What is the Difference between Waxing, Sealing, and Coating?

In the world of car washing, you’ll often hear the words “waxing,” “sealing,” and “coating” used interchangeably. In almost all cases, the person using the terms is referring to applying a waterproofed layer of protection to your car after it has been washed. While there are similarities between these three types of products, they perform different functions—and for different reasons.

What is Car Wax?

A car was is a liquid application (sometimes applied as a wax paste) that seals a car’s exterior against moisture, harmful UV rays, and pollution in the air. It almost always includes carnauba wax as one of the ingredients and make a car look shiny, glossy, and gleaming to the naked eye. It can feel slippery between your fingers, which makes it easy to apply—but also makes it easier to wash off.

A car wax isn’t designed to last longer than a few weeks at a time. Hand applications of car wax (that you rub in yourself) can provide protection for up to a few months, but most of the liquid wax applications you get at the car wash will keep the car protected for a few weeks until you’re ready for the next washing.

What is Car Seal?

A car sealant (also known as a paint sealant) performs the same general function as a wax, meaning it is designed to protect against sun, pollution, and moisture. However, it is typically made from synthetic ingredients that mimic carnauba wax but provide longer-lasting protection. You might not get the same glossy shine that a wax provides, but you won’t need to reapply every week, even if you perform regular washes.

What is Car Coat?

A car coating (or paint coating) is the longest-lasting, most protective, and most expensive of the three options. It’s typically provided by a car detailer or automotive paint business rather than a car wash, and is applied as a kind of secondary clearcoat on top of the existing clearcoat.

Because of the long-term durability of a coating, this isn’t a step for everyone. It’s typically best when you’re worried about scratches and dings, or when you want a solid base that you’ll also continue to wax on a regular basis.

What about a Polish?

You might also hear about car polish, which is another term to add to your general automotive lexicon. Unlike the wax, seal, or coat, a polish is what you use to improve the car’s exterior before you apply the extra protection. The polish removes caked-on grease, dirt, and even scratches, and often includes a solvent that allows you to match the paint as you work.

For most people, the product you’ll use most often is the car wax—especially if you regularly hit the car wash. Because we make it easy for you to apply the wax as the final step before you drive away, you get an extra layer of shine and protection without having to invest in any heavy-duty car sealing products.

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