How To Apply Sealant to your Car's Paint
(Not covering Ceramics here. Separate process for those entirely)
Paint Sealants or Traditional Paste Wax?
When choosing a paint protectant product, some compare liquid vs. paste wax and assume that the paste wax is better because it is tough to put on and take off. This is not necessarily true. When you wipe off your protectant residue, you want to make sure you leave as much bonded protectant on the surface as possible. With the newer technology of liquid paint sealants this is an easy task and they actually do a very good job. With older paste waxes, this is more difficult as you need to work hard to remove the residue and at the same time you are creating friction, which causes removal of a portion of the protectant that you truly need to leave behind.
What Do Sealants Do?
The primary purpose of a sealant is to properly protect your vehicle from the elements. Sealants are designed to bond to your paint and provide roughly 3 to 6 months of protection. This is significantly longer protection than what a carnauba wax offers, which is typically 3 to 8 weeks. The barrier of protection that sealants provide help minimize contamination from embedding in to your paint and makes maintaining your vehicle significantly easier. Another benefit of a sealant is that it will enhance the look of your paint by giving you sharper reflections and more depth and gloss.
How To Choose Your Paint Protection?
There are many choices when it comes to car wax, paint sealants and paint protectants. When it comes to choosing, you will want to make sure your protection choice includes durability, looks and don’t forget, slickness. With these key characteristics in mind let’s move forward and take an in-depth look at the chemistry of paint protectants.
Traditional Paste Wax – Paste waxes are usually older technology and are a hard wax substance that contains silicone and petroleum distillates to create a temporary shine. They are often difficult to put on as well as remove. In fact, the pressure it takes to remove the wax residue will also wear away part of the wax protection that would ideally be left on the surface for protection.
Carnauba Based Wax – The true Carnauba Based Wax are soft, easy to use waxes that are usually a little pricey and known for looks, not longevity. These waxes are commonly called toppers. They are commonly used to top acrylic paint sealants that need a little shine. The carnauba works well on all colors but will show more on darker or deeper colors. The downfall of the protection is that pure carnauba melts at about 160 to 170 degrees so the look fades fast and the protection doesn’t hold up on hot sunny days, especially on dark colors, which tend to draw the heat. Basically, put it on when you want to look good but don’t expect it to last.
Cleaner Wax – A cleaner wax is a one step product that has some polishing ability as well as a protectant. They work well for those who have a surface that is free of defects and plan on using further protection. The cleaner wax is generally about the same aggressiveness as a pre-wax cleaner. The problem with a cleaner wax is that because of the cleaners you are not able to leave as much protection on the paint surface so you will want to follow up with more serious protection that is not a cleaner wax.
Synthetic Paint Sealants – Man perfected the Wax! Newer technology reveals synthetic paint sealants that offer serious, long lasting protection. Unlike traditional waxes, synthetic paint sealants can withstand temperatures over 1000 degrees which make them much more durable. When choosing a synthetic paint sealant you need to know the difference between the two basic types of synthetic paint sealants. While they both offer good protection, they will vary in shine and slickness. A quality synthetic polymer based paint sealant will generally offer your best protection, shine and slickness, while the acrylic based sealant will provide good protection but is not as slick and may need a little help from a carnauba topper for shine.
How Long Do Sealants Last?
In general, sealants typically last between 3 to 6 months. There are many factors that go into determining how long a sealant will last. Some of the major factors are if your car is stored in a garage or outside, how many miles are driven, the type of weather conditions your vehicle is exposed to, how well your paint was prepped prior to applying the sealant, the frequency of washing your vehicle, and type of shampoo. The key is to reapply your coat of protection before the previous coat runs out. As you maintain your vehicle, keep an eye out for how well the water beads and sheets off your paint. If water begins to pool on your paint, then chances are there is little to no protection remaining and it's advised to apply another coat of sealant. A good rule of thumb is to reapply a coat of sealant once a season (4 times a year).
Layering and Cure Times
Applying multiple coats will increase the strength of the protection and durability of the protection. The most important thing to note is that when you want to apply more than one coat, you have to let the previous coat cure. Each sealant's cure time will vary and environmental conditions (i.e. temperature, humidity, etc.) can impact cure times. Most sealants will cure within 1 - 24 hours and the vast majority of any sealant will be cured within the first hour. If you have the time waiting 24 hours is ideal to be absolutely certain but if you are in a rush waiting a minimum of one hour should still work very well for most sealants.
How To Apply a Sealant
The key when applying a sealant is to stretch the product as thin and far as possible. The saying "less is more" definitely applies to any quality sealant. We do not recommend applying a sealant with a rotary buffer, but it is fine to use a random orbital or dual action buffer using a soft foam polishing pad. Hand applications also work very well and help you get in to tight spaces more effectively.
Random Orbital Polisher
1. Apply 2 pea sized drops of your sealant on the pad (fresh pads may require a few extra drops)
2. Trace your working area with the sealant on your pad with the buffer off
3. Turn the buffer on a low speed setting (1 – 3 typically) and spread the sealant evenly through the entire working area
4. Turn the speed dial of the buffer up and start in a corner of your working area (4 is ideal for most)
5. Working from one corner to the next, move the buffer at controlled pace using no additional pressure
6. Once you reach the opposite corner, follow the same path back to where you started, but overlap your first pass by approximately 50%
7. Continue this pattern until you have applied the sealant to your entire working area
8. Repeat this process, but this time use the opposite direction (Cross-hatch: up to down or left to right)
9. Once the sealant is spread thinly and evenly over the paint, shut the buffer off. Wipe down with soft clean microfiber towel.
1. Dispense about 2 pea sized drops in the center of the foam hand applicator pad
2. Outline your working area, since you're spreading the product as far as possible, it can be as large as a panel
3. Gently spread the sealant as thinly and evenly in your working area
4. Using light pressure spread the sealant on the paint using overlapping circular motions
5. Wait 10 - 20 minutes then use a clean microfiber towel to remove the excess sealant
Forced Random Orbital Polisher
1. Center your pad on the backing plate
2. Apply 2 pea sized drops of your sealant on the pad (fresh pads may require a few extra drops)
3. Visualize your working area, since you're spreading the product as far as possible, it can be as large as a panel
4. Trace your working area with the sealant on your pad with the buffer off
5. Turn the buffer on a low speed setting and spread the sealant evenly through the entire working area
6. Turn the speed dial of the buffer up one setting and start in a corner of your working area
7. Working from one corner to the next, move the buffer at controlled pace (approximately 3" - 5" per second) using no additional pressure
8. Once you reach the opposite corner, follow the same path back to where you started, but overlap your first pass by approximately 50%
9. Continue this pattern until you have applied the sealant to your entire working area
10. Repeat this process, but this time use the opposite direction (if you were working top to bottom then bottom to top the first time around, change it to left to right and right to left overlapping movements)
11. Once the sealant is spread thinly and evenly over the paint, shut the buffer off. Wipe down with microfiber towel.