Choosing the appropriate car wax or paint sealant can be tough. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of products on the market and they all have their benefits. So what would be the best wax for your car?
To answer that question, we need to know what our options are and what separates them from one another.
Car Waxes contain some kind of naturally occurring wax, for example carnauba wax or beeswax.
Paint Sealants are made from synthetic or all man-made ingredients.
Within these categories, there are three sub-categories:
• Cleaner waxes or Cleaner sealants
• Finishing waxes or Finishing sealants
• Ceramic enhanced (waxes, sealants, and maintenance sprays)
Cleaner Waxes clean, polish and protect in one step. They contain natural protection ingredients like Carnauba wax. Examples include BLACKFIRE One Step and SONAX Easy Shine.
Cleaner Sealants clean, polish and protect, and they use all synthetic protection ingredients. Wolfgang Uber All In One and Klasse All In One are examples of cleaner sealants.
Finishing Waxes offer no cleaning ability with the focus on maximizing beauty with the protection based upon naturally occurring ingredients. BLACKFIRE Midnight Sun Carnauba Paste Wax is the classic example of a finishing wax, sometimes called a show car wax.
Finishing Sealants offer no cleaning ability with the focus on maximizing beauty with the protection based upon synthetic ingredients. BLACKFIRE Paint Sealant and Wolfgang Deep Gloss Paint Sealant are both finishing sealants.
Hybrids are a combination of both natural and synthetic ingredients, so they don't fit neatly into the other categories listed. Some hybrids clean and some do not. Wolfgang Fuzion Carnauba-Polymer Estate Wax is an example of a hybrid without cleaning abilities.
Ceramic enhanced these products continue fill their traditional roles with enhanced performance. Waxes and sealants are commonly boosted by graphene or SiO2 to improve durability and amplify gloss. These enhanced benefits can also be found in car shampoos and spray detailers to help maintain the shine and prolong the life of the underlying protection. Some good examples of these types of product are DP "Not Your Father's" Paste Wax, Wolfgang SiO2 Paint Sealant, and Pinnacle Black Label SiO2 Detail Spray.
When you go to your local auto parts stores, most of the retail waxes on the shelves are cleaner waxes targeted at casual detailers, not die-hard detailing enthusiasts. These products are geared toward daily drivers - vehicles that are driven every day and therefore show more wear and tear than a garage-kept car. Cleaner waxes accomplish polishing and protecting in one step so they are popular choices for occasional detailers.
A cleaner wax is also what we in the detailing industry call a One-Step product or an AIO. AIO stands for All-In-One. AIO products will do multiple processes in one step, such as:
A cleaner wax is best used on a neglected finish because it will likely have paint contamination buildup. Cleaner waxes, or all-in-one products, are designed for people who want to polish and protect the paint in one-step. Their goal is to get a great looking finish without having to invest the time and effort associated with a multiple-step approach.
A cleaner wax doesn't need to be used, and in most cases shouldn't be used, on a car in which the paint is in excellent condition; for example a brand new car or an older car in which the paint has been properly cleaned and polished. Finishes in great condition would be better served using a finishing wax or finishing sealant.
Another example of a finish that does not need a cleaner wax is a brand new paint job after the regular 30 days air-cure waiting time. Brand new paint should look great after you pick it up from the painter but most painters will tell you to wait at least 30 days before sealing the paint with either a wax or paint sealant.
After the 30 days have passed, a finishing wax should be used, not a cleaner wax. Theoretically new paint should in excellent condition so you shouldn't have to use any product with cleaners or abrasives in it. Why mess with perfection?
In most cases, a cleaner/wax type product needs to be worked into the surface. Cleaner waxes are not wipe on, wipe off products. Part of the cleaning action comes from you either working the product into the paint or you running an electric polisher that works the product into the paint. The worse condition the paint, the more you'll need to work the product.
Since finishing waxes and paint sealants should really only be applied to a finishes in excellent condition, there's no need to aggressively work the product over the surface like you would a cleaner wax. With a finishing wax or sealant you would apply and spread the product out of a section of a panel and then work the product gently for 2-3 passes over each square inch just to evenly cover the paint. You would not work the product like you would a cleaner wax with the idea of trying to remove defects.
Finishing waxes and paint sealants are often wiped on, spread around and then immediately wiped off. On detailing discussion forums, these types of products are referred to as WOWO (wipe on, wipe off) products.
Some manufacturers state that their products need to dry before removing. For these types of products, you would apply and spread the product out to create a thin coating. Then allow the coating to fully dry before removing with a soft towel or bonnet.
Similar to sealants, a ceramic coating’s sole job is to protect the finish. Before you apply a coating, you’ll want to ensure that your paint is in perfect or near perfect condition. Not only will this help the coating bond to the surface, but you certainly don’t want to seal in a scratch for the next 3 years! And before we go any further, you did read that correctly. Generally, most paint coatings last anywhere from a year to up to 5 years. Some professional-class coatings can even go beyond that!
So, if a paint coating last longer, provides stronger protection, and delivers a glossy finish, why wouldn’t everyone choose a paint coating? While all these attributes are true, paint coatings do come with some caveats. The application process is slightly more complex, and the product normally needs to be applied panel by panel. This process will require more slightly more preparation than other LSP options.
Applying a coating may sound like a much more complex process, but the application is simple once you know the steps. Many of the paint coatings you’ll find around Autopia are designed with ease of application in mind.
Now that you know a bit more about the choices you have, it’s time to make a decision. What is the best wax, sealant, or coating for you? Well, there still isn’t a perfect answer to that, but we’ll guide you as far as we can!
Time: This first part of this is simple. How much time can you invest? The amount of time and effort of a complex detail can be considered the biggest investment.
Complexity: Keep complexity in mind as you narrow down your product of choice. We’re confident a “DIY” style of character could apply a coating; but if you’ve never detailed a car, you might be up for challenge. Needless to say, keep your personally type and experience in mind as you review application processes.
Durability: If you’re looking for a long-term solution investing the time and energy into a coating may be the best option; however, if you enjoy the therapeutic side of applying a wax it may be the better option.
Performance: With thousands of waxes and sealants that provide phenomenal performance, you can expect a bit more out of a high-quality paint coating. More advanced ingredients will increase surface tension on your paint. This makes the surface extremely resistant to contamination while providing impressive hydrophobics.
So, what’s your choice? The classic feel of carnauba? Maybe the slick sensation of a sealant? Or are you going all the way to the rock-hard protection of ceramic? Regardless, you’ve already taken the best step. You’ve taken a step back and thought about what the best option for you is. Some will say this is the most critical step to an enjoyable detailing experience