Car Owners’ Manual — Basics of Paint Protection

This entire segment of the Car Owners’ Manual is dedicated to automotive detailing. Everything we’ve discussed so far was aimed at thoroughly cleaning, decontaminating and correcting the paint on your car. Now, it’s time to explore various options when it comes to the final step of the process — paint protection. We’ll cover all of the popular choices available today, their pros/cons and how to pick choose the right one for your car. Let’s get to it.
application of ceramic coating

The Importance of Paint Protection

Automotive paint systems are pretty tough straight from the factory. The people who design and build cars understand the importance of keeping that metal structure isolated from the environmental, which is why just about every carmaker out there uses quality paint systems.

However, automotive paint systems aren’t a magical barrier that remains impenetrable forever. On the contrary, the moment a car leaves the factory, the paint starts taking small amounts of damage. There are known instances of cars leaving dealership showrooms already scratched up.

The far more important application of paint protection solutions is right after polishing a car. Polishing is an important step of paint protection, but one that removes a layer of clear coat from your vehicle. Although it makes the car look much better, polishing means that your vehicle is left with less protection than it had before. Less protection means a higher risk of environmental factors reaching your car’s bodywork.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent paint deterioration and/or complete paint system failure. The best way to maintain your paint is to wash your car regularly. But, if you want an extra layer of protection, you’ll have to use dedicated products like the ones we’re about to talk about.

Waxes and Sealants

paint protection car wax
Waxes and sealants are the most popular, easiest to apply and the cheapest option on the market. Most waxes are usually organic based, while sealants are fully synthetic in nature. Both of these can give you up to 6 months of protection, after which you’ll need to apply them again. For most people, using waxes and sealants is enough.

Just to be clear, these types of products are used by pros as well. There’s a whole line of waxes called showroom waxes that are short-lived, but give car enthusiasts incredible shine for the duration.

The issue with waxes and sealants is the fact that they don’t deal well with traffic film. Traffic film is what you call a layer of grime that accumulates on your car as you drive. Depending on where you live and what type of climate you live in, traffic film can be more or less aggressive.

People who live in areas with lots of rain and snowfall will see their waxes last for a few months at best. That being said, if you go with quality brands such as SONAX and others, you could see that timeframe extend for an extra month or so.


– Affordable
– Easy to apply
– Decent protection all things considered


– Not all that durable

Ceramic Coatings

ceramic coating paint protection
One level up from waxes and sealants are ceramic coatings. Although they have the word ‘ceramic’ in their name, most of these products feature a liquid polymer. There are also graphene coatings, which represent the next generation of synthetic polymer coatings. These are generally more durable than ceramic coatings, but essentially work in a similar way.

The main benefit of using a ceramic coating is the fact that these products are extremely durable. They offer anywhere from a year, to 5 years of complete protection once applied. You’re probably wondering why such a massive gap between the lowest and highest value. The truth is that not all ceramic coatings are nearly the same.

The market is packed with cheap, unknown ceramic polymers that could last a year, or they could last a few months. Many people fall victim to these products because they generally look fairly attractive. In reality, proper ceramic or graphene coatings cost a pretty penny, and for a good reason.

Speaking of costs, that is one of the main drawbacks of ceramic coatings or similar paint protection products — they can be expensive. On top of that, you can’t just apply them to your car. First, you have to decontaminate the paintwork, do any correction necessary, and polish the car before you apply a ceramic coating. Otherwise, you’re risking the product not curing properly, which drastically cuts down its lifespan.

With all that said, ceramic coatings are still one of the best options for those who want to invest in their car’s paint protection. When applied properly, these products greatly extend the life of your car’s paint, all while offering lots of protection from chemicals and UV rays.


– Extremely durable
– Can last anywhere from 1 to 5 years
– Requires no modification made to the car


– No protection against kinetic damage
– Expensive to buy and expensive to apply

Wraps and Protective Films

applying vinyl wrap
Everything we’ve talked about so far is mainly designed to offer lasting protection against chemicals and UV rays. However, neither waxes/sealants nor ceramic coatings can do much against scratches. If someone keys your car, or you scratch it while parking, you better believe there will be damage.

If you truly want to give your car a suit of armor, you’ll need to wrap it using a vinyl wrap. Wrapping a car means exactly what you’re imagining right now — covering every bit of a body panel with a vinyl wrap. If you’ve ever seen a car with a bunch of graphics on it, usually belonging to a company of some sort, that’s a wrapped car. Likewise, most of those gold or chrome Mercedes-Benz G-classes you’ve seen are rocking a vinyl wrap.

People use vinyl wraps for all kinds of different reasons. Some appreciate the aesthetic value, but others like the extra layer of protection. If you’re leaning towards the latter, you should know that there are clear wraps out there that won’t change your car’s factory appearance.

Instead, they will simply add a layer of protection over the clear coat, which will give your car a chance against scratches and other forms of damage. Of course, vinyl wraps also offer plenty of protection against chemicals, debris, abrasion and UV radiation.

There are a few downsides to these products. For one, they can be pretty expensive. Wrapping an entire car involves a lot of disassembly and dozens if not hundreds of work hours.

Then, there’s the small issue of cheap wraps. Cheap vinyl car wraps look attractive, but offer less protection than their more established counterparts. As a result, they’re cheaper to install, but you’ll need to replace them much sooner. And that’s where you’ll encounter the main problem behind cheap vinyl — low quality adhesives.

Removing a cheap vinyl wrap can be extremely difficult. What’s worse, you’re running a risk of seriously damaging your paint while trying to remove cheap vinyl. There are plenty of cars out there with damaged clear coat, or completely ruined paintwork, all because their owners cut corners with vinyl.

That being said, a quality vinyl wrap will greatly extend the lifespan of your car’s paint and give you the peace of mind you’re looking for as far as scratches and damage goes.


– The most durable option
– Offers physical damage resistance
– Chemical damage resistance
– Lasts for over 5 years depending on the wrap
– Allows you to alter your car’s appearance, should you want to


– Expensive to buy and apply
– Cheap wrap can damage your car’s paint

Choosing the Right Type of Paint Protection

Selecting the right type of paint protection comes down to your needs, wants and abilities. Some people appreciate the ritual of washing and waxing a car, while others simply want to wrap their car and never have to think about paint maintenance.

From a detailing standpoint, a ceramic coating is a great way to keep the car looking fresh. You can top up your ceramic coating with specialized products that are applied after every wash, thus getting the most bang out of your buck.

Of course, if you want the absolute highest level of protection, get yourself a wrap. Just remember to stay away from cheap wraps as they will absolutely cause you problems down the road.

Where to Quality Paint Protection Products?

Although most of our catalog is focused on quality car parts, we work with companies such as SONAX who provide a wide range of top-tier paint protection solutions. Head over to our store, and take a look for yourself. Chances are you’ll find the right solution for your vehicle.

Posted in Car Owners' Manual

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