Waxes, paint sealants, and ceramic coatings are a common topic of discussion in the car care industry by enthusiasts and professional detailers alike. So what makes them different from each other? Which product is best for my car? Let’s take a look.
The terms wax, paint sealant, and ceramic coating are always listed in order of products containing the most organic ingredients to products containing the fewest organic ingredients. By coincidence, they are also listed by protective duration from the least amount of duration to the longest amount of duration.
It should also be noted that organic in the car care industry has a slightly different meaning than organic in the food industry. For this guide, we’ll be using the terms organic and natural interchangeably.
Organic in the car care and auto detailing industry means that its main active ingredients are originated from natural resources such as plants or minerals. However, while waxes, paint sealants, and ceramic coatings all contain inorganic ingredients such as solvents and polymers, each has a different organic to inorganic ratio of ingredients. Some have absolutely nothing natural in them at all.
When it comes to wax, the most common, naturally sourced ingredient is carnauba wax, which comes from Brazil’s carnauba palm tree. Beeswax and paraffin wax are also common ingredients found in detailing waxes. These natural ingredients are what give your car that incredible warm shine after waxing. These natural ingredients break down a lot faster than inorganic ingredients which, unfortunately, is why wax doesn’t last more than one to three months. If your goal is to show your car at auto shows, and want to blow people away with an incredible shine, then you definitely want to consider waxing it. If protecting your car’s paint from the elements is the goal, then you need to look at paint sealants or ceramic coatings.
Paint Sealants contain a combination of inorganic and organic ingredients that give you both durability and shine. Paint Sealants are polymer-based and provide protection that waxes just can’t achieve. Sealants prevent fading from UV exposure, are hydrophobic, and they provide protection against etching and staining. Waxes can do that too, but you’d have to wax your car every week in order to achieve that goal, so don’t expect a wax to be your protectant.
Paint Sealants are not intensive to apply, and their protection can last anywhere from 6 months to 12 months, depending on the brand and product you use. If you don’t want to spend your time and money on a ceramic coating, but still care about protecting your paint, then get yourself a paint sealant.
Finally, even though paint sealants contain carnauba and inorganic ingredients, the sealant’s shine isn’t as warm and illustrious as that of wax. It is often described as a cold, mirror-like shine. So if shine is essential to you, do this Show Shine Garage trick and layer a coating of wax on top of your paint sealant and enjoy the protection and amazing shine. Just remember you will have to apply the wax every three months.
There’s nothing organic about ceramic coatings. They often have a strong chemical smell, require gloves, protective eye-wear, and a face-mask to handle.
If you decide a ceramic coating is best for your car you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the different types of coatings: ceramic, acrylic, silicate, or glass, to name a few. We’ll talk more about the different types of ceramic coatings in a future guide.
Prepping the paintwork surface for the ceramic coating application is a project all in itself—proper paint cleansing, decontamination, and polishing to remove scratches and imperfections is a must. The paintwork surface should also be neutralized with a pH neutralizer to ensure proper bonding between the paint and the coating occurs.
Although not difficult to apply, many ceramic coating brands require professional installation of their pro-grade coatings. Having a certified professional install the coating can ensure no mistakes are made because once coatings are applied and bonded to your paintwork, they’re not going anywhere and will require aggressive abrasion in order to remove them. Some coatings will give you one year of paint protection. While in comparison, others will last up to 3, 5, 7, 9, and even 25 years. Ceramic coatings are categorized as either semi-permanent or permanent.
Ceramic coatings are basically a second clear coat designed as a protective sacrificial layer to preserve the life of your paint and keep it in excellent condition. The gloss is sharper and more intense than the gloss of a wax and deeper and clearer than a paint sealant’s gloss. You can layer wax on top of some ceramic coatings after they have fully cured, but the gloss of a ceramic coating is so intense, you may find you don’t want to add anything else. Applying wax on top of a ceramic coating may alter some of the coating’s hydrophobic properties that they are known for as well.
After absorbing all that information, you might still be wondering what product is right for you and your car. Let’s break it down and make it short and sweet.
- Wax is a great way to get your paint shiny. Use wax as a top layer product to make your paint shine instead of using it as a protective base product. A perfect option for show cars.
- Use a paint sealant when you want a durable protective base layer that will last 6 to 12 months, and don’t want to spend the time and money prepping and applying a ceramic coating. Add a layer or two of wax on top of the sealant to give it that show car shine gloss and shine. This option great for daily drivers. However, it’s definitely worthwhile to have a ceramic coating applied to your windows.
- Ceramic coatings are the absolute best way to protect your paint for the most extended amount of time and give it an intense shine. If you have the cash and the time, definitely consider coating it.
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