The Basics of Paint Protection for Cars
Having a freshly painted, shiny car to drive around town is something that will always feel good to vehicle owners. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit that goes into keeping your car’s aesthetic appeal. Effective paint protection for cars requires you to invest money, time, and resources.
The good news is as long as you are proactive about keeping your automotive paint protected, you can reduce its exposure to harmful contaminants which will help keep the paint looking good and ultimately increase the resale value of your car.
Below, we will go over the three most common ways vehicle owners can retain the luster of and extend the lifespan of car paint. For each method of car paint protection, we will discuss the pros and cons as well as tips for how to ensure you are making the most cost-effective choice.
What Are the Best Ways to Protect a Cars Paintjob?
Trucks, SUVs, and modern cars arrive at dealerships with clear coat protectants and several layers of paint, all of which act as a shield to protect the paint’s surface from damage. However, as time goes on the paint is inevitably exposed to contaminants, the elements, and car-washes all of which lead to wear and tear on the vehicle’s clear coat.
To protect against this destruction of the car’s paint, vehicle owners most often use one or a combination of the following three products:
Natural and Synthetic Car Wax (such as paint sealants)
Paint Protection Film (PPF)
Each of these three products provides a thin protective layer to a car’s clear coat, similar to how someone might wear a jacket to protect against cold weather. This protective layer helps protect the clear coat of a car’s paint from harmful elements such as:
Acid produced from bug splatters and/or bird droppings
Snow and ice
Car wax, PPF, and ceramic coating can be applied by either automotive detailing companies or the consumer. The level of protection will be determined by multiple factors – which we’ll explore below.
Car Wax & Paint Sealants
Carnauba wax is the most popular wax used in automotive applications and the entry point of car paint protection. This wax is a combination of beeswax, solvents, and a sap taken from Brazilian palm tree leaves. When applied, Carnauba wax provides a protective shell, which is similar with the outer candy shell of a Tootsie Roll, and usually lasts about six weeks.
Paint sealants are similar with car wax however, the addition of polish and synthetic enhancements give it a much larger life-expectancy of six months on average, but in some cases up to a year. When a vehicle’s paint is protected with wax, completing the average car wash is easier than a non-protected surface.
Pros and Cons of Using Car Wax & Paint Sealants
Some of the pros of using car wax and/or paint sealants are:
Carnauba wax is all-natural for those who are environmentally-conscious
Minimal prep-work is required
It is easy to apply even for novice vehicle owners
It is resistant to heat
It adds shine to the car’s body and is water-resistant
Despite these advantages of using car wax and/or paint sealants, some cons worth considering are:
Constant maintenance and reapplication are necessary. Car wax needs to be reapplied about every six weeks and paint sealants need to be reapplied about once every six months
Applying car wax or paint sealant to your car is physically taxing. Each time, you have to strip the old protective coating before reapplying a new layer. This takes about three to five hours each time.
It can get expensive. The cost to remove and reapply wax and sealants over aa period of a few years can rival a professional ceramic coating installation.
Paint Protection Film & Vinyl
Automotive paint protection film (PPF) or clear bra are made nowadays with thermoplastic urethane, which is a high-quality film that gets installed directly onto paint surfaces. PPF is a clear film mainly intended to provide a transparent shield on the paint job against damage caused by road debris. Most truck, SUV, and car owners install PPF on the area of the car’s exterior most at risk of exposure to debris and rocks, such as the side-view mirrors, bumpers, and the front hood.One of the best features of PPF protection is that it is self-healing. This means that if a small scratch or chip appears in the film, the elastomeric polymers on the surface will automatically fuse together and hide the damage when heat is applied.
Vinyl wrap, on the other hand, is much heavier and thicker than PPF. This makes it more durable, stronger, and ensures it will last several years. While vinyl wraps cannot be made to be 100% clear, their color and style can be customized to the vehicle’s preference.
Whether it be PPF or vinyl wrap, these are most often installed by auto body specialists or automotive detailers, as each of these requires advanced prep work, equipment, and techniques to be applied successfully. On average, if they are installed professionally, PPF and vinyl wrap applications last between 5 to 10 years.
Pros and Cons of Using Paint Protection Film
Both PPF and vinyl wraps are great and long-lasting options for protecting your vehicle’s paint. There are still pros and cons worth considering, however, before making an investment:
Provides strong protection against contaminants such as UV rays, rocks, chemicals, bird droppings, and more
Self-healing properties due to materials such as thermoplastic polyurethane
Can last up to 10 years
You can apply a professional-grade ceramic coating on top for superior hydrophobic and protective properties.
Not 100% water-resistant – water spots appear easily on vinyl wraps and some entry-level PPF
Can get expensive. PPF is typically among the higher costs for paint protection.
Discoloration: Cheaper PPF’s can discolor with excessive exposure to sunlight and other elements
If damaged, a full replacement is required with many PPF’s
If you like both the visual appeal of car wax and the protective strength of paint protection film, then ceramic coatings are worth considering. Automotive nano ceramic coating is derived from quartz, which is one of the hardest substances on Earth once it’s cured and incorporates nanotechnology to infuse onto a vehicle’s coat.
After having paint correction completed – removing swirl marks and other paint damage, the coating will fill imperfections in a car’s paint. This leaves a smooth and flat surface resistant to water, UV light, scratches, road grime, chemicals, animal waste, extreme weather, harsh elements, and more.
The problem with the general ceramic coating industry, is the multitude of products that fall into the category. But not all of them are equal in application or performance.
Spray Coatings: This is generally the entry-point to ceramic coating protection. It’s a spray coating with ceramic ingredients that replicate a lot of the attributes or features of a coating, without the long-lasting protective qualities.
DIY Nano-Ceramic Coating: DIY (Do it Yourself) Nano-Ceramic Coating is a type of ceramic paint protection developed specifically for consumer applications. This means it requires less preparation, cures much faster, and is easier to install which offers you a complete do-it-yourself solution for protecting your car’s paint.
Professionally Installed Ceramic Coatings: This version of ceramic coating is meant to only be installed by professional auto body/detailing experts, as it requires significant preparation, advanced application techniques, and is difficult to remove without the right conditions. They are always applied indoors, and many of the professional grade coatings are sold with warranties for longevity. The professional coating is where this industry took off when it was introduced to the world about 15 years ago.
Pros and Cons of Using Ceramic Coatings
The main advantage of using a ceramic coating (whether installed by a professional or installed using DIY Nano-Ceramic Coating) is the degree of shine and luster it provides. Also, this is the best option for hydrophobic properties, which means it does a better job of repelling water and dirt and thus keeps your car cleaner for longer periods of time.
Here are some pros and cons to consider regarding ceramic coatings:
Superior protection against contaminants
Maintains shine without needing to polish or wax frequently
Reduces sticking of materials such as bird dropping and bug splatters and is highly heat resistant – like a non-stick cooking pan
Makes it easier to maintain and clean the paint surface of your vehicle
Longevity can hold up for a lifetime (only with professional coatings like Ceramic Pro 9H Gold Package).
Some DIY Ceramic Coating kits use coating with a low quartz percentage made with inferior materials
Buyer beware market. A lot of cheap knock-off imitation products out there.
Significant prep work is required for superior results.
Most spray coatings only hold up for a few months and are mainly designed to replicate hydrophobic and shine producing qualities vs actual protection.
Which Paint Protection Product is Best?
In the end, you’ll have to determine which product is best suited for your car and application. If you’re looking for a few years of protection, a Ceramic Pro Bronze package – giving you two years of car paint protection is a great starting point. Looking for up to 5 years, the Silver package would benefit you.
If you’re in the market for the ultimate shield of protection for a luxury, performance, or collectible vehicle, adding Llumar platinum paint protection film and Ceramic Pro 9H Gold package gives you a lifetime warranty.