Details … Details … Details!
Rx: Finish the Job.
We’ve washed, cleaned and conditioned our baby. We’ve spent considerable time with all of that but we’re not done. We’re down to the last step. Let’s put a hard protective coating on top and call it a day.
Wax - ABCs
Wax is the name we give natural materials. We’ve got Bees wax, Candle wax (Parafin), Ear wax (just kidding) etc., but the king of them all is Carnauba wax. Carnauba is harvested from the bottom of the leaves of the Brazilian Palm Tree. This stuff is hard! I have a small block of pure Carnauba #1 and have been challenging people to put they fingernail into it for years. It remains unmarked today. Carnauba is the hardest wax known to man. You’ll find it listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as such. It is refined to purify it before including it in your product. Then it is melted, blended with plasticizers and other materials to keep it moist and soft until you use it. A product may be “Pure” Carnauba in that it contains no other waxes or polymers but it WILL contain several other materials to make it usable. When used the softeners evaporate and leave the Carnauba behind in roughly it’s original state.
Project – Build a better mouse traaaa … Uh, protectant.
Let’s see now. If I were making a new paint protectant what would I want it to do? You might try asking yourself the same question. I would want higher gloss, greater longevity, greater ease of application, lower cost, maybe an employee, etc.
Q: But, you ask, “Doesn’t Carnauba provide all those things?”
A: Well … first of all they don’t call Carnauba “Yellow Wax” for no good reason. Ever heard of the dreaded “yellow waxy buildup”? Oh, NO! Yes indeed! Lay down enough Carnauba and you’ll start to see a yellowing on your white or light-colored paint. Most of us never will because we wait too long between waxings to see that kind of buildup, but those who spread wax weekly will eventually have to strip it off (the wax I mean) and start over. Furthermore any wax laid down in a thick enough film will appear a little cloudy as well. It’s best to spread only Glaze on a frequent basis.
If we could only design a protectant in the lab that had no color of it’s own and was crystal clear. Hmmm.
How long will it last?
How about longevity? Can anything last longer than wax? How long did your last waxing last? If you used a liquid wax you probably went through that layer in a couple months at best. A paste wax would have lasted longer because the wax is laid down in a thicker film. Any protectant can be affected by the conditions under which it must survive. The thickness of the protectant layer, its porosity (incomplete coverage), heat, dust, humidity, or just time itself all play a roll over it’s lifespan. Store your baby outside, uncovered in a hot, humid and salty environment and you’ll re-wax frequently (or you should). Cover and garage it in a dry climate and you can relax for quite a while.
Protectants can be abraded away by dust or chemically destroyed through oxidation.
Dust and debris in the air at 65 mph can be fairly abrasive. Fortunately you have a superhero in your corner. Enter … the Boundary Layer … stage left (Hey, it’s a long play, there’s bound to be more than one act!). The air touching your paint doesn’t actually move, even at speed. There is what we call a boundary layer of air adhered to the surface that is stationary. It has a Z dimension (or thickness) which thins the faster the air above it moves (the faster you drive) but it’s always there to some degree providing somewhat of a protective layer of … AIR!
Don’t believe me? Ever wonder why ALL the water droplets on your paint don’t blow off immediately as you start to drive. When you’re going slowly the boundary layer is thicker than the small, residual droplet is tall. The more water beads on a well waxed surface the taller the droplet will stand until it sticks up into the moving air above the boundary layer and gets blown off. As you accelerate the smaller droplets start to move because the boundary layer of air thins out until it is thinner than the droplet is tall. However, on a dirty or oxidized paint surface the droplet doesn’t bead but rather hunkers down really low so SOME water may never actually blow off and will have to evaporate as the surface heats up. The point is that the faster you go the more likely the boundary layer will not be thick enough to keep the wax from being abraded by dirty, moving air.
Waxes oxidize just like paint. Open an old can of paste wax and you’ll find a white layer over the top. That’s oxidized wax. Wipe it off and there will be good wax beneath. The hotter the weather the quicker waxes oxidize. The higher the humidity the quicker it will happen. It happens on your paint too.
The bottom line is that waxes are kind of a sacrificial coating. When they age sufficiently they leave the premises and your paint is exposed again to take the abuse of the elements. So, as far a longevity goes, there is room for improvement!
If only we could design a protectant with the kind of strength and toughness of plastic or the clear coat on the paint … Hmmm.
Wax On – Wax Of… Did someone already use that one?
How about ease of application? Well, one reason there are liquid waxes on the market is because paste waxes are thought to be difficult to apply and remove. This is a fallacy that may have developed with paste Cleaner Waxes. Cutting an oxidized surface with a paste Cleaner Wax is a choice only a Masochist would make but spreading a pure paste wax is little more difficult than spreading a liquid wax.
A note here, if you will. Any protectant can be difficult to remove under the worst conditions. Most waxes contain a little Silicone to aid in removal. The opposite is therefore true that if it were left out the dried residual would be more difficult to remove, right? If the paint has dried out badly or is oxidized you’ll find that removing the excess may require more effort. When paint is dry … it’s “thirsty”. When you spread a coat of wax over the top it will want to suck in the moisture and Silicone leaving the residual wax ultra bonded. Give it a “drink” and the problem usually goes away. Yep, you’ve been listening after all. Glaze first! If the surface is oxidized then the wax has a micro-rough surface to grab and hang onto. We call that a mechanical bond vs a chemical one. The cleaner the surface before you wax, the easier the job.
For my money its paste wax every time because I’m basically lazy. You see paste waxes are very high in solids compared to liquids. When I’m done with a paste wax I’ve got a thick coat of protecting wax on my paint. It’ll last! A liquid can have a little as 2% to 3% solids (spray waxes). How long do you think that will last? Another point is value. An 11 oz can of paste wax will last about a dozen applications. A 16 oz bottle of liquid wax, high in volatiles, may give you 4 or 5 applications leaving a thinner coat requiring frequent reapplications. Both are about the same price.
Spread a paste wax by hand using soft fabrics. Liquid waxes are right for machine application with only the softest foam pad. Spray waxes just serve as a booster for an existing waxed surface.
If we could only make a protectant that was both high solids AND liquid we’d have something. Hmmm.
Low cost … ?
Well, you can’t have EVERYTHING. Hmmm!!!
But, like I said, all protectants are not wax. Just like rust, Science never sleeps. Carnauba may be the king of waxes BUT we can do better. You may have heard the words “Polymer” and “Synthetic”. These are “unnatural” materials, made by … “Men in White” … (lab coats not suits). When a polymer chemists starts work on a new product he must first decide what his standard is and what his new creation should be able to do. Carnauba is a natural standard so you can expect any synthetic to be superior to Carnauba in some if not all properties.
· Synthetics will have extraordinary gloss like any plastic film does; will not haze being naturally crystal clear; and will not yellow being water-white – naturally.
· Synthetics will last like a clear coat because it basically is. Both are forms of plastic.
· Synthetics are very easy to use. They are naturally liquids, plus very high in solids like paste wax for a thick coating. The best of both worlds! Hey, isn’t that on our wish list? They can be applied by hand or machine.
· Cost? Heh, heh, heh. Well, … back in the day synthetics were pretty expensive. God figured out how to make good things cheap with just a word but that’s a tough nut to crack for mankind. There is an old illustration valid in just about all of commerce. “FAST” “GOOD” “CHEAP”. Pick any two. The unspoken suggestion is that you can’t have all three. Pure polymers will cost you but a blend with wax is good value. In fact manufacturers used to routinely blend in Carnauba to keep the cost down. Now that down grades the properties of the pure synthetic but it improves the properties of the wax. It was a pretty good compromise. Today, synthetics are made of Hydro-curing materials meaning that they pull moisture from the atmosphere to promote a chemical “Cure”. Curing is a chemical reaction describing the connecting of all the molecules until they form a film. Something drying out just looses moisture until the previously dissolve solids settle and remain behind on the surface (not well connected and therefore not the toughest film). These materials are reasonably priced so wax additions are not necessary to keep them within the reach of your average Joe.
NOTE: These newer synthetics take a little time to cure. The higher the humidity the quicker they cure. The drier the day the longer it takes. Plan on 10 to 15 minutes for Meguiars G127, NXT Tech Wax is (Wax? Yes. You know, like all facial tissue is Kleanex) or M21, Polymer Sealant.
Meguiars puts out several protectants for you to pick from. There is a Carnauba product in the red-bottled Consumer line but just about everything you find in their Professional products will be polymers or polymer blends. The classic example is their Mirror Glaze M26, Yellow Wax (a common name for Carnauba). It is one of the blends and is partially responsible for Meguiars’ phenomenal success through the years. The Gold Class product claims the distinction of providing the highest gloss but it does so with a significant load of glaze. Don’t expect it to have an extremely long life span. The king of the hill came on the market in Feb. 2004 when Meguiars introduced their new NXT (Next Generation) line. It includes a product that is pure polymer and the price isn’t too bad. This product, Meguiars G127, can and should be spread thin but with a 10 minute to 15 minute open time you can do that fairly easily. The Doctor only uses G127 or M21 for HIS babies and they have never looked better.
Clean and soft junk Terry is a good traditional choice. You might keep a bottle and some “junk in the trunk” for those show and shines. OK, that was bad! Commercial applicator pads are now very popular and come as automotive safe foam, Terry-wrapped foam or Microfiber-wrapped foam. All of those choices are good but not critical. The choice of a wipe off fabric IS critical. USE MICROFIBER. Wiping down is a dry, unlubricated step. Use the softest fabric you can find. Listen up, now … DO NOT USE T-SHIRTS. They are harsher than they seem.
Apply these materials to the entire – cool – car, go get a beer, come back and wipe it down with microfiber. Have another beer. Circular motion, linear motion … I don’t know and don’t care. If you do it right neither motion will leave any marks. If you choose you can come back another day for a second coat but give the first layer at least 24 hours to fully harden (especially for a wax) before you do or risk removing some of the first coat in the process.
Common sense prevails here. No one can tell you how long your wax job will last. Did you used paste or liquid? Did you wipe down too soon? Did you use soft and clean fabric? Do you leave you car out or garage it? Do you cover it? Do you use spray wax or cleansers like Meguiars M34, Final Inspection on a regular basis? Do you wash with an automotive shampoo? Do you live in a mild or harsh environment? Get the drift?
A vehicle left outside near a beach close to a major port will probably have the shortest lifespan. A covered vehicle garaged in a dry desert neighborhood will require little care. The point is that you are responsible for keeping track and maintaining your wax. If you know that your paint is at unusual risk keep a close eye on it and wax before you think you need to. Use a thick paste wax or a synthetic polymer and hit it twice. If your baby is garaged and sees little sunlight maybe an occasional spray wax will do the trick.
So let the shine begin!
Please submit your questions for this column at www.DrDetail@DrDetailForLess.com and we’ll cover them in a future column. You can also submit your own testimonials and comments about the subjects covered here and we’ll try to publish them as well.
Thanx, until next week,