Paintwork protection comes in two generic types: sealants and waxes. In some cases there are products which combine the two of these. The paintwork on you car is there not only to look nice but to protect the underlying metal work as well. However, paintwork requires protection of its own as well. Its like the skin of your car and it is continuously subjected to contaminants and environmental harm when its outside.
Examples of contaminants are
- Ultraviolet Radiation (UV) from sunlight – you cannot see UV, can cause fading
- Rain – rain water is actually a contaminant which can also be filled with pollution and acids
- Bird bombs – highly alkaline and can eat into the finish of your paint
- Industrial Fallout
- Road film
- Salts (road salts are very bad for paint, and can cause corrosion on metal)
- General muck and grime
The chances are that you may have just spent many hours washing, and removing defects from your paint and glazing it to get that sought after wet look shine, but it is necessary to protect that finish with a hardwearing layer in order to keep the finish looking at its best, otherwise the elements above will degrade and damage the paintfinish. So a protective barrier is applied to the paint.
Now, its the protective barrier which is subjected to the elements and not the paint. The protective barrier will be eaten away over time by the elements and will need to be replaced, but its far cheaper to replace the protective barrier than to replace the paint!!
Paintwork protection comes in the two generic types – sealants and waxes (carnauba wax). Paintwork protection will add only a small amount to the actual paint finish of a well prepared car, but still there are noticeble differences between the looks and longevities of the two generic types of paint protection, which are covered here.
Paint sealants are man made paint protection (synthetic). They have been developed by man to provide tough protection for paint finishes to protect your pride and joy and preserve the finish you have worked so hard for. The look obtainable from applying a paint sealant is a very relfective and generally crystal clear look. Reflections in paintwork are sharp and eye catching and metallic flake is allowed to show to its full potential. However, paintwork sealants have been known to lack a certain richness to the finish – despite the superb reflections, the finish can sometimes lack the warm glow obtainable from a carnauba wax (see A guide into wax). Nevertheless, this has been addressed impeccably by manufacturers over recent years and paintwork sealants are now coming very close to matching the warm glow to paintwork that is a trait of a carnuaba wax.
The clarity of the shine comes from the synthetic nature of the product – the layer provided by a sealant is highly transparent (generally speaking), and this allows paint features such as metallic flake to be shown off to their highest. Generally speaking, paint sealants have high durability when compared to carnauba waxes and are therefore favoured by those who are looking for a durable finish that is easy to maintain by simply washing the car. Additionally, they are favoured by those searching for the ultimate in shiny, reflective surfaces from paintwork and those wishing features such as metallic flake to be shown off to its highest.
To apply a sealant, always follow the manufacturers instructions, here are some generic tips:
- Use a sponge or microfibre applicator for application by hand.
- Use a finishing pad for application by machine.
- By hand, apply in circular motions first and finish in straight lines to ensure even coverage.
- By machine spread product evenly at a low speed (speed 2 – 3)
- Less is more with protective products, a little generally goes a long way.
- Keep the layers thin, remember the residue you remove is wasted product!
- For most sealants, curing time is required – upto and sometimes more than one hour before removing product residue. Some don’t require this however.
- Buff off residue with a microfibre towel.
- If residues resist easy buffing, don’t apply heavy pressure – instead spray the towel with a little and this will help remove the residue.