When it comes to protecting the paint on your vehicle you really have two basic choices: wax, usually carnauba, or paint sealant. The choice really comes down to personal preference; both serve in different ways and both have their positives and negatives. Which should you choose to protect your vehicle? Read on to find out!
Generally speaking carnauba based waxes are the preferred waxes of automotive detailers, collectors and enthusiasts because when applied correctly they tend to give vehicles a rich, warm glow. An application of a carnauba based wax on your vehicle will help to protect it from the sun’s harsh UV rays, heat, moisture, oxidation, and many environmental contaminations while at the same time bringing out a vehicles natural shine! These types of waxes don’t so much appear to sit on the vehicles paint as transform it into a deep, liquid pool that shimmers under changing light conditions. The more carnauba in the waxes composition, the more shine the vehicle will take on.
Carnauba wax is produced by the Brazilian Tree of Life (Copernica Cerifera) or Carnauba Palm in order to coat its leaves. This ” Tree of Life” grows in the northern and northeastern parts of Brazil along the river banks, in valleys, and around lagoons where the soil found there is dark and fertile. It can also be found in neighboring countries such as South America, Ceylon, and Equatorial Africa, however, due to the short rainy seasons that most of these other countries experience the only trees that actually produce carnauba wax can be found in northern Brazil. The tree needs very little water to grow, is very prolific throughout the area and can attain heights of 40 to 50 feet over the course of approximately fifty years. The natives of the surrounding areas make very good use of the various resources produced by the tree in their day to day lives which is where the name “Tree of Life” comes from. This wax provides the tree protection from the sweltering sun and allows it to shed water which then falls onto the ground allowing it to be absorbed by the tree’s roots
Leaves containing the wax are harvested from the tree between the months of September and March. The harvesting process in no way endangers the trees themselves. The color and quality are dictated by the age of the leaves and the care taken during the extraction process. Carnauba is an extremely hard substance in its natural form. When the leaves of the Carnauba Palm are harvested, the wax either flakes off as the leaves dry out or the leaves are soaked in kerosene or turpentine to soften the wax, resulting in a thick liquid that then is poured into molds and allowed to solidify. These blocks of carnauba are then weighed and coded for sale toprocessors and refiners, or they are put into a machine that removes the wax. Wax makers then have to blend the wax with oils, petroleum distillates, or a solvent called naphtha (commonly used to thin wood varnishes and paints) in order to make the wax workable. The very best carnauba based waxes only contain about 1/3 natural carnauba.
That brings us to grading. Carnauba is harvested and then graded according to color, purity, as well as it’s area of origin-Parnahyba, Piaui, Ceara, and Bahia. Trees grown in the northern area of Brazil produce the highest grade carnauba. The yellow wax is the most pure and therefore receives the highest grade. This is the grade most commonly used in high end car waxes and in the pharmaceutical industry; it is often used to coat pill so that they can be more easily swallowed. Some manufacturers will then refine the yellow wax again into an ultra-pure white wax.
The one big drawback of using carnauba based waxes on vehicles is that it does not last as long as a synthetic paint sealant. A carnauba based finish will only last up to 90 days and then only in the most ideal of conditions. Depending on the climate in which your vehicle is being driven, as well as whether your vehicle is garaged often or not, your wax’s finish could be deleted in as little as 4 weeks. Arid desert heat, hot humid climates and coastal areas will also all drastically reduce the life span of your carnauba coat.
Paint sealants are a synthetic form of paint protection. They last a lot longer, they are easy to apply, and there’s nothing natural about them. This is surface science at its best. A paint sealant is made of polymers, which are composed of tens of thousands of synthetic particles (known as simple monomers) which are linked together. A paint sealant doesn’t so much as sit on top of your vehicles paint as it bonds to your vehicle’s paint. It forms a rigid shell which protects a vehicles paint like a transparent chain metal suit. They are glossy and slick, but they do not tend to have the warmth and depth of a carnauba based wax. Paint sealants have gotten progressively more popular as time goes on; some people really love the hard-as-glass look. In an industry that is driven by technology, it seems appropriate that an engineered paint protector is rapidly becoming the new favorite amongst auto detailers, car dealers and auto enthusiasts alike.
The real selling point of a paint sealant, however, is it’s durability. A premium paint sealant can easily last for 4 to 6 months and sometimes even longer under ideal conditions, meaning that water will continue to bead and the paint will remain protected from the sun’s harsh UV rays and contamination. The best way to give your vehicle the best of both worlds (a tough as nails coat of armor as well as the warm glow and shine of carnauba) would be to ensure that your vehicles paint is being properly maintained. Just as you should be changing your oil every 3000 to 5000 miles, you should be giving the same kind of dedication and care to your vehicles exterior. It is highly recommended that you have some type of paint sealant applied every 6 months and between paint sealant application make sure to apply a coat of wax to your vehicles paint every 30 to 45 days.
As you’ve seen, there are a lot of differences between synthetic paint sealants and natural carnauba waxes. Glassy, hard shell or deep, liquid shine? Six months or six weeks? These are the basic questions you have to answer before selecting the best type of paint protection for your particular needs. Just remember, a growing number of automotive professionals and enthusiasts simply refuse to choose. Instead, they coat their vehicles with a layer of paint sealant to ensure long-lasting protection and then top it with a layer of carnauba for the rich, warm, dazzling shine. It’s the perfect combination of beauty and longevity!
Remember, paint protection is one of your vehicle’s greatest necessities.