Waxing a motorcycle

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Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - Ride Motorsports


Motorcycle Detailers Notebook

Part 2: Perfecting Your Wax Job

In our continuing effort to support the line of Griot's Garage cleaning and detailing products we carry in the Sound RIDER! store, we bring you the second installment of the Motorcycle Detailers Notebook. Griot's Garage produces the finest cleaning and detailing products on the planet and we want you to understand how to best use them so your bike looks great and withstands the elements as best as it can for as long as you have it.

Waxing the paint on your motorcycle can make a big difference in how your bike looks and how long your paint lasts. With so many bikes using pearl-essence paints these days, more than ever before the look and luster of any bike is greatly enhanced with a good wax job.

But it's not as simple as just washing your bike and applying a coat of wax. In fact you may be doing more harm than good going that route. Instead you need to prepare the paint for the wax using several steps. Because of the size of a motorcycle, the process doesn't take nearly as long as with a car. Where an average car takes anywhere from two to four hours to wax properly, a motorcycle takes less than an hour max. So relax, you'll have plenty of time to ride when you're done.

But before you can wax the bike, you'll need to give it the basic wash job that we spoke about in the first installment. (f you missed Part 1: Perfecting The Basic Wash Job click the link to read it). This time when you dry the bike off, don't worry too much about getting the painted surfaces perfectly dry – we'll have them wet again in no time. Move the bike into the shade since it's never a good idea to wash or wax in direct sunlight.

Strip the old wax

The first step is to strip away any old waxes. Some waxes don't work well with others, so it's best to strip off any that are there from before and get right down to the painted surface. To do this use a few squirts of Griot's Garage Paint Prep, let it stand for four to six minutes then remove with a wet cotton cloth.

Play with the clay

Now, run your fingers along the paint. Does it feel ultra smooth, or do you feel tiny little nubs as you pass your fingers across the paint? Most likely you do. Your bike has lots of microscopic gunk stuck to the paint that you can't see. Tree sap, microscopic bug splats, water deposits, overspray, tar and oil are all typical things that never wash off, but instead sit on the surface almost invisibly after you wash your bike. To strip these away you'll use two products, Griot's Garage Speed Shine and Paint Cleaning Clay.

Begin by tearing a piece of Paint Cleaning Clay off about the size of a few sticks of gum. Then spray the surface with Speed Shine to get it lubricated and rub the Paint Cleaning Clay back and forth across it. Paint Cleaning Clay won't scratch the surface - instead what it does is help attract, adhere to and pull off these little nasties as it passes across an area. Never drop your Paint Cleaning Clay on the ground, but if you do, toss it because now it's picked up large dirt granules from where it fell and you don't want to drag those across the surface. When you finish, spray a little Speed Shine into the container of the remaining Paint Cleaning Clay to keep it moist until the next time you use it.

Polish out the scratches

So now you've removed the old wax, bug splats, and other foreign stuff. But we've got one more step to go before applying the wax. We want to polish out any scratches or swirl marks in the paint. Jacket zippers, luggage, tank bags and so on all have a way of putting scratches into our paint. With newer bikes it's not such a big deal since most manufacturers use several layers of clear coat on the paint to protect it. But wax alone won't remove deeper scratches. To do that we need to use polishes that are safe and get the job done.

Photo: The scratch on the painted surface above is only on the clear coat and was easily removed with a little machine polish and the use of the Orbital Polishing Machine.

Your first option is to apply Griot's Garage Fine Hand Polish to a 3" Mini Orange Polishing Pad and rub over the scratch in a circular pattern. This may do the job depending on how deep the scratch is. When you're done spray a little speed shine and remove the polish with a Griot's Garage Micro Fiber Polish Removal Towel.

If the scratch is in a tight location this may be your only choice, but if it's readily accessible you can use a Griot's Garage Orbital Machine with a Griot's Garage Orange 6" polishing pad.

It's okay to go around in circles

An orbital machine – "No way - I'm not gonna burn my paint!" you may say. That's right – you won't with a Griot's Garage Orbital Polishing Machine because it's designed to do random oscillations as it spins so it never rotates in the same spot over and over again, making it safe for your paint. The paint burning some people are familiar with comes from those rinky-dink buffing kits that get attached to electric drills. The Griot's Garage Orbital Polishing Machine is far superior to that in that it won't even heat the paint area up. We've now used ours on over a dozen motorcycles and cars with nothing but great results. When using an Orbital Polishing Machine, place the pad to the paint before you turn it on, and turn it off with the pad on the paint as well, then you remove it once it's stopped moving.

Griot's Garage Polish and Waxing Pads are the other critical part of the equation when it comes to top grade polishing and waxing. The orange Polish Pad is stiff and allows the polish to do it's job as you move across the surface removing small and medium scratches. The red Waxing Pads are softer and allow you to evenly spread wax across the surface. Use the correct pad for the correct application. All of Griot's pads, when used with Griot's products, clean up easily with just water.

Okay, now that we've discussed orbitals and pads let's work on taking out a scratch with an Orbital Polishing Machine. Place the 6" Orange Pad onto the orbital, apply a little Griot's Garage Machine Polish 3 and work the pad back and forth across the scratch. Machine Polish 3 is the finest of the three machine polishes Griot's makes.

It may do the job, but if you need something a little stronger, go to the slightly courser Machine Polish 2 or the most course - Machine Polish 1. If you go to 2 or 1, you'll need to work your way backwards to Machine Polish 3 for your final polishing step. Always wipe each layer of polish off with Speed Shine and a Micro Fiber Polishing Cloth after each coat of polish.

Now let's wax

Well, here we are – at the final step, applying wax. We did a lot to get to this point and now our paint is ready to get some nice wax on it. The best wax we've ever used is Griot's Garage Best of Show Wax. It incorporates a little carnauba in its recipe and provides a durable and stellar finish to your paint surface that lasts longer than any other waxes we've tested.

Use a 3" Waxing Pad if you're going to wax all by hand, or place a 6" Waxing Pad onto your orbital buffer, place a little Best of Show Wax onto the pad and begin coating the surface. The Wax Pad does a nice job of evenly spreading the wax so you don't get thick patches and streaks along the way. A little wax goes a long way so there's no need to overdo it. If you think you need a little more wax, go back to where you first started waxing, rub along that area to thin it out and you'll actually get a little more wax back into your pad.

Allow the wax to dry and remove it using a white Griot's Garage Micro Fiber Wax Removal Towel. For any tough spots spritz the area with a little bit of Speed Shine, then rub it with the Wax Removal Towel. Take a look at the paint in the light to spot any wax you may not have completely removed.

But let's suppose you're on your way to a show and shine event you'll be showing your bike in. To enhance the depth and clarity apply additional coats of wax at least 12 hours apart.

Waxing and Polishing supplies used during the Perfecting Your Wax Job - made by Griot's Garage and available now in the Sound RIDER! store .


  • Paint Prep
  • Speed Shine
  • Paint Cleaning Clay
  • Fine Hand Polish
  • Machine Polish 3
  • Machine Polish 2
  • Machine Polish 1
  • Best of Show Wax


  • Orbital Polishing Machine
  • 3" Polish Pad
  • 3" Waxing Pad
  • 6" Polish Pad
  • 6" Waxing Pad
  • Micro Fiber Polish Removal Cloth
  • Micro Fiber Wax Removal Cloth

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