Why We “Temporarily” Protect Automotive Paint Finishes

Silver Corvette Stingray

Lately, we at Dr. Beasley’s have been examining the vast concept that is paintwork protection, as we consider this a top priority when it comes to cosmetic car care. The main idea we’re shouldering is that of temporary protection versus long-term protection—the former being paint sealants and waxes, while the latter refers to products promising 2+ years of expected results. In an ideal world you would protect your car once and be done with it… your car’s paint would look great and you wouldn’t have to worry about things like bird droppings or acid rain. Unfortunately, as you know, we do not live in a “perfect” world, and because of this, temporary protection is the most widely used form of protection for automotive paintwork. But why?

Paintwork Protection Basics

All modern cars produced after the mid 1990s have clear coats on them. While that doesn’t go to say all older cars do not have clear coats, the technique wasn’t widely adopted until this time. What this means, for those who don’t know, is that the pigment layer of most cars on the road today is sealed with a solid, clear layer of protection. Protection mainly from UV damage, as the sun’s harmful rays can greatly alter the appearance of an uncoated (or unprotected) pigment layer.

Now, think about scratches, swirls, and all of the not-so-great stuff that can happen to your paintwork… consider the fact that it’s all happening to your clear coat and not the actual color of your car. Every bird dropping, every neatly beaded dollop of sap, you name it. Contaminants like these can leave the surface looking dull and, if allowed to sit on the surface too long, can cause etching and permanent damage. Protecting your paint helps to prevent damage like this by limiting potential affects to the layer of protection rather than your clear coat.

Using Waxes and Paint Sealants

The idea of temporary paint protection engulfs the use of carnauba waxes, synthetic sealants, and any other type of protection product that you have to apply on a regular basis. Carnauba waxes, for example, should be reapplied every 2-3 months and polymer sealants an average of 6-8 months (depending on formulation, climate, etc.).

Temporary protection provides a number of benefits. Waxes and sealants make cleaning your car easier by disallowing airborne contaminants to embed themselves into the clear coat. Instead, the debris is embedded into the sealant, thus becoming less threatening to the clear coat and much easier to remove. Additionally, sealants and waxes add a nice shine/luster to the surface, which is the more glamourous side of protection. Both waxes and paint sealants have their own benefits: read Paint Sealants vs. Carnauba Waxes.

Enthusiasts and professional detailers worldwide utilize temporary protection to prevent damage to their permanent protection—their clear coat. Aside from limiting potential damage from environmental fallout and airborne debris, the added UV protection provided by sealants and waxes helps to keep the surface as resilient and robust as possible.

What about those 5 year waxes from the dealership?

To be frank, 5 year dealer-applied sealants are a scam. They are simply using the lack of widespread consumer knowledge get you to come in once a year to have them apply a sealant for you. And if they say they have a one-time applied long lasting sealant that will keep your car looking great, this simply isn’t true. Here’s why…

Going back to the previous section, your finish sees a whole lot of potentially harmful contaminants on a daily basis. Unless you keep your car in the garage and under wraps 24/7, you and your “five year sealant” are not immune to this. A 5 year sealant will get beaten up just like your clear coat would if left unprotected. You will inevitably polish the finish, thus removing the “five year sealant.”

As I’ve recommended countless times, the best possible paint protection process for daily drivers is a paint sealant two or three times per year, plus a few applications of carnauba wax in-between. Doing so will keep your finish looking great now until the day you decide to sell your wheels.

And so…

Don’t be fooled by misleading product pitches or what the itchy-palmed salesman at the VW dealer says. Protecting your paint is about two things: a good looking finish and high-mileage paintwork. You achieve these by protecting your car regularly, not once when you buy your car. The most important concept to grasp is that no matter the surface, protected or not, it’s being beaten up by wind, moisture, dust, and more. The only way to keep your finish in perfect condition is to protect regularly, wash regularly, and protect again. It’s a matter of science, discipline, and conceptual knowledge that (if practiced correctly) can have your car looking great 10, 20, even 30 years from now.

What’s your go-to paint protection process?