XPEL, 3M, Opti-Coat, CQuartz, SunTek, Waxes, Paint Correction, Sealants and so much more! This is one of the most common question asked from me and it's time to break it down to create a sticky blog article.
Disclaimer: Before we get into this article, please note that there are several products out there and we recommend researching those companies or products that suit your needs best! This is just a general overview which will help you get started to seeking what you want for your vehicle. Good luck!
1. Waxes & Sealants
First of all, it's important to differentiate the two. Traditional waxes are made from brazilian carnauba which has been classically used to protect various finishes beyond the automotive industry. It leaves a warm glow to the vehicle. On darker vehicles, this tends to leave a wet look while on metallic colors, it numbs down the flakes a bit and leaves a subtle 'midnight' tone to it. Waxes normally last for 1-3 months on average. Sealants are typically made from synthetic polymers that layer upon the surface of the vehicle and function similar to waxes but usually have extended durability. Most over the counter 'waxes' are actually sealants but termed 'waxes.' Sealants can last all the way from 1 month to a year.
Waxes and sealants come in various forms. Some of them are paste waxes which can be applied and then immediately removed. Some need to be left on for a bit of time before being buffed off. The newest ones are simple spray based sealants such as Opti-Seal and CarPro Reload that are simple 'leave-on' products that require minimal to no buffing off making them excellent consumer products and layer-able on top of coatings and clear films.
Coatings are relatively new compared to waxes and sealants. They are usually made from ceramics that can take more wear and tear while some of them giving high-end waxes a run for their money! CQuartz, Opti-Gloss Coat and various other coatings in the market are made from Silicon Dioxide while coatings such as Opti-Coat Pro is made from Silicon Carbide. Semi-permanent paint coatings such as CQuartz and Opti-Gloss Coat last for 2+ years on most automotive surfaces. Opti-Coat Pro and various permanent paint coatings can last for 5+ years on most automotive surfaces. Coatings are resilient to all environmental contaminants and reduce scratches caused by driving and washing. They also tend to perform well against bird bombs and chemical deterioration. Water-spotting can still be an issue on coatings but certain coatings such as Opti-Coat Pro Plus and CQuartz UK are resistant to water spotting. Just in case, we recommend washing your vehicle with deionized water. Several coatings also come with a warranty that is directly registered with the manufacturers of the coating. Normally, coatings are thicker and leave a candy-coated look to the vehicle. Pricing on coatings can vary from several hundreds to a few thousand dollars depending on your installer, the choice of coating and prep work required.
Sometimes, paint correction is recommended prior to coating the vehicle by your installer. Most of the time, when a car is finished at the factory or at the dealership lot, it goes through wear and tear or for some reason or another undergoes damage to the exterior.Additionally, the assembly process of the car doesn't have time to clear out minor defects on the vehicle's surface. Your installer may inspect your vehicle and recommend correcting specific areas prior to coating installation. Since coatings, unlike waxes, bond with the surface rather than just layer on top of it, it is recommended to remove any surface defects prior to locking the whole paint under the coating. For more, you may want to contact your local coating installer. There may be an extra charge on top of the coating installation for the additional paint correction and prep work required to remove defects on the vehicle.
3. Clear Films
Clear films were initially used in the military to protect vehicles and high-traffic components of military units. However, with time, they made it to the consumer market to be used in high-end performance cars. Now, they are commonly used to protect automotive surfaces against scrapes, rock chips and airborne contaminants. With the advent of technology, they also have self-healing properties which can allow some light scratches to be 'healed' with time or heat exposure. 3M, Xpel and SunTek some of the major distributors and manufacturers of clear films prominent among enthusiast and performance lovers. Akin to the coatings, it is recommended to remove all surface defects prior to the installation of the clear film. Films have the properties of reducing maintenance, resisting stain and fading and the best durability to offer in the detailing industry. Please note that your installer may recommend defect removal or paint correction prior to installing the clear film as well, depending on the film you want them to apply.
3M currently has 3M VentureShield, Scotchgard and Scotchgard Pro series. For more details, please click here. VentureShield and Scotchgard comes with a 5 year warranty while the Scotchgard Pro series comes with a 7 year warranty and is currently the flagship of 3M paint protection films.
SunTek also offers film protection for vehicles in the form of Top-coated film and the Matte film and as the name states, they are both clear and matte finishes respectively. They both come with a 5 year warranty.
XPEL currently offers 5 types of films: Xpel Ultimate, XPEL Stealth, XPEL Tracwrap, XPEL Xtreme and XPEL Armor. Ultimate offers self-healing properties along with stain resistance and optical clarity and is the choice for most vehicles. Stealth creates a satin finish on vehicles and is made from the same polyurethane as Ultimate. Tracwrap is a consumer friendly film that provides temporary protection that provides road abrasion coverage and takes less than 45 minutes to install and 5 minutes to remove. Xtreme is a film that offers the highest clarity and is the choice for vehicles that want protection without minimal film visibility. Armor is a 13 mils thick film that is built for off-road, commercial and industrial vehicles and aimed to take high punishment. XPEL Ultimate comes with a 10 year warranty. For more information, please click here.
4. Product Synergy
Wrapping the entire vehicle can be expensive with full wraps costing a few thousand dollars. However, this is by far the best protection out there against all environmental contaminants. Certain companies such as XPEL have sealants that can be layered on top of the clear film to protect it against tree sap, water spots and various chemical corrosion. If price is an issue, then sometimes customers tend to wrap high traffic areas(eg. front fenders, hood, inside of door handles, side skirts etc.) while either waxing or coating the remainder of the vehicle. This gives the best of both worlds. It is to be noted that certain coatings can be layered on top of clear films and in our case, XPEL and Opti-Coat Pro/Plus work very well with each other. A combination of both the film and coating on a surface gives the best of both worlds ie. rock chip protection with enhanced environmental protection and ease of washing.
For customers on a budget, it is recommended to get the film on the high traffic areas while continuously reapplying a sealant on the remaining surfaces OR to simply just get the coating on the entire vehicle only. If the commute is on the freeway and outside of the city, 'clear film and sealant' is recommended to reduce rock chip damage. If the commute is within the city or rock chips aren't much of an issue, then the 'coating only' solution may work. Of course, all of it can be mixed and matched. A good idea of the damage your vehicle takes is to look at the last vehicle you have been driving for 5 years. Does it have rock chips and on what areas? Do you park under the trees(tree sap and bird bombs!) or directly in the sun(UV damage inside and outside)? All of these factors will help you decide what to prioritize.
Your car's cosmetics are 30% of its value along with the fact that a nice car creates a positive image on the road. Clear films, sealants and coatings work mostly in synergy with each other. They each have benefits and drawbacks. Ultimately it's up to you to decide what choice works best for you. Even more importantly, it's critical to be wary of your installer for the coating and/or film because if you are buying something for the long haul, you need to be able to have a long term relationship with your installer.
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