The importance of protecting paintwork is often underestimated by vehicle owners. Whether your car is new from the showroom or it has just been detailed, it really is worthwhile to ensure the paintwork is adequately protected.
The paint protection options are divided into four main categories; wax, polymer sealant, ceramic sealants, and paint protection film (PPF). Each treatment presents its own strengths and weaknesses. Waxes and polymer sealants are easy to apply, cost-effective, but offer limited protection for shorter periods than the higher-end alternatives. Ceramic sealants offer far greater longevity and greater levels of protection against certain elements. However, they require careful preparation, application, and maintenance to last the distance. PPF offers the greatest level of protection, but again require careful application and costs can easily run into four-figures.
Vehicles are at risk from three main damaging elements during their life – UV damage from the sun, chemical damage from the road and improper washing, abrasive damage from improper washing and human contact. All of the above systems offer protection from UV damage as they will contain UV filters, effectively neutralising the effect of ultra-violet radiation. Both waxes and polymer sealants are vulnerable to chemical damage – particularly over-concentrated car washing products like traffic film remover (TFR), but ceramic and PPF protection options are generally more resilient to chemical damage. Waxes and polymer sealants offer very little protection against abrasion; ceramic sealants can offer moderate protection; but PPF is the best defence against marring and physical damage. All of the systems above are sacrificial, that is to say that the coatings themselves take on the damage in order to protect the underlying paint.
Picking the right protection system for your vehicle is normally governed by budget, type of vehicle (run-around, company car, show car), the age of the vehicle, and whether you plan to apply the protection yourself or hire the services of a professional.
All the Pro Detailer Magazines feature articles on different types of paint protection – it is a vast topic and there are always new products coming out so it is well worth looking at the new products sections too.