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Ever took a gander at a car detailing shop's list of services and walked away scratching your head? Well, here's what those services comprise of.
Category: Car Ownership Advice
Ever heard someone tell you that they are sending their car in for a wash, polish, wax or coating and wondered what exactly are they talking about? Well, those are some of the services you'll find on the menu of a detailing shop.
But hey, just because they reside on the same piece of paper, doesn't mean they are all the same! Today, we'll explore the differences between these services so you'll know just what you need to get your car to shine bright like a diamond.
Regular car wash
Let's get the simplest of all out of the way. This is pretty much self explanatory and probably the cheapest, quickest option you can pick at any car detailing shop - a simple, fuss free car wash.
While it seems like a really simple service, the level of detail and prices can vary wildly depending on where you go to get your car washed.
A simple wash at the petrol station will likely cost you around $10, while a thorough, detail-oriented car wash (or car spa) at a detailing shop can set you back more than $30.
You might be thinking, it's just a wash, why splurge? Well, as they say, the devil's in the details. While a cheap car wash might suffice if all you care about is getting the layer of dirt off your car, detailing enthusiasts and those with a keen eye will cringe at the idea. Cheaper car wash services that place more focus on speed and pricing often have to sacrifice some quality, this can mean missed spots or even scratches due to dirt that has been trapped on the same piece of cloth that had been used to wash all the cars before yours.
An expensive, premium car wash will often ensure that even hard-to-reach spots will be cleaned. The exterior of your car will be thoroughly cleaned with the use of car shampoo. Some shops might even apply spray wax to give your freshly washed car a brighter shine. The interior of your car will also be vacuumed and wiped down with cleaning products. So, there you go, a car wash - as its name suggests - is simply a cleaning service for your car.
While often erroneously used interchangeably with waxing in car grooming terms, it really is something entirely different. You see, whether you decide to go for wax, sealant or a ceramic coating, your car will still have to be polished - it is also referred to as paint correction.
Polishing a painted surface helps to bring it to shine. It is achieved by applying a mild abrasive to the paint and rubbed either by hand, or a polishing machine to achieve a smooth and shiny surface devoid of scratches, contamination and oxidation.
If you are thinking that it seems like a perilous process, it really is. During the polishing process, clear coat or paint is being removed by the abrasive compound, effectively thinning out the coat of paint on your car.
Polishing is a complicated job that should be done by professionals. Using a car polish compound that is too harsh can remove too much paint, too quickly, causing irreversible damage. If the compound is way too gentle (usually those that you can find off the shelves at departmental stores), you likely wouldn't be able to see much results after spending much time. The difficulty to get a satisfying finish is compounded by the lack of proper equipment such as a rotary or dual-action polishing machine.
A proper car polish can be costly, as it can require multiple steps of polishing with polishing compounds and pads of different harshness. While you are paying for the detailer's expertise, you are also paying for the time it takes - it isn't uncommon for a polishing job to take more than a day's time!
While polishing removes the defects on your car's paint, it also leaves it unprotected from contaminants and UV rays. Hence, it is a procedure that should always be followed with the application of some form of paint protection. That's where waxes, sealants and ceramic coatings come into the picture.
Traditional car wax
Car wax has been around for a long time and is probably one of the first forms of paint protection that is widely used. Waxes can be made from natural sources such as carnauba or from synthetic sources such as silicones.
What they do, is to serve as the first line of defence from the outside world - dust, sand and other contaminants in the air, UV rays, dirty water from road spray and rain. The wax fills in all the gaps in your car's clearcoat - minute scratches and imperfections that causes your paintwork to look dull and marred, to achieve an even and nice shiny finish.
There are many benefits to using car waxes, they are generally affordable, easy to apply and can result in a satisfying shine. However, car waxes do not last nearly as long as the other forms of paint protection and aren't as resistant to the elements when compared with the other, more advanced forms of paint protection.
Car paint sealant
Car paint sealant, made of polymers, is the next development in car paint protection, offering a longer-lasting alternative to waxes.
Its purpose is similar to car waxes, however, sealants are generally made from synthetic materials. Unlike waxes that can usually offer one to two months of protection, some high-tech sealants claim to last up to 10 months!
Another edge it provides over the traditional carnauba wax, is a stronger protection from even harsher environment. Sealants are able to provide reasonable protection from contaminants such as bug splatters and bird droppings which are highly acidic, and can penetrate traditional wax with relative ease.
The most recent development in car paint protection is the ceramic coating, it offers the highest level of protection and last the longest among all.
Ceramic coating can last more than a year under the correct conditions and with proper care and maintenance. It is also the strongest paint protection option, with the ability to withstand extreme conditions such as high temperature and is extremely resistant to contaminants, even those with high acidity.
While it sounds like the perfect option, it does comes with its fair share of concerns, the biggest being its costly price tag. As with all other forms of paint protection, polishing or paint correction has to be completed first. It is only after the paint surface has been perfected, that it should be sealed with a layer of protection. With waxes and sealants that wear off relatively easily, one can always apply some polish to fix any imperfections, after which all they have to do is to re-apply the wax or sealant.
However, with ceramic coating, you wouldn't be able to cut through the strong layer paint protection easily, and the application of ceramic coating is a finicky process that requires a high level of expertise to perfect.
Simply put you'll want your car's paint to be fully corrected, free of any swirl marks or scratches before the ceramic coating is even applied. Likewise the application process has to be done in a highly controlled environment, with extra attention towards the coating's curing time in order to achieve the best results. That's why a quality ceramic coating can cost upwards of a thousand dollar. And you should leave it to a professional car detailer.
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