Car paint protection


Once cleaned and polished, painted surfaces then require protection against the elements if the long-term quality of the finish is to be preserved. Protection comes in the form of natural carnauba waxes, synthetic polymer sealants and products that combine the two, and may be defined as an invisible barrier that adheres to the surface of your paint and shields it against every day dust and grime, industrial fallout, honeydew, bug splatter, bird droppings and UV radiation. Obviously any protection that you apply to your paint, whether it be a sealant or a wax or even a combination of the two, is subject to chemical and physical erosion by the weather. As such, it will be gradually worn away over time, necessitating periodical reapplication if a high level of protection is to be maintained.

How do we measure or test how well our paint is protected? All types of protection create an invisible surface layer that repels water and contaminants. This water hating or hydrophobic layer causes water droplets to either bead up on or sheet off of the paint surface, depending on the type of protectant in question. Natural carnauba wax finishes are extremely hydrophobic and tend to repel water more strongly than synthetic polymer sealants. As a result, it is usual for waxed finishes to bead up strongly in wet weather, with water droplets literally appearing to be pushed upwards off of the paint surface. In contrast, sealed finishes tend to be much slicker and less hydrophobic, meaning that water droplets don't tend to bead up as much but instead run off quickly and freely. Both of these characteristics are indicative of a high level of paint protection. In contrast, if water just sits on your car without beading or running off, then the chances are the level of protection is low.

As we mentioned at the outset, paint protection comes in three different forms that offer varying degrees of gloss, reflectivity, slickness and durability. If you are relatively new to detailing and have visited any of the major detailing forums you may have been a bit baffled by the meaning of such terms in discussions about last step products (which is the all encompassing term for paint protection products). We hope that this information will enable you to choose suitable products and achieve the look you desire from your paint. However, before we go on we should take a minute or two to summarise a little more about the differences between natural carnauba waxes, synthetic polymer sealants and products that combine the two.

Carnauba wax is derived from a type of palm tree that is native to Brazil and is nature's hardest, purest and most transparent wax. Many show car owners and car care enthusiasts (we'll call them the purists) have long argued that natural carnauba wax produces a richer, darker, glossier finish than other types of last step product, particularly when used on darker coloured cars. A coating of carnauba wax always beads water nicely and can help to mask minor defects in your paint. However, in most cases the durability of carnauba wax is quite low; under our climate in the UK a coat of an average quality carnauba wax will typically last somewhere between two to three months, depending on the time of year, the mileage you do and whether or not you garage your car overnight.

In contrast to naturally derived carnauba wax, synthetic polymer sealants are the product of modern technology and typically comprise very complex formulas containing either polyamino-siloxane or polyethylene-acrylic polymers. Many car care enthusiasts (we'll call them the realists) have long argued that synthetic polymer sealants are superior to other types of last step product, as they produce an ultra slick finish that is extremely durable. Under our climate in the UK, a coat of synthetic polymer protection will typically last somewhere between three to four months, depending on the time of year, the mileage you do and whether or not you garage your car overnight. However, the finish produced by sealants is typically less glossy and far sharper looking than that produced by carnauba wax and can actually highlight defects rather than mask them.

"Statements made by some product that claim to offer protection for years without further applications are simply not true and will fail leaving your paint unprotected"