In this latest post, I aim to provide a bit of insight for members of the public, and potential customers in particular, as to what paintwork protection actually is, and what type they may consider the most suitable for their needs. I also understand that amongst the audience of this blog that there are fellow pros and enthusiasts so I hope they find this article to be mildly stimulating at the very least. Please note that what with the intricacy and ever expanding offering of products I aim to cover things in a broad sense and make no claim to this post qualifying as a perfect dissertation.
First things first, bodywork. Your vehicle is constructed out of various substrates such as metals, plastics and as we progress into high end sports cars and specialist vehicles, some weird composites as well such as Carbon Kevlar. An illustration I made for a previous blog post features to demonstrate and recap the layers found on your bodywork. Essentially, you will have the substrate, then primer layers to help the above colour base-coat bond to the substrate, and then (barring old cellulose and single pack paints) a clear polyurethane lacquer to protect the base-coat underneath.
This clear lacquer is what gives a vehicle that lustrous shine when it rolls out of the factory, and from there on in will be subjected to road debris, general contact and car wash chemicals. We want the paintwork to look as clean, shiny and as blemish-free as the day as it rolled out of the factory for as long as possible - and this is why Detailing exists, as well as the plethora of treatments that entail.
Below I will give a brief outline of the various types of protection below, and whilst I am no scientist or "master", hope to advise on what offering may be of best interest to you. Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for any use of product that you may personally carry out having read this blog.
Liquid Detailing Sprays and Sealants
Two similar product kinds combined into this segment because they are both similar in their application. The simple, to start with. Detailing sprays are the most inexpensive, easy to use, and minimal risk of all offerings. As they are a liquid, by working them into the paintwork with a suitable high quality plush towel, the risk for marring clean paintwork should be minimal, and can be done during the drying phase to be time efficient, and even make drying the vehicle easier and safer for your paintwork's finish. Detailing sprays should not be used on dirty paintwork, or the action of moving dirt around on your paintwork can induce marring, the presence of fine hairline scratches in your paintwork often casually referred to as "love marks", or as I call them, "rub rash".
Some examples include: Autoglym Rapid Detailer, Meguiars Last Touch, and Krystal Kleen Detail Mist X. Detailing sprays; whilst their design often does not usually offer much in the way of water beading and sheeting as a stand-alone product, I have included them here as they are there to be implemented into a car care plan because they should not strip or deteriorate any existing protection - therefore being an essential asset to any car care regimen.
Liquid sealants are similar to detailing sprays in their application and use, but will contain some kind of carnauba wax, polymers or other kind of water repellent ingredient that technically means they can act as a stand-alone protection product, but even better when layered over something more robust. The trade off for this protection means that in some case, they may not bond or be as durable when applied on a wet vehicle.
Examples of liquid sealants include: Optimum Opti-seal, Krystal Kleen Detail SiCoat (a product on offer at Detailed By Andrew), and Sonax Brilliant Shine.
Liquid Paste Wax and Sealant
You've got the gist of quick sprayable detailing sprays and sealants, we now move on to products that are still a liquid, but are a little more paste like and need to be applied with an applicator sponge. Rather than a sprayable water-like liquid, they have a viscosity similar to yogurt. The fact that they have to be lightly rubbed into the paintwork, left to cure before being buffed off means that the vehicle needs to be more thoroughly decontaminated than say just a regular wash. When applying any product that requires buffing we don't want there to be a presence of tar spots or suchlike in case they come away from the paintwork onto the buffing implement, and then end up being dragged along other areas of the paintwork, potentially causing what we call random deep scratches. Therefore, at the very least a tar remover should be appropriately applied to the car during the wash phase. Their effect is further amplified by polishing the vehicle first but may not be necessary, and their application and buffing should take around 20-40 minutes.
Examples of liquid paste waxes and sealants include: Chemical Guys Butter Wet Wax, Poorboys EX-P Sealant, and Collinite #845. These kinds of products add gloss water repellent behaviour that should last 3 to 6 weeks, which minimal fuss of application. They bridge the gap between a liquid spray sealant and a hard wax.
Good old carnauba wax. Scraped from the leaves of the Copernicia Prunifera ever since the day we got jelous of how shiny the leaves on that tree were, and how they repelled water. Tried and trusted for decades, and have been blended with polymers and other protective chemicals over the years. The preparation for a hard wax to be applied is more stringent than the previous two types of protection mentioned above, as you may notice I personally only offer hard waxes as optional extras to Detailing specification works, and not at all in Service Cleans.
A little unfair you may ask? Not at all. When a hard wax is to be applied, the surface should be perfectly cleaned of all contaminants, meaning tar spots, iron fallout and anything that the paintwork did not have sitting on it when it came out of the factory. Therefore a full process including clay barring needs to be completed primarily. Then, once the paintwork is clay barred it must be polished as clay barring by essence, whilst beneficial in removing microscopic deposits, can marr the finish as after all, you are rubbing two surfaces together to remove debris. This marring is only faint, and comes away easily with polishing. Moreover, some hard wax manufacturers recommend their own pre-wax cleaner polishes to help their own product adhere to the surface properly - such cases being Autoglym Pre-Wax Cleaner and Swissvax Cleaner Fluid Regular. When opting for my Detailing services, you will only ever receive polishing via machine, as opposed to by hand, as it is much more effective in giving a superior result and uniform finish.
Hard wax offers an amazing shine, and depending on vehicle use, aftercare and mileage can last for 3-6 months depending on which one used. Although some premium waxes such as Swissvax Best of Show (a product I use) can cost as much as £225 for a 250ml jar, hard waxes can be relatively cost effective, with some costing as little as £20 for a similar jar. At around £45 for a 150ml kit, Autoglym's HD Wax offering makes a great entry level upgrade which lasts for quite a while. I always felt that HD Wax made my own Peugeot 206's black paintwork look better at car shows than other products in its price bracket.
As I have mentioned, the process in getting a vehicle ready for applying a hard wax is much more time consuming than anything discussed in this outline so far, and the actual application is also much more time consuming. On average it takes me 40 minutes to 1 hour onwards to apply and remove a hard wax purely down to it's nature. In cold and damp environment this can be even trickier as the carrier solvents struggle to escape as the product cures, often involving many passes with a towel to level it off nicely. I'm sure you can now understand why these products are a premium extra to my service as it's not just the cost of the product but business working time on top.
So who would benefit the most from a hard wax? They are right at home on classic cars and show and shine entrants. As they do not permanently alter a vehicle's finish, they can always be removed and re-applied for that freshly done look that is very hard to replicate. The every day car enthusiast or customer who would like a shiny car would also see benefit. On the other hand, unloved vehicles that transport sales reps up and down the motorway may need to look at something else.
Ceramics have been the buzz word of the last couple of years, with their potency ever increasing. They are formulated out of Silica and its derivatives, such as Silicon Carbide and Silica Nitride. These compounds form a cross-linking layer on the paintwork's surface, essentially adding another micron or two to the total paint thickness reading.
They are incredibly durable, some offering 12-18 months, with some manufacturers claiming a lofty 5 years+. However, the higher the potency, the greater the need for a controlled application environment. Ceramic Sealants such as Feynlab Universal I find are happily applied outdoors in the summer given high temperatures, low humidity and zero wind to blow debris onto the surface during application. Whereas those that claim higher defensive properties require specific indoor conditions not just during application but also through a specified curing, or "gassing out" time, often being between 4 and 24 hours.
Often times you will find coating specific to certain vehicle components, such as CarPro FlyBy Forte to glass, Krystal Kleen Detail R-Evolve X for alloy wheels and so forth.
The main benefit of a ceramic coating is it's durability, so is most suitable for those who want easy aftercare and minimal fuss. Although, my main concern is managing what people should expect from it. Contrary to some videos circulating, it won't defend your car from laser beams, rocket attacks or stone chips - it will help to minimise wear and tear though. Another point is to ensure that customers look after their car properly afterwards. I always make a point of informing customers of the importance of washing their car at least once a month, as road salts and contaminants will degrade the coating over time; to be kind to the coating is to keep it clean, so it can keep looking after your paint. If it can be layered over with products that top it up, even better, which is why products like CarPro Reload exist. Products such as CarPro Essence Plus exist to be lightly polished into old coatings that may be showing signs of needing revitalising, so there will always be a need for ongoing maintenance.
The main considerable point with ceramic coatings is cost. If you struggle to justify the cost of an Enhancement Detail, which restores your vehicles finish, you may as well forget ceramic coatings which can go well into three figures cost for the prep and application, with some companies charging well into four figures for top-end specialised coatings to be applied.
As per the hard wax paragraph, a ceramic coating would be a little out of place on a classic car where that particular original factory paint is in its own right, a historical document. The Ferrari Testarossa I worked on would be a little bizarre to have received a ceramic coating. Cars like my own Peuegot 206, which is undergoing part-restoration and lives indoors, a ceramic coating would be wasted on, so a hard wax would be preferred. On the Detailed By Andew works van, however, a ceramic coating would be right at home as it is a high mileage vehicle that doesn't get much of a look-in.
There are other things I could cover, such a paint protection film (a clear laminate applied to panels) but they are another type of vehicle installation all together. Either way, I hope you enjoyed this article and that it has given you some food for thought - which one would your vehicle benefit from the most? Let me know in the comments below.