One of the best things about getting a new car is the paint. Your car arrives with pristine paintwork, free of scratches, dings, stains, chips and discoloration. Once you drive it off the lot, it’s up to you to protect that paint to maintain that new car look.
Protecting your paint is about more than aesthetics, your car's cosmetics are 30% of its value, and so protecting your paint is also about protecting your investment in your car.
If you’re looking for the best way to protect your car’s paint, consider the following options:
- Clear Film
- Keep it Clean
- All of the Above
All of them have pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses. To understand how to best protect your car’s paint, here’s a breakdown for you to consider.
Traditional car waxes, often referred to as Brazil wax or palm wax, are made from Brazilian carnauba. Other wax products can include other ingredients such as beeswax, petroleum distillates or linseed oil.
Car wax has traditionally been used to provide a car with a warm glossy finish and gives a car’s surface a natural glow. When properly applied, it also provides excellent protection for a car’s paint.
- Gives your car a warm glow and even softens the feeling of the paint
- Protects against rust, dirt, salt and other pollutants
- Repels water
- Fills in and covers light scratches
- Waxes only last for 1-3 months on average
- Application is a time-consuming process
- Dark colored cars in hot climates are susceptible to hazing and streaking
Sealants are liquid compounds that are designed to bond to the finish of your car and protect it from sun, dirt, weather and other pollutants.
Like waxes, sealants are applied to the surface in layers to bond with a car’s paint. Unlike waxes, sealants are made from synthetic polymers. In fact, most over the counter 'waxes' are actually sealants.
- Sealants are more durable than waxes and can last from 1 month to a year
- More affordable and readily available
- Easier to apply than waxes
- Doesn’t always provide the warm glossy finish of a wax. This is especially true for darker cars
- Sealants don’t usually provide effective UV protection, however they will protect your car’s clear coat, which does
A car cover is one of the easiest low-maintenance ways to protect your car’s paint. Whether you store your car in a private garage, a parking lot, the street or a driveway, a quality cover can protect your car from anything mother-nature or human nature can throw at it.
- Affordable over the long term, a quality cover can last up to 7 years.
- A well-designed car cover should be waterproof, UV-resistant, stain-resistant and be breathable to prevent mold.
- Covers can serve as a theft deterrent
- You can’t drive your car with your cover on
Coatings are relatively new compared to waxes and sealants, but work in the same way. Made from resin or quartz-based ceramics, coatings are applied to the surface of your car and bond with the finish.
Normally, coatings are thicker and give a candy-coated look to the vehicle. Pricing on coatings can vary from several hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on your installer.
Coatings essentially create a tough shell over your car’s painted surfaces.
- Coatings can last over 5 years
- Resistant to UV
- Durable and able to protect against scratching, etching from water, bug impacts and bird droppings
- More expensive than waxes or sealants
- Require a thorough cleansing of the surface
- You need to have surface defects removed prior to coating
5. Clear Films
Clear films are like plastic wrap for your car. A thin protective film is custom cut and applied to specific car panels that are most likely to suffer damage from scrapes, rock chips and airborne particles.
- Long lasting and require minimal maintenance
- Have self-healing properties which can allow some light scratches to be 'healed' with time or heat exposure.
- UV resistant
- Can cost as much as $900-2500 per panel
- Only protects specific panels
- Sap and other environmental pollutants can eat through the film if left on over time
- Require a thorough cleansing of the surface
- You may also need to have surface defects removed prior to coating
6. Keeping it Clean
One of the simplest ways to protect your paint is to keep your car clean. Whether you take it to the car wash, or detail it yourself, regularly cleaning your car can remove salt, tree sap, bird droppings, dust, dirt and more. Many car washes will also apply a wax or sealant to help your car maintain its shine.
If you decide to clean your car at home, stay away from dish detergent, it will hurt your car’s paint. Instead, use a high-quality car wash chemical and apply it with a foam pad applicator. Then, rub the body with a fine-grade car wash mitt or microfiber cloth and rinse thoroughly with clean water.
If regular washing is not possible, at least wipe down the car every day with a duster to prevent unexpected sanding of the paint.
Even something as simple as having a rule to not run fingers along the surface of the car can make a difference. Fingernails can leave deep scratch marks on the body and your finger will act like a sandpaper, grinding the dirt into the paintwork.
7. All of the Above
The best thing about these solutions is that many of them can work together to protect your paint. A clear film can be covered with a sealant or coating to add an extra layer of protection.
Consider how you use your car when making a decision.
- If you commute on a highway where there is a significant danger of rock chip damage, using a clear film and a coating may be the best option.
- If you park your car under a tree where sap or bird droppings may be an issue? Using a wax or sealant and an outdoor cover may fit your needs.
- If your car is a “show car” that stays indoors except when taken out for auto shows, a wax combined with an indoor cover may be sufficient.
Finding the Best Method to Protect Your Car’s Paint
Whatever method you choose, one of the most important things to remember is that protecting your car’s paint isn’t a one-and-done situation. It requires regular maintenance and care. However, when you see your car, gleaming in the sunlight, looking like it rolled off the factory floor, it should all be worth it!