Once cleaned and polished, painted surfaces then require protection against various environmental damage if the long-term quality of the finish is to be preserved.
Protection comes in many forms; natural carnauba waxes, synthetic sealants as well as polymer or silica coatings. They can all be defined as an invisible barrier that adheres to the surface of your paint and shields it against every day environmental damage such as dust and grime, industrial fallout, honeydew, bug splatter, bird droppings and ultra violet (UV) radiation, in other words the damaging effects of the sun.
Some applied protection i.e. a synthetic sealant or a wax or even some polymer-based coatings are subject to chemical and physical erosion by the weather. As such, it will be gradually worn away over time, necessitating periodical reapplication if a high level of protection is to be maintained.
However some specialized polymer-based and many silica-based coatings will last for upwards of three years.
Probably the greatest impact has come from the use of coatings, which have completely changed the landscape of the detailing industry. Products like Swissvax, Zaino, Collinite, and etc. used to be the best protection available but a reactive polymer resin coatings (Opti-Coat™) has greatly extended the available protection, they offer a coating thickness of 2-3 µ (microns) and a scratch resistant hardness of 9H (the same hardness as a urethane paint), greatly extended durability, scratch resistance and protection from the elements that can be measured in years.
Does paint density (hardness) affect its scratch resistance?
Many coating products claim an obtained surface hardness of 9H but this has little if anything to do with scratch resistance. Scratch resistance can be related to higher cross-link density and elasticity of the polymer network.
So how can a dense (hard) clear coat be so easily scratched?
Force acts through a body that has a surface area; if the surface area is really small while maintaining an equal force, the pressure becomes astronomical and the object under pressure capable of penetrating the surface of an otherwise tough material. (Newton's third law of motion)
That’s why a micro fine thread that is twice as fine as silk and a 100 times finer than a human hair, in an otherwise soft towel will scratch your paint. And the same reason a mosquito can penetrate a rhino hide with its proboscis (stinger).
This can best be summed up as: your car’s paint finish, though it may feel hard, is actually rather soft. Nearly everything else that comes in contact with it, though it may feel soft, is harder by comparison and will scratch it with enough pressure – sometimes just the slightest of pressure.
The latest coating technology products (Modesto) use Silica (micro-glass particulates) the manufactures claim durability of 5-10 years (dependent upon product used)
Coatings are self-cleaning, that is to say there ultra-smooth surface exhibit something known as the ‘Lotus effect’ a (self-cleaning) surface. Liquid drops, and in particular water drops, form a very high contact angle, are virtually spherical and roll off the surface with just a small inclination (roll-off angle). In doing so, they carry particles which are present on the surface with them. This is the basis of the self-cleaning action of surfaces, such as the lotus blossom, which gave the effect its name.
It does not wear off over time like a wax or a polymer sealant, which can be removed by using highly alkaline car wash soaps or detergents, isopropyl alcohol (IPA) or paint cleaners similar to Prep Sol.
To remove a silica coating (or Opti-Coat) you would need to use an abrasive polish or wet-sand the surface.
These coatings can also be used to on both glass and wheel surfaces making them much easier to keep clean as well as providing protection.
When a coating is applied to a clean surface, that surface takes on properties that are virtually identical to hardened glass, they also exhibit a measurable film thickness. It is chemically inert and will not react with the base material. In other words, dirt will not bond to the treated surface, thereby reducing soiling and organic staining. Acid rain and other chemical compounds easily wash off, significantly reducing the hydroscopic nature of surfaces exposed to industrial or environmental pollution.
Properly educating the customer so they understand a coatings possibilities and its limitations, while they offer better protection than waxes or sealants, as well as greater durability they still need to be taken care of properly. Using the proper washing techniques can keep their paint surface swirl free indefinitely.
Teaching them how to use Optimum Technologies (ONR) correctly would go a long way in avoiding paint surface damage (scratches, marring, swirls, and etc.)Similar to paint protection film (PPF), it may show some damage from road grit hits but these are within the coating paint underneath is fine. This is also true if the vehicle has been subjected to a damaging wash, the swirls and marring are mostly in the coating itself so the damage comes out more quickly.
Another option to protect your vehicle is the installation of a paint protection film (PPF) from the damage caused by small stone chips, insects, and other kinds of road debris. They are virtually invisible and will not detract from a vehicle's appearance.
Go to Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds and check out the difference in the trade-in and resale values of an Excellent condition vehicle versus Good or Fair condition; it’s usually several hundred, if not thousands of dollars.
I would like to think that these articles become an asset to anyone who is new to detailing and to professionals alike, as well as industry experts who seek to advance their knowledge.
I hope the above article was informative. By having some understanding of the ‘What’ and ‘Why’ as well as the ‘How’ along with a little science to help you understand how the chemicals we use react, you can achieve the results you desire.
I would appreciate it if you would share this article as it helps other detailers further their knowledge.
Questions and/ or constructive comments are always appreciated.
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