First of all let me say that this question is very common. I hear it a lot from day to day and I think people genuinely don’t understand why paint protection is required.
I don’t intend this to be technical at all so forgive my for the next few lines. The most popular exterior coating for modern cars and trucks is a clear coat (a clear lacquer). Each car is coated in a primer, colour coat, base coat and gloss coat (in general) – we typically only ever interact with the clear coat which is typically only 30-40 microns thick. The purpose of the clear coat is to protect the colour coat (from UV rays, scratches) and provide a glossy finish.
Although clear coat is tough it is thin and thus susceptible to a myriad of attacks including:
- Accidental strikethrough (rock chips, keys, other cars doors etc)
- Acidic water (water spots)
- Road Chemicals
- Salt, tar, iron fallout
- Car Washing (hand or automatic car washes)
There are many different ways to protect your paintwork so I will only cover a few in this post.
- Traditional Carnauba Car Waxes
- Synthetic Polymer Sealants
- Ceramic Nano Coatings (Si02 coatings)
- Paint Protection Films
1. Traditional Carnauba Car Waxes
When I refer to traditional carnauba car waxes I’m referring to paste waxes applied by hand. People generally think of this when discussing protection products due to its history in the automotive world. Wax will typically last less than 3 months depending on weather and washing techniques.
A wax will protect your paint primarily from road chemicals including salt, tar, iron fallout and water spots. It creates a barrier for many of these contaminants to sit on top of the wax (or embed) before making contact with the clear coat. Although it needs to be reapplied it is a great option due to its affordability, high gloss finish, ease of application and if a quality wax is used highly hydrophobic surface is achieved.
2. Polymer Synthetic Sealant
There are dozens of different types and brands of Synthetic Polymer Sealants that provide easy application and great results on paint. Polymer sealants are a solution to the short term lifespan of so many waxes and in most cases apply even easier than a traditional carnauba wax. These sealants will typically last between 4-6 months but can last up to 1 year depending on weather and washing techniques.
A sealant will protect your paint primarily from road chemicals including salt, tar, iron fallout and water spots. It creates a barrier for many of these contaminants to sit on top of the sealant (or embed) before making contact with the clear coat. Although it needs to be reapplied it is a great option due to its affordability, high gloss finish, ease of application and if desired can be applied with multiple layers including top layers of carnauba wax. Sealants offer a great hydrophobic surface, enough gloss and protection to satisfy any enthusiast.
3. Ceramic Coatings - Nano-Ceramic Coatings (Si02)
There are a ton of different brands of ceramic coatings for cars and trucks that provide great results on paint. Unfortunately, due mainly to marketing there are a few misconceptions with ceramic coatings, more on that later. They are a solution to the short term lifespan of so many sealants, and waxes with some performing for 1 year, 5 years or even lifetime. These promises of long life performance are even backed by warranties, so long as proper maintenance of the coating is performed.
Coatings are formulated to be tough enough to withstand most of the common elements that car owners have to face with daily driving. Ceramic coatings will cover the bulk of your protective needs; including road chemicals, water marks, and marring from washing. However, poor car washing practices such as using a damaged rag or automatic wash can potentially scratch a coating on a car or truck.
Primarily, coatings are designed to be a finishing that locks in any detailing work so you will not have to wax or polish the exterior. Coatings are designed to be hydrophobic and resistant to debris but it doesn’t make them totally infallible to scratches caused by abuse such as vandalism or intentional scratching (although many are advertised to protect against this, its simply not true).
Ultimately, Nano-ceramic sealants (coatings) offer excellent durability, longevity and protection from mother nature. But, they can be difficult to apply, expensive to purchase and do not fill imperfect paint (like some waxes can). It’s durability and longevity are vastly superior to organic and inorganic waxes/sealants – so the expense and hassle of application is in our opinion worth it under most circumstances. I personally would apply it to any vehicle except for classic cars and possible others. We can always talk about that another time 🙂
4. Paint Protection Film - Clear Bra
There are a ton of different brands of paint protection film for cars and trucks that provide beautiful clear installation and almost invisible results on paint. Paint protection film is truly the only way to properly protect a vehicle from rock chips, road chemicals and all other contaminants. Just like a screen protector on your new iPhone protects the screen but allows you to enjoy the incredible retina display, PPF actually protects the clear coat surface with a thin, tough and glossy layer of plastic. Rock chips, key scuffs or even intentional damage done to paint surface can be protected (see image below). The paint protection films we use at Swiss Pro also have self healing characteristics which can be activated by heat. This results in a flawless finish.
If you are interested in protecting your car’s resale value, and having worry free driving from real physical contaminants like rocks etc PPF is the way to go. We offer both an affordable PPF with 5 years anti-yellowing warranty and the worlds most premium XPEL Ultimate Plus (and Stealth for matte paints) with 10 year warranty.
5. Paint Protection Film topped with Ceramic Coating
My fifth way to protect your car or trucks paint is too add a specially formulated ceramic coating meant for use on ppf and vinyl to protect the ppf even further. The results are tremendous and you will never see a shine or water repellency like it. The clarity of Ceramic Pro Top Coat layered on top of ppf that has been properly installed offers truly breathtaking protection and shine.