What goes first, wax or sealant? To cut to the chase, sealant should be first because it is more durable. Also sealants won’t adhere to wax well but wax is capable of adhering to a properly cured sealant.
Keep reading to learn more about paint protection best practices and why you might want to reconsider using wax at all.
Wax Or Sealant First?
You should always apply sealant before wax. Sealants provide a more durable protective layer and are strong enough for waxes to bond with. Applying wax first will cause the sealant to have trouble adhering and may even remove some of the wax in the process.
What is the difference between car wax and a sealant?
Sealants provide long-lasting protection, while waxes provide superior shine. The only reason to apply wax and sealant together is to increase the shine on your vehicle’s finish. Since carnauba wax has a superior shine to most sealants, it should be the topcoat.
What is car wax?Car wax originally was only carnauba wax. Today, when people use the phrase “car wax,” they often mean paint sealant. Over the years, carnauba wax has slowly been replaced with paint sealants due to its superior durability. Carnauba wax is a natural wax produced from palm trees in northern Brazil. Carnauba wax is prized for its ability to create an incredible shine on your car or truck’s paint finish. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last very long, relatively speaking, and needs to be applied monthly for best results. The evolution of what we know today as car wax began by mixing ingredients with carnauba wax to make it more durable but maintain a brilliant shine. Combining carnauba wax with synthetic paint sealants has led to the development of what some refer to as hybrid wax – a mixture of carnauba wax and paint sealant.
Can you layer carnauba wax?Yes. You can layer carnauba wax as many times as you like. You’ll need to allow the previous layer to dry first and buff it away before adding the next layer. Adding multiple layers of carnauba wax will increase the durability and add depth to the gloss and shine. Durability will only improve slightly and will not compare to a quality paint sealant. Gloss depth will be the main benefit of layering carnauba wax.
What is paint sealant for cars?Paint sealant for cars is a purely synthetic product with impressive durability and excellent shine properties. While a carnauba wax may last only 30 days, paint sealants can last as much as 2 years. Like with car wax, the line between wax and sealant gets blurred. Many paint sealants on the market today contain some carnauba wax to help increase the shine of the sealant. A quality paint sealant for your car or truck will not only last much longer than wax but should provide an excellent shine. It will better protect your finish from harmful UV rays. Paint sealants will also help keep bugs and road grime from sticking to and damaging your clear coat. They also provide a layer of protection from acid rain and iron fallout that can wear away your finish. Carnauba wax can provide some of these benefits, but paint sealants are far more effective in these areas.
Can you layer paint sealant?Some paint sealants can be layered if they can bond with themselves. Even if they bond with themselves, most paint sealants won’t provide additional protection by adding multiple layers. They also won’t add as much depth of gloss and shine as a carnauba wax will. 2 layers of a paint sealant is the best approach for most paint sealants. Applying 2 layers ensures that the paint has been evenly covered and protected. If you’re looking for an improved depth of gloss and increased shine, you should apply authentic carnauba wax to get the best-improved aesthetics.
How long after sealant can I wax?Paint sealants need to cure before you try to apply wax over the top of them. Different paint sealants take varying amounts of time to cure fully. You will want to read the instructions for your chosen paint sealant to see how long it will take to cure after application fully. Once it is fully cured, you can then apply a coating of carnauba wax. Most paint sealants will take a day or two to cure fully. If you are not sure how long your chose paint sealant takes to cure fully, I recommend waiting 48 hours before attempting to add a layer of carnauba wax over the top of your sealant.
Which is better, wax or sealant?In general, a sealant is better than wax due to its significantly improved durability, superior paint protection, and excellent shine. Carnauba wax can provide a slightly better shine, but at the expense of durability and protection. Combining the two is an attempt to get the best of both worlds. By applying carnauba wax on top of the sealant, you create a very durable and protective base layer with the brilliant shine of carnauba wax.
Car Sealant Vs. Ceramic Coating
Ceramic coatings are essentially just an advanced car sealant. Ceramic coatings provide even better durability and paint protection from ultraviolet sun damage and harsh environmental elements.
Ceramic coatings are more expensive and more difficult to apply. A trained professional detailer should only apply advanced ceramic coatings, but many consumer-grade coatings are easy enough for DIY detailers to install themselves.
Can you wax over ceramic coatings?
Ceramic coatings can have carnauba wax applied over the top of them, but honestly, it isn’t worth the trouble. You may want to use a carnauba wax overtop of a ceramic coating before a car show or similar event, but it isn’t something that would be practical or worthwhile for everyday paint protection.
An excellent ceramic coating will have a fantastic shine by itself that will rival wax. Also, a good ceramic coating will last years with little maintenance. To maintain wax on top of a ceramic paint sealant, you would need to reapply it monthly.
Most ceramic coating manufacturers sell ceramic coating maintenance products that will help improve the shine of their ceramic coatings as they lose their gloss over time. Applying a ceramic maintenance product is a much more practical approach when compared to using wax. These maintenance coatings are explicitly designed to work with the ceramic coating and are the approach I’d recommend for maintaining a high gloss shine to your ceramic coating.
Can you layer ceramic coating?
It depends on the brand. Some ceramic coatings will bond with themselves and allow you to layer them. Others will not, and you’ll just be wasting product.
The general recommendation is to apply 2 layers of the ceramic coating when applying it to your car or truck. The reason for this isn’t to layer the coatings on top of each other. It’s to ensure that there is a good even coating applied across the entire surface of your paint finish.
A properly applied ceramic coating shouldn’t need to be layered to provide excellent protection, gloss, and hydrophobic properties.
Frequently Asked Questions
A wax stripping wash followed by a pre-wax cleaner is the best way to prepare your finish for a fresh coat of wax, paint sealant, or ceramic coating. A product like Adam’s Strip Wash effectively removes a good amount of wax though no simple wash will remove all of the existing wax alone.
After washing, you should use a pre-wax cleaner to remove any remaining wax or sealant before applying new paint protection.
If you are reapplying with the same paint protection you have been using, you don’t need to use a pre-wax cleaner. If you’re switching paint protection products, it’s best to use a pre-wax cleaner to provide a clean slate allow the new product to properly bond with the clear coat of your car or truck.
If you’re applying a ceramic coating, you will want to do your best to ensure that the surface is as clean as possible, or it will significantly shorten the product’s life span.
Using a clay bar before applying wax, sealant, or ceramic coating is always good. Protective paint coatings work best and look best when the paint is its cleanest.
A clay bar will remove impurities from the surface of your clear coat that a simple wash won’t be able to remove. Even a new car can have stuck on contaminants on the finish that a clay bar will remove.
Clay barring isn’t required to be done before waxing or sealing your car paint, however. If you’ve clayed your car recently or kept a quality paint protection on the finish that has kept contaminants from adhering, you may not need to clay bar first.
If your car or truck has fine swirls and scratches, you may want to polish them out of your clear coat before waxing or sealing your finish. It isn’t required, but it is the best point in the detailing process to do so.
After a wax or sealant has been applied, polishing will remove the wax or sealant and need to be reapplied.
Paint sealants are designed to bond with your clear coat and can’t bond with the wax. Attempting to apply sealant on top of wax will waste the sealant, likely remove some of the wax, and waste your time and effort.
Yes. Suppose you have waxed your car recently (within the last month) and now want to apply a sealant. In that case, you should remove the wax from the finish first to ensure that you have thoroughly removed all of the wax to allow the sealant to properly bond with the clear coat to maximize its effectiveness and durability.
In my opinion, applying any wax over a sealant is not worth the time and effort. The added depth of gloss and shine will not last more than a few weeks before it will need to be reapplied. It will also not add much in the way of protection to your vehicle’s paintwork.
The only time it may make sense is for a car show where every little differentiator counts toward pushing your car or truck over the top.
Spray waxes are generally lower quality yet easier to apply waxes. They won’t provide the protection or shine of carnauba wax or paint sealant, but they can be quickly sprayed on and wiped off to add a bit of extra shine and gloss to your paintwork.
Using a spray wax on top of a sealant may give it an added boost to its shine, but the effects will probably be short-lived.
Wolfgang Deep Gloss Paint Sealant is generally considered to be the longest-lasting non-ceramic paint sealant. It has been my preferred paint protection for some time, and I’ve found it to last well over a year.
Ceramic coatings come in consumer-grade and professional-grade formulations. Consumer-grade coatings can last for several years, while professional-grade formulations can last for a decade.
No. You should always apply wax last. Otherwise, the ceramic coating will not properly bond with the clear coat and will wear away as quickly as the wax.
If you’re using carnauba wax, it’s probably a good idea to wax after each wash. If you’re using a paint sealant, you won’t need to reapply until it begins to lose its gloss and hydrophobic properties.
Abrasive cleaner waxes can, if not appropriately used, but regular carnauba wax and paint sealants will not damage your car or truck paint.
Waxes and sealants add a thin protective coating on top of your clear coat that helps protect it from UV damage and environmental contaminants.
Keeping a fresh coating on the surface of your paintwork is much better than keeping it unprotected.
There are lots of elements that can ruin car paint, but the most common concerns for car and truck owners are:
- Chips and scratches from road debris or other contacts
- Bird droppings
- Tree sap
- Bug guts
- Acid rain
- Iron fallout
- Brake dust
- Ultraviolet radiation