Wax vs Sealant

Many auto enthusiasts have questions about the use of waxes or sealants on the paint surface of their vehicle. It’s important to understand that any wax or sealant is placed on the surface of the paint finish as a sacrificial layer of protection.

The old school method of using automotive wax was to get the short fat can of paste wax and hand apply a thin layer in circular polishing patterns, while on the other extreme, many go for a “clear armor” for their finish. Which way is best, or can you have both?

A traditional paste wax would contain Carnauba wax, which is made up of myricyl cerotate and small quantities of cerotic acid and myricyl alcohol and is also used to make candles and lipstick. Carnauba wax provides solid protection and the glossy, wet look due to the amount of residual oil it contains but will also provide the shortest amount of protection, between 50 days and 8 weeks.

When the label claims 100% Carnauba wax, it refers to the purity of the original wax used as an ingredient, not that the container is pure Carnauba wax. A paste wax will have a long open, or workable time before flashing over.

Did you know you can apply a paste wax with a machine polisher? 3D has a Carnauba Paste wax and a Carnauba liquid wax, but if you want a truly wet looking layer of liquid wax protection consider our Cherry Wax. Liquid Carnauba waxes are gentler on your paint finish and generally easier to handle and apply.

Some 3D Products contain Montan wax, which is a mineral wax instead of an organic wax. The biggest difference is the melting temperature. For Carnauba it is 179.6°F, whereas the melting point for Montan wax is close to 200°F.

A common misconception is that by applying a wax on the finish, you are making your car shiny. While a basic wax will temporarily fill in some light scratches, to make the finish shiny you need to polish it, and to remove medium to heavy scratches you need to compound it.

To even out the finish and correct severe clear coat damage, you will be removing a super thin layer of clear coat by sanding it with fine sandpaper. You can also remove a lot of contamination from your paint by claying the clear coat. An easy way to get some quick paint correction is to use a cleaner wax or corrective wax, many of which contain synthetic wax.

3D SPEED is a lighting fast correction product that is designed to also leave a wax layer. A higher speed setting on your polisher gives more correction, while a lower speed is perfect if you are primarily applying 3D SPEED for a wax protection layer. AAT 505 Correction Glaze will also correct the surface and leave a protective layer behind.

If you’re after a longer-term solution than wax provides, a sealant coating will provide better protection and, as it dries, will tighten to the surface and create a strong bond with the paint. The downside is it can be harder to apply, and some sealants must be applied by a professional. Sealants are generally more expensive to purchase than a wax. While 3D currently has one product in this category, HD NITRO SEAL, we are currently developing a ceramic coating class sealant that should be available by 2019.

Some car owners believe that applying a sealant over a wax or a wax over a sealant will give them more protection, but applying a sealant over your wax, you will be defeating the point of both processes. Conversely, if you apply a wax over sealant it doesn’t hurt anything, but it is certainly not necessary.

Whether by hand or machine, liquid or paste, you want to spread a thin, even layer from edge to edge across the surface. It will flash, or cure out to an opaque, flat, and less reflective appearance. After it flashes, wipe of the residue and enjoy the view! Some feel that using the circular application by hand or machine leaves swirl marks, although it is possible the swirls were left by improper polishing before the wax was even applied.

Wax or sealant may in some manner protect your clear coat from UV rays, but any chemical UV protection has a limited lifespan. No wax or sealant is permeant and it will erode over time; therefore, making it a part of your routine is essential.