John’s thoughts on protection…

June 2nd, 2011

John's freshly detailed Lotus Elise, protected with Werkstat Acrylic products

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.

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12 Responses to “John’s thoughts on protection…”

  1. Rob Donaldson-Webster says:

    Thanks John, most informative – already looking forward to the next blog.

  2. The Wolfman says:

    Very nice read, John! I look forward to the upcoming write-ups!

  3. Ryan (GolfFanBoy) says:

    Great write-up John. I started with Autoglym’s HD wax but found the durability rather disappointing (3 months) so I’m switching to ‘Nanowax’. One aspect I think it’s worth considering when you choose an LSP is what products you can use to maintain the finish between major details. I’ll be using a combination of Nanolex shampoo and spray sealant so I’m looking to get 6 months out of it.

    Werkstat looks great on your Lotus!

  4. Hi Ryan, yes, I agree (see the washing blog: john’s thoughts on safe washing) that shampoo choice is very important and should be matched the LSP on the car. You should see great durability from Nanowax, especially using Nanolex’s Reactivating Shampoo and Premium Spray Sealant. Thanks for the feedback regarding Werkstat! Regards, John.

  5. Ken. T says:

    Great post John!

    Actually, if you don’t mind me pointing out, it is glass/quartz/silica coatings that become ‘part of the paint system’. Many of these coatings are not nanotech. Many ‘nanotechnology coatings’ are deemed to be the latest and the best, when in fact they may not be the latest nor the best. For example, quartz coatings that harden and crystallizes are those that ‘chemically bond’ and become ‘part of the paint’, however, these are not necessarily nano-based. Nano sealants are superior to polymer sealants, but, they do not harden/crystallize, hence there is no hardness to the nano sealants, as compared to quartz coatings. Which is better? That is something that the detailing community has yet to come to a unanimous conclusion. Having said that, in Japan, quartz/silica coatings are the de facto LSPs where as European countries favour more towards nano-sealants (used to..). Just my humble observation and I could be wrong, feel free to correct me if I am.

  6. Hi Ken, I think the confusion stems from our terminology – in Europe, at least, nano-sealants (as you describe them) have been the norm for quite some time. For example, Werkstat acrylic products, which we have stocked for more than four years, contain nano-scale acrylic polymers. However, we have always referred to these products simply as synthetic polymer sealants, and have never used the nano aspect as a marketing tool. However, what you refer to as crystalline sealants, we refer to specifically as nanotechnology products, e.g. the glass-like coatings in the Nanolex and Wolf’s Chemicals ranges (all of which utilise nano-scale components, which become part of the paint system as the coating cures). In light of your comments, we will have a think about how we categorise such products in our store. Maybe ‘synthetic polymer sealants’ and ‘synthetic crystal sealants’ would be a better way of dividing up the two camps? Regards, John.

  7. Peter Sermon says:

    Hi John,
    Enjoy your articles, from your last it would appear a nano polymer is the best for long protection and minimum care. Is there any you could recommend or advise on.


  8. Hi Peter, yes, the nanotechnology sealants do offer a very impressive level of protection with minimal maintenance. Be aware that they do need careful application and should remain dry to cure fully so an indoor workspace is recommended. With the nano-sealants, the work is mostly done in the application stage. If you have access to an indoor space, then any of the sealants we stock will be ideal (if you don’t have access to an indoor work space, let me know and I can recommend an alternative).

    For ease of use, Wolf’s Chemicals Nano Paint Sealant (Body Wrap) is excellent. It’s perhaps not quite as durable as the offerings from Nanolex, but is slightly easier to apply and a single coat should offer up to 6 months of protection so it is still very durable. Body Wrap should be maintained with Wolf’s Chemicals Nano Shampoo (Nano Bathe) and, if required, Wolf’s Chemicals Nano QD (Reparation).

    Nanolex Premium Paint & Alloy Sealant is still quite easy to apply and buff, if a little bit trickier than Body Wrap, but it is more durable with up to 12 months protection from one application. Nanolex Professional Paint & Alloy Sealant is the most expensive option and, it’s fair to say, the option which needs the most careful application and curing process, but the trade off is truly exceptional durability of up to 24 months from a single application so it works out being highly cost effective. Both Nanolex sealants should be maintained with Nanolex Reactivating Shampoo and, if required, Nanolex Premium Spray Sealant.

    The above sealants all offer very similar aesthetic finishes so a lot of the final decision comes down to personal preference with regard to topping up and reapplication, and the initial application process. If I can help or advise further, please let me know. Regards, John.

  9. James Durbin says:

    Always enjoy reading these articles, John. Thanks for taking the time to write them, along with the write ups on DW.

    Could I enquire after your opinions on the GTechniq range of sealants? I have recently used C2 and am personally blown away by the ease of application, durability and looks. But as always, remain open to thoughts and comparisons from the PB team.



  10. Hi James, thanks for your response: always good to know the blogs get people thinking! As I’m sure you know, we don’t stock any GTechniq products; Clark and Rich tested them when the products were in their infancy many years ago, but decided not to stock them. The products have probably changed a lot since then: I don’t know. We really like the sealants we currently stock: Body Wrap is extremely easy to use and leaves a great finish with exceptional water beading and surface slickness. Nanolex Premium is almost as easy to apply and is more durable than Body Wrap and Nanolex Professional is remarkable in terms of both durability and finish. It’s obviously difficult to compare these to products we don’t stock and haven’t much experience of, but I’m more than happy to fully recommend any of the nano sealants we currently stock – they are all extremely good. Regards, John.

  11. Mark Webster says:

    Excellent article with lots to think about. I am looking into using nano technology for over the winter months, but I don’t have any indoor space to apply the product. Also something that will be adequate for the harsh Scottish winter climate. Is there anything in the Market that would satisfy these requirements? Thanks


  12. Hi Mark, if you don’t have an indoor workspace that is warm and dry, I would steer clear of all of the nanotechnology products we stock. This is because all of them rely on a sol-gel process to cure properly, and this requires (a) warmth, for at least a couple of hours but preferably longer, and (b) protection from dampness and wetting during the same period. If these conditions are not met, the coatings tend not to form properly, meaning you will experience lacklustre performance in terms of the self cleaning effect, water behaviour and durability. However, all is not lost. There is a system that is perfect for you, which does not require an indoor workspace, but which does offer the level of protection your are looking for. I know this to be the case, because I have used it myself through the winter months in Scotland for many years now (including last winter, on my brand new Volvo C30). The system I have in mind is Werkstat Acrylic. This combination of products uses nano-scale acrylic polymers to form a tough layer of synthetic protection, but is water-based… which means it is not particularly sensitive to conditions at the time of application. Indeed, I’ve been known to add fresh coats on sunny winter days with temperatures hovering around freezing, and on miserable winter days with fog in the air. Either way, the products always take properly, with no drama or hassle. Of course, you don’t have to top it up if you don’t want to; half a dozen coats applied in October (easy to do thanks to the spray on format) will see you through to April no problem at all, with just occasional washing in between. See this link for full details – Werkstat Acrylic Kit. I hope this helps, but if you want more information please do not hesitate to send in an e-mail or give us a call. Best regards, Rich.

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