So far, I’ve blogged on washing, decontamination and polishing, so this article is, with just a hint of predictability, going to focus on paint protection and last stage products (or LSPs for short).
When deciding which LSP to select, due to the chiefly subjective nature of the subject, I think it’s best to consider which properties in a finish are of highest importance. Some products will maximise flake pop, others reflectivity, some the depth of shine and colour richness (also known as jetting). Obviously factors such as durability are objective and will play a more easily quantifiable part in the process. If you know what you’re looking for in a finish, it makes product selection much easier – remembering that, at the moment, there is no truly perfect LSP.
As carnauba waxes are natural, their chemical make-up is slightly random and the finish they offer is microscopically rough. This causes water to bead in a very tight, tall form whilst the nature of the wax on the surface causes light to reflect and penetrate to the paint below in a different way to how it penetrates a synthetic polymer coating (the wax molecules do not arrange themselves neatly on the surface, more they sit in a slightly haphazard fashion). Carnauba waxes will also tend to erode slightly quicker than synthetic sealants as their structure, generally, does not allow them to bond to the paint surface so strongly. However, some waxes have other ingredients within their contents, which make them more erosion resistant.
Synthetic polymer sealants, created in a laboratory, can be tailored to provide different characteristics and, in their application, the molecules arrange themselves in a uniform fashion on the paint surface. This allows light to reflect and penetrate to the paint below in a different way to a carnauba wax coating (generally speaking synthetic sealants allow light to penetrate and reflect back out again in a less deflected fashion, with the resulting finish appearing sharper as a result). This can also cause the finish to look colder and more sterile than a waxed finish. The uniform way in which the molecules of a polymer finish arrange themselves also tends to allow them to bond more strongly to the clearcoat with a resulting increase in durability.
In both cases (wax and sealant), the cleaner the paint surface the better the bond and better the durability. With regard to LSP application, motor bike racing legend Mick Doohan’s phrase (in this case with an expletive removed) is bang on: “Perfect preparation prevents poor performance”.
Just to confuse matters further when it comes to paint protection, the introduction of nanotechnology offers a different take. Nanotechnology allows sealants to essentially become part of the paint system, making nanotechnology products exceptionally durable. There are two main types of nano-systems coming to the fore and they work on different principles – one is hydrophobic, one is hydrophilic – while both claiming to deliver a similar net result with outstanding durability. Some nanotechnology products are to some extent self-cleaning, replicating nature’s Lotus Flower effect. So far, we have had great results with some of these nanotechnology products and this is an area of car care which, we suspect, will develop quickly in the future.
In terms of testing, I recently tried some hands on work with a variety of waxes and sealants, applying them to different sections of panels and comparing mode of application, buffing ability, feel of the treated paint finish and beading. On such small areas it was difficult to ascertain visual differences but the differences in slickness of the finish and beading were marked between, not just waxes and sealants, but individual products in each category.
So which is best? Well, there is no straightforward answer in the same way that there is no perfect polish: each product is designed to excel in a given way and everything else is, to some extent, a compromise; be it compromise in aesthetics against durability, or performance characteristics against price. The key is finding which factors you place the most emphasis on and selecting the right product to give the results you’re looking for. In this respect, we’re happy to offer advice, as our experience with all the products we stock and the thorough testing process we put them all through ensures we know exactly how our LSPs perform in the quest to find the perfect finish.
My next article, which will posted in July, will be the last in this series and will cover a number of subjects including wheel and tyre care, engine bay cleaning, interior detailing and quick detailing. As always, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to fire away.