When it comes to picking the right wax, sealant, or ceramic for your car’s paint, all of the different options may be intimidating. It is important to know the pros and cons of each protectant before deciding which one is right for you.
When it comes to picking between wax, sealant, or ceramic it is important to consider your price range. Waxes and sealants are often vastly cheaper than a full ceramic, but typically only last three to six months while a full ceramic will last five-plus years. It is also important to consider if you want more protection or shine. Sealants have extraordinary chemical resistance and have a cooler shine instead of a deep wet shine compared to wax and ceramics.
Throughout this article, we will take a closer look at the different types of protection as well as the process that goes into applying each one. Keep reading to see my picks for the best protectant coating for your car.
Being one of the oldest methods of improving your car’s shine, waxes consist of oils and polymers that fill in imperfections in your car’s paint. The most common type of wax is carnauba wax. While expensive, carnauba gives a deep warm gloss that will protect your clear coat from sun fading. The downside of waxes is they typically only last about three months, meaning you will have to reapply about four times a year to keep the deep shine.
Before applying wax you must first fully decontaminate the paint. This includes a full exterior wash, followed by a clay bar and possibly a polish for best results. It is important to remove any contaminants before waxing, as they could scratch the paint. Once fully clean, waxes should be applied in a cool shaded area one panel at a time in a cross-hatch pattern. Once applied, allow the wax to sit for about five minutes and remove it with a plush microfiber avoiding a circular motion. After repeating this process on all panels, I recommend moving the car to direct sunlight and doing a once-over with a clean plush microfiber to remove any hidden smudges. If you want to know more about microfiber cloths check out this article!
Choosing A Wax
When it comes to choosing a wax the quality will vary with the price. Waxes typically come in three different forms; sprayable, cream (squeeze), and paste. While typically the cheapest, I have found that sprayable waxes tend to not last as long as cream and paste.
Chemical Guys Butter Wet Wax is my personal go-to mid-range wax. This wax consists of a carnauba wax blended with polymers for a glossy, water-beading finish. Costing about $20, this wax has an easy application and removal; and lasts longer than three months if properly cared for. Proper care for a wax like this includes storing it in a shaded area and cleaning it with a PH-neutral soap.
On the more expensive side, P21S Carnauba wax is a mixture of Carnauba and beeswax. This is a paste wax and has a slightly more difficult application, but produces the best shine. This wax will last about two months if properly stored, making it a perfect wax to use before a show.
Sealants are often compared to/called waxes as they serve a similar purpose, but the main difference between a sealant and a wax is that sealants are 100% synthetic and contain no carnauba. Only containing polymers, sealants typically sit on top of the car’s clear coat, instead of melting into it. This results in a cooler shine, and less of a deep gloss. Being 100% synthetic sealants often have better chemical protection, resistance, and longevity compared to wax.
Preparation for a sealant is similar to that of wax. This includes a full exterior wash, clay bar, and polish for best results. The application of a sealant varies slightly from wax, and can often be easier than waxing but varies depending on the sealant you are using.
Choosing a sealant
My go-to low-range sealant and overall protectant is Turtle Wax Seal and Shine Hybrid Sealant costing only $15. While not typically the biggest fan of turtle wax, this carnauba-infused hybrid sealant lasts six-plus months with moderate shine and excellent water beading and chemical protection. This product’s application is recommended on a wet vehicle and only requires about two sprays per panel. This allows you to apply it while drying the car for the easiest application.
On the more expensive end, I recommend Chemical Guys Jet Seal which costs $40. Lasting upwards of 12 months if properly maintained, this sealant can be topped with wax for extra shine. With similar chemical resistance, the application of jet seal is more similar to that of wax as it is in cream form.
Ceramic coatings are a semi-permanent glass coating that lasts 3-7 years. Often one of the most expensive forms of protection ceramic coatings offer the best shine, protection, and longevity. Ceramic coatings often need to be applied by a professional detailer, in a climate-controlled space. Ceramic coatings typically have a 24-hour cure time and require full paint correction before application. The maintenance of a ceramic coating is relatively easy, It is important to use a pH-balanced soap while washing.
One common problem with ceramic coatings is water spots. This occurs when water containing minerals dries on your paint, leaving the minerals behind. If this occurs I recommend using Gyeon water spot remover. Simply spray this product on a panel, wash with a microfiber mitt, and rinse off. Make sure to fully dry the car to prevent any water spots; compressed air can be used for easier drying on ceramics as the water beads off.
Often confused with ceramic coatings, ceramic-infused sealants can be added on top of a ceramic coating to boost the performance for three to six months. These ceramic-infused sealants often have an easy spray application compared to the tedious process of a full ceramic coating.