Wax, Sealant, and Ceramic coatings- differences explained


30 Apr
30Apr

Traditionally when people think of washing cars they automatically think of the phrase wash and wax. Back in the day if you spent Sunday morning washing your car with a bucket and sponge, you'd most likely use a shampoo with some form of wax additive. Those with a bit more time might have bought themselves a tin of wax, most probably Turtle Wax, and hand applied it then buffed it off.

Nowadays, a lot of people tend to take their car to an automated car wash to save time, decide how much they want to spend, and a few minutes later drive off with a car that looks cleaner than when it went in. This is fine for those who don't want to spend hours working on their own vehicles, and choosing from a menu of options for a wash, wax, underbody spray, wheel clean etc is simple, but for those who do their own cars at home, or who are considering having them professionally cleaned, there are choices to be made which will have a direct impact on the finish of their vehicle, and how the paintwork is protected, so here s a brief guide to those options.

I'm going to assume that the vehicle has been fully washed and polished before any of these coatings are applied, if you've not done this then you're not really going to get optimum results, and AutoMOTO Detail as a professional detailer will have spent at least one hour washing, decontaminating and preparing your vehicle for machine polishing, and only after that has been done would any of the following coatings be applied.

So what are the options and their benefits?

Glaze- The industry description of a glaze,  is a shine-enhancing product that goes on after polishing but before the wax or sealant. It is made with oils and wetting agents that amplify your paint's shine and improve the clarity. Whilst applying this to your car will increase it's gloss it's not really doing much in the way of protection, which is why it's necesssary to then apply a wax or sealant on top afterwards. The issue with that is that waxes or sealants adhere better to polished paintwork, so applying on top of a glaze isn't taking optimum advantage of that protective coats properties, but if you're after a short term improvement, say in advance of selling your car, it's a good option. 

Wax-Think of waxes as sacrificial layers which are put onto the paintwork to protect it. Adding wax protection helps repel rain, UV rays, heat, moisture, oxidation, and other contaminants, the more layers that are added the greater the protection and life, although two coats would be the most I'd do at any one time.  

Waxes come in either paste or liquid format. The most recognised name is probably Carnauba which comes from Brazil and is  the hardest natural wax on the planet. When applied to a vehicles paintwork it creates a rich warm and shiny glow, especially so on dark coloured paints. A paste wax is applied by hand in a cross hatch pattern to ensure maximum coverage, and then removed by either machine or hand buffing. When it hardens on the paint it creates protection against sun and rain. Life expectancy is 6-8 weeks dependent on weather, location, and if the vehicle is garaged or not. Once rain stops beading on the paintwork the covering needs topping up to provide protection again.

Blended waxes combine synthetic and natural carnuba wax, and liquid waxes are spray on buff off formulations.

Sealant-These are basically synthetic waxes in liquid format, and are especially suitable for lighter coloured vehicles. Application is spray on and buff off. The benefits of a sealant is that it gives your paintwork a good gloss finish, but not the warm shine that wax does. The plus point of a sealant over a wax though is that it lasts longer, anywhere from 4-12 months, although ideally you'd top up after 6 months.

You can also put a covering of wax on top of a sealant coating for extra protection.

Ceramic coating- This is the hot industry product at the moment but has a high cost to its purchase and application.

The scientific description of a ceramic coating, is a liquid containing Si02 (pure glass) in molecular form. When applied, it forms an extremely hard layer of protection which not only increases the paintworks shine and gloss, but creates a surface extremely resistant to water (hydrophyllic) which then beads off the paintwork, and which is scratch resistant, but NOT scratch proof. 

There are many formulations of ceramic coatings which are graded on their hardness (moh scale) with the maximum hardness currently known as 9H. The hardness directly influences the expected life of the product, the maximum offering being up to 10 years. What isn't made so clear is that like a wax or sealant it will need top ups. You need to wash with a ceramic coating friendly PH neutral shampoo, certainly not at your local car wash. Then top ups need to be compatible with the product applied at regular intervals, ideally every 3 or 6 months.

Think of a ceramic coating like a nail varnish, whatever is underneath that varnish is locked beneath that surface. If it's applied to a cars paintwork that hasn't been prepared, you will be sealing whatever scratches, swirls and imperfections are in it for a long time, especially given some coatings can last up to 10 years! These coatings are ideally suited to brand new cars to protect them, or to vehicles which have had their paintwork intensively detailed and prepared before its application. It's not a fit and forget product, but it will protect your vehicle better than a wax or sealant, will give an insane level of gloss and shine, and repel water super effectively, thereby making future wash maintenance easier.

Detail sprays- These are interim products which can be used periodically between major washes or polishing to maintain finish. There are multiple options; spray waxes, spray sealants, hybrid wax/sealants, and even ceramic infused sprays. Be aware though that a ceramic spray is NOT a true ceramic, as ceramic product can only be stored in glass containers due to its molecular content. Ceramic spray products may claim to be ceramic, and will contain certain Si02 ceramic elements, but are not true or 100% ceramic in content.  


AutoMOTO Detail can help you by assessing your vehicle, discussing your intended usage and maintenance options, and prepare your vehicle and apply whichever coating you decide is best for you.  
   

The choice is yours!  

    

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