Protecting your car's paint is not just about maintaining its visual appeal. It also has an impact on its aging, maintenance and resale value. Car owners spend billions of dollars each year on car care products and processes.
When it comes to paint protection, there is no scarcity of DIY options to keep your vehicle's surface clean, shiny and protected. These options not only have varying capabilities for paint protection, but specific products also offer different results. With such diversity, it can be difficult to know just where to begin in your DIY paint protection journey.
Here is a look at the most effective methods you can use to protect the exterior surface of your vehicle.
1. Ceramic Coating
Ceramic car coating technology has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, and actually relies on nanotechnology to work. Ceramic coating is probably the best coating available to protect your car's paint. Consider it a sacrificial layer that holds fast to the car's clear coat. As the ceramic coating hardens, it forms a microscopic film of unusually hard glass. It then permeates the clear coat to fill in any imperfections, thereby leaving an almost perfectly flat surface area. This makes the car's paint surface water-repellent, as well as resistant to scratches, extreme heat, UV rays, chemicals and even graffiti.
Since ceramic coating is made from hard minerals like quartz, it has exceptional durability. Whereas car wax lasts roughly six weeks and paint sealant can go for about six months, high quality ceramic coating can last anywhere between two and five years. When you use ceramic coating, you do not need to complement it with car wax, paint sealant or any other paint protection.
2. Car Wax
For decades, car wax was the first thing that came to mind when people thought about protecting their car's paint and it remains in widespread use today. Automotive wax comes with multiple methods of application and formulation ranging from palm tree-derived solid wax to synthetic-based liquids.
The terms car wax and car polish are often used interchangeably, but they do not refer to the same thing. Car wax provides protection from contaminants, UV rays, bird droppings, bug splatters, acid rain and debris. Polish improves the shine or luster of the clear coating. Wax and polish are often used together.
Car wax is the least expensive medium for car paint protection. It is also easy to store and has a shelf life of several years. Car wax easily mixes with polishes and synthetic sealant products and is easy to remove and reapply. Removal and reapplication should be done every six weeks for optimal protection.
3. Paint Sealant
One level above car wax is paint sealant. Sealant is a synthetic liquid product that adheres to the vehicle's clear coat and provides a thin, but effective layer of protection. Paint sealant works in much the same way as car wax. In a sense, it is car wax that lasts longer - as much as six months from the date of application. Nevertheless, just like car wax, it requires regular removal and reapplication for best results.
Apply a layer of the sealant to a clean pad or sponge and rub the compound onto the car paint. Once the wax has dried, buff it off. If correctly applied, the sealant should result in a glassy appearance. Sealant has a relatively similar formulation as car polish and wax. For this reason, some paint sealant manufacturers combine it with polish or wax to form a hybrid product.
4. Paint Protection Film
Paint protection film (PPF) was originally developed to help protect helicopter blades during the Vietnam War. It has evolved from its military origins to become a dependable product in vehicle surface protection. PPF is a thin clear vinyl product installed on a car's surface.
Like thermoplastic polyurethane, PPF has self-healing properties. When it is chipped or scratched by small rocks and debris, you need only buff the affected surface and it self-heals. While PPF is best installed by a car vinyl professional or expert detailer, it can be DIY too.
Most car owners who use it will apply PPF to the hood, front bumper, side-view mirrors and other sections at the front of the vehicle that are vulnerable to rock chips and similar debris damage. Some car owners will apply it to their entire vehicle. PPF can protect your vehicle's paint for as long as 10 years.
5. Regular Washing
Not everything about protecting your car's paint entails applying a product to the car's exterior. In fact, you could argue that washing underpins all other paint protection efforts. Washing your car at least once a week can diminish the likely harm that would otherwise result from UV rays, dirt, dust and grime. That being said, how you wash the car is just as important as regularly washing it.
First, get rid of the dirt and dust by spraying the exterior surface with a jet of water. If that is not an option for you, use a soft, clean cloth instead. Do not use regular detergent or dishwashing soap as these have harsh chemicals that could tarnish the car's exterior. Instead, use an automotive cleaner and a cotton cloth. Remove bird droppings and hard mud with a clay bar or no-salt seltzer.
Rinse thoroughly to remove not just the dirt but the soap and chemical residue too. Wipe off the remaining moisture with a cotton rag or microfiber towel.
6. Park in the Shade
What you do to the car's exterior surface is not the only factor determining how successful you will be at protecting the car paint. Where you park the vehicle matters too. Remember that acid rain, UV rays and bird droppings are some of the most damaging forces to your car's paint.
While it is important that you apply the products covered in this article if you want to keep your car's paint surface in good condition, preventing damage in the first place is even better. THe right choice for parking is one way to do this.
Consistently parking your car in the shade is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to keep the sheen on your car's paint for longer. Ideally, your home should have a dedicated garage. If you do not have one, consider investing in a temporary car shelter.
7. Car Cover
If you have trouble finding shaded parking or have to regularly park in the open, you can purchase a car cover to give your vehicle that extra protection. Make sure the car cover you buy is of satisfactory quality. Look for one that delivers superior protection from water damage such as acid rain. It should also be breathable to prevent moisture from building up beneath it.
The car cover has to have a snug fit. A loose fit may brush against the surface on windy days which would only damage the paintwork over the long term. Note that a car cover is useful even when your home has a garage. In the event that you go for long periods between driving the vehicle, the cover can protect it from dust accumulation.
Make the Most Appropriate Choice
A new paint job for your car is not just expensive but it also lowers the vehicle's resale value. Identifying the product and procedure that is most suitable for protecting your vehicle will primarily depend on three key factors. That is, the level of protection you are looking for, the kind of damage your car is most exposed to and how much you are willing to spend.
Even still, determine what expert users and past customers have to say about it before you pick a paint protection product or method. That way, you can find the one that is most appropriate for you and your vehicle.