Product Durability: Crucial or Over-Hyped? Reader Participation Requested!by Todd Cooperider
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! 🙂
I have different rules for the seasons & each individual car. During the warmer months I don’t care too much about durability of products on my car as it gets detailed every few weeks. However-during the winter months (Cleveland) I use products with a greater durability as I don’t get a chance to detail it very often. On my wife’s suv I use products with a greater durability as its size is a little prohibitive to detailing as often as my car, plus it gets used more often for family duty and would require constant work to keep pristine all the time.
Having the pleasure of meeting DJ and yourself at the SEMA show I feel I almost instigated this article.As for my show car I am looking for the product that is easy to apply and remove,but most importantly is the shine.Having the car shine brillantly under the lights is ultimate for my show car.I do not use a wax product on my car,I prefer to use a sealant with a glaze underneath it.I have been showing my car for sometime and this combination is the one that has garnered the most attention.
The products I most often use are chemical guys ez creme glaze and blackfire wet diamond all finish paint protection.These two products in combination produces a shine that I have not been able to recreate with any other products.Like you mentioned in your article I have literally thousands of dollars of products I have puchased or have been given with the promise of unsurpassed shine and durability.I have the who’s who of waxes on my cart,nothing works better for me than the two products I mentioned before.
This car has appeared at the SEMA show for four consecutive years and was a featured car in the SEMA show annual book. the car has been in numerous magazines ,videos and was shown at the fresno autorama and long beach autorama this past year.I am a detail junkie. to get my car ready for a show it takes me at least one week of complete detailing. from the engine to the undercarriage it all gets done.
I don’t detail professionally, so I can’t afford to have a ton of different products for my vehicles. I use Poli-Seal on my daily driver (06 Accord Coupe) which is washed weekly as well as my truck which sits outside 24/7 and is only washed once a month. Durability is a pretty big selling point for me because I just don’t have as much time to spend on my vehicles as I’d like.
As of right now my current daily driver which is my only car right now (Nighthawk Black Pearl)
I am always trying something different to make that pearl in the paint REALLY pop. I am not worried after durability on my own vehicle (during the warmer months) because, I am out every couple of weeks refreshing what I currently have on the car or stripping the protection off to try something new.
Now, since I live in Ohio, therefore, we are “fortunate” enough to have all four seasons. In the winter, I will protect my car with something that has strong durability over something with more “looks”. Because, the salt and other products that are laid down on the road can take a toll on the protection; plus, it’s tough to be out in 20°F weather washing/waxing a vehicle. When we roll over to Spring time, I will ALWAYS use the most “flashy” product I have because like I’ve said before, I will be out there trying something new every couple of weeks trying to get that pearl to really pop.
When I drive down to do my family members vehicles, I will normally go with a product that will last the longest due to the fact that the cars aren’t regularly maintained. Therefore, the most durable product is best suited for this situation. Regardless of the season, I will use the most durable product I have on hand for their cars.
-Andrew T. Lastivka
I actually totally agree with your article at least for those detail junkies like myself. My corrected black Mustang Gt had a coat of Blackfire Wet Diamond and even though I know the protection will last, I added another coat a month after. Then I added a coat of Natty’ Blue paste a few weeks later. And now since winter is here I am thinking of adding another coat of Blackfire Wet Diamond. I think if your the kind of person that loves their vehicle and enjoys keeping it looking its best you are going to be the kind that is not going to wait 5 or 6 months before re-applying a coat of sealant. Your going to want to go out and put another coat on when “you” feel its necessary, even if you know the protection is still there. It’s almost as if the more coats you put on the more protection and wetness you will achieve not only that but the satisfaction you get knowing your vehicle is looking its best and that its being protected with one of the best products available. I have recently been looking into the super nano sealant market. I want to purchase a 30ml of Cquartz as they state last 2 or more years and is very easy to apply and remove. I also am told you can top it a carnauba or glaze when ever you feel like it, because we all know the detailing enthusiasts and pros are not going to wait 2+ years to add a coat of their favorite LSP to add a bit more gloss and wetness. Yet seeing Cquartz alone after correction looks simple amazing. It just great to know their are new products out there that will keep your vehicle protected for long periods, even if most detailing enthusiasts or professionals are going to be on top of their exterior maintenance. For those individuals who are not going to be able to keep up a vehicle appearance as often as needed these products are a must. But then this leads to another problem most of those individuals are not going to be looking into high quality sealants nano sealants or even regular sealant because most don’t even know what a sealant is. All they know are about waxes and the ones they know are the OTC (turtle wax) products unless a professional detailer informs them what a sealant is and what protection it can provide. So in the end its funny because most people who are going to be purchasing these long term sealants will be car and detailing pros/enthusiasts which will be maintaining their exteriors often, so even a 3 month sealant is really not needed much less a 2+ year one but as I said its just something that entices all of us detailing freaks.
Being a hands-on type of owner I suppose durability isn’t my main concern, but not detailing professionally I can’t keep a large variety of products (I suppose you ALWAYS want more than you have regardless right?) and it is nice to not have to worry about finding time to detail my car.
So I guess I fall in the large crowd of “looking for a happy medium” – I have no problem regularly polishing or waxing my car, but being able to put it off for a little while because life gets in the way sometimes gives me the practical flexibility I need.
….now if my baby wasn’t also my daily driver…
I fall into the hands-on owner category. I have only been into this detailing thing for a little over a year now and it fuels my OCD in way that I never thought was possible. I have a garaged kept toy which is black and it is the primary beneficiary of my disorder. This year I have spent literally more time working (playing) with paint correction and other detailing aspects than I have driving it. Granted, Northeast Ohio climate does tend to limit my road time. I would go to great lengths to produce the best finished product that I am capable of. It’s my baby! Durability isn’t an issue. Aesthetics is everything!
My daily driver is a different story. As much as I enjoy keeping it looking great, durability is very much concern. It’s outside 24/7 and needs all the help I can give it. I seal it twice a year and it has to last.
I figure when it comes to LSPs, it better to have and not need than to need and not have. So even though I know that chances are I will be stripping off the LSP before absolutely necessary, I tend to go with products that supposedly have more durability just in case. If by chance I don’t get around to applying a new LSP on one of the 4 vehicles I own as soon as I might like, at least I can rest easy knowing that the stuff already on there is still protecting the paint. The only real exception I make for this is when prepping my 09′ Grabber Orange Mustang GT for a car show. In that case I go with what will make it look its best with little concern about durability.
Thanks everybody for the great feedback on how you view durability of waxes and sealants. And for all of you other readers out there…please feel free to post up your thoughts as well.
As a Detailing Professional out of San Diego California, we have very high end cars we work with on a daily basis. I definitely agree with your write up. Just because our client’s can “afford” to pay more for a high grade Poli-Seal, doesn’t mean that should always get it. We have some customers who like to make sure their car is protected and want to keep their car looking great all the time, so we apply Poli-Seal and then maintain the rich, wet look of the paint with a high grade paste wax. Others simply want a premium grade cream wax applied on a monthly basis. Others, only want us to show up twice per year, so we only use Poli-Seal. It all depends on how much they care about their car. Are they leasing it? Only owning it for a couple of years? Want to have the hottest car on the block? etc.
Thanks for the article Todd!
Wes Walz – Elite Finish Detailing
Thanks for the feedback Wes!
just like any type of product out there, being automotive related or not, has the power to hype up any one attribute. These days it seems that the “durability” phrase is really getting the “beating a dead horse”. for the average weekend guy who just invested in a $30-50k car may get very overwhelmed by the sheer variety and technicality of all the products. So he will most likely spend a couple hours investigating and come out with a bottle that repeats the term “durability” about 15 times on its description, but chances are it wont be the best product for his paint or him. Maybe we are just so used to disregarding all the hype or clever terminology and hone in on the bread and butter of each individual product? My point being is that “durability” is extremely hyped up these days, more and more with new products every day. thinking back to when i first found my way to the detailing community packing loads of concerns and questions with my old jet black 3 series, i was astronomically overwhelmed. Most stemming from frustration with my super soft finicky paint and the fear of wasting what little money i had. After being misled into buying hundreds of dollars worth of products that did not perform or look as they described i finally found Ask a pro blog, only then did i finally find the answers to the questions i had. To me, a sealant is a tool used for the wife’s car. if i get a customer who is a mother of 3158762439802652 kids i am absolutely going to give her the best sealant i have! On the same token, my car has only seen sealant once or twice in its lifetime (testing purposes). i believe a quality carnauba wax will give more depth and shine than a sealant can offer, not to mention i would have to wait months before i can have quality time with my car again. Carnauba for me – like women to shoes and handbags. I’m an avid collector for no apparent reason. 🙂 This is just my point of view, i love spending time with my car.
This debate could go on for a lifetime to be honest.
(avg) Sealants offer longer lasting protection, new technology offers easy & quick applications, faster satisfaction.
(avg) carnauba wax will offer a few weeks of protection, depth, jolly rancher shine, and satisfaction to the hands on owner who spent the time and went the extra mile to clay, polish, and wax his investment.
But wait there’s more! Now we have to find out which carnaubas allow layering of sealants, and on top of that we have to find the sealants that wont take away from the carnaubas depth and shine.
this is why we all spend retarded amounts of time on this site and on other detailing forums hahaha. thanks for the article Todd! Always a pleasure to read. Love the humor and intellect.