Parkers’ paint protection guide for DIYers

The ultimate guide to paint protection options for your car.

Cars driving in the rain

by Chris Williams |

We’ve covered a range of options on the subject but we figured it was time we pooled them into a single guide that compares and discusses all car protection alternatives at once. Ultimately, they all strive to achieve the same goal, it’s just that some are newer than others, and with varying strong suits.

That sounds a little vague, so let’s get to it.

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What are my options for paint protection?

In terms of DIY options, you are looking at car wax (both natural and synthetic), ceramic products, and graphene alternatives. Below is a summary of these, but we will go into greater detail further below.

Waxes for use on cars have been around for a long time, particularly natural wax. They come in both liquid and paste forms, the latter taking longer to apply but creating a thicker protective layer. Waxes provide good all-round protection, are hydrophobic, and work well in tandem with a polish to generate that lustrous glossy finish.

Ceramics are a more recent development in car care. Ceramic car care products use liquid silicon dioxide (SiO2) polymers (long chains of molecules), also known as silica and found in nature as quartz. When applied to a car, the liquid forms a very strong bond with the applied surface. Ceramics’ strong suits are longevity and UV protection. It’s also very hydrophobic, making it harder for substances to cling to paintwork, allowing for easier car cleaning.

Graphene is essentially an upgraded, even newer version of ceramics. Graphene car care products use graphene oxide that also bonds very firmly to a surface, but further improving UV protection, chemical resistance, and the like.

What none of these options can do is protect fully against scratches and chips. They can all, to a degree, protect against light scratches from jacket zips for example, but if you want a higher level of scratch and chip protection, you need to investigate a professionally fitted paint protection film. This is often an optional extra on new cars too.

Should I bother with paint protection?

If the appearance of your car matters to you then yes you should. In the same way that UV degrades the condition of your headlights, it also fades paintwork. In addition to helping protect against this, paint protection will make it harder for grime, muck, tar, bird droppings, and other substances to adhere quite so firmly to paintwork, resulting in your car being easier to clean.

Many waxes and other paint protection products claim to generate a shine on your car. They say this because most of these products have to be applied to a car that is already clean, so that is a little misleading. If you want to get a glossy finish from your paintwork, you must thoroughly clean and polish your car before adding a layer of paint protection.

Paint protection is an important step in car cleaning. It’s the final piece of the puzzle that locks in all your hard work with a car shampoo and polish. Without it, all that will be undone in a jiffy once the car is used.

You might imagine it’s the hobby and weekend cars that should have paint protection most urgently. But these are only used on occasion, and it is in fact the everyday cars and high-milers that demonstrate the benefits of paint protection more obviously.

Wax

Carnauba wax is the most common natural car wax you’ll find. It’s durable, it’s tough with a melting point of over 80°C, and pairs well with polish to make paintwork gleam. There are synthetic alternatives that often come in a liquid form; you can also get synthetic-natural blends that can come as either a paste or a liquid.

A liquid is easier to apply than a paste, but a paste creates a thicker layer. It’s up to you what matters more – convenience or level of protection.

Applying a wax takes time, with the exception of spray-on options. Cars need to be clean and dry, and waxes need to be applied carefully with a pad out of direct sunlight, ensuring all parts of all panels are covered. Leave it for five or 10 minutes before buffing with a microfibre cloth.

Below are our favourite car waxes.

Bilt Hamber Double Speed-Wax (250ml)

Editoru2019s pick
Bilt Hamber Double Speed-Wax
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This is a great wax that performs exceptionally well and is easy to apply. The Bilt Hamber wax is a blend. It is just as durable as some of the more expensive waxes youu2019ll find because it goes on quite thick. It has hydrophobic polymers added into the concoction to help with water beading and to make it harder for dust and grime to adhere to paintwork. For frequently used cars, try and reapply once every four to six months.

Chemical Guys JetSeal (473ml)

Best synthetic liquid wax
Chemical Guys JetSeal Paint Sealant
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This synthetic sealant from Chemical Guys is so easy to apply and generates some of the best post-polish protection youu2019ll find. Itu2019s more expensive than the Bilt Hamber wax but thereu2019s no debating itu2019s faster to apply and it's long-lasting - up to a year's worth of protection.

Simoniz Original Carnauba Wax (150g)

Best pure wax
Simoniz Original Carnauba Wax
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This is a pure wax. Take the time to apply it properly and you will be rewarded for it. A polished car looks great and is protected very well. Simoniz says it will last up to 12 months but if you use your car a lot we suggest reapplication similar to that of the Bilt Hamber wax u2013 at least a couple of times a year. Itu2019s great value too.

Bilt Hamber Hydra Wax (500ml)

Best for gloss
Bilt Hamber Hydra Wax 500ml
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It sounds and looks like a super high-tech scientific solution reserved only for professionals but it's simply a brilliant liquid wax. Hydra Wax uses T1 carnauba wax, which, in a nutshell, generates a wonderful post-polish gleam and yet lasts a long time. Like Bilt Hamber's Double Speed-Wax, this stuff makes more expensive products look totally unnecessary.

Autoglym Rapid Aqua Wax Complete Kit

Best fast wax
Autoglym Rapid Aqua Wax Complete Kit
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For speed, a spray wax reigns supreme. The trade-off is that it needs doing more frequently. This Rapid Aqua Wax from Autoglym is great for time-saving because it can be applied directly to a clean car that is still wet, but for best results, it needs to be reapplied every month.

Ceramic products

Ceramic products come in liquid form, either as a spray or in a bottle. As such, they are all easy to apply can last for an incredible amount of time – years in some cases.

Ceramics are essentially an upgrade to wax, not so much in terms of post-polish shine, but certainly in terms of protection and durability. Even sprays can last for months.

While the valeting professionals tend to only consider bottled lacquers as true ceramic coatings, there are plenty of products that use ceramic technology and are more DIY-friendly. For example, some sprays demonstrate one of the major advantages of ceramics over wax in that they can be used on any exterior surface including glass, plastic, wheels, and headlights. Meanwhile, the ceramic lacquers are for bodywork only.

Sprays are fast to apply but usually need to still be applied to a clean, dry car. Some may not but we suggest you do anyway for best results. Bottled products are like the waxes in that they need to be applied carefully, buffed following application, and some require a curing time. It’s not hard but it can take a while.

Below are our recommended ceramic coating products:

Gtechniq C1 Crystal Lacquer (30ml)

Best ceramic coating
Gtechniq C1 Crystal Lacquer (30ml)
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If you want a true ceramic coating, this is our recommendation. It will give you a couple of yearsu2019 worth of effective protection, which is quite remarkable. And itu2019s not like itu2019s hard to use. You have to wear gloves, which is quite cool; work one body panel at a time, applying the coating before wiping straight away with a microfibre cloth. Once youu2019ve done the whole car, you need to leave it to cure for 12 hours indoors. Itu2019s a proper weekend job but itu2019s worth it.

Meguiar's Hybrid Ceramic Liquid Wax (473ml)

Best ceramic wax
Meguiar's Hybrid Ceramic Liquid Wax (473ml)
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This is the most similar ceramic product to a standard liquid wax. Itu2019s quite quick to apply thanks to essentially no curing time. All you need to do is spread it over bodywork and then wipe it off. It lasts for six months.

Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Spray Coating (500ml)

Best ceramic spray
Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Spray Coating (500ml)
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This is one of those wonderful sprays that you can use on any non-porous exterior part of your car. It can even be used in direct sunlight if you have to, but the surface does need to be clean and dry first. Turtle Wax says a double coating protects for a year. Like a regular wax, weu2019d suggest a apply a couple of times a year if your car is used a lot.

Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Wash & Wax (1.42L)

Best wash and wax shampoo
Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Wash & Wax (1.42L)
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A wash and wax shampoo is usually a bit optimistic. This one is a bit different. Of course, it wonu2019t provide the same level of protection as any of the above, including the waxes. But it does provide some protection and is an option worth considering if you donu2019t wish to embark on a multi-stage paintwork mission.

Graphene

Graphene really is a later, greater version of ceramics. There’s lots of hype over extreme water beading and all the other things enthusiasts get excited about. But the main thing with graphene products is the UV protection. All the other products are very hydrophobic too, but the improved UV protection is a major plus point here.

In terms of application, once again, it's very similar to ceramic products.

Our recommended options are simple ones. One is a superb spray, the other a complete paint care kit. The reason being that they are by far the best graphene options in terms of a balance of convenience and performance. The bottled ceramics and even the waxes perform so well already, the visible benefits of a hardcore graphene liquid or paste are negligible frankly, though they do exist.

303 Graphene Nano Spray Coating (473ml)

Best graphene spray
303 Graphene Nano Spray Coating
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This is the graphene product weu2019d recommend with the most enthusiasm. Like the ceramic spray, this can get used on any non-porous exterior surface. The application method is the same too. The length of protection is about a year, but will perform better over that period of time.

Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Pro Triple Pack (Bucket & Grit Guard Included)

Best graphene care kit
Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Pro Triple Pack
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This is Turtle Waxu2019s version of a full graphene kit to give you the latest in paint protection. There is compound for shine, graphene wax for paintwork protection, and Turtle Waxu2019s equivalent of the 303 spray - equally versatile and just as much protection. These are all like standard polishes, waxes, and sprays to apply.

Summary

This all boils down to two considerations for you: what type of paint protection you want and how you wish to apply it.

Waxes will likely be the most familiar to you - you'll likely know what to expect and how to use them. In terms of protection, they perform well with semi-regular application.

Ceramics can be both convenient in spray form, or very hardy as a proper lacquer. If you're willing to put in the time, the Gtechniq coating offers remarkable paint protection and worthwhile for cars that get used a lot by people who desire top-level paint protection.

Graphene is relatively new on the scene and more products will become available as time goes on. At present, the 303 Graphene Nano Spray stands as the best of the spray coating options, being fast, effective, and versatile.

What about wheels?

There are protection options for wheels. Where paint protectants shield paintwork primarily from UV, wheel sealants work to prevent brake dust and road grime build-up, thus keeping wheels looking better for longer and being easier to clean.

Which is best? We recommend Poorboys Wheel Sealant. It's a paste that does an exceptional job of a very hard task. For more information on wheel sealants, read our guide.

What to read next:

The best alloy wheel cleaners

Best waterless car wash products to slash water use

The best soft-top cleaner

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