The differences between car wax, coating, and self-healing paint protection film

【汽車美容攻略】汽車打蠟、鍍膜和自我修復膜的功用及分別

All vehicles - whether it's firsthand or secondhand - need regular maintenance to be in the best condition. Otherwise, roadside debris and grease will easily cling to your car and deteriorate it. Thus, to keep paint jobs shiny, countless drivers opt for car wax, coating, or paint protection film. Today at Kwiksure, we'll explore what these processes are for, and the differences between them. 

Waxing 

This is the most traditional way of caring for your car. By rubbing ingredients like carnauba wax, bee wax, and more onto the car body to form a protective film, you can achieve reflection, and water, heat, and oxidation resistance. 

3 steps to waxing your car

  1. Prior to waxing, you should first wash your car and dry it completely. 
  2. Then, use a sponge to distribute the wax evenly onto your vehicle. 
  3. While waiting for it to set, wipe off the wax - now turning white - with a microfiber cloth. (Tip: It's best to wax your car in sections.)

Waxing’s durability and length of protection

The effects of one waxing session can usually last for 4-6 weeks. Some waxing formulas available on the market even flaunt that theirs can last for up to several months! Afterwards, the waxy layer will gradually decompose and evaporate when exposed to the sun or heat. Once the degraded car wax has been stained, it's easy to form stubborn dirt, which cannot be washed off with the carwash liquid. If you don't wax regularly, or if you haven't thoroughly removed the old layer of wax, your car will only become increasingly dirty. 

Cost of waxing your car in Hong Kong

Nowadays, at roughly HKD $1,000 to HKD $2,000 per session, you can get your waxing done at a car salon. Although it's easy to learn how to wax on your own, the process can be complicated. Also, the effective period tends to be shorter as well, which isn't ideal at all. 

Coating

Compared to waxing, coating is more popular. Both carry out similar functions. However, with coating, you use a liquid crystal polymer to cover your vehicle and wait for it to harden. Its molecules are very small and tightly packed to block ultraviolet rays and water spots. Moreover, coating provides better protection and durability. Given that, it is an even more convoluted process than waxing. So, it's difficult for drivers to carry it out themselves. Usually, you can get this done at car salons. After a thorough clean of your vehicle, technicians will degrease it, which makes coating more long-lasting than waxing. 

Both coating and waxing make use of a thin film to protect the car after it has been color-tinted. Given that, it cannot make existing wear and scratches disappear. The slightly firm coating has the functions of anti-oxidation and prevents ultraviolet rays, sewage, and more. On top of that, it even protects your paint job from being corroded by bird droppings (though you still need to clean it as soon as possible to avoid damaging the coating). It's worth noting that giving your car a layer of coating does not mean you are exempted from washing your car. That being said, it does make it easier to clean off the debris. In addition, it's recommended that you don't wax your car after coating. 

Cost of coating your car in Hong Kong

Usually, coating is a process that takes more than a day and can last for about one to two years. Given that, coating prices vary greatly, ranging from HKD $2,000 to tens of thousands of dollars. This is likely due to the differences in coating materials. There are car salons on the market that use resin as the coating, so you should carefully inquire about the type of coating you're getting before paying.

Waxing vs. Coating

Features

Waxing

Coating 

Streaks on your paintwork

If waxing is done by a machine, it's easy to create streaks on your finish 

If you use a sponge or a microfiber cloth specifically made for coating, there will be less streaks created 

Shininess

Shiny and mildly bright 

Very glossy

Stain resistance

Relatively low because it degrades easier 

Ceramic paint is hydrophobic, so mud and grime tends to slip off or are easily cleaned away

Suitability

Clients who will wax their own car every other week or every two weeks 

Clients looking for high stain resistance 

Durability/Toughness 

Relatively low

Relatively high

Length of protection 

4 to 6 weeks

1 to 2 years

Time needed

1 hour

More than a day

Price

HKD $1,000 to HKD $2,000

HKD $2,000 to HKD $10,000+

Paint protection film 

The biggest selling point of this protection film is its anti-scratch or 'self-healing' feature. With a high temperature, even when your film has been scratched by a sharp object, it can recover your paintwork's original structure and appearance. Hence, with the film, you can rely on a heat gun, hot water, or even sunlight to easily remove the scratch marks. 

Layering this protection film with a coating on top is a good idea as they complement each other. Your car will achieve both scratch and water resistance. Having said that, note that the reverse (i.e. applying the film after the coating) will make it difficult for the film to adhere to the car. In other words, the order of the two layers is irreversible. In addition, if a new paint job has just been applied, we recommend layering on the protection film after your car has completely dried. This way, you can prevent the new paint from being torn away in a future repair.

High-quality paint protection films can last more than five years. With that said, when equipped with an additional anti-tarnishing outer layer, it takes up to several days to manufacture. What's more, you get what you pay for, so the market price is often more than HKD $20,000.

How to choose the right auto/car salon?

The Consumer Council has received a number of car salon-related complaints in the past. Allegedly, these services were not delivered as promised. For example, poor-quality glass insulation films were provided to customers. Some companies even charged more than HKD $10,000 for car coating fees, but only did waxing. 

When choosing a salon, the Consumer Council recommends referring to the detailed product descriptions from the agents or manufacturers, such as the thermal insulation performance. Also, get to know the materials used, performance, installation process, and any other specific information for new technology and services you're interested in. Compare user reviews and evaluate whether these new products are worth the money.

With this in mind, you must also avoid believing in verbal promises. After all, there is no proof that they will do as promised. Instead, ask the salesperson to state the verbal guarantee on the receipt or contract, including the purchased product or service information (such as product model, service type, and price), and keep the receipt safe. Even if it is a handwritten receipt, you should ask the store staff to list the above information on the receipt and check it carefully.

Lastly, pay attention to the risks of prepaid services. Carefully evaluate the industry status and reputation of the car salon. You should purchase products (e.g. a VIP membership) according to your actual needs to avoid prepaying for too many products and services at one time.

Continue reading: 

2021 Guide to running a car in Hong Kong

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