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Shine on: We put products to the test (and threw in some tips, too)

Watch Eric Lai test three polishes and find a clear, shiny winner

  • Choosing a car at dealership. Thoughtful grey hair man in formalwear leaning at the car and looking away

There’s nothing like that hard-candy shine of a new car. Alas, a car has to be new to have it … or does it?

Wheels expert Eric Lai heard about a new Canadian-made paint finish cleaner that was making some pretty glossy claims, and knew he had to test its mettle.

California Kiss ?n Shine is a 3-in-1 product that claims to be “the best cleaner/wax/polish available.”

Lai tested California Kiss ?n Shine against NuFinish and Mothers California Gold on a sunfaded 2002 Grand Am. (You can see the results for yourself in the video, below.)

He found NuFinish made little noticeable difference other than removing a bit of the cloudy, oxidized layer from the paint. California Kiss ?n Shine and Mothers both did well, but Kiss ?n Shine won out for a deeper lustre. (The car owner reports results were unchanged after two weeks in the sun and rain.)

All products were generously applied. Ironically, the least amount of product used was the Kiss ?n Shine, which also needs no wait time for the product to haze. The product was wiped on with one cloth, then immediately wiped off with a second cloth. It provided the best shine, and fast.

The other products needed several minutes to dry to a haze before buffing with a second cloth. Mothers went on the thickest but the excess came off in the polishing cloth rather than sticking to the car. It placed a respectable second, but the wait time was excruciating.

Having won that round, Kiss ‘N Shine then went on to tackle a 2007 ex-police cruiser. The police decals had been removed, revealing like-new paint underneath that stood out in comparison to the sun-faded paint surrounding it. Could Kiss ?N Shine ?equalize? the two?

It took a few applications but, yes, it did manage the impossible: it made the ?police? disappear.

California Kiss ?N Shine ($20/bottle) is made in Canada and is available online.

And since this is no doubt going to make you want to run out and shine your ride, we’ve rounded up some of our best how-to tips, just below the video. Happy waxing!


  • No matter what you’ve been told, conventional car paint and clear-coat finishes can be treated the same for shine purposes. Paint is paint, so it’s okay to polish and wax a clear-coat.
  • If you’ve washed your car first (and you should have), go over the whole car and engine again with towels to eliminate water splashes.
  • Polish all paint areas with a low- speed orbital polisher/wax applicator, if you have one. If not, use towels and elbow grease for a deep, swirl-free shine.
  • Choose a high-quality polish and apply it sparingly, about a tablespoon to start on the polisher or your towel, then an additional teaspoon each time after that.
  • Divide the paint into six or eight sections. Do one at a time, including mirrors and trim if they’re painted. Don’t ignore hard-to-reach corners and decorative grooves.
  • Next comes the waxing. Slip a fresh “bonnet” (the foam pad’s terry-cloth covering) on your polisher/waxer – or grab fresh towels – and apply wax thinly.
  • Follow contours and body lines. If you’re using a machine, finish up with a hand wax to get those little spots the bonnet couldn’t reach.
  • Shine on: We put products to the test (and threw in some tips, too)
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