An impressive paint finish SETS the impression (either overt of subliminal) for those in the market to purchase a new car.
That window sticker with a bunch of features takes a back seat to that initial look.
The glossy finish made you say “Wow!”
We buy with our eyes.
This explains why a good share of the cost involved in building a new car factory goes into the paint finish system.
Car makers know your first impression of a paint finish can make the sale. The color, vividness and quality of the paint finish is a major factor.
Pull up a chair!
This guide is all about car wax (in the traditional sense) BUT also about paint sealants and other products commonly referred to as a last step product.
Use this page to make your next car wax purchase for you and your automobile.
Do New Car Finishes Really Need Wax?
Man has been coating metal, wood and stone for several thousand years.
Car specific coatings, on the other hand, weren’t invented until shortly after Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company.
These early coatings were simply varnish products carried over from the horse and buggy industry.
My friends, we’re not in Kansas anymore!
Today’s paint systems are better than ever for both vehicles and the environment.
They offer extraordinary colors, vivid depth and clarity, extremely high gloss and new levels of durability.
It’s not magic though…
While new technologies offer a longer lasting finish, the paintwork does oxidize. It’s not impervious to environmental conditions.
Even with the improvements, new car finishes must be waxed and properly maintained.
The Major Players of Paint
DuPont and PPG manufacture around 80% of all automotive paint used worldwide.
They pretty much dominate.
A third player, BASF, produces paint for many of the European car manufactures and a few car models in the US.
It’s well known that PPG and DuPont have responded to complaints that their clearcoats were easily scratched.
As a result, the new clearcoat systems from PPG and DuPont are slightly harder than BASF’s. Nothing to write home about though.
Quickly, while we’re touching on Europe…
There have been reports that European car paint systems are somehow significantly different and require different care.
Based on my research, there is very little actual difference. I view European car paint as simply a matter of personal preference.
There are a few high-end car manufacturers, namely Mercedes-Benz, experimenting with ceramic paint systems.
The verdict is out. The way I see it, feedback is mixed.
I do believe ceramic paint requires car wax protection just the same.
Dispelling Another Myth
Paints from different manufacturers do not favor one wax coating over another.
The notion that a wax is produced specifically for a make and model of car, such as an Acura NSX or a BMW Z3, is totally ridiculous.
Let me be clear:
Beware of any company or person marketing such products. There’s no factual basis for a special wax blend based on the car brand or model.
Clear Coat Protection Truths
In fact, clearcoat finishes are not really particular about the car wax you use.
That is, as long as you’re not using an overly abrasive cleaner-wax.
Thankfully, most are designed for conventional finishes. They require more “scrubbing” action to remove heavy oxidation and stains.
Only in rare circumstances is a heavy abrasive required to treat a clearcoat finish.
Planning on using a cleaner-wax on your clearcoat?
For safety’s safe, be sure it’s a clearcoat safe product such as Klasse All-In-One (a soft cleaner that lightly cleans and polishes).
Waxing Frequency Factors
I recommend waxing a minimum of twice a year in most climate conditions.
Wax less often than this and your paint will suffer premature deterioration from oxidation.
Here’s the deal:
Use a pure car wax (one with no cleaners) and you cannot over-wax your car!
On the other hand, a clearcoat safe cleaner-wax should be applied no more than 4 times yearly.
A Few Key Recommendations
Many quality car waxes combine enriching oils that “wet” the surface with protective formulas for a high-gloss shine.
Yes, it can be complicated!
For now, we’ll keep it simple.
Are you looking for a natural paste wax product?
A pure car wax like P21S Carnauba is an excellent choice, BUT you’ll need to apply it every 60 days to maintain protection.
Perhaps you want the best paint defense possible with minimal effort…
Well, look no further than Optimum Opti-Seal (more on this type of technology later).
This crystal-clear paint sealant wipes on and dries clear. More importantly, it is truly durable in all climate and environmental conditions.
Car Wax Technology
It was European coach builders that first applied coatings of animal fats and wax to protect the custom paint on their horse-drawn carriages.
Crazy, but true!
This tradition has endured for well over a 100 years; only now we have modern-day coaches!
These days a multi-layered car finish, from the primer through the top clearcoat, is only .004 to .006 of an inch thick.
How technology evolves!
But regardless of how fine the finish is now, it will deteriorate and dull.
Radiant and ultraviolet energy, acid rain, salt, atmospheric pollution, insect fluids and bird droppings wage a constant war on your car’s finish.
Waxing provides an easily renewable, transparent barrier between the finish and the hostile environment.
Applying car wax also makes your car, new or old, look better.
At this point, I probably don’t need to convince you of this.
Logically, this brings us to the subject of selecting a wax.
Let’s take a closer look!
First off, know this:
Waxes can be made from a natural wax, usually Brazilian carnauba, or synthetically made of polymers and acrylic resins.
Carnauba Car Wax
We start with Carnauba. It comes from the fronds of the “tree of life” (Copernicia cerifera) which is native to Brazil.
This type of wax is iconic for good reason:
It is nature’s hardest, purest and most transparent wax. Carnauba car waxes tend to produce a deeper, darker, richer shine that is often described as three-dimensional.
Many enthusiasts and show car owners prefer the shine of carnauba waxes, especially on black, red and other dark colors.
That’s not all…
Carnauba car waxes bead water nicely, absorb the acid content in rain and hide minor paint swirls.
Carnauba Has Downsides
On the minus side, carnauba waxes aren’t as durable as synthetic waxes.
Depending on your climate, a carnauba wax might only last between 30 and 60 days. Not great!
Additionally, some carnauba waxes can be temperamental. This means there is occasionally streaking under certain temperature or humidity conditions.
So why does it continue to have such a loyal following?
Well, not everyone continues to utilize canauba.
In fact, many view it as a dinosaur!
In my own case, I religiously use P21S Carnauba Wax to pamper my show car. At one point, I stopped using it but I’ve since returned.
I simply like the way it looks.
On my toy, durability is secondary. Plus, the wax goes on like butter and wipes of just as easily.
Synthetic Car Wax Creams & Liquids
Made from modern polymers or acrylic resins, synthetic waxes offer excellent durability and ease of application.
Quality synthetic waxes have been known to last 6 to 9 months or longer.
They typically wipe on and off very easily. Synthetic waxes create a bright shine and rarely cloud or streak on paint.
Still Not Perfect
The truth is many enthusiasts feel synthetic waxes lack depth and richness.
Black finishes in particular can look a little sterile or silvery in direct sunlight. Additionally, mirror-like polymers can collect minor swirls and actually highlight paint flaws.
One of my synthetic car wax favorites, that has stood the test of time, is Klasse High Gloss Sealant Glaze.
This product just never goes away. People love it because it works.
Be sure to visit the Klasse Car Wax Guide to learn more about it.
Clear Nanotechnology Polymer Coatings
There’s a fairly new type of surface protection — a clear paint sealant.
At least 3 companies, Zaino Bros’, Ultima Finish Care and Optimum Polymer Technologies, are producing it.
Why am I telling you this?
Clear sealants are nanotechnology polymer coatings that are highly resistant to detergents, acids and hard minerals (like calcium).
Don’t let nanotechnology jargon confuse you. The chemical simply creates a full molecular blanket of protection.
It uses molecules that are much smaller than water or acid molecules. These bind together to form a virtual chain link fence of protection.
If this sounds interesting to you…
Based on ease-of-use, good looks and lasting protection I highly recommend Optimum Opti-Seal. It’s a fantastic wipe-on, walk away paint sealant.
Be sure to check out the article How to Wax Your Vehicle!