The quest to achieve glossy mirror-like paint is one thing car lovers have in common. The options available to achieve this are numerous and selecting the right product(s) can be confusing. Car waxes, sealants etc. have 2 main functions:
Protect your paint
Enhance the shine
Most products do both to a certain extent but different products provide different levels of protection and/or look to your paint. This article will explain these options to help you make an educated choice regarding what solution best fits your requirements.
There are 3 main types of automotive paint protection:
Car waxes have been around for decades. At one time they were the only protection for your paint available and are still quite popular today. However, one of biggest drawbacks to waxes is they are not very durable. Depending on what wax type you are looking at (added to car wash soap, spray-on, paste etc.), waxes have a lifespan of a few days to up to about 3 months. Waxes "sit" on top of your paint as opposed to bonding to your paint like other options do.
If you always park under a tree and get tree sap on your paint on a regular basis a wax is probably not the best solution for you. The sap will very quickly eat through the wax and damage your paint. In addition, wax evaporates at temperatures between 160 and 180 F. If your car is parked outside during hot summers you can have the entire wax melted and evaporated within a few days.
However waxes still have a place in the detailing world. If you own a classic car with single stage paint or a solid colour paint (no metallic flakes) and are looking to achieve a depth & warmth look to your paint nothing beats a good quality carnauba wax.
Paint sealants contain polymers. When applied to your paint these polymers bond to your paint and provide a much harder, slicker surface than a wax does. This harder surface reflects the paint more than waxes do. As a result of this sealants will make the flakes "pop" if you have a metallic paint job. Sealants generally have a durability of 6-9 months. Because of their high gloss & slickness, polymer based detail sprays are very popular.
Sealants are as easy to apply as a liquid wax and are great solution if you don't spend a lot of time on car care. Applying a sealant in the fall and again in the spring and then augmenting that with a polymer detail spray every few car washes will keep your vehicle well protected & looking great.
Ceramic based products have really taken off in the detailing world over the past 5 years and are available in numerous forms. Graphene based products are much newer and for the DIY market are mainly still just available in a spray-on or paste format. For a more comprehensive comparison between ceramic & graphene please check out our blog article Ceramic vs Graphene.
Ceramic based products contain Si02. These Si02 are nano sized glass particles that bond to your paint at a molecular level and provide an even harder barrier than paint sealants. Ceramics have a high level of chemical resistance. If you are seeking the most robust protection from the elements then a ceramic is the way to go.
Its not only the level of protection that has made made ceramics popular with car enthusiasts. Its the gloss! You are literally covering your paint surface with a thin layer of glass. An Si02 infused paint product will give you that highly reflective, mirror-like finish that many car lovers desire. Ceramics are also extremely slick and as a result give you a great water beading effect.
Ceramics now come in many different forms. Which one is right for you is basically dependent on the durability you desire. Obviously the thicker the coating is the longer it lasts & the better the protection you get. The ceramic options in order of durability/protection given are:
Ceramic Car Wash Soaps: Ceramic soaps contain a very small amount of Si02 and will give your vehicle a great shine with the wash. However do not use a ceramic wash soap as your base protection. The amount of Si02 in the wash is not enough to protect the vehicle. You do not have to have a ceramic coated car to use a ceramic soap but if you do its a great way to augment that gloss with every wash.
Ceramic Detail Sprays: Ceramic detail sprays are used like any other detail spray but contain Si02 particles. If you already have ceramic on your vehicle this a great way to get that "just coated" look & beading effect every time you quick detail your vehicle.
Use on Wet Car Ceramics: These products are very simple to use. You simply wash your car, mist the product on the vehicle & re-rinse then dry. These ceramics give about 3 months protection & are a great option if you want a ceramic gloss but don't really need a lot of protection.
Liquid & Spray Wax Ceramics: This category is one of the most popular. They are a great overall balanced solution. They are easy to use and depending on the brand last from 6 months to 1 year. Like all ceramic products they provide that slick surface, reflective high gloss ceramic look. Applying a 6 month base coat then using a ceramic based car wash or ceramic detail spray will keep your vehicle looking great year round.
Ceramic Coatings: Ceramic Coatings are the most durable of all the DIY options. A ceramic coating will last 2 years (3 if you use a maintenance spray every 6 months). If you are looking for optimum protection then a coating is the best solution. Coatings do require a bit more time to apply then the other choices but are still no more than a 1 day project. See our blog post How to install a DIY Ceramic Coating for more info. It is also very critical that you spend the time preparing your paint properly (remove scratches etc.) since the coating will be on your paint surface for years as opposed to months. Although not compulsory (you can use wax or polymer products on top of a ceramic) we do recommend sticking to Si02 infused maintenance products with your coating. Not only will you be maintaining that mirror look, every time you use a ceramic wash, detail spray etc. you are adding a sacrificial layer to your ceramic base which helps to prolong the coating's life.
A Word about Detail Sprays: Detail sprays are not designed to be used as your "base layer" of protection. However, whether you are using a wax, sealant or ceramic detailer they are a great item to have in your detailing toolbox. Use detail sprays between washes for removal of dust, fingerprints etc. They are a quick easy way to enhance your paint's appearance anytime.
Factors to Consider
When selecting what products are best suited for you consider some of the following:
Is the vehicle driven year round? If so consider a sealant or ceramic for the added protection from the elements.
Is the vehicle parked outdoors? Even if your vehicle is garaged at night if it is parked outdoors for hours a day while you work select a more durable product to protect your paint. A baking sun may melt your wax away or bird droppings may etch your paint before you get a chance to remove them.
Desire/Time Restraints. If you love detailing your vehicle & are meticulous about car care you may actually enjoy using a less durable product but applying it more frequently. Conversely if care car is not your "thing" and you just run your vehicle through a car wash when dirty (please NEVER brushed car washes) consider devoting a day to applying a ceramic coating that with a bit of maintenance will give you years of protection.
Summer Driven Only. If you fall into this category your options are numerous. You can select a paint protection product based more on achieving the look you desire as opposed to level of protection it gives.
Use the chart below to help guide you in selecting what works best for you:
Contact us at anytime and talk to one of our product specialists if you need more help in selecting or using any of our products. Make it shine!