Carnauba Car Wax vs. Paint Sealants: A Comparison Guide

February 21, 2012

Carnauba is found in nearly every specialty car wax, though synthetic paint sealants are tougher. Compare both solutions' respective advantages.

Applying Carnauba Car Wax

When researching the topic of auto detailing, carnauba car wax will inevitably come up in your notes. Carnauba is the key ingredient in almost every specialty wax, and in its natural form is a rock hard, flakey substance. Why this particular wax is so sought after is due to a near perfect balance of natural characteristics.

Where Carnauba Comes From
Carnauba wax is produced by the Brazilian tree of life, a type of palm tree that produces carnauba wax to coat its leaves. This wax helps to protect the leaves from harsh sunlight and sheds any rainfall or condensation to the roots below. Because of the nature of how the leaves of plants function, an important requirement of this wax is adequate breathing ability, which also happens to be a key requirement for an automotive paint sealant.

From the Tree to Your Car
Carnauba is harvested from the leaves of the tree of life. These leaves are allowed to dry out and then special machines remove the rock hard wax in large flakes. Carnauba in this natural form is unusable, so automotive wax manufacturers must first blend this hard wax with oils, petroleum distillates and solvents such as naphtha in order to make the wax workable. This may cause some confusion, as many high quality carnauba waxes are labeled as containing 100 percent Carnauba. This percentage refers to the purity of the base wax used, rather than the overall composition of the solution itself, which is generally only about 1/3 wax. Carnauba is an expensive wax, subject to a variety of harsh grading systems that determine purity and value. Trees grown in northern Brazil tend to produce some of the highest grades of wax, which are of a strong yellow hue. This yellow wax is often refined until it becomes an ultra-pure, white colored wax, to ensure it produces only the clearest and most reflective gloss when applied as a car wax.

What Makes Carnauba Great
Automotive paint is designed to be resilient, but even the best paints have a hard time dealing with the elements. Airborne contaminants and metal particles, acid rain, and even strong sun light and its powerful UV rays all conspire to erode your paint's brilliant shine. Carnauba is designed by nature to repel water and moisture, which in turn repels the vast majority of the contaminants that affect your car's paint. In addition, its natural role to protect the palm leaves from sun and UV damage remains when applied to your car's exterior, preventing oxidation and fading. Carnauba does all of this at once, all while giving your paint an exceptional luster.

Carnauba wax is an excellent way to protect your paint from the various contaminants common in everyday life. A proper waxing with a quality carnauba wax will last approximately six to eight weeks and give your car's paint a wonderful shine while keeping it looking great for years to come. Not all carnauba is created equal however, and a variety of natural grades and purity levels, as well as varying amounts of wax in the base solution, can all cause prices to vary widely, leading to expensive price tags for quality waxes.

Synthetic Sealants
Synthetic paint sealants are much tougher than the best carnauba wax, and are also available as easy-spray car wax products, so you can just spray the sealant over the car, and leave to dry. They will give the car a good shine, and will also last for between four and six months, which will save you money on resprays. This easy to apply, durable sealant is the choice of many who want to preserve the paint and don't mind about the finish.

On the downside, there is no resemblance between the hard, plastic look of a paint sealant, and the warm and natural shine of the carnuaba wax. While some people like the glassy stare of the sealant, most car enthusiasts prefer the beauty of the carnauba. Choosing between them will depend upon whether you value functionality above appearance.

Related Questions and Answers

Which Will Give a Better Shine, Automotive Car Wax or Paint Sealants?

Car wax and sealants perform similar functions in the car detailing process, but they perform those functions very differently. A paint sealant product will give a bright and highly reflective shine to your car's paint. A carnauba wax, on the other hand, will bring out a deeper and much warmer luster and shine from your car's paint. The companies that make car sealants state the claim that their products will last for as long as six years. With a wax, you need to reapply it approximately twice a month in order to maintain maximum shine and luster.

How Often Should I Wax My Car?

You've been asking people 'how often should I wax my car' when you take it in for service. Everybody is telling you different things on this subject. Car wax will break down and be fully washed off after two car washes. If you use a harsh detergent, it could even be removed after one washing. A good rule of thumb to follow is, if after washing and drying with a chamois, the paint isn't as shiny as you want, you should go ahead and apply a coat of wax to it. Another indicator of needing to wax is when water doesn't bead off of the paint surface.

Will Waxing too Much Hurt My Clear Coat Car Paint?

Clear coat car paint is one of the weapons the car makers and paint manufacturers have given car owners in the ongoing war against paint damage from sun, rain, contaminants and corrosive chemicals in the air. However, having a paint job that is protected by clear coat doesn't relieve you from the requirement to properly wash and wax your car periodically. Choose a product that has no abrasives that can cause swirls or minute scratches. All of the car wax products from Meguiar's are certified by the company to be clear coat safe. As long as you use a wax product that doesn't contain abrasives, and you apply and remove it properly, waxing won't hurt your clear coat.

Will Auto Paint Sealants Last Longer than Car Wax?

Auto paint sealants are synthetic car paint care products that are designed to bring out a highly reflective shine and luster from your car's paint job. According to the companies that make these car paint sealant products, under optimal conditions, they can last up to six months between applications.  A car wax, under optimal conditions, will last only a month to six weeks. Rain, sun and wind all work together to deteriorate both wax finishes and sealants. A sealant, however, will actually chemically bond to the paint, which will allow it to last significantly longer than a wax.