Sacrificial Barrier Coating = The purpose of a wax or synthetic paint sealant
Sacrificial Barrier Coating
The primary purpose of a car wax or synthetic paint sealant is to act as a sacrificial barrier coating over the surface of your car’s paint. The idea being that anytime anything comes into contact with your car’s paint, before it can cause any damage to the paint it first has to get past the layer of wax or paint sealant. When your car’s paint is under attack, the layer of wax or paint sealant sacrifices itself so your paint doesn’t have to sacrifice itself.
Or in other words, the layer of wax or paint sealant gives itself up so your car’s paint doesn’t have to give itself up.
The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and the laws of Entropy
In simple terms, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and the laws of Entropy mean that everything is in a state of chaos and everything trends towards getting worse and worse with time, not better and better. That includes you and me and our physical bodies and that includes the paint on a daily driver.
Accepting this is true, then if your car is a daily driver, exposed to the elements and wear-n-tear from use, then it is normal to assume the wax or paint sealant on your car’s paint is always in an act of wearing off and knowing this you need to actively maintain a protective coating to keep the paint protected.
How often you need to replace the sacrificial coating of wax or paint sealant depends how your car is used, how it’s washed and where it’s parked most of the time, indoors or outdoors.
It’s pretty common for marketing companies to market products like a “Once a year Car Wax”, and while these types of products are a great idea and appeal to a lot of people, the reality is there is no such thing as a once a year car wax that works, if in fact the car is a daily driver. If it could replace itself when portions of it wear off then it would be a once a year car wax, but last I checked the way we get wax onto the car is we have to apply it ourselves.
The good news…
The good news is you and I can easily, (and in a cost effective manner), go out to our garage and apply a coat of wax to our car’s paint to replace any wax that’s worn off. This is called maintenance; we actively maintain this sacrificial barrier coating in order to protect and preserver our car’s finish.
There’s another important reason we wax our cars and that’s to make the paint look good. A good quality car wax will restore a clear, glossy finish to paint in excellent condition. A cleaner/wax can restore a neglected finish by removing light oxidation, built-up road grime as well as helping to either remove or conceal fine swirls and scratches. Either type of wax will restore a sacrificial barrier coating but the non-cleaning wax will tend to leave a more substantial coating than a product that’s cleaning at the same time it’s leaving behind protection.
The purchase of a new car, truck or s.u.v., and even the purchase of some used cars, trucks, and s.u.v.s tend to be a major purchase for most people and not only do most people want to wax their cars to protect and extend their investment, but to also make their vehicle look good too…
Transportation or Personality?
Some people look at their car as transportation, that is a means to get them from point A to point B. Others look at their car as an extension of their personality; it’s their reward for working hard and often times a hobby in and of itself. Both types of people understand the importance of protecting their investment and typically both types also like their investment to look good.
How long does a coat of wax last?
One of the most common questions related to detailing cars is,
How long does a coat of wax last?
Another common question which is really just a different way of asking the first question is,
How often do I need to wax my car?
There is no standard, accurate answer to either of these questions because there are too many variables involved that are specific to each car and their owner.
Factors that influence how long a coat of wax will lastThose are just a few influencing factors that affect how long a coating of wax will last and visa/versa, how often you need to wax your car.
- Parked inside when at home, or parked outside exposed to weather.
- Parked inside at work, or parked outside exposed to weather.
- Type of use the vehicle sees, which would equate to the type of wear-n-tear the vehicle is exposed to.
- How the car is washed, carefully by hand or a Tunnel Brush wash or something in-between?
- Type of soap used to wash the car.
- Type of wash mitt used to wash car.
- Geographical climate – Is the vehicle subject to rain and road grime like in Oregon or extreme heat and sunlight like in Arizona?
The technically correct answer for how long a coat of wax will last goes like this, it’s a statement I’ve been saying and typing for over a decade so it’s now a quote…
"How long a coat of wax will last first depends upon how well the surface is prepared to accept the wax" –Mike Phillips
A good quality car wax is formulated to stick or adhere to paint, which is a type of resinous material which varies from technological advancements over time. Point being, a car wax or a paint sealant is designed to stick to clean paint, if the paint is dirty with a film of road grim, or above surface bonded contaminants, then from the very start, the ability for the wax to stick to the paint is compromised.
This is why before applying a coat of wax to your car’s paint you need to first wash and dry the car and then evaluate the condition of the paint. You evaluate the condition of the paint by inspecting the paint both visibly and with your sense of touch. The results from your evaluation will let you know if before you apply a coat of wax you need to first clay the paint and/or use any type of pre-wax cleaner.
From my experience, anytime a car’s paint needs to be clayed, it also needs to be cleaned and polished before applying a coating of wax.
Two extremes and people in-between
How often you need to apply a coat of wax or a paint sealant is a personal decision that only you can make. That said, there are two basic categories of car waxers... the Minimalist and the Maximallist, and a third catagory... everyone in-between...
My guess is a minimalist is more than likely going to be the type of person that looks at their car as a means of transportation. Wax your car 1-4 times a year. This would be a benchmark number for the minimum number of times you can wax your daily driver and expect the paint to hold up over the service life of the car and for it to look good to some level. Assuming your car is a daily driver, parked outside, then waxing your car just one time a year won’t probably maintain your car’s finish to show room new condition but everyone has their own standards and expectations so find a routine that works for you.
My guess is a maximallist is more than likely going to be the type of person that looks at their car as an extension of their personality. This type of person usually doesn’t need anyone telling them how often to wax their car because they already wax their car often. They wax their car often to protect and preserve the paint but just as important to them is to make the paint and by default, the car look good.
My guess is that waxing your car is something that never makes it on to your "A-List" of projects and probably not even your "B-List" of projects. It probably gets done by you or someone, it's just not a priority or your passion.
Whether you’re the Minimalist or the Maximallist, or someone that falls in-between, here’s a better method to the madness as to determining when or how often to wax your car, two words… Oil Change
No I don’t mean wax your car every time you change your oil, what I mean is think of waxing your car in the same way you think of changing your oil. Here’s what I mean…
PM = Preventative Maintenance
Most people change their oil every 3000 miles as that is what the manufacture recommends to prevent pre-mature failure of the moving parts inside the motor. The motor won’t blow up at 3001 miles as going past 3000 miles doesn’t mean the oil is no longer lubricating the moving parts, it’s a Preventative Maintenance Practice.
The idea being to remove the old, worn out oil BEFORE it’s so worn out that damage can occur. This approach to engine maintenance works and millions of miles on millions of engines documents this practice.
Now take that same idea and apply it to waxing your car’s paint… that is re-apply a fresh coat of wax before all of the last coating has completely worn off. Apply a coat of wax BEFORE there is so little protection left on the surface that damage can occur.
If you car is in fact a daily driver, then a good minimum number of times to apply a coat of wax to your car’s finish to insure that it’s fully protected against attack would be 4 times a year, that's once every 3 months.
In a perfect world, if you have the time and inclination, then waxing more often certainly won’t hurt anything, you can decide how often for yourself. I put a coat of wax on my daily driver truck at least once a month. For me it’s different than it is for others because I work in the car wax industry… I usually have a new wax to test often enough, or a new wax I’m curious about that it’s just so easy to go out into the garage and apply a coat of wax. So don’t use me as a benchmark…
Time for action…
If after reading this you have a desire to wax your car but you’re not sure which wax to use, here’s a general guideline.
Paint in Excellent Condition
If the paint is in excellent condition, that is it’s like brand new… it feels smooth and is defect free, at least to your standards, then you can use one of these,
- Finishing Wax – Generally considered a Carnauba Wax, either paste or liquid.
- Finishing Paint Sealant – Generally considered an all synthetic product with no natural ingredients.
- Finishing Hybrid – Most waxes and sealants are actually blended using both natural and synthetic protection ingredients.
If the paint on your car is anything but “Excellent Condition”, they you should consider using a Cleaner/Wax out of one of these groups…
- Cleaner/Wax – Generally considered a Carnauba Wax with some type of cleaning action.
- Cleaner/Sealant – Generally considered an all synthetic product with some type of cleaning action.
- Cleaner/Hybrid – Generally considered a blended product with some type of cleaning action.
Here's another quote...
If you want your car's paint to always look like it was just waxed... then just wax it...