Layering: Waxes and Sealantsby Rodney Tatum
Two layers, three layers, four, maybe five! Are more layers better?
After thoroughly detailing my car, I decided to lay some protection on the paint. I laid down one layer of Pinnacle Souveran Carnauba Paste Wax (a great wax!). 45 minutes later, I did it again. One hour later, I put down a third layer of the same product. In the past, a single application of this product yielded me about slightly over a month in durability. So with the excessive use of this product (3 layers), how long did it last? Well, it still lasted slightly over a month!
To be clear, this is a great product for what it was intended to be used for. It is a beauty wax, as a standalone form of protection. It can also be used over a sealant like Wolfgang Deep Gloss Paint Sealant 3.0, ideally after the sealant has cured (fully crosslinked). This combination can provide the best of both worlds. I have also used Wolfgang Deep Gloss Paint Sealant quite often and can vouch for its great looks on a car and the durability it provides (around 6 months). I can also recall using a spray-on sealant over Wolfgang Deep Gloss Paint Sealant 3.0 an hour after application, which was well before that 12 hour suggested dry time. Consequently, the product did not reach its fullest potential.
It is important to understand there are solvent carrier agents in a sealant or wax that allow a product to be effectively transferred from a container to your paint. Some of these carriers also have the same chemistry in the products that clean caked-on residue from your paint. Those solvents help you transfer a product onto your car’s paint but they will also strip a previously applied product.
Sealants tend to be more durable as they form a bond over your car’s paint by way of crosslinking over time. This is significant for two reasons. Solvent carriers in sealants tend to be stronger than in waxes. It is generally more important to have a cleaner surface when applying a sealant versus a wax. This is why most glazes are often not recommended for sealants as much as waxes. What is strong enough (carrier agents) to help you apply the product can also be strong enough to remove the same product. This is one of the reasons why when layering sealants and waxes, a good guideline is to apply a sealant first then a wax topper. The wax, being the weaker overall product, is not as dependent on a bare surface. This also means sealants generally need more time to bond to the surface, oftentimes 12 hours is the window in which the product is sensitive to removal. The carriers of carnauba wax likely would not be strong enough to harm a fully set sealant, but topping to early may compromise your existing layer of protection.
One important realization we need to understand is no two products are exactly alike. Some products cannot be layered at all. There are products designed to be layered, with the same or certain complementary products. Even in these situations you will achieve rapidly diminishing returns at some point. Realistically for products stated that can be layered, 2 layers of a sealant at most is where you will maximize the durability of the product and ensure even coverage. The other alternative is applying 1 to 2 layers of a sealant and then topping with a carnauba wax. When in doubt, read the instructions on the label and brand website. There are unique combinations that do work. My testing has revealed Klasse AIO pairing nicely with Wolfgang Deep Gloss Paint Sealant 3.0.
If you feel the need to constantly layer wax to improve the appearance of your car, understand that polishing is a more practical form of visually enhancing your car. Removing any imperfections is what will enhance clarity and overall gloss and mirror-like appearance. Layers of wax will only enhance the way the paint already looks and as mentioned before, 1-2 layers of wax is ideal. Applying more to “improve” the appearance of the paint is not going to protect longer, it is simply using way too much wax than is needed.
However, if you do not know what to use I recommend sticking with one brand as many times certain products are designed to work perfectly with one another. For example, one of the most commonly asked questions, “what do I use with HD Speed?” HD Poxy would be my recommendation as these products are from the same brand and both have Montan Wax (a unique protectant) in them. Representatives of 3D have mentioned on multiple occasions that Poxy is designed to complement HD Speed.
Any car has solvent and they mess with the sealant. Use a spray wax instead they have less harsh water based solvents. Paste wax over sealant reduces the effectiveness IMO
I believe there is definitely a lot of truth from experience and critical thinking (product composition) to what you said. From experience some carnauba paste waxes have played very well with long term sealants.
But I do believe strongly when it comes to mixing sealants and waxes: when in doubt your favorite sealant is enough and at best you will get greatly diminishing returns out of the experience. Also although there are some popular outliers, usually if a brand has a complementary product, it is best to top with that specific product.
This was a very helpful and informative article. I think the key lessons here are (a) choose complimentary products if layering, (b) apply them to a clean surface, and (c) allow these products adequate time to “set up”. From time to time I’ve encountered varying durability levels, and now I know why. Thanks Rodney.