Common car grooming myths busted
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Is polishing the same as waxing? Do ceramic coatings last for years? Will letting your car sit in the rain be the same as washing it? We separate detailing facts from fiction!

Category: Car Maintenance Advice

If you're a first-time car owner who's new to detailing, stepping into a grooming shop may be overwhelming. Numerous products line the shelves, and both detailers and enthusiasts alike use strange terms that sound Greek to you.

However, if keeping your car's showroom glow (or bringing it back) is your goal, it's worth spending some time learning how car detailing is performed.

This will help you choose the groomer that's right for you. Yes, just like finding the right doctor or personal trainer, we detailing enthusiasts take this business seriously. Now, boost your knowledge with this guide on some of the common grooming misconceptions!

1. Polishing = waxing

Even if you use a two-in-one product that can polish and wax your paint, the two processes are still not the same
You may have heard folks use 'polishing' and 'waxing' interchangeably, but this is incorrect for they don't mean the same thing.

Polishing refers to the process of removing scratches and swirl marks from the clear coat (the surface of your paint) by evening it out. A very thin layer of clear coat is removed during this process, thereby removing the blemishes.

Waxing, on the other hand, means applying wax to your paintwork in order to protect it from the elements. It does not involve removing scratches or polishing the surface.

2. 'We can fix any defect! No problem!'

Mechanical polishing can bring out the paint's lustre, but over-polishing your car will only erode the protective clear coat
Beware of any detailer who claims to be able to get rid of serious paint defects such as baked in bird poop and deep scratches that are almost (or already) at the bare metal.

Every car groomer is limited by his skills, products, equipment, and the actual paintwork that he's dealing with. Classic cars with single-stage paint (no clear coat on top of the colour) are especially tricky, as over-polishing the surface will leave you with an unpainted car.

An honest detailer will first assess your paint's condition and give you a realistic, not optimistic, estimate of how much of the surface he can restore. The shop may even turn down the job if they think they're not up to the task to save themselves from having to deal with an unhappy customer.

3. More layers = a shinier finish

Ceramic coatings must be applied sparingly, and the process is best left to professionals
It is possible to apply two layers of wax on your car to ensure even coverage. However, care must be taken to use as little wax as needed, for the paint surface can only hold so much product. Less is always more.

But will two layers of wax make the surface shinier than one? It's possible. However, what truly matters is the polishing process, which as you recall, is what eliminates imperfections in the paint in the first place.

Also, bear in mind that if you apply new product without letting the previous layer set or cure, you might only be replacing that layer with this one.

4. Ceramic coatings last for years

Periodically applying a 'topper' to your ceramic coating will help it - and your paint - last longer
Yes, it's the strongest protection you can give your paintwork, but this doesn't automatically mean it will last for years. Like wax, a ceramic coating is a sacrificial layer, which means it, rather than your paint, is the one that takes the abuse.

However, if you keep parking under the sun and allowing nasty stuff like bird poop and tree sap to sit and bake on your car, you'll cause the ceramic coating to deteriorate faster.

To help the coating last longer, park under shelter as much as possible. Some coating brands also offer a 'top-up' product that helps restore the coating's protective properties, and it's a good idea to use this as needed.

5. Ceramic coatings - the more the merrier!

A ceramic coating must be given time to cure in order for it to properly protect your car
Once a ceramic coating has been properly applied and allowed to cure, it will form a smooth, hard and shiny surface that offers scratch resistance (not infinite, though) and is highly hydrophobic.

This is why many car owners swear by ceramic coatings. It protects their paint and keeps the car from getting too dirty, since water has a hard time staying on it.

With that in mind, applying a second ceramic coat on top of the first one is difficult, since that initial layer will 'resist' the liquid being applied to it.

6. Getting rained on is like a free 'car wash'

The more your car gets rained on, the more frequently you'll have to wash it to keep it clean
If anyone ever tells you that your car getting rained on while it's parked is the same as a free 'car wash', they probably don't know any better and are just trying to be polite about the situation.

Rainwater is neither clean nor pure. It contains contaminants such as dust and salt, which are then deposited on your car's paint when it comes down.

Need proof? When the sun shines after a thunderstorm, you'll find your car covered in water spots, which are the contaminants left behind after the water evaporates. So, during the rainy season, it's best to wash your car more often to help maintain its appearance.

Looking for more detailing content? Check out these stories

Post-CNY car detailing tips

Does the rain clean your car?

Wax, ceramic, graphene, or sealant: Which should you use?

How to avoid scratches when detailing your car

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