This article aims to highlight the differences, advantages and disadvantages across paint coatings, sealants & waxes. We will cover various aspects like durability, cost, longevity and much more in order to serve as a reference. Before we begin, we’d like to make it clear that this article is an comparable overview of the product categories. It’s not focused on placing dividing lines as we believe each product type has a part to play in paint protection dependent on circumstances, customer needs and budget.
FIRST, SOME DEFINITIONS
Disclosure: Everything listed below is a form of coating. The definition of a coating is;
COATING (SOURCE: FREEDICTIONARY.COM)
A layer of a substance spread over a surface for protection or decoration; a covering layer. “a coating of paint”
In this article when coatings are mentioned we are specifically referring to products that describe themselves as nano, ceramic or glass coatings.
THE 3 CATEGORIES FOR PAINT PROTECTION:
Wax- Car waxes can come in the form of liquids or hard pastes. Each feature a specific ratio of naturally-occurring wax as the main ingredient. Waxes are intended to protect the paint and/or increase the depth of gloss. They usually offer that signature wet look shine and are usually easy to apply and remove. Traditional waxes will diminish through repeated washes and exposure to the elements. Car waxes usually provide protection for 1-4 months depending on their composition, quality and contents. Some hard paste waxes on average last longer than liquid waxes as the carnauba wax ratio is higher in paste waxes.
Sealant- Paint sealants are liquids that contain manmade polymers, resins and synthetics to increase their durability and longevity of protection. Paint sealants offer an easy application processes and offer a extremely tight molecular barrier to a paint surface for increased bonding capability and structure.
Coating- A paint protection product that contains man-made or synthetic protection ingredients. They bond to the paint to both provide a barrier of protection as well as create a clear, high gloss finish. The products available in this category are considered “permanent” coatings because they cannot be removed unless you remove them via abrasion (polishing) or you neglect them.
DEFINITION OF PERMANENT IN THE CONTEXT OF PAINT PROTECTION
This is a sticky situation to define as the nature of reading on the internet is difficult for some personality types, where they like to read super literally into each and every single word, in this case the word permanent.
DEFINITION OF PERMANENT
In the context that a coating as regarded “permanent” it means that once the coating is properlyapplied and allowed to cure and bond with the underlying paint, it will not separate from the paint under normal circumstances.
In this same way, legitimate and quality paint coatings are not going to come off unless you apply high physical or chemical stress to the product. Traditional car waxes and paint sealants will slowly wear down without occasional reapplication intervals. So in the context of and in comparison with traditional car waxes and paint sealants, paint coatings can last longer.
There are drawbacks to using a permanent coating. It must be applied properly and to a smooth, clean surface. Any flaws in your paint will be automatically sealed in once a permanent coating is applied. This advanced detailing technique is difficult to remove. It will require abrasive polishing, chemicals or sometimes wet sanding, so be sure it is the right choice for you before moving forward.
However, in today’s market it’s difficult to choose the right option. You may hear claims like;
“Don’t worry it’s Permanent”
“It’s so durable, you can drive your car into the sun”
“It’s a glass coating for your car”
Beware of the marketing fluff. Some people will say anything just to close the sale and get your business. Be sure you ask questions and research the product and business before making any decision. The most popular marketing language out there tied to coatings is “glass”. Glass is a material that develops from sand, a “glass coating” is a great concept but it’s a spin on words. To apply true glass to paint would require temperatures that will exceed the melting point of most metals and plastics on the car.
Now before some of you run out screaming, there are positives to coatings. Cities that have high fallout or pollution output, or if you live in near an industrial area, you’d want to build up as much protection as possible. Any paint protection method, whether it is a wax, sealant or coating, is designed to provide a sacrificial barrier where the protective layer takes all the impact from the environment instead of your paint. Some paint protection options will respond differently. You will find different results within the same class of protection (e.g. within the range of waxes) and you will definitely see a difference outside the classes (e.g. brand X sealant vs. brand Y coating)
SACRIFICIAL LAYER PAINT PROTECTION CONCEPT
Our recommendation is that you consider building sacrificial layers of protection on your car, given the products you’ve chosen are able to be layered. If you decided a coating is right for you, ideally you’d want the paint coating to form the strong foundation and bond to your paint the most. Next you would apply the sealant, increasing the amount of protection, and lastly apply a high gloss carnauba wax. The wax acts as the first layer to be sacrificed, taking most of the hits during everyday use and weekly washing.
NOTE: Some coating manufacturers market their product by stating that you never have to wax your car again. We’d advise that you confirm this claim with the manufacturer or approved applicator whether this is a marketing spin or that their product is sensitive to waxes and unable to have layers built upon them.
By applying a high quality wax you can extend the protective effect of this wax layer out to 4 months and then reapply the wax at this time in an effort to prevent the underlying sealant and coating from being affected. If you didn’t have time to reapply, theres no harm as the underlying sealant will now stand up to the onslaughts of the elements.
The major benefit of developing sacrificial layers is that it gives you time before any underlying layer becomes affected. If you’re looking to just apply a coating and be done with it, you are asking a lot for one layer of protection to deal with no matter how durable the product claims to be, especially on a daily driver.
One analogy to compare this notion is to imagine if you were going to visit Antartica, you’d have to protect and maintain your body temperature from the harsh elements. Let’s say your expedition jacket is “the wax”, your underlying wooly winter clothes are “the sealant” and your thermal long sleeve garments and underwear is “the coating”. Would you be confident to venture into that harsh environment with just your thermal gear? Probably not a good idea, the more layers in this case, the better!
By building sacrificial layers at the beginning, whether you do it yourself or the detailer who installed your coating does it for you, you are buying yourself more time, so when it comes around to the 4th wash in the month you can quick apply a thin layer of wax or spray sealant. The application process is very easy and takes less than 15 minutes and is a good investment of your time to protect your expensive clear coat and possible coating.
We all have different needs and lifestyles and our cars reflect that. So it doesn’t matter whether you view your car as completely utilitarian or a source of passion and sentimental value, you have many options and methods when it comes to protecting it.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article.