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What is protection

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The term protection is used in autodetailing to refer to a product that is used to prevent damage to a surface, regardless if that damage is caused by liquids, solids or even gasses. These forms of protection come in many forms and shapes.

Many different forms

Protective products come in many different forms and shapes. An example of these are:

  • Wax (both in liquid or paste form)
  • Sealants (both in liquid of paste form
  • Ceramic coatings (only in liquid form
  • Plastic film

A losely term

Rough unprotected surface covered in contaminants
Rough unprotected surface covered in contaminants
Contaminants lying on top of protective product
Contaminants lying on top of protective product

The term protection should be used with care, because it might not be completely correct. The word ‘protection’ is mainly used to describe a product, material, object that prevents damage to another object or substance. In detailing, this term refers to products that help to minimize the effect something can have an a surface. This can be chemically or mechanically. An example would be a chemical cleaning solution that can cause surface imperfections on paintwork. Another example is the effect of acidic rain on paintwork.

A wrong synonym

Some products don’t offer true protection, but aid in easy cleaning. An example of this is wax. Wax will not protect against falling branches, rocks or even acidic rain. But because of its effect on water and dust, it will make cleaning the surface a lot easier. Because much less contaminants can ‘stick’ to the surface, they are easily washed off. The ease of cleaning helps to prevent swirls, decreases the need to clay or polish and increases the chance that bird dropping, chemical liquids and grime is easily washed off.

Pros and cons

Every form of protection has it’s pros and cons. Just a few are mentioned in this list.

  • Wax
    • Pro: very easy to use and apply, cheap, easy to store, can be made in liquid or paste form, easy to combine with sealant (hybrid), hides minor imperfections, easy to combine gloss with a deep color, easy to remove and reapply
    • Cons: short life, needs to replaced, traps dirt, difficult with chemicals, very soft, offers minimal protection
  • Sealant
    • Pro: easy to use, easy to combine with wax (hybrid), gives a glassy look, can easily be reapplied
    • Cons: always leaves the same look, shows imperfections, needs more preparation, difficult to get a glossy look or deeper colors, difficult to remove, offers very medium protection
  • Ceramic coating
    • Pros: very good durability, very chemical resistant, very tough, superior protection against scratches
    • Cons: difficult to apply, shows imperfections, needs a lot of preparation, the same look, gives a sterile look. Expensive, difficult to remove
  • Plastic film
    • Pros: easy to remove, long durability, offers protection against small stones and sticks
    • Cons: difficult to apply, expensive, can be visible, shows imperfections

Visible degredation

In most cases the state of the protective layer is judged by looking at the behaviour of water. Beading and sheeting are indications of the quality of a protective layer. In case these show that a protective layer has degraded to much, it is recommended to remove the layer and apply a new layer. However, there are some cases in which a protective layer can be revived. Ceramic coating respond very well to being washed with an acidic cleaning agent (such as certain wheel cleaners). These solutions remove much of stubborn dirt that causes the water behaviour to change, without affecting the ceramic coating in any way. This does NOT work with wax and most sealant, because these will degrade heavily by coming into contact with an acidic solution.

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