Ceramics vs. Sealants vs. Wax

Protecting the precious paintwork of your vehicle is no longer a simple choice of which wax to use. Depending on your requirements (and budget) there are now various additional options. Good paint protection involves adding a layer between the factory coating and the elements. Today’s options can be temporary, semi-permanent or permanent and come in the forms of:

  • Car wax (temporary)
  • Car sealant
  • Ceramic coating

There’s also the option of Paint Protection Film (PPF), a valuable installation that can be applied to a complete vehicle or just the parts that are more likely to get damaged, such as the bonnet, bumpers, colour-coded wing mirror etc.

Why Use Paint Protection?

While vehicles leave the production line with a top layer of paint protection, this tends to have limited longevity and is, of course, subjected to various environmental elements. These include:

  • Stone chips
  • Bird droppings
  • Acid rain
  • UV rays
  • Tree sap
  • Scratches
  • Salt and grit

All of these eat through this original protective layer or, in the case of stone chips, crack it entirely. As the upper surface degrades, so the paint below begins to lose its lustre, scratches appear and other paintwork anomalies become apparent.

Adding a good quality paint protection not only elevates the car’s good looks, but it also increases the resale value.

The Pros and Cons of Different Paint Protection Products

As in all walks of life, paint protection comes in different grades. Going for the highest quality you can afford is key – although it might cost a little more to begin with, you’ll reap the monetary benefits over time, plus the aesthetics will be better.

Let’s look at the three options in order of results and longevity.

1.     Car wax

Long the staple of paint protection, car wax remains one of the most popular and effective methods of car care. Wax provides an element of protection to the paintwork below – albeit temporary. It has some hydrophobic properties, helping water (and therefore, dirt) bead and roll away from the surface. Wax also adds a shiny finish.

  • Pros:  The cheapest method of paint protection, easy to apply yourself, readily available to purchase.
  • Cons: Only lasts a few weeks (less if the weather is poor), laborious to apply, easy to use the wrong type.

Find out more about the benefits and drawbacks of car wax.

2.     Car sealant

This uses advanced chemical engineering to add a synthetic protective layer to the vehicle. It adheres well – with good quality sealant lasting anywhere from six months to a year. Sealants are highly resistant to chemical and environmental factors and they dry to a lovely glossy finish. They come in different types, with the most common being polymer and acrylic.

  • Pros: Easy to apply, good longevity, shiny finish. Helps minimise scratching and corrosion. Many have hydrophobic properties. Quicker to apply than car wax and some can be simply sprayed on.
  • Cons: There are many different types on the market – some have an element of ceramic technology, some make the car glossy but do little else, others protect against environmental challenges. It can be challenging to know which is the right one for your needs. Some need to be combined with other products to be wholly effective.

Get the lowdown on detailing and car sealants.

3.     Ceramic coating

Considered by many to be the ultimate in paint protection (and with good reason), installing a ceramic coating provides superior protection and a high-gloss finish for many years. Ceramic coatings use nanotechnology to add an ultra-thin, super-hard topcoat that’s resistant to virtually every type of environmental and chemical attack. The best ones last for many years – typically 5-7 – and provide a deep shine that’s impossible to achieve by any other method.

  • Pros: The best level of paint protection for cars, lasts for many years, is hydrophobic and helps reduce the amount of time needed to keep the car looking good, increases the value and resale price of a vehicle. Can also be applied over car wraps.
  • Cons: The most expensive of all paint protection products, paintwork correction should be carried out prior to installation, and needs to be applied in a semi-sterile and temperature-controlled environment.

Discover the need-to-knows about ceramic coating.

Of course we haven’t even discussed Paint Protection Film (PPF) here, but we’ll leave that for another day and a post all of its own.

Paint Protection: a summary

Car wax, car sealants and ceramic coatings are all viable and effective methods of caring for a vehicle’s paintwork. Wax is the cheapest, followed by sealants, with ceramic coating being the most expensive.

Applying car wax correctly takes a long time – allow at least a day for the correct prep, application and polishing. Car sealants are a step above wax, and there are many (many!) different types of both on the market. These range wildly in price and results, making it complex to decipher which is correct for your needs.. However, it’s essential to use the right ones, especially when detailing classic, sports and supercars, 

DIY care is, of course, possible, but the alternative is to get a professional application carried out by a car detailing company. This will ensure the correct products are used, plus you reclaim your valuable time to do something more enjoyable – because, let’s face it, it’s a pretty messy, long and boring job!

Ceramic coatings offer the highest level of paint protection. This is a permanent installation and requires meticulous paint correction prior to application. It must be applied and allowed to cure at the correct temperature and in a semi-sterile environment. This all means that a professional service is essential, otherwise you run the risk of a less-than-perfect finish, or even ruining the factory paintwork altogether.

Whichever level of paint protection you choose, it’s all about the product and application. The detailing and services on offer from the Radical Autoworks ensure the correct type is used. Whether that’s detailing with a wax, sealant or ceramic coating finish, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that your pride and joy benefits from the ultimate paint protection products. Call us today to discuss your requirements.

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Benefits and Drawbacks of Car Wax

Regularly using car wax is a staple of good vehicle maintenance, right? 

Well, yes – with certain provisos. The thing is, not all car wax products are made equal. Using an inferior product won’t simply provide a poor finish, it can actively damage your paintwork. Plus, there’s the issue of application. Get it right and, indeed, you’ll get many benefits. But if not, then the picture isn’t quite so rosy…

As car detailing experts, and with a passion for seeing beautifully maintained cars cruising our lanes and roads, Radical Autoworks explain the pros and cons regarding the grubby secrets of the humble car wax…

Car Wax – the benefits

  • Can protect the paintwork from wear and tear: The paint on a car is covered by a thin, clear coat of lacquer. A quality car wax actively protects this layer from being eroded by the elements, thereby protecting the integrity of the paint beneath. Think of the wax as a sacrificial film on top of your paint.
  • Can help smooth out minor imperfections: On a microscopic level, wax will fill imperfections in the paint, thus reducing how noticeable scratches are in the paint.
  • Helps your car remain cleaner for longer: Because of the aforementioned microscopic filling of scratches, dirt has fewer places to cling to and so your car stays cleaner looking for longer..
  • Makes your car shine: Because it makes the surface of the car more uniform, so the light reflects better. And this equals that gorgeous just-waxed shine.
  • Creates a hydrophobic layer: Or, to put it in plain English, it makes water bead and roll off the paintwork. Not only does this look pretty cool, it’s also an important defence against rust and corrosion.
  • Helps prevent colour fade: This can be more noticeable on certain colours – mainly darker tones or those leaning towards red on the colour spectrum. We’ve all seen poor old red cars that have gone pink with age. Car wax can help slow this process.

Car Wax – the drawbacks

  • Cheap car wax can be abrasive: Some car waxes, especially the cheaper ones and combination cleaner-waxes, contain strong chemicals. Such abrasive materials are not good for the paintwork and can, in some cases, actually cause damage.
  • Proper application of car wax takes time and effort: Let’s be clear about this – waxing your car isn’t a 10 minute job. The car needs to be properly prepared, meaning an intense clean and full dry before commencing the waxing process.  If you don’t have at least a day to dedicate to the whole job, then don’t consider it an option. A large part of that is waiting for the car to dry 100%. Even after you use a blower to speed the process. Any moisture in cracks will be pulled out and mess up your finish.
  • Good car wax is expensive: Sure, there’s cheap versions on the market. But, as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. That bargain buy is cheap for a reason. Not only will it be less effective but it will cause you arm ache when applying. Something like Bilt Hambers Double Speed Wax is a good DIY choice.
  • There’s an art to applying car wax: Not too much, not too little, plus ensuring you cover every bit of paintwork evenly. Make sure to read the instructions, as different waxes are designed to be applied differently.
  • You need to understand the type of car wax you’re buying/applying: Is it a simple wax? A cleaner wax? A sealant? Paste wax, liquid wax, spray wax, coloured wax… And this topic is a whole new blog article entirely!

Car Wax – the conclusion

Car wax can be just what your car needs to keep it in good condition, as long as:

  1. You have the time (and patience)
  2. The vehicle paintwork is in generally good condition without any deeper scratches or marks
  3. You choose the right wax for the job

If you tick those boxes, then self-application of car wax will help ensure the longevity of your car’s paintwork.

The alternative is to get a professional application done by a car detailing company. Not only will this ensure the correct wax type is used, but you gain back your valuable free time to do something more enjoyable. Or you might want to go a step further and have a sealant or ceramic coating applied.

Whatever option you choose, adding a high quality protective layer to the paintwork in the form of car wax goes a long way towards maintaining your vehicle’s good looks. If you go down the DIY route, just make sure there’s a beverage of your choice chilling in the fridge for when you’ve finished to toast a job well done….

To get started, we’ve written about our top tips for cleaning your daily driver supercar here. Follow that before you get to any Waxing.


Image by Scozzy from Pixabay

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Cleaning the exterior of your daily driver supercar

Not many people will be driving their supercar (or classic car) on a daily basis. They are usually reserved for weekend best, for a treat on sunny days. Used for a blast down some country roads to a lovely pub for a spot of lunch or on special road trips (like Radical Rally perhaps). But if you are daily driving your supercar, it’s going to get dirty fast. So we thought we’d put together our top tops for cleaning the exterior of your daily driver supercar in between visits to the detailing shop.

This is a simple guide that you can use to maintain the appearance of your car at home with the minimal effort, tools and chemicals.

This is part one of a two part series. The article on interiors is coming next.

What’s your aim?

Most of us have little time to clean our own cars unless it’s a real passion. Life gets in the way and there is always something more pressing to do. Even at Radical Autoworks we find ourselves too busy with customer cars to lavish any attention on our own vehicles. So you have to ask yourself, is your aim to keep the car clean for your enjoyment or for other people to admire as you drive down the street? You can answer both of course, but if it’s just one of those you can save yourself a load of time.

For example, if you are most concerned about how it looks in the sun as you roll down, the street then you’re better off spending more time on cleaning the exterior of your daily driver supercar.

Preparation

One of the best things you can do for your daily driver is to get a full detail and polish done first to get the standard of the car up to a really high level before you start. That should include getting a ceramic coating applied as this will save you a ton of time maintaining the appearance of the paint and will go some way towards protecting against the increased washing cycles that a daily driver endures.

If you start with a clean car, you have much more chance of keeping it that way without too many specialist tools or chemicals. 

Exterior cleaning method

The single most important thing about washing your daily driven supercar is your washing technique. If you get this part wrong you’re going to be introducing small marks to the paintwork with each wash. Not only will this make the paint look less perfect but it will give us a big headache when you next bring it in for a full detail and paint correction. 

Make sure the car is cool to the touch and out of the sun when you start. Also make sure you don’t wear clothing with metal fasteners, buttons, belt buckles etc as they can damage the paint. 

  • Start with the wheels as they will likely be very dirty. Using a couple of brushes make sure you agitate the entire wheel surface and in between the spokes as there is nothing worse than leaving a dirty patch and finding it later. Use dedicated brushes and a specific PH neutral wheel cleaner. Then make sure you thoroughly clean out your bucket if you don’t have a dedicated wheel bucket.
  • If you have a pressure washer, use it to liberally apply a snow foam product. If you don’t, you can get pump action aerator bottles that do a similar job. Leave it to dwell on the car for 3-5 minutes then wash off.
  • Mix up your car shampoo or wash & wax in one bucket using cold water. In the other just put a small amount of cold water – this is your rinse bucket. Using your microfibre wash mitt, start at the top of the car and wash a section at a time. Rinse out the mitt in the clean water each time before you go for more shampoo. Make sure not to pick up debris from the bottom of the bucket. Work your way round the car quickly and methodically finishing with the areas around who wheels, bumpers and side skirts. If you drop the mitt, STOP. You must use a clean mitt or thoroughly wash it out so you’re not dragging grit from the floor around the car and scratching it.
  • Thoroughly rinse off all the shampoo.
  • Use clean rinse out your snow foam lance or aerator bottle and fill with diluted hydrophobic coating. Spray liberally over the car while it’s still wet and let it sit for a minute or two. Avoid the windscreen. If you have a soft top, this step is not recommended as most hydrophobic products are not suitable for canvas roofs – you need a specially designed one.
  • Thoroughly rinse off the hydrophobic coating.
  • Using your drying towel, carefully dry the entire car from top to bottom, paying close attention to areas where water can collect. Again if you drop the towel, STOP. You will need to replace it or clean it.
  • Then open all the doors, bonnet, boot, fuel cap, etc. Using a clean microfibre cloth, wipe round all the door jams, sills and other areas that were covered for the previous step. If the cloth gets dirty, put it in the laundry pile and get another.
  • Do a final walk round to make sure you have caught all the drips and runs – you always get some after opening the doors etc. 

Make sure to thoroughly clean your equipment after use and launder your cloths (without fabric softener).

Tools and products

We’ve tried to keep this list short and sweet and get you the best results with the minimum of special tools and products. Otherwise you’ll end up being like us with a whole workshop full of specialist gear!

Tools you’ll need:

  • 2 buckets ideally with grit guards in them
  • A couple of dedicated wheel brushes (for the face and between the spokes)
  • Pressure washer with snow foam lance or aerator bottle
  • A microfibre wash mitt
  • A high quality drying towel
  • Selection of microfibre towels

Products you’ll need:

  • PH neutral wheel cleaner
  • Snow foam
  • Good quality car shampoo or wash & wax
  • Hydrophobic coating

Golden rules

There are a couple of golden rules you must follow also…

  1. If you drop a cloth or a wash mitt… don’t keep using it. Get a clean one to carry on and thoroughly wash that one later.
  2. Always clean your tools after use and put your cloths through the laundry (without fabric softener) so they are ready for the next use.
  3. Never, ever, visit a regular car wash. Automatic ones go without saying, but hand car washes can be just as bad for your paint. If you’re stuck for time, give us a call and we can do a quick maintenance wash for you. 

If in doubt, call us. We’re always happy to talk to people about detailing their pride and joy. It doesn’t matter if  you’re in the UK or not…. just be aware we might not answer if its 3am here when you call. You can also contact us by email here.


Image by Janis Liepa from Pixabay

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Super Car and Luxury Car Detailing & Protection

Bringing the best out of your classic or supercar with paint correction, PPF, and next level detailing in Dorset and surrounding counties.

Certified Master Detailers by Slims Detailing Academy
IMI (Institute of the Motoring Industry) Certified Detailers

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