THE PHILOSOPHY OF CAR CARE
Is Wax Really Dead?
Posted by Jared Toops | May 20, 2021
Foreword | A Decade of Change in Perception
If you've had at least one ear tuned into this industry for the past 3 to 4 years, you may have heard the phrase "wax is dead" uttered by detailing influencers and recent entrants into the automotive care market.
Initially, it's hard to argue with the sentiment, seeing as ceramic coatings and other synthetic paint protection solutions have made significant strides in aesthetics, durability and most notably, user friendliness in just the past decade. In our service operations at Parks Detailing, us and our clients are certainly beneficiaries of the aforementioned advances in the non-film based paint protection technology available to us. Coatings deliver immense value for clients and immense savings in overall maintenance labor hours for us as professionals. As you might've guessed, that notion makes installing coatings more profitable for us and truly does save the client or end user money and time on a long-term scale.
If it sounds like we're selling you coatings, that's because we are. Most of them are worth the investment, especially when installed by professionals who understand their benefits as well as their limitations.
Given the change in consumer perception (largely influenced by a sea of change in industry marketing strategy), why on earth would Gyeon - an innovative giant within the industry - develop and release a wax-based paint protection formula in 2021?
Because coatings aren't for everybody.
The Subject / The Situation
This rare and beautiful Techno Violet E36 M3 came to us from CES Motorsport here in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Despite its age, the car lives out its days as the engineers in Munich intended and as it lived out its youth; stretching its analog needle up the rev range on a race track.
You'd think a track-driven car would be the optimal candidate for paint protection film and a proper coating to fill in the gaps. You'd think that professionals running a business that specializes in automotive protection would drool over the opportunity; a classic BMW in a rare color that will see melted rubber, dirt, rocks, high temperatures and generally grueling conditions on a circuit.
And sometimes, for the very same reasons we put forth, it just isn't worthwhile for a client to invest in extensive paint correction and film.
When we connected with John, the owner of CES Motorsport and this esoteric example of BMW M-car lineage, we had the very discussion that you and I involuntarily teased out above.
We made the mutual decision that because this car has already seen its fair share of hot laps and highway jaunts, with no end to either in sight - the car deserved an enhancement and a protection regimen that was simple to apply, enjoy and reapply once the rigor of track days and freeway pulls had exhausted our initial efforts.
For us, there was a self-serving motive behind the choice; we wanted to truly test Gyeon wax and put it through its paces on a car that would offer it no less a challenge than any other.
In this industry - and we're guilty of it too - we tend to overprescribe strong medicines for minor and chronic conditions. The standard mold isn't unbreakable and 'vintage' solutions are still considered solutions for a reason.
This M3 isn't the only Modern Classic here...
Gyeon admittedly shocked us all when they announced they'd be releasing their own version of car wax, after spending nearly a decade chasing perfection in the rapidly expanding coating segment of the market.
In typical Gyeon fashion, they chose to add a touch of contemporary science to an otherwise classic formulation.
They tapped the 9th element of the periodic table, fluorine. In case you aren't a chemist, fluorine is one of the key ingredients in Teflon and Gore-Tex.
Teflon is known for its anti-stick properties, and Gore-Tex is used to waterproof heavy-duty jackets and durable footwear.
Needless to say, the addition of Fluorine makes this an incredibly unique and durable wax blend with incredible water behavior unlike most others.
Product Versus Preparation
One detail that is often omitted from the conversations surrounding coatings and waxes alike is the fact that the durability and aesthetic impact of the product is most heavily influenced not by its formulation, but by the prep work exacted on the surface the product will be applied to. Whether it's rubber, plastic trim, glass, paint or even leather and carpet; prep work rules all, and that's a universal truth that even the best product marketing strategy cannot compensate for.
This is often why wax is written off nowadays -- before ceramic coatings and YouTube became a way of life for car enthusiasts and professionals alike, most driveway detailers/weekend warriors were left to their fathers' and grandfathers' way of waxing a car. There were books, PDF's and DVD's released by industry giants such as Mike Phillips of Autogeek; but achieving a properly prepared surface and making the waxes and sealants of decades past truly perform was not a widely available instruction. Thankfully, that's changed.
Change often goes hand-in-hand with some ambiguity. It may have been purely coincidental that YouTube, the iPhone, and Ceramic Coatings all found their footing in the same 2 to 3 year period, but where all three have changed our industry (never mind the world) for the better, the phenomenon has allowed for opportunism to shape consumer perception. We won't get into it here, because you know exactly what we're referring to - coatings that will protect your car from house fires, last 30 years, prevent swirls and scratches... The list goes on but frankly just isn't worth the discussion.
What is worth discussing is this statement uttered by an industry giant:
"Use what you like, and use it often."
Mike Phillips of Autogeek
Wax is not dead. No product is truly dead until the market decides to kill it; and the market should be made aware that there are plenty of great wax formulations (not simply limited to Gyeon Wax) out there that are still a joy to apply, provide reasonable durability and a deep, brilliant result that still rivals or beats some coatings.
There's a small minority in the industry, some with a platform, that want you to believe that coatings are the only way to go simply due to one factor:
Coatings are generally more profitable for chemists, wholesalers and resellers than wax ever has been.
The discussion we're having isn't unlike the discussion many automotive manufacturers have had about our beloved third pedal and notched gearshift; it's simpler and cheaper to eliminate a variation in a production line and build what 85% of the market wants - an automatic transmission.
They tell us "the automatic is faster from 0-60," or "it's faster around a racetrack." Just like those of us who yearn to shift our own gears, those of us who occasionally enjoy the ability to lay down a buttery smooth layer of wax, take a sip or three of cold beer and let that microfiber towel glide across the paint will ignore the marketing, ignore the noise and do what brings us joy.
It's really that simple.
For Those Who Enjoy the Process / The Prep Work
Techno Violet is an incredibly rewarding paint color to work on, and we were excited to put our new STEK formulas to the test. Yes, we're trying to sell you products on this blog. We're proud of the fact we're the first to bring you a line of products developed by the company that has put ridiculous levels of research and effort not just into this line, but into changing the paint protection film market for the better. We're also proud of the fact that we've broken from the mold and can show you what a properly prepped and waxed car can look like. We called this an "era appropriate" detail, considering coatings weren't available at the time this M3 rolled out of the factory.
We began with a traditional wash. Being a track car, despite arriving in our trailer, the front bumper needed some literal "debugging." We figured we'd give our new STEK Formula 07 Bug remover a try since the paint on this car is fairly sensitive and Formula 07 is made to play nicely with paint protection film, avoiding staining or chemical deformation. It worked wonders, allowing bugs to be gently wiped away with a soft KL!N Softy Series Wash Mitt. By the way, if you're wondering, all of the products we used on this rare gem are neatly organized for discovery down below the end of this article.
Since we discussed the importance of prep work, let's discuss our pre-soak (often referred to as "foaming") with NV Snow+. We're often asked "do decontamination soaps or stronger shampoos actually strip waxes or previous protection?"
The general answer is - on their own - no. Certain shampoos like Snow+ are meant to assist in breaking down surface contamination and road film, leaving the surface ready for the most impactful step in the prep process; decontamination.
We used Gyeon Clay Mild to avoid adding any additional marring (light scratches) to the paint. Clay or mechanical decontamination is generally the most impactful step in preparing paint or glass to accept wax, coatings or paint protection film.
It's not possible for us to talk wheel regimens without talking about the KL!N Green Monster. It's the most unique microfiber cloth - if it can be referred to as such - that we've ever had our hands on.
This towel's unique rubberized texture comes from a patented polymer coating and elastic fibers. It makes the Green Monster (seen here dangling from the timelessly designed spokes of the CSL-style wheels) an incredibly durable and flexible wheel cleaning mitt of sorts. It's great on motors, exhaust tips and just about any other place that heavy dirt, dust or carbon buildup attempts to hide.
We won't pretend that the STEK Formula 12 wheel cleaner is groundbreaking in its concept, but as iron-reactive wheel cleaners go, it's extremely efficient without being too runny or too foamy. The consistency is just right, and if your car generates as much brake dust as this M3 does, you'll appreciate the knuckle-saving, no-fuss functionality Formula 12 provides.
These Michelin Pilot Sports were in need of some proper love, and Gyeon Tire Cleaner did a great job (per usual) of pulling some blooming and track film off the side walls to help the dressing set in properly for a subtle, factory-new rubber look.
When Enough is Enough / Paint Correction
In our consultation with John, we discussed his goals for the aesthetic of the car:
Make it look awesome and restore that complex depth of Techno Violet - but perfection wasn't necessary. After all, nobody really cares if your paint has perfect clarity when you're making an inside pass through an apex at 90 miles per hour.
For fairly well maintained cars or when chasing perfection isn't completely necessary, we've found Angelwax Enigma All-In-One (AIO) to be a razor sharp weapon that manages not to cut too deeply, literally and figuratively.
Enigma AIO cuts very well and finishes with very little fuss, while leaving behind an incredibly smooth and slick surface that promotes bonding with waxes and sealants. It dramatically reduces the time investment required to eliminate mild paint defects and gets you moving to the best part of the detailing process - applying your last-step product (LSP).
There are plenty of professionals and even weekend warriors out there on YouTube and perusing the forums that will tell you that a "two-step" or "three-step" (compound/polish) process is the only way to properly correct the paint on a vehicle. In many cases, that's absolutely right and we certainly partake in our fair share of completely fussy polishing sessions that last days.
What if you aren't chasing perfection? What if you don't have multiple days to spend chasing defects that may or may not be visible outside of 2 to 3 feet? What if you're on a budget, and you don't want to spend hundreds on different compounds, polishes and polishing pads?
Grab an all-in-one product and get after it. There is zero shame in taking a car to 85-90%; in fact, the final 10% is generally the most grueling, chasing compounding haze or the most stubborn defects.
Chances are that if it looks great to you in the sunlight, it'll look great to everybody else too. If you're not a professional detailer, you don't have to play that part and mow down every defect. There's no objective formula for paint correction - only the satisfaction felt once you've made your final pass.
In Conclusion / Gyeon Wax Application
Gyeon Wax goes on like nothing else. It's difficult to explain; it's incredibly smooth and easy to apply in thin layers, but it also has a certain tactile sensation under the applicator that feels like it's leaving behind substantial protection.
Gyeon Wax includes a unique applicator in the box, but we opted to stick to our favorite KL!N Stamp applicator, which has a simple but ergonomic "knob" design to keep our hands from cramping up considering Gyeon Wax allows the user to apply a layer to the entire car before returning to wipe it off.
In fact, we recommend applying Gyeon Wax to the entire vehicle (out of the sun and on cool paint of course) and waiting about 30 minutes for the wax to set before removing it.
Even after a half an hour, Gyeon Wax is incredibly easy to remove with a KL!N Buffing King - a super plush microfiber towel that manages to have long enough fibers to pick up additional wax residue without dropping lint or feeling too grabby.
Another great attribute of Gyeon Wax - specifically on this E36 M3 - is that it won't stain black plastic trim or leave a chalky residue behind, and this car has plenty of black plastic trim engulfing the timeless BMW coupé lines.