acidic). – jwenting Sep 6 '11 at 6:42
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    I am not sure this counts as a signifigant reference seeing as all of the important information is behind a paywall. There is nothing included here about the methodology or the control. – Chad Sep 9 '11 at 13:22
  • @Chad, there is a meta-question on this issue, which is probably a better place to discuss this. – Oddthinking Sep 10 '11 at 0:47
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    @Chad, I absolutely agree that acid rain is but one of the issues, and that this answer falls short. I started by saying it is a "partial answer"; I hope someone who has more luck researching this topic will incorporate it into their canonical answer. I would feel embarrassed by the current upvotes, which are probably more than it deserves, but I marked it as a Community Wiki when I wrote it. Your point about the abstract not containing enough info is an interesting one - and one I think should be made for everyone to discuss on the meta-question, rather than here. – Oddthinking Sep 13 '11 at 0:49

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