Waxes, sealants, and coatings are the 3 primary categories of paint protection that enthusiasts and professionals use. (Carnauba) wax is a natural product, from the earth (organic), with a very short protection life cycle. The other two categories of products are more complex synthetic formulations created in a lab. When it comes to what is a sealant and what is a coating, the lines are blurred considerably and often unethically. Unfortunately, there are no true set guidelines of what defines one or the other. That is only the tip of the iceberg of the problem, as the attributes of a ‘coating’ have often been greatly overhyped and at times dishonestly portrayed. Have you seen the ads marketing a coating product as scratchproof, fireproof, etc?
A (REAL) Ceramic Coating VS. a Paint Sealant?
In my experience, there’s a very basic distinction between the two (sealant vs. coating). A true coating is going to offer a significantly thicker layer of protection on your car than a sealant or wax. It will last significantly longer than a sealant or wax but will degrade over time like any other form of protection. Although a good quality sealant offers some chemical resistance. A true ceramic coating offers a superior level of chemical resistance and creates a relatively harder layer. This harder layer contributes to your painted surface being easier to clean. Having said that, this does not mean you don’t have to wash your vehicle properly and consistently. If you do the same things on your coated car that you have done before to get swirls, scratches, and water spots you will continue to accumulate the same defects..
A few questions to consider::
If their product is really a 5- or 7-year coating why, in the fine print, do I have to come back every SIX months to have it REAPPLIED?
Most sealants have a shelf life of 3 to 6 months depending on how the car is maintained.
Even when a professional is applying a product every 6 months or year to a coating, it has chemical compatibility with the initial coating to ensure it bonds and provides some restorative properties
Preventing paint from flaking off a new car is their biggest selling point for a five-year warranty agreement.
New cars that have been reasonably neglected, will often experience signs of clear coat failure around the 5-year mark. I am not encouraging you to neglect your car for the record. But I want to make you aware that these companies likely know how long a car can hold up with below-average UV protection.
If these products are so great and allegedly for skilled professional use only, then why are they not sold to PROFESSIONAL DETAILERS or serious enthusiasts?
I have spoken with quite a few professional detailers about this problem and how it ultimately affects not only consumers but the reputation of detailing professionals due to the ‘bad apples’. Some of these professionals have recalled horror stories of dishonest practices at a dealership, while also struggling to sell a quality service to potential customers who have had bad experiences prior. Discussing among ourselves, we often wonder once these customers sign on the dotted line; how often do they even put the product on the car or anything at all? Does the management look for a loophole in the agreement to not honor a warranty claim? One of our biggest takeaways has been, like many services that fall short on quality, this overall is often a numbers game! A majority of people will often be apathetic to this experience. But that also leaves a significant minority of people who will really feel the disappointment of signing off on a bad deal.
To be clear this is not an attack on Dealerships or the folks that work there: This Is Merely An Education For You Being aware and just being open to educating yourself solves many problems before saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’! Not every business that sells cars has dishonest salespeople. There are many people in dealerships that communicate honestly and ethically with respect to their car care protection offerings. For the sake of gathering more information for this article, I inquired about a protection plan at another dealership. The person to who I spoke made it very clear that the product I was referring was a sealant. This person was also completely upfront and told me that it will not prevent scratches. Also, there are many professional detailers who sell their coating services (even some accredited) unethically. For many of you reading this, there may be some value in the protection plan offered at your local dealership.
There are also some dealerships that are hiring professional detailers or outsourcing new car prep to reputable businesses and empowering them to use high-quality products and perform detailing at a very high level. There are some detailers who I greatly admire who have partnered with dealership companies in that capacity. Detailing your own car is also an option.