To preface: what is wax and why do I need it?
Ceramic coatings are the solution if you never want to wax your car again, but want the benefits of wax. Waxing is, at this point, kind of old school. But before I continue, let me break down, to the best of my abilities, what wax and waxing actually is.
Wax, typically carnauba wax or carnauba wax blends, comes in a liquid or paste form. This liquid or paste is spread across painted surfaces (by hand or machine), left to haze over (for a few minutes), and wiped clean - this leaves behind a waxed surface.
The wax layer itself is not all that durable. It looks good - yes, and it "fills in" some scratches - yes (temporarily, like maybe a few weeks), and it "protects" - sure. You get water beading and some dirt resistance, but it is all short lived. Waxes, and even the best synthetic paint sealants, are not designed to be applied just once a year or once in a car's lifetime. The label may state that it lasts 3 or so months, but in reality - in the real world - you'll be getting just a few weeks of shine and "protection."
Wax is the bare minimum to consider, if you want your car's paint to remain in tact and in shape. This is because the sun, the environment, water, dirt and contaminants, all play a huge role in breaking down your car's precious clear coat. Once it's broken down, there is no choice but to get a new paint job, if you want your car looking good again.
The problem with wax
If you are a disciplined person, and can stay on top of waxing your vehicle every month - this would be ideal. If you can do this, then your car will be protected from the sun and the elements, and you won't really have to worry about your car's paint condition over the long haul. However, most people don't understand this. Most people will actually never wax their car.
Most people, if they do get their car waxed, will consider waxing their car once a year - or even worse, once in the entire ownership of the vehicle, right before selling it. To be honest, there really isn't much benefit to waxing your car just once a year or very rarely like that. It looks good for the temporary time that the wax will last, but after that, it's back to it's normal, neglected condition.
This would sort of be like doing an oil change on your car once a year, or like after driving it for 25,000 miles. More accurately, this would be like working out or eating healthy once a year and expecting for that to be the difference maker in your health.
Since waxing regularly to keep your car protected is actually very difficult, and is proven to be something that people don't do, an easier, one-and-done type of approach would be to get a ceramic coating installed on your ride.
Ceramic coatings are the "once-in-a-car's-lifetime" wax
Ok so, ceramic coatings are more than just a layer of wax. The benefits are more of the same, but they last way longer. The main problem with wax is that it doesn't last very long at all, since it just melts off after a few short weeks. Ceramic coatings are the solution to this problem, since they are designed to last years! (Even the consumer grade coatings are rated for up to 2 years of protection.) By design, ceramic coatings are permanent (hence "ceramic") and will only come off if intentionally removed (by abrasion and machine polishing).
One thing to consider
Since most people view waxing as a once in a lifetime fix to their car's appearance issues, we need to start here, before really claiming the "never wax your car again" title for ceramic coatings.
A lot of people view waxing as a one and done procedure, and not every month or every few months, as they should. Since this is the case, we have to determine what people are actually looking for in a wax job.
A lot of people think wax will actually improve (permanently) their car's appearance, but unfortunately, this is not true. Wax is more like a makeup and a sunscreen, that needs to be reapplied to cover up imperfections and protect the paint finish.
Since a wax job, to most people, is to make the car look better, rather than to protect the paint, one would assume that people are looking to improve their car's appearance with a wax job.
This is where the common tagline (never wax your car again), for ceramic coatings, falls short. Ceramic coatings protect and last like crazy. One thing they will not do is continually improve it's look. Coatings resist dirt well, and are harder than paint, therefore, less scratches will occur. But since coatings are applied once and are permanent, the condition of the vehicle, immediately after it's been coated, is the best the car will ever look - coat it once, but maintain it from there. Sure, the scratch resistance from a premium ceramic coating is superior, but over time, even the BEST ceramic coatings, such as Opti-Coat Pro, are not 100% scratch proof. Over time, if not maintained well, a ceramic coated car may look worse than a car that is regularly (every month) waxed.
What is a ceramic coating?
If you don't know by now (or if you haven't seen our homepage or services!), we sell and install Optimum Polymer Technologies brand ceramic coatings. We are authorized installers for Optimum Paint Guard, Optimum Opti-Coat Pro and Optimum Opti-Coat Pro +, and we also install Optimum's consumer grade coating, Optimum Gloss Coat.
Regardless of the brand or type or grade of ceramic coating that we install, ceramic coatings are awesome! It is the newest form of liquid, wax-like paint protection. However, it is not wax, as it is not "natural," nor is it a simple synthetic paint sealant, as it doesn't just wash off over time. Ceramic coatings are literally a glass like-liquid, that gets spread on the paint to harden, permanently bonding to the paint, and does not come off unless you want it off (ie: abrading the surface by scratching it off or polishing it off). Ceramic coatings are revolutionary to the auto detailing industry, as it provides the actual permanent protection that car owners crave, and can benefit from. Here's a few reasons or scenarios to consider installing a ceramic coating to your vehicle.
1) You want easier maintenance
There is nothing like washing a car that is ceramic coated. It is as easy as washing a kind-of-clean vehicle. The way that ceramic coatings provide this ease, is that they are highly hydrophobic (resisting water), and are highly dirt and debris resistant (keeping the car clean(er)). Both of these factors result in an easier to initially rinse, easier to lather and loosen the dirt (literally with no pressure on the wash mitt), and easier to rinse clean, vehicle. Because a ceramic coated surface is very hydrophobic, water will not want to stick (and instead bead up on horizontal surfaces), and thus making it easier to dry (no pools of water to soak up!).
2) You want to preserve the paint finish
The easier wash process will result in a less scratched paint surface. Here's how: Moving dirt across the paint is practically the only way a car starts to get scratched, swirled and marred up. If there is less dirt on the car to begin with (because it is coated), and the dirt is easily released and loosened from the paint (because it is coated), the amount of friction that needs to occur to get the car clean is substantially less than an un-coated car. Less friction equals less scratches.
And this is not the only way a ceramic coated car will collect less scratches. A ceramic coating by design is HARDER THAN FACTORY CLEAR COAT. What does this mean? Scratches and micro-scratches will occur way less than just bare paint, because of the harder, less penetrable surface. Now, of course light scratches will eventually occur (especially if washing and drying the car more often, or even aggressively or incorrectly, and especially if the car is dirtier when deciding to wash), but the point is that with a ceramic coating, the scratches will occur less.
Both of these factors (easier, less frictioned washing, and being harder-than-paint) are a killer combo to help keep a surface looking as it should: shiny!
3) You just bought a brand new car
Now, since the overwhelming benefit of a ceramic coating is simply a better looking vehicle overall, applying a ceramic coating to a brand new vehicle is a wise move. A brand new vehicle will start with the most amount of paint. Over time, while collecting scratches or getting machine polished, that paint will get thinner. Applying a coating will not only thicken the paint surface and beef it up, but a coating will help keep the scratches off. It will be cleaner longer, and it will be easier to wash. Applying a coating to a brand new vehicle is almost a no-brainer, as a new vehicle fresh off of the car lot has it's most value. The coating will only help to preserve that value, and prevent the clear coat from getting thinner (thinner clear coat eventually results in nasty, white-patched clear coat failure).
Start here if you have not actually purchased a car yet
Before you keep reading - If you have not driven off the lot yet, but are about to purchase a brand new vehicle, CONSIDER A CERAMIC COATING, and not the sealant that they offer you in the finance department. A ceramic coating is the real deal - the dealership protection is a lesser form of actual protection, plus a warranty.
Start here if you already bought a new car
Okay, so you just bought a brand new car, and you rejected the $1,000 paint protection plan (wise move!). You are looking to protect the paint, as you know that within a year or two, it will not look nearly as good as it does now. (Also wise!) You've heard of ceramic coatings, and of how awesome they are at protecting paint, but are not sure about pulling the trigger (As they are described to do the same thing as the dealership stuff...). I'm here to tell you (not just because we at Detail Pros install ceramic coatings) that installing a ceramic coating on your vehicle when it is brand new, is a great investment. Here's why:
Thin factory clear coat is the reason to go ceramic
Paint on a brand new car, straight from the factory, is thin. It is also susceptible to scratching and damage under typical car ownership conditions. With these two legit factors, the condition of your car's paint is all downhill from the moment you drove off the lot - and not in a good way. With thin paint, if chemicals and the environment, and namely, the sun, penetrates the clear top coat, that paint is damaged. The result is clear coat failure, which looks like white, patchy, sun spots (common on Hondas and older vehicles). With the paint being so sensitive and easily scratched, that penetration from the sun and the elements is real, as scratching and abrasion is the very act of actually making the clear coat thinner.
By installing a ceramic coating, you are adding an additional, harder, slicker, and more chemical + scratch resistant top coat. What this means is less damage to the paint over time. Scratches and UV sun ray damage is less likely to occur. And when you add this ceramic coating layer to a brand new car, you are adding tangible insurance to the car's paint system, when it's in it's thickest, most healthy condition. Adding this additional top coat is guaranteeing longer life for the car's paint.
The viscous cycle of polishing paint to make it look good again
If you can imagine this: when cars get scratched, paint gets removed. The only way to fix the scratched appearance is to remove and level out more paint via polishing. While the polishing will make the car look better, overall, the paint gets thinner and more susceptible to damage from the environment.
The only way to prevent all of this paint removal and potential paint damage is to:
A. keep your car from getting scratched (regular, gentle hand washes)
B. install paint protection film (tangible clear plastic film that wraps the paint)
C. install a durable ceramic coating
The reason I like ceramic coatings most, is that they are cheaper to install than paint protection film (some people do not like the look of paint protection film), and they will make it easier to wash your car. You should consider A. B. and C. if money and time is not an issue. But a ceramic coating can certainly be a great first step to keeping your brand new car as new as possible.
Hi! This blog is written by Detail Pros' very own, Ken! I am the owner and detailer at Detail Pros in Yuba City, CA, which is a smallish town between Sacramento, CA and Chico, CA. Thanks for reading!