As chemical technology changes and advances, so does the terminology and it can sometimes become very confusing for a consumer looking at buying some car care for their vehicle, as what they once knew is now something completely different! So let’s break it down a little bit into what we believe are the three main different types of products that add a layer of protection to your vehicle.
WAX – This is one of the oldest words used in the car care industry along side the term polish. Generally we call a wax a product that contains a lot of natural ingredients such as Beeswax, Carnauba wax, Linseed oil and Montan wax. In their highest concentration they are usually found in small containers as a thick paste and depending on their grade or percentage of Carnauba, their prices can be from as little as $20 to well over $1000! High quality waxes are favoured by a lot of enthusiasts as they would argue they achieve a greater natural shine and depth to a vehicle, especially on dark colours. They can also be easily layered on top of one another to add to this effect. Their weaknesses however are usually in durability lasting from 1-6 months depending on the quality of the wax and the application method, but for enthusiasts that enjoy working on their vehicle it is a small price to pay. Some of the best wax manufacturers in the world are Dodo Juice, Swissvax and Polishangel.
SEALANT – This term started being used long after the introduction of waxes and referred to a mainly synthetic or man-made chemical product usually in liquid form for easier application. They are usually polymer based and created from certain silicones, resins and petroleum distillates. Due to waxes having fairly low life spans, sealants were invented to maximise durability and give a wider range of options (adding fillers, adding abrasives, adding cleaning agents etc.). Enthusiasts will usually comment that sealants give a “glassier” look to the vehicle as opposed to a wax and their durability can range from 3-12 months. A sealant will usually offer more water sheeting then water beading like on waxes (sheeting refers to water rolling off from the paintwork in a large sheet like puddle). A good option that professionals do is layer a wax on top of a sealant to get the best of both products, this is referred to as “stacking”.
COATING – This is the latest term and has only been in existence for the last couple of years. Coatings have become a real game changer in the industry offering some amazing properties and durability never before seen. They are usually tied in with words such as “Nano”, “Glass”, “Ceramic” and “Quartz” as they use very similar chemical structures on a molecular nano level and cost a large amount of money to create for the volume of product due to this high technology. Coatings usually come in very small containers (under 50mL) and are usually in a clear liquid form. The reason they come in small containers is 20mL is usually enough to coat an entire average sized sedan! They will also leave a much thicker layer on the vehicle compared to a wax or sealant that can actually be measured by a paint depth gauge. The main advantages to coatings are their extremely long durability from 1-3+ years depending on application/brand, usually have a very high tolerance to chemical resistance (pH 2-11 in most instances), can give added hardness to the paint acting as a scratch resistant barrier and are referred to as self cleaning due to their extreme water sheeting properties. Their weaknesses are mainly in application as they are not as user friendly as waxes and sealants and therefore usually only applied by professionals with training in the product and have a very long curing time which can take up to 5 days to fully harden and set. If the coating has to be removed it has to be aggressively machine polished off unlike a way or sealant which can easily be removed with a solvent, clay bar, paint cleaning product or even a heavy duty car wash shampoo. Some of the best manufactures are Nanolex for true nano coatings or Gyeon for Quartz coatings.
The durability factor for a lot of products is hard to say as each vehicle is driven differently. If a vehicle is driven every day and parked in the sun all day long obviously the product will not last as long as on a vehicle driven only on weekends and parked inside of a garage so the durability is given in a worse case and best case scenario. Beware of certain companies claiming “lifetime warranties” or “lasts for 10+ years” as they simply do not exist, period. There is usually some fine print involved stating “must be reapplied every 6-12 months or warranty is void”. Everything eventually wears off due to a mixture of chemical, abrasive and UV breakdown. The day a coating gets invented that can last forever on a vehicle is the day every single high end multi-billion dollar vehicle manufacturer puts them on at a manufacturing level to protect the paint on their $500,000+ supercars…
Now one thing to point out is car care companies love to jump on bandwagons and will use the latest and greatest terminology to describe their product. What this means is just because a product has the word “Nano” or “Ceramic” in it, does not necessarily mean it is a coating and most times will simply be a sealant. Coatings are usually not seen in general retail stores and cost $50-$200 for very small bottles so if that product you picked up of the shelf costs $9.95 and says Nano on it, let’s just say that car care manufacturer might not be telling the complete truth. Unfortunately the car care industry is quite unregulated so manufacturers can get away with putting wild exaggerations on packaging.