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When ceramic coatings hit the market in the early 2000s, many car owners thought they were the new and improved car wax, and that common misperception continues today. The primary job of car wax is beautifying your car’s paint. It adds a warm glow, a glossy shine and makes your paint colour appear richer. Ceramic coatings, on the other hand, primarily form a protective layer that protects against UV rays, mineral deposits, chemical damage and contaminants.
So, now that you know the basic function of each, let’s get into the questions that really matter. When is a wax right for your car? And would your car benefit from applying a ceramic coating as well?
Since the first time someone spread wax on a car’s surface, before detailing was even called detailing, enthusiasts have loved a freshly waxed car. There’s just something about the look of wax on paint, especially when the product was formulated with carnauba wax. In fact, more than 75 years after Turtle Wax was founded, the appeal of that aesthetic still runs strong, and that’s why wax remains the #1 coating for cars today. Whether it’s a paste, liquid or spray, an all-natural formula or infused with synthetic polymers, car wax is and may always be your best choice for creating that beautiful, wet-look shine.
That said, durability and paint protection are not the strong suits of most waxes. Wax is a natural product. It goes onto your car in a very thin layer, and it’s not entirely waterproof. Over time–and especially with each car wash–any wax coating is going to wear away, leaving the surface of your clear coat exposed to the elements.
At Turtle Wax, we recommend wax alone only when drivers want their cars to look great for a limited time. Perhaps it’s a collectible that only sees the light of day for a car show, or maybe it’s a weekend pleasure cruiser that sits in the garage far more frequently than it hits the road. But, if you’re talking about a daily driver or a car that you park outside, we recommend that you wax and apply a ceramic coating.
In the early 2000s, clear coat protectants took a huge leap forward with the introduction of silicon dioxide-based ceramic coatings. A layer of ceramic coating adds an element of shine to your car. More critically, it adds a long-lasting shield of protection far more durable than carnauba-based waxes. Chemically bonded to the clear coat during application, a ceramic coating resists UV rays and chemical contamination and repels water and soils.
Some waxes may last several weeks or even a few months, but ceramic coatings can continue protecting your car’s finish for a year or longer. When applied by a professional detailer, a ceramic coating may last for as long as you own the car, but the cost and application downtime for a pro ceramic job are both exceptionally high. You may spend thousands of dollars and give up your car for a week to receive a professional ceramic coating. Add in a rental car and that ceramic coating will have become a substantial investment that may not be worth all the time, trouble and money.
To help drivers enjoy nearly the same level of protection for a year or more, car care companies began offering a ceramic coating kit. Turtle Wax went further and developed a comprehensive line of affordable, easy-to-apply ceramic-infused products, our Hybrid Solutions Collection! These give you lasting protection at a fraction of the cost of a professionally applied ceramic coating.
For the ultimate combination of long-lasting protection and shine, we recommend applying both wax and ceramic coating. Wax will give your car that showroom-fresh look, and the ceramic will help it keep it looking fresh for months to come.
Even better, you have choices in the application of both. You can wax first and seal in that shine with ceramics. You can apply the ceramic coating directly to the clear coat and then wax over the top. Or you can use an integrated 2-in-1 DIY product that contains wax and ceramic polymers all in one easy-to-use, spray-on and wipe-off formula.
All else being equal, if we’re going to achieve the same results, we’re going to pick the simpler route. That’s why we recommend our Hybrid Solutions product line, which lays down a shield of ceramic polymers as you complete other detailing jobs. Whether you’re washing, polishing or waxing, you also add ceramic protection as you work. Then, for a dedicated ceramic application, use our Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Spray Coating for a super-strong shield that will last a year or longer.
At the end of the day (and this article), the question isn’t whether wax or ceramic is better. They’re just different, and they serve different roles. But, for most people, and for most cars, the right answer is to use them both and enjoy the results that each brings to the table.
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