Growing up, a portion of my boyhood responsibilities included- mowing the lawn, raking leaves, cleaning dishes, and washing my family’s vehicles. Every chore was bothersome but one was particularly so and that was waxing our Chevrolet Blazer every month. And my elementary attempts to convince my father that the Blazer didn’t need frequent waxing simply fell on deaf ears.
Unfortunately, I can look back to the late 1980’s and see that my father was right after all. (I hate when that happens!) A fresh coat of carnauba wax did not last more than a few months then, nor does it now. The good news is- time moves forward bringing innovation with it. Today, companies supplying professional detail products are bringing to market offerings that are focused on protecting paint over periods of years, not just months!
Paint Coatings are still a relatively new genre of paint protection products and over recent years have started to alter the way consumer’s select professional detailing services. Even though paint coatings are close to a decade old, I chose to describe them as- “relatively new”- because these products have not reached the market saturation of a carnauba wax. Therefore, relatively few of my customers have knowledge of paint coatings and I expect this to be similar for most professional detailers nationwide.
In my opinion, paint coatings will never reach the critical mass of traditional protection products even though they clearly outperform in almost every category. I believe this is most likely due to the rigid application process coatings require.
A wax or sealant, in theory, could be applied by anyone after a fresh wash of their vehicle with total time expended being only a few hours. Comparatively, a paint coating requires additional steps to properly prepare the paint system for optimal bonding with the product. Total time invested in the process could quickly consume multiple days. The average consumer fails to justify the time, product expense, tool expense, or patience for this endeavor.
If you are new to the idea of paint coatings, then you are probably in the majority of readers of this post. This is quite understandable as these products are not present on the shelf of your local auto parts or big box retailer.
I believe paint coatings are a superior option to other traditional paint protection products. Given the proper scenario, paint coatings provide additional value above and beyond that of a wax or sealant. Most of this value is delivered by the incredible duration of protection and the aesthetic qualities coatings impart to the clear coat.
While there are a plethora of companies offering paint coatings, I think it is safe to assume a vast majority of retail coatings provide at least one year’s worth of protection at minimum. On the other hand, installers of professional coatings can offer products that will protect over the multiple years.
There are also a few secondary externalities associated with paint coatings which an interested party should consider when selecting a product to protect said vehicle but I do not believe these considerations should be “decision makers.” An interested consumer should be focused on the excellent gloss and clarity of the paint work, the duration of the protection provided, and the ease of maintenance after the installation.
With quite a number of applications under my belt and performing my own testing of coating products from various companies, I have developed some opinions of these externalities when compared to a wax or sealant…
- A self-cleaning effect- No, the car is NOT going to wash itself but let me explain. Depending on the type of coating, it should create an increased water contact angle that leads to incredible hydrophobic qualities which bead and sheet water at a tremendous rate. The increased hydrophobic action and the cured chemical structure of the coating, together, help flush dust and light debris from the surface more easily.
- Increased wash mar resistance- No, the coating is NOT a force field. Installed coatings can still be swirled, scratched, and receive other damage such as rock chips. However, some cured coatings could be considered ‘harder’ than the underlying clear. When executing a maintenance wash in a safe manner, the additional hardness of certain coatings can help protect from light defects during the cleaning process.
- A true, sacrificial layer- A fully cured coating can range in thickness but generally adds between .5- 1.5 microns of total film build on top of the clear coat (depending on the product and amount of layers applied). This means- light, wash induced defects, could be contained in the additional film build provided by the coating. What this does NOT mean is the coating will absorb all potential damage and prevent it from reaching the underlying paint system! After all, 1 thousandth of an inch is equal to 25.4 microns!
- A semi permanent bond- A successful installation of a paint coating cannot be removed via a chemical process. It can only be removed by polishing or sanding the surface. However, if exposed to low and/ or high pH chemicals for extended periods of time, the coating can be damaged which will be apparent in the reduced hydrophobic action.
There have been instances where professional installers have inflated the aforementioned attributes of paint coatings to an unreasonable degree in order to ‘seal the deal’. This unsavory behavior typically leads to an unsatisfied customer as the expectations of the product have been set artificially high.
While paint coatings are certainly impressive products and often considered to be the pinnacle of paint protection, they are not always the best fit for everyone. Primarily, the upfront cost of the coating can be prohibitive.
As mentioned earlier in this post, paint coatings require rigid procedures to prepare the paint system for optimal bonding and ensure the coating performs as intended. The preparatory procedures include but are not limited to: an initial wash, decontaminating the paint system, machine polishing, removing any residual polishing oils, etc. Machine polishing is required because this process levels paint defects so they will not be “locked in” after the coating is applied. However, when considering the longevity of the coating and amortizing the cost over the expected lifespan, the economic reality proves the coating to be a greater value, both in time and money, versus having the vehicle serviced with a wax or sealant more frequently.
Secondly, some customers are very particular in how their vehicles appear at all times. For instance, I have a client who owns quite a few black vehicles and they must show impeccably. When servicing his cars and trucks every 6 months or so, they receive varying degrees of machine polishing to correct the paint work. Given this scenario, a paint coating would not serve his interest well since the coating would be removed by the frequent polishing sessions.
At this point, you may care about the value paint coatings provide or to the contrary, you may care less. My intent has been to introduce the idea of these products to readers and prompt some thought about the potential benefits they could offer.
If you are wondering if a paint coating makes sense for your vehicle, Dellinger’s Detailing offers courtesy, no-obligation consultations where we can discuss your specific scenario to explore the possibility. Simply contact us today!
Stay tuned for my next posts where I will continue discussing the subject of paint coatings. In the following weeks, I will be joined by official representatives from two coating manufacturers who will hopefully provide further insights into their respective companies and coating products in general.