Protect your investment: How to restore and protect your paint

By: Alex Affat, Unique Cars magazine

Presented by

Protect your investment ceramic coating applying Protect your investment ceramic coating applying

All you need to know about paint protection

There’s a host of newly popular methods of protecting and restoring your car’s paint with businesses sprouting up all over town offering services like paint protection, vinyl wrapping and detailing.

Like how the humble "muffler shop" was on every neighbourhood corner in decades past, there’s no shortage of offerings for those seeking to protect their automotive investment.

But with it comes jargon aplenty, and with so many businesses jostling for their piece of the pie, it can be a minefield of misinformation, with possible disastrous results.

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Whether it’s your shiny new daily drive, or your beloved classic; we all want to preserve the shine. But the two should be treated very differently. It all depends on what you want to achieve with your car.

We’ll go over everything with the help of experts from Melbourne’s Liquid R; and while the chunk of it applies to new cars; it pays to understand the science behind the duco as your old jigger will likely have a lot more fragile paint.

 

New Cars

While modern day painting methods have come an incredibly long way since decades past, new cars are almost never perfect upon delivery.

New cars are prepped prior to delivery but this often consists of a wash and a light ‘decontamination’. This often leaves swirls and minute "damage". If you’re after a truly perfect finish, at least a minimum polish will be required.

Beyond this, regular waxing is a time-old tried and true method, but will usually last months at best. On a regularly driven and washed car, there are two popular methods of paint protection that are much more durable, lasting years in many cases: ceramic coating and paint protection film.

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The ceramic coating method of paint protection will not protect from deep scratching and stone chips, but will aid in protection during daily use and surface scratches. Technically speaking, the coating is best thought of as irreversible as it molecularly bonds to the paint, and affects the hardness of the paint.

It still wears off slowly, but the paint itself has been structurally altered.

One of the big pros of ceramic coating is the ease of maintenance. Washes will be far easier though water spots drying are not prevented. Normal principles of washing away contaminants remain the same though the overall washing process will be a far easier exercise(more chemical resistant). With ceramic coating, you need not spend silly on expensive soap, the more affordable pH neutral soft washes will more than do the trick – more expensive soaps are arbitrary.

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After Ceramic coating, you may choose to have wax applied as ‘sacrificial’ layer on top of the ceramic coating to add additional gloss and protection. Traditional waxes will only last half as long as they will struggle to bond with the ceramic-coated surface.  Melbourne’s Liquid R can recommend certain waxes that are ceramic infused which is safe and durable for the suited application.

Ceramic coating should ideally be applied when the car is new, otherwise it may require further paint correction before being applied.

Another recently popular method of paint preservation is paint protection film – or PPF.

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Generally, the film is a thermal plastic with the ability to ‘self-heal’ to a certain extent.

It’s the only way to protect your paint from stone chips and deeper scratches without physically altering the look of your paint. If applied properly, it is virtually impossible to discern from an un-wrapped car.

One should beware however, that if the film does not wrap around the edges of the panel in its entirety, an edge will be exposed and dirt and contaminants may be able to build up around the edges over time, even eventually ‘lifting’ the film.

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A lot of shops will advertise the use of fancy digitally cut shapes; though ultimately are a material, time & labour saver for the shop with little upside to you, the consumer. Due to the temperature and stretching, these pre-cut panel films will rarely cover the edges sufficiently or even at all, leaving your exposed edge vulnerable to the aforementioned build-up of contaminants, resulting in issues of lifting with many pre-cut films.

A manual or hand cut method is ideal. While it is more time consuming, it does ensure perfect coverage and wraps around all of the car’s edges. With the right tools and method, a skilled applicator will never damage the car’s existing paint with the hand-cut method. It must be noted however, that certain areas such as parking sensors may not be able to be covered, as the film may interfere with functionality.

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Vinyl wrapping has recently become a popular way of changing the car’s colour and appearance without shelling out for an expensive respray. In terms of paint protection however, these coloured films offer very minimal protection as they are comparatively thin and don’t offer the thermal self-healing properties of PPF.

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If you’re buying a new car, be wary of dealership offered paint protection packages, as these are often outsourced to 3rd-party companies with the manufacturer bearing no control over the process and quality. They’re often "detailed" right there in the service bay with little to no lighting to illuminate imperfections.

Vintage & Classic Cars

Things get tricky with older cars, as older paint is often far less durable due to both painting techniques of yesteryear, as well as years of wear and tear.

Your approach to maintaining your paint ultimately should be decided by your car’s intended use.

Concours cars where preservation of original paint is of utmost importance, may want to avoid heavy paint correction. In this case, the tried and true method of a light polish and wax will cover imperfections, while also retaining as much of the original paint as possible.

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If the car has been resprayed, there is more scope to ‘cut’ into the paint and bringing out a more perfect finish.

Other techniques such as ceramic coating and PPF may also be an option; though each car should be inspected by a professional who can offer the best solution, taking into account the paint’s depth and how much the existing paint can be corrected.

PPF can be dangerous with old paint, and even fresh resprays. If the paint does not have sufficient depth, in a few years when the film is removed, it’s very likely that a lot of the paint will tear off with it.

Again, with older cars, it is truly a case by case basis, and should be inspected by a professional.

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