Written By Greg Dumond

    Today's painting systems offer an innumberable barrage of paint types.  It is often very difficult to determine what type of paint is actually on the vehicle.  Even the expert paint and body man will have difficulty recognizing what type of paint was used.  Many of today's paints are of either an alkali base, water base or solvent based product.  These types of paint cover acrylic enamels, acrylic lacquers, Imron acrylic urethanes (alkyd enamel found mostly on foreign cars) Glasurit, polyurethane, non clear coats and 2 or 3 stage clear coat paints.  With such a wide variety of paints it is far easier to learn how to polish these paint systems rather than learning how to mix and match paint!
    Automotive manufacturers are now using only a few types of paint systems.  It's when you get into custom paint finishes by professional body shop men, that can turn paint education into a mind boggling event.

    Now let's take a look at the different type of sealants used to condition and protect the paint finishes.


    One of the most confusing and misunderstood issues, even in the professional world of detailing, is that technically there are two types of sealants.  The standard wax type sealants are made of mostly naturally occurring base products like carnauba, bee's wax, and monton waxes that tend to deteriorate at a rate much the same as paint develops oxidation.  Generally speaking, if the owner of the vehicle takes relatively good care of their vehicle  by usitng the proper washing products and sealants the paint finish should go through a complete reconditioning of the paint every 3 to 4 months.


    Synthetic sealants are simply test tube and manmade products, and when combined create a longer lasting and more durable finish than its natural counter product.  Let's take, for example, an acrylic teflon, or polymer product.  These are both synthetically derived products but have been proven to outlast ordinary wax products.  The physical appearance of the products, when applied to a painted surface are almost identical.  However, since synthetic based sealants contain little or no natural waxes which are soft and tend to melt at a much more rapid rate, the life expectancy of a synthetic sealant is far greater.  The average life expectancy of a synthetic paint sealant, provided that the vehicle has been well maintained, is between 6 months to 1 year.


    Many of today's advanced products contain a small amount of silicone oil.  Silicones were first developed in Germany in World War II for the purpose of substituting crude oil with a cheaper and more readily available artificial lubricant.  Later, scientists discovered that silicone was an excellent substitute for paraffin wax in the pre-1960 years.  Paraffin is a derivative of crude oil, and is still used as a lubricant agent when blending carnauba based products.  Silicones proved to be far superior to paraffin wax since they resist high temperatures and provide a much higher gloss finish.
    Silicone based products must be formulated properly, not only to work with the sealant to enhance gloss and durability, but they must contain just the right amount of silicone.  A professional grade silicone should contain no more than 3% silicone.  Producs that contain a high amount of silicone can create havoc with a paint and body shop.  If an automobile goes in for paint and body work, and the paint has been treated with a high ratio of silicone sealant, it will be very difficult for the new paint to adhere to the surface.  Silicone acts as a lubricant to repel moisture and is very difficult to wash off.  This is why most good quality body shops always sand the paint prior to repainting the vehicle for better paint adhesion.


    Waxing and sealing are the final stages in buffing a car to achieve its most durable shine.  A good wax job is what gives the paint its final brilliancy, and hard protective seal, to protect the vehicle's finish from harmful enviromental effects due to ultra-violet radiation, corrosives, and other harmful chemicals created both synthetically and by Mother Nature herself.  A good wax job must have lasting properties not only to protect the finish from the continuous onslaught of harmful elements, but to retain its reflective characteristics and depth of gloss.  A good wax or sealant possesses hydrophobic characteristics or in laymen's terms, the film of sealant or wax helps the painted surface reject water.  This is seen by droplet or a beading action on the painted surface once the finish has been treated.  Today's liquid waxes have become more sophisticated using a blend of high grade silicones, polymers and high grade hardening carnauba and monton waxes.  Monton wax is a coal derivative type of wax and is sometimes found in the more expensive types of polishes and waxes.  Carnauba wax is the hardest natural wax known to mankind, and has an unusually high melting point of 185 deg F.  It comes from a species of Palm that grows in Central and South America.  Its natural color is grey before it is processed for commercial use.  Carnauba in its natural state is a vegetable plant and when it is extracted is very flaky.  These flakes are then formed into blocks by mixing the flakes with a lubricating agent like parffin, silicone or solvents.  Carnauba wax is unparalleled in giving a paint the deepest, hardest and most dazzling finish over all other wax products, even today's sophisticated "high tech" paint sealants.  An automobile treated with carnauba wax requires lass mainenance, because of its prominent durability even after many washings.
    GLAZING a car's finish is a term used when one applies a sealer containing a higher amount of silicone and synthetically manufactured oil base products.  The oily substance aids in the appearance to produce a depth of gloss particularly found in darker colors and metallic type paint finishes.  A glaze product also hides microscopic and hairline scratches in the finish.  A glaze helps rejuvenate dry chalky paint surfaces by conditioning the paint with nourishing oils.  Many of today's automotive products contain a certain amount of glaze.
    SEALANT is a fancy term for the final stage of waxing the surface, once all of the pre-polishing and compounding are done.  Compounding exposes the paint finish into its barest form.  The unprotected finish needs to have a protective sealant applied to it, creating a barrier from harsh environmental elements such as alkalis, acid rain, ultra-violet radiation, and more.  A sealant is what gives the finish its final coat of shine and gloss.  If there was one appropriate definition of a sealant, it would be something like "to affix a wax like substance to matter".
    Now that you have an understanding of the terms of paint sealants you'll be better versed on why it is so important to use the right balance of products to achieve what I call "perfect paint".  Achieving perfect paint is what gives the exterior of the vehicle its irridescent beauty!


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