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Sealant Vs Ceramic Coating (Pros & Cons)

Image Credit: Adam Chandler via Flickr

Image Credit: Adam Chandler via Flickr

Sealant Vs Ceramic Coating (Pros & Cons)

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There’s a lot of hype around ceramic coatings and they definitely can provide amazing paint protection, but they aren’t without their downsides. When comparing paint sealant to a ceramic coating you need to know all of the details to make an informed decision.

Paint sealants are also great at protecting painted surfaces even if they can’t do everything a ceramic coating can.

Let’s cover all of the details so you can make the choice that best meets your needs.

Sealant Vs Ceramic Coating

Aside from cost, the key difference between these paint protection products is the hard layer of ceramic that bonds with the car’s paint and protects from light scratches and swirls.

Ceramic coatings will need topping up to restore fading water beading and gloss about as frequently as the need to reapply a paint sealant.

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What is a Paint Sealant

Paint sealant is a type of paint protection that is an evolution beyond a traditional carnauba wax. In fact, when people these days speak of a car wax, they are not likely meaning carnauba wax but a paint sealant.

Paint sealants improve upon the benefits of carnauba wax by extending the durability from weeks to months. They also have better protection and hydrophobic qualities than pure traditional wax. Most paint sealants are made of synthetic plastic polymers that are far more durable than natural waxes.

Some paint sealants are combined with natural waxes to improve the gloss and shine of synthetic polymers. These combination paint sealants are often referred to as Hybrid Wax or Synthetic Wax. Natural wax generally has a better gloss and depth than plastic polymers can provide. That said, a paint sealant does an excellent job of creating a high gloss even without added carnauba.

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Advantages of Paint Sealants

The following is a deep dive into the benefits of a sealant:

Inexpensive

Even the best sealants are inexpensive when compared to a ceramic coating. My personal choice is Woflgang’s Deep Gloss Paint Sealant and is a little pricy but worth it. It lasts over a year in my experience and is as easy to apply as any other sealant or wax coating. I love the look and the results.

Protection from UV rays

No matter which way you product you choose, UV protection is important. Most manufacturer’s warranty paint for no more than 10 years when unprotected. After that, you can expect clear coat oxidation and eventual peeling.

A sealant or a ceramic coating will dramatically extend the life of your clear coat and your vehicle’s paint as a whole.

Easy to apply

Most sealants are a simple liquid that you can apply by hand or by a machine like a DA polisher, if you want to speed up the process.

They simply wipe on and then wipe off. The cure time between wiping on and off will vary between sealants but most can be wiped off within minutes.

Good gloss

Sealants do provide a very good gloss finish. Don’t get that point wrong. That said, ceramics do beat it out in that category.

Unless you’re competing at a car show, you likely won’t be disappointed in the results that a quality sealant can provide.

Reasonable maintenance

As I mentioned earlier, Wolfgang’s Deep Gloss Paint Sealant lasts over a year in my personal experience. It may loose a little bit of its hydrophobic qualities and gloss beyond the year mark, but it will still be performing into its second year.

Good protection

A good paint protection provides a sacrificial layer between your finish and the harsh elements. While a paint sealant won’t have the hardness of a ceramic coating, it will help prevent damage from insects, bird droppings, road tar and grime, industrial fallout, and other environmental contaminants.

It doesn’t have the hardness to help prevent light scratches and tiny rock chips, but its other benefits are quite impressive.

Good hydrophobic qualities

Hydrophobic properties are important to allowing water to sheet off your finish, taking much dirt and contaminants along with it. A paint sealant, especially when freshly applied, performs very well in this regard and shouldn’t be dismissed.

Ceramics do perform better and for longer, but they too loose their hydrophobic qualities long before they fail at their other benefits.

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Disadvantages of Paint Sealants

A paint sealant is a good choice but knowing their limitations is important to you decision:

Doesn’t last much longer than 1 year

A year of protection is a long time but pales in comparison to a ceramic coating. Cheaper ceramic coatings may not last much longer, but professional-quality ceramic coatings that must be installed by a trained detailer can last 10 years.

Not as glossy as a ceramic coating

Both a ceramic coating and a paint sealant will loose gloss over time but a paint sealant will start off with a lower amount of gloss than a ceramic coating. Ceramic coatings have superior gloss and will stay that way far longer.

Not as protective as a ceramic coating

Paint sealant is excellent at protecting your finish from contaminants and weather but it doesn’t come close to the hardness and durability of the thin layer of protection provided by a ceramic coating.

Sealants are soft and can’t prevent fine scratches and swirls. They also have zero chance of providing any protection from small rock chips.

Not as hydrophobic as a ceramic coating

Paint sealant is very hydrophobic but this ability fades quickly. A ceramic coating can maintain its hydrophobic sheeting ability much longer and performs better.

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Why Pick a Paint Sealant

Choosing between a paint sealant and a ceramic coating is pretty easy when you know the pros and cons of each product.

A paint sealant is very easy to apply, inexpensive, and very effective. The compromise is slightly less gloss, slightly less hydrophobic effect, shorter lifespan, and somewhat less paint protection for exceptionally easy DIY application and low cost.

It’s ideal for DIY detailers that don’t feel the need for light scratch protection or are willing to forgo it in exchange for a lesser-expensive product that approaches much of the other benefits of a ceramic coating.

What is a Ceramic Coating

Ceramic coatings are the next evolution beyond paint sealant. They are a more advanced paint protection that is a little more difficult to apply but lasts much longer than typical sealants. Ceramic coatings also have improved hydrophobic qualities, superior shine, and stronger protection than paint sealant.

Ceramic coatings are bonded permanently to the painted surface and create a hard protective layer on the car’s finish. This hard coating is much better at protecting from acid rain, bug splatter, bird droppings, environmental contaminants, and even minor scratches and rock chips.

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Advantages of Ceramic Coatings

Let’s cover the many advantages of choosing a ceramic coating to protect your car’s paint.

More gloss than sealants

One of the many superior features of a ceramic coating is its deep gloss. It’s shine exceeds paint sealants and competes well with even natural waxes.

Impressive hydrophobic properties

Like gloss the hydrophobic effects of a ceramic coating are exceptional. This impressive water beading helps to keep the finish cleaner longer. It also helps to repel damage from acid rain, bird droppings, acidic insect guts, and stains. It will also make it more difficult for environmental contaminants to bond with the car’s surface, making them easier to simply wash away.

Better durability (Can last for years)

The hard shell nano coating will remain bonded to the car’s paint far longer than a sealant can last. Only the very best paint sealants can last beyond a year, while even some of the shortest lasting ceramic coatings will last longer while also performing better.

Superior protection

This thin layer of protection will help reduce the need for future paint correction by greatly reducing fine scratches and swirls in the clear coat.

Protection from UV rays

Any paint protection that provides worthwhile value will provide protection form harsh ultraviolet radiation that will fade paint colors and break down clear coat.

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Disadvantages of Ceramic Coatings

Ceramic coatings are impressive for many reasons, but nothing is perfect. Let’s run down some of the concerns to keep in mind.

Expensive

A consumer-grade ceramic coating you can apply yourself is more expensive than a paint sealant, but it will typically provide better protection and performance.

Professional-grade coatings that require professional application are typically more expensive, but the true expense comes with the added labor. Paying for the detailers time adds up. This is compounded by the fact that paint correction, which can often be an even more labor-intensive process, is highly recommended before applying a ceramic coating.

Difficult to apply

There are some fairly easy-to-apply ceramic coatings, but the better ones tend to be more difficult or require hiring a detailer to apply them.

Ensuring consistent thickness and ensuring complete coverage can be challenging for some if the working time is short and the product is more difficult to level.

Low maintenance claim is not accurate

As with all paint protection products, this gloss and hydrophobic abilities will fade over time and need care to restore its shine on occasion. This interval is usually 6 months or so but varies from product to product.

Most ceramic coating manufacturers product products that are designed to restore shine and water beading. This process is similar to the amount of time and effort required to apply this restorative coating to your car’s surface is not much different than applying a paint sealant.

Overhyped scratch protection

Yes, the chemically engineered nano coating of a ceramic paint protection is incredible in many ways, including the ability to withstand light scratches and even help prevent some very minor stone chips.

A ceramic coating isn’t going to prevent the majority of the normal chips that occur in a daily driver. They also won’t prevent your vehicle’s paint from getting keyed. It will eliminate some of the lighter damage, but all of the heavier scratches and paint nicks will still get through.

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Why Pick a Ceramic Coating

Budget is a big determining point for whether you should go with a paint sealant or ceramic coating. You also have to combine that with whether you’re willing to try your hand at applying a ceramic coating yourself or if you have the cash to hire a professional to apply a professional-grade coating for you.

The benefit of swirl and scratch protection is something you can’t get with a paint sealant. This benefit can often be overhyped, but if you know the reality of its benefits you can decide for yourself if this is a worthwhile feature.

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Conclusion: Sealant Vs Ceramic

There’s no doubt that both a ceramic coating and a paint sealant are incredibly better protection than natural wax that was used in the past.

They both provide excellent UV protection, enhanced shine, keep your finish cleaner, and make car washes more effective.

Ceramic coatings add the benefit of the hard protective layer that helps prevent fine scratches in your clear coat, but that can be an expensive additional feature that may not live up to the hype. Especially if you’re not going to apply it yourself.

Hopefully this article has armed you with the details you need to make the decision that is right for you.

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