When you wax your car, you're applying a paste or liquid to its surface, letting
it dry, and then removing the residue--leaving a hard, protective
coating. If the surface has been neglected for a while, you
might need to use some additional car care products. Here's
a list of the basics, usually available in several different
brands and at varying costs:
Rubbing or polishing compounds: These are abrasive pastes or liquids used to remove dull, damaged areas of paint or other material before you polish or wax. Be careful using them--it's a little too easy to rub all the way to bare metal.
Polishes: Although applied like waxes, polishes aren't the same--they make the surface very shiny but don't protect it like a wax does. Using a polish before a wax can give a deeper shine than wax alone. Water spots, small scratches, or other minor surface imperfections can often be removed by polishing gently.
Waxes: Waxes are natural or synthetic, and come in liquid or paste form.
They protect the surface and add shine.
Wax/polish combos: Wax/polish combos are generally
a little more abrasive than simple wax products. They'll make
life easier by cleaning off any old wax on the surface, but
aren't really appropriate for application over a separate
polish (so if you use a polish, buy a simple wax rather than