Waxing & Protecting Automotive Paint

by Jeremy Goodspeed

Paint protectants are simply a clear, sacrificial coating that is applied to painted surfaces. Using a carnauba wax or polymer sealant will guard against bird dropings, instects, acid rain, UV rays, ozone, tree sap, road tar and many other hazards you will come acress on the road. These protectants can be re-applied with little effort, and will extend the life of your paint.

APPLYING WAXES and PAINT SEALANTS: Always apply waxes and sealants when the surface is cool and away from direct sunlight. As temperatures increase, waxes and sealants become increasingly difficult to remove. It is best to use a hand applicator pad or orbital polisher (speed 2 or 3) with a finishing pad to apply product to the paint surface. Some manufactures only recommend a hand-applied process, as well as a back and fourth motion opposed to circular motions. Always refer to the directions for their specific instructions.

An orbital polisher simulates a circular hand motion and uses a pad to evenly spread coatings across the painted surface. Professional detailers use an orbital polishers to apply liquid waxes and paint sealants for time savings and even application. However, paste waxes are intended to be applied by hand. Always remember that several thin coats provide better protection than one thick one. Only a small amount of waxes and sealants remain after burnishing, therefore several thin coats over a period of time will provide a better barrier of protection. When applying several coats of carnauba wax, allow a period of time between applications. It is recommended to wait about 4 days between applications. This time will allow the wax to harden and help the build-up of protection. If a second coat of wax is applied over a first coat that hasn't set-up, the chemical make-up of the wax will strip about 90% of the first coat. So you will only end up with 110% of protection for 200% of the effort! Waiting the recommended amount of time will only remove 10% of the previous aplication.

Most waxes and sealants usually need to be left on a surface for 15-20 minutes before removal. This time will vary according to the ambient temperature conditions. Wax should wipe clean without streaking or powdering. If a wax streaks, it needs to be allowed to dry on the surface longer. If it powders, it was left on too long. Remove waxes and sealants with a microfiber cloth, turning it often. It may require several cotton towels to complete the removal process. However, it may only take one microfiber cloth to remove the wax from an entire vehicle. This make microfiber towels a necessity for this task. Keep the towels form coming in contact with any dirty object. Always follow up with a clean microfiber towel for final burnishing.

Zymol Wax Method: Zymol Waxes are applied different than any other brand of automotive wax. Because of its unique formualtion and high carnauba content, it is recommended to apply in a back and forth motion, following the body lines of the vehicle. It is also recommended to only be left on the surface for 30-60 seconds before the first removal wipe. It is recommended to wipe only across the surface to only remove a bulk of the excess material. Allow the remaining material to set for an additional hour. Follow up with the final burnishing of any remaining excess material to a deep shine.

Special Note: Polymer Sealants are designed with an open linked molecule and need approximately 48 hours from the time of application to properly cross link and bond with the vehicles painted surface. Be sure that the surface of the vehicle can be left undisturbed from rain and water for this period of time or the surface protection may be compromised.

SPRAY WAXESSpray waxes are an excellent product for use as a lubricant for using a clay bar, touch-ups between regular detail sessions as well as for final glossing after wax application. Sometimes, several hours after applying and removing a wax, some gassing of the surface will create streaking of the painted surface. This is caused by wax particles getting caught in the pores of the paint. Using a spray wax will re-wet the surface and allow the painted panel to be re-burnished. This will increase gloss and eliminate any streaks from the painted surface. Some spray waxes have either a gloss additive or are fortified with carnauba to increase the gloss level.

WAX BUILD UP REMOVAL: Wax build up needs to be removed, especially on a dark colored car. Old wax is more difficult to remove, and requires more care to safely eliminate this build up from a vehicle. To remove wax from a vehicles trim, use a detailing brush with soft bristles. Agitate with care, making sure not to scratch the delicate paint surface. Tooth picks or wooden stemmed cotton swabs cut off at an angle are also extremely effective. The sharp point can be used to clean edges, and remove stubborn wax build up.

Sealing the painted surface is the process of applying a protective barrier to fend off contaminates and reduces oxidation by allowing the paint to retain certain oils. Wax and sealants also protect paint from tree sap, smog UV rays and bird drippings. Sealing paint is achieved in several forms:

Wax Free Hand Glaze: A wax free hand glaze is used for new painted finish that is less than 60 days old. These products allow the paint to breathe and properly dry.

Liquid Spray Wax: A liquid spray wax is used for finger print removal or between waxing touch-ups. This product has no real durability.

Carnauba Cream Wax: A liquid creame wax contains between 6 and 15% carnauba by volume. These products are easy to apply because they are diluted with petroleum distillates or solvents to ease the use. These products offer moderate durability.

Carnauba Paste Wax: A carnauba paste wax usually contains between 20 and 53% carnauba by volume. These products are more difficult to apply, however they give a deeper shine and increased durability over its liquid counterpart.

Polymer Sealants/Resins: Polymer sealants are very popular for vehicles that are painted with an enamel or acrylic based finish or for vehicles that may only receive occasional detail treatments. Polymer sealants are like a liquid carnauba wax, except that a polymer sealant is comprised of an open linked molecule. Carnauba wax molecules are closed linked, which means that they only but up together to protect the surface. The open linked polymer molecules form together to create a chain like effect. This chain like effect, allows the polymer sealant to bond better with the paint. Polymer sealants also have greater life expediency than a carnauba wax. A carnauba wax is expected to last approximately 6 to 8 car washes, opposed to about 16 washes with the use of a polymer sealant. Be expected to sacrifice a small amount of paint depth for increased durability.

Carnauba Wax or Polymer Sealant? This is often an question for buyers. Polymer sealants are durable and work well on enamel and acrylic urethane finishes, however on the new water-borne finishes they appear to lack some durability. Most late model vehicles manufactured in North America or Europe since 2000 are produced using a water-borne (water based) finish. It has been determined that these finished are more poreous than solvent based acrylic finishes. As the polymer molucle is smaller than a carnauba wax molucle a process known as drift occures. Drift is the process of a sealant litterally moving into the pores of the painted surface where it no longer offers protection of the upper surface. Within 3-4 weeks the polymer no longer offers protection. This is appearant as the painted surface will sheet water during normal washing. Using a carnauba wax based product appears to have better durability as it does not drift into the pores as quickly.


For more information regarding water-borne finishes: Water Borne Finihses