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The automotive industry marketing speak around car wax can be confusing to say the least. A lot of buzz words get thrown in to make some products seem better than they may actually be able to perform. Synthetic, hybrid, ceramic, graphene, etc.
We’re going to break down the different types of car waxes to the fundamentals. Hopefully this primer will arm you with the info you require to make an informed buying decision.
Types Of Car Wax
The 4 main types of car wax are paste waxes, liquid waxes, spray waxes, and wash & wax. These are all delivery methods for either a natural carnauba wax, synthetic wax, or a hybrid mix of the two.
Liquid wax is the most popular type of car wax, and being more commonly made from a synthetic polymer, it will usually last far longer than any of the other types of car waxes.
Paste waxes tend to be mostly carnauba wax and best applied by hand. Paste wax tends to look great although being mostly natural wax, doesn’t typically last as long as synthetic waxes. Carnauba paste wax will last no more than 3 months but often begins fading after 30 days.
Natural carnauba wax produces an exceptional deep shine and gloss, which is the main reason it is prized by some detailers. It also tends to be a popular product of choice for enthusiasts that attend show car events.
Liquid waxes tend to be hybrid or purely synthetic waxes and more easily applied by machine. They are the most commonly used wax type and also tend to last the longest due to being made of more durable synthetic polymers.
A quality liquid wax will last up to a year or more, which is a very nice feature for those that are looking to minimize the need to reapply their paint protection frequently.
My favorite wax is Wolfgang’s Deep Gloss Paint Sealant. Not only is it an easy to apply wax, but it has personally held up more than a year on my personal car.
Spray waxes are easily sprayed on and wiped away but tend to not last as long. They are great as a shine booster and a topping to extend the life of a previously applied paste or liquid wax.
Spray wax doesn’t provide the most effective protective layer when used alone. It is designed for convenience but works best on top of a more resilient car wax such as paste wax or a synthetic liquid wax.
Wash And Wax
Wash and wax products are all-in-one car wash shampoos that contain a wax and leaves behind a wax coating. The protective benefits of these products tend to be minimal and short-lived.
Like spray waxes, a car wax from a wash and wax product isn’t going to provide the best protection to your car’s paint job. In fact, a spray wax is likely to perform better than a wash and wax.
Natural Carnauba Waxes
Carnauba wax is the hardest of the natural waxes which makes it the best natural choice for protecting your car’s paint. It’s produced from the waxy leaves of the Copernicia Cerifera palm tree which grows natively in the northeast of Brazil.
Paste wax is most commonly made from carnauba wax. Carnauba wax has a very hard texture and needs to be softened with natural oils and other additives to make it spreadable as a protective coating. Keeping it as a thick paste helps preserve its pure plant wax properties best.
Synthetic Paint Sealants
Synthetic waxes, which are more accurately referred to as paint sealants, are made up of synthetic polymers and resins which are able to bond much better than natural waxes to your vehicle’s paint. This has the benefit of significantly extending the life of the protective benefits.
The best synthetic waxes are able to protect up to a year before they loose their protective and hydrophobic properties.
Synthetic car wax has a good deep shine, but usually falls short of the shine of the glossiness of a natural car wax. This isn’t a concern for everyday drivers but could be an issue for owners of show cars.
The synthetic formulas of paint sealants are the most popular paint protection for car owners today. The long lasting shine combined with easy application and durability make it tough to beat.
While not a wax, ceramic coatings are an extremely popular form of paint protection that should be mentioned when discussing different types of car wax.
While synthetic car waxes can produce an admirable shine and last much longer than natural waxes, they don’t stand a chance against the 800 pound gorilla that is ceramic coatings.
These sophisticated new coatings have the ability to shine better than a carnauba wax, last as much as a decade, and even help prevent light scratches and swirl marks.
The downside is that they are more complicated to apply. Applying wax is very easy, if not a bit tedious. But ceramic coatings can be more tricky to avoid high spots and ensure a smoother texture across the entire paint surface.
Often, car detailers are hired to apply ceramic coatings because of these difficulties. This obviously adds a lot of expense. This gets compounded by the fact that performing paint correction prior to application is highly recommended.
The newest product coming to market now are graphene coatings. They are an attempt to improve beyond the impressive performance of ceramics.
The performance is shaping up to be very good and more durable than ceramics somewhat. Plus they are better at rejecting water spots than ceramics.
These products are generally very good and worth considering although I might wait for them to mature a bit more before taking the plunge if you’re going to spend a significant amount on paint correction.
Ceramic Waxes and Graphene Waxes
Manufacturer’s have begun adding ceramics (SiO2 & teflon for example) and graphene to synthetic wax formulations.
While this begins to blur the line between a true ceramic and graphene coatings, what you really need to know is that these are just a different formulation of synthetic wax.
Many of these hybrid sealants work very well, while others will not live up to the hype and are just trying to cash in on some buzz words.
If you’re interested in these products, do your research and read customer reviews to make sure you’re getting a quality paint protection.
Now that we’ve covered the differences between natural car wax, synthetic wax, as well as the differences between pastes, liquids, sprays, and wash and wax products, you should be well informed on these different types of car wax.
My personal suggestion is to stick with a synthetic liquid car wax. It’s proven to be the best car wax for most people due to its long lasting shine and durability.
The other products mentioned can be good for certain uses, but tend to be less effective at providing protection, and more effective and making your car shine.
If you want the ultimate in paint protection, you should spend a little time researching ceramic coatings. These advanced protectants are orders of magnitude better, but have their issues to consider.
Good luck and happy detailing.