If you find yourself looking at a product that seems to have hundreds of competing suppliers, all advertising heavily, then you can be sure that the profit margins are high, as they are with car paint protection products. As a buyer, it’s easy to become confused, and therefore quite vulnerable. Like when buying a new car, probably because the high cost of the paint protection often offered, giving any salesman a nice fat bonus, is easily lost in the thousands of pounds the car costs, or becomes almost invisible in the monthly payments. You could instead have negotiated a decent discount and had your sealant applied elsewhere much more cheaply.
What do we need to know about paint protection, or sealant? How does it differ from conventional waxes and polish? Well, ordinary polishes and waxes have a limited life, and lose effect with time and the effects of weather and other ambient contaminants. Paint protectors and sealants aim at offering better protection from dirt and the elements, they can help prevent paint colours fading from ultra-violet radiation, and offer a longer-lasting shine. Their water repellence also stops wet dirt sticking, making a car easier to wash. But no paint protection product will prevent scratches or chips, although some may help hide micro-scratches or swirl marks that usually come from bad washing practices. Most sealants also help to prevent bird and tree droppings irreparably damaging your paintwork, if they are not quickly removed. That’s possibly a good enough reason alone to use a paint sealant, if you live in a vulnerable area with pigeons and sappy trees.
But how you treat your car is one key to your prospects of satisfaction with paint sealants. Treat the car kindly, wash it frequently, although not to excess, or using harsh detergents, and you’ll be well satisfied with relatively cheap DIY products from a well-known brand, like maybe Autoglym, Meguiars and Rejex or Supagard. You may have the choice of paying more to have this applied by experts, which might be wise if you’re not really a car valeting enthusiast. If you rarely wash your car, but want it to look like new whenever you do, a well-rated, professionally applied, upmarket paint sealant product will cost more, but might be a better long-term answer.
When shopping for these products you’ll come across all sorts of trade terminology and marketing blurb that gives little indication of product quality. Polymer blends, ceramic sealants, and nano technology may all sound good, but the very fine titanium dioxide and silica that compose the much-hyped “ceramics” in many costly sealant products may not work any better for you than the alternative “hydrophobic polymers” that cling to the paintwork by polar attraction. Also, in keeping the paintwork clean, and repelling dirt and contamination, sealants don’t guarantee the highest shine, and some enthusiasts use a hybrid product (no batteries involved!) that’s a combination of sealant and a wax. These often use a traditional favourite – carnauba wax – that hides finer surface defects that sealants may not. Some even use such waxes regularly, on top of a regular sealant.
But here’s where we must warn you. Most of these products, to really work optimally, require a multi-stage application programme that most DIY amateurs cannot perform properly. Any sealant product is only as good as its application. If you don’t have the right equipment, time, and patience, you’ll probably fail to remove paintwork contaminants that affect the adhesion of the paint protector or sealant. It’s hard work this, and often best left to an expert. Cutting corners to save money will often prevent even the best paint sealant products from delivering their full benefits, and you’ll have wasted your money, and got poor results. How do you choose a product, and possibly someone to apply it then? Do your research, look for personal recommendations, user feedback, and on-line test reports, and make a careful judgement before you buy. And do take heed of what we’ve said about DIY application.