Last week while I was out in Vegas attending the SEMA Show, I had several conversations with my fellow DI Ask A Pro authors about the durability of products such as sealants and waxes. Despite the fact that we as professional detailers may have a different perspective on the topic than would the general detailing enthusiast, we still came up with a lot of different angles and schools of thought on the subject.
During my 4+ hour airplane ride home I reviewed all of the products I saw at the show as well as the conversations that I had over the past several days. I was mentally sorting through it all in search of some ideas for the blog here and this particular subject kept coming up. Since we have such a wide variety of people visiting the Ask A Pro Blog on a regular basis (from professional detailers to those wanting to learn the basics to keep their own cars looking good), I thought that it would be a good idea to post up some thoughts on the subject, and then ask for feedback from you…our readers.
To keep the discussion focused, I want to specifically talk about sealants and a little bit about waxes. I think it’s a given that we look for increased durability out of products like trim restorers, tire dressings, interior protectants, etc.
When we look at the manufacturing side of things, it seems like there is a race to achieve the longest lasting products on the market. This is good for consumers simply because you want to maximize your investment in products and time, right? One sealant will hit the market that touts 4-5 month protection before the need to refresh, and it’s the hottest thing since sliced bread. Another manufacturer comes out with a product afterwards that touts 5-6 month protection, and now that one takes the top spot in the sales category. The 4-5 month product is then relegated to the “once-hot” category. Now we have products hitting the market that are capable of many years worth of real protection (unlike the stuff sold as add-ons at the dealership…don’t get caught up in that profit-grab attempt!). So does that mean that we can throw away all of the products we have lining our shelves, and that suppliers like DI should stop carrying anything that doesn’t protect for less than 3 years?
I mean think about it…why would any one use a product that “only” lasts for 6 months when you can use an application that will last for years?
To answer that question, let’s take a closer look at a few different types of cars, owners, and customers for those of us that do this for a living.
Garage Queens vs Daily Drivers
The type of car we’re dealing with can have a big impact on the type of LSP (Last Step Product) we use on them. If it’s a garage queen that rarely gets driven or washed, then durability is typicaly a non-issue. They are not exposed to elements that will prematurely break down the sealants or waxes, so you might as well go with whatever you like and whatever works best…regardless of durability issues. But when we look at daily drivers, logic would dictate that we want to go with the most durable product we can find, right? Well, yes and no. This depends a lot on the next variable which is the type of owner we’re dealing with.
Hands-On vs Hands-Off Owners
This is pretty straightforward…does the owner of the vehicle enjoy spending time cleaning / detailing their own vehicles? If they are hands-off, then the best bet for this person would be to use a highly durable product because chances are it will be neglected to some extent. And then when we look at it from a professional detailer’s perspective, this type of owner can go either direction still. Will this customer want to have his / her vehicle maintained by the professional detailer? If so, then once again we can go either way on durability because it’s being professionally maintained. If they just want to see the detailer once every 6 months or so, then we’re back in the high durability category.
If the owner of the daily driver vehicle enjoys spending time working on it (the enthusiast), then I don’t think durability is as much of a factor. They’re going to be out in the garage on a regular basis taking care of their vehicles…re-applying sealants, glazes, or waxes. So even with the enthusiast, you can go either way.
And then we have the category of car owner that takes it to a whole new level. This person is continually trying new and different products just because they’re looking for the Holy Grail of LSP’s. They buy everything, they try everything, and they have collections of waxes and sealants that any professional detailer would be envious of. I suspect that many of you are laughing as you read this, because this sickness has a tight grip on you! This person is guilty of buying the latest sealant that is touted as providing 8 months of steel-like protection, yet they strip it off 6 weeks later so that they can try yet another product. Don’t worry if this is you, because you have a very large support group of like-minded individuals! In this case, who cares if sealant (x) loses its beading properties after 3 months because they won’t be leaving it on that long.
When the group of DI Detailers got together to discuss this topic, we pretty much fell into the last category as well. We’re continually looking for products that look great and are durable, yet there’s no way we’re waiting 4-6 months to refresh our cars unless we’re simply too busy working. We want our cars to look their absolute best all the time, and despite the fact that some sealants are extremely durable, nothing beats a fresh coat of something! I think the one exception to this rule however would be the “family car” that is owned by either the professional detailer or the serious detailing enthusiast. When we don’t have time to dedicate for 2 cars, then the family hauler gets the durable protection, and then is left alone for a while.
So as you can see, there are a lot of arguments for and against durability here depending on a variety of factors. As a professional detailer, I size up each car and customer and their needs to determine whether I use a durable sealant, or something that looks really good even if for just a short period of time. As an enthusiast with my own cars, I’m on both sides of the fence. For my own (black) car, I’m continually trying different products and combinations to keep it looking its absolute best. I too am guilty of stripping off perfectly good (and durable) sealants just to try something else. There’s no way I’m waiting 6 months to refresh the protection on my car (which is a daily driver). On my family hauler however, it’s a totally different story.
I guess then I’ve answered my own question in the title of this article…and that would be YES. Product durability is BOTH crucial and over-hyped because it depends on what your needs are. Highly durable products will always be needed for certain types of cars and customers. Products with lower durbility will also always be needed for the exact same reason! It’s an individual process and selection, and thankfully we have a large selection to suit each individual’s wants and needs.
Now here’s where I ask for crowd participation. I want to get as much feedback on this subject as possible because we (the DI Blog Team) are professional detailers and therefore have a certain view on things. I want to hear from the general enthusiasts, the major enthusiasts, the serious OCD sufferers, other professional detailers, and everybody else in between. This kind of information can help us come up with appropriate and related articles, it can help us to provide feedback to manufacturers, and it can help all of you by reading other peoples’ take on the subject.
So please use the comment box below and let us know what you think. How do you use your sealants and / or waxes? Are you looking for absolute durability, or do you refresh it more often and it therefore doesn’t matter? Are you interested in whatever looks best regardless of durability? Are you regularly refreshing your daily drivers? You can put whatever points you like…these are just some ideas to get you thinking.
Try to be concise without writing a book, and let’s not make this a product (x) vs product (y) debate. I’d rather this be about the concepts and theory as opposed to a product specific article (notice I didn’t mention one single product in particular above?).
And this isn’t a Yahoo article, so no jumping all over each other’s views please. We’re not looking for “right or wrong” answers…just feedback.
Let’s get those comments rolling…I want to set a new record here for the total amount of participants!