Shiny vehicles are happy vehicles
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Although not necessarily based on actual real science, we all know that a sparklingly clean car offers up far more performance than a dirty one. A shiny car is a happy car.
So the big question is, how do you keep the paintwork on your pride and joy looking showroom ready? In partnership with Dura-Seal, we’re offering up a series of industry-insider tips to remove some of the mystical grime around paint care and ensure that your car continues to gleam the way it should.
With three decades of experience to draw from, there’s not much that Dura-Seal doesn't know about car care, both inside and out, and although many of us simply grab a sponge, some suds and polish the moment the sun comes out, the fact is, we could be doing more harm than good. To better understand what we mean, let’s begin with the paintwork itself.
Just like most things, over the years vehicle paintwork has evolved.
From the original air-dry varnish systems that prior to cars were used for horse-drawn carriages, (with brush on application and famously “any colour as long as it’s black”), through “spray gun” applied nitrocellulose lacquer systems that increased the colour choice but offered poor chemical resistance, and Alkyd enamels that were quick and easy to apply but oxidised rapidly in the sun leaving a faded or dull finish - to the base coat/clear coat system that we see on vehicles today.
The compounds have changed too, with volatile organic compounds giving way to urethane and polyurethane blends. As a footnote, initially these new paint systems were being damaged by ordinary waxes and polishes causing flaking and degradation; however, this issue has since been corrected.
As we said, today’s paint systems which are mostly base coat/clear coats and base coat/tint coats are better than ever. They showcase extraordinary colours (and outrageous names), offer vivid depth and clarity and are remarkably durable if properly maintained.
The clear coat found on most modern cars refers to the thin (on average 30-50 microns) clear top layer of paint that is applied over a pigmented/coloured base coat. This coat increases the paint’s durability, gloss and resistance to harmful environmental effects such as UV rays (liken it to a more permanent wax); however, every time you polish you’re removing microscopic amounts of this protective layer. So in simple terms, every time you polish, you’re potentially compromising the clear coat’s ability to protect the coloured paint layer, leaving it more vulnerable to scratches, fading and discolouration.
If you have a better quality car you usually end up with a better quality paint. But Jake Smit from Dura-Seal says that the coatings are a lot softer these days for environmental reasons, (petroleum based paints having been replaced with more environmentally friendly water-based paints) making wash marks and similar damage easier and something he says that shows up more on the darker colours: “That’s the nature of the beast”.
He says it’s important that you keep your clear coat intact as much as possible: “Once the clear coat is gone, you’ve got nothing to protect the colour coat below”.
In terms of keeping your paintwork in optimum condition, it’s better to avoid introducing blemishes to the surface in the first place. There are many products on the market claiming to offer protection from polishes and the elements, but ultimately the most effective are those which offer a durable “sacrificial layer” that is chemically bonded to the clear coat.
However, even without that extra protective and durable seal, there are a variety of ways to prolong the life and shine of your paintwork that Smit is happy to share with us next time.