Which spray wax or product is best for a vinyl wrapped car? I do appreciate the clear vinyl wrap on my sports car and if it wasn’t so cost prohibitive I would have this on all the cars. Vinyl wrap has many benefits like taking the brunt of rock impacts. Also, when the wrap is used up you can just peel it off and put on a new one. And if you are really ambitious you can even change the color or pattern of your ride.
In writing this article I realized that I had a lot to say about vinyl wrap and I intend to devote a whole article on the subject. This article is focused on caring for a vinyl wrapped finish. Having a wrapped vehicle doesn’t prevent wanting the smooth touch that one gets with fresh wax. For me the very process of washing and waxing my car is enjoyable. So lets dive in and find out which is the best product for vinyl wrapped cars.
Full disclosure as well 3M (who makes vinyl wraps) does not recommend using wax on vehicle graphics. I’m not sure why since there are many vinyl wrap detailer sprays our there as well. Either way here is the link to the PDF tech document. This article is a reflection of my own experience and you can do whatever you want at your own risk.
By the way if you enjoy this article and want more products reviewed on vinyl wraps please put it in the comments below. I read everyone of them and appreciate the ideas for new tests.
The review process for finding the best spray wax for vinyl wrap
This is not as simple as finding any old vinyl wrapped car and randomly applying various products. That would just mix up the data and make the results questionable. Also, on the flip side we don’t want to be too lab environment specific either. I decided to strike a balance between practicality and reasonable data. I am not someone who will clay and iron decontaminate a car before a spray wax application.
It was decided on that the act of strip wash, clay and iron decontamination was just too much for someone who wants to wash and wax their car in a reasonable amount of time. I am not even sure you should use the iron decontamination chemicals on the vinyl anyway. For that reason I do not suggest doing this. So we decided on the approach of just washing the car with a standard Ph balanced car wash soap. We simply want to see what works best with a simple weekend wash and application. Nothing over the top and time consuming.
The testing method
The car was washed with a PH neutral soap. Then dried with clean microfiber towel. Note: we did not follow the recommended steps of clay and iron decontamination that most ceramic spray waxes call for.
- Applied the products to different sections of the car. Focus the evaluation to the top surfaces. The top surfaces tend to get the most direct UV and environmental exposure.
- Also note the application experience. Some products may be easier than others to apply.
- Wait 4 weeks while driving the car normally and no wipe downs or washes.
- At the end of the 4th week the car is rinsed off with a pressure washer and the beading performance on the top surfaces is evaluated. The beading is a helpful indicator of product performance.
- Then the car is washed again to see what protection remains
- Using a clay mitt, clay the car to test the water beading performance once again
Products for vinyl wrap test subject
The below image is the starting point for our test subject This is a ZL1 Camaro with a clear vinyl wrap on the entire car. The car was not clayed or decontaminated only washed and dried.
The next step was to apply the various spray wax on the vinyl wrap (and one ceramic wax gel). The test areas were broken down in to different sections of the car. Each product had its own clean microfiber so there was no cross contamination to compromise the results.
Starting from the front of the car we have Turtle wax ceramic 2 in 1 detailer on the driver side and Nu Finish Better than wax on the passenger side.
If you are interested we also have an article review on the Nu Finish The better than wax spray ceramic product here.
For the roof and doors of the car we have Technicians choice ceramic detail spray on the passenger side and Turtle wax ceramic spray coating on the driver’s side.
And for the last half of the car we used Chemical Guys Hydro-slick ceramic gel. While this is not a spray wax we wanted to see what it would do.
You probably noticed that not all of these are spray waxes, Some are gels and others are detailers. We have included these products as they do mention for use on multiple surfaces including glass and plastic. For that reason we wanted to include them. Also they were sitting on my shelf.
If you are interested here is an article that provides some light on what the differences are between: waxes, ceramic waxes, spray waxes and sealants.
Application experience for the various products on vinyl
While all of these were relatively easy to apply, some were a little bit easier than others. We will start with the ones that I enjoyed most first.
- Nu Finish’s The better than wax and Technician’s choice ceramic detailer
- Both very easy to wipe on and around, not much grabbing of the towel
- Wipe off was extremely easy
- Turtle wax’s Ceramic 2 in 1 detailer and ceramic spray
- Both were easy on but a little bit more work to wipe off. If you have a white or light colored car it would not be a concern.
- Big bonus you can apply while drying. Saved a whole step and some time.
- Chemical Guys Hydro-slick
- Because it is a gel it goes on more like a wax application, and some extra work to get it off
- Does not leave white residue in the cracks like I thought it might
The spray wax for vinyl stress test
After the application the car was parked outside every night and day when I was not driving it. On the days I did use the car it was parked outside in the direct sunlight. It was parked under trees, power lines and did receive its fair share of bird droppings. This went of for 4 weeks until I had time to clean it once again.
State of the car after 4 weeks of test exposure
First rinse results
I had to do a thorough rinse of the car to get all of the crud out of the seems and channels. Then we would have a look at the water beading performance. Now keep in mind that the surface has a buildup of debris that the the initial rinse water has not removed and this can impact the water beading performance evaluation. On the same note a good protectant should prevent as much debris as possible from sticking to the vinyl.
Turtle Wax’s Ceramic detailer water performance after rinse:
Nu Finish The better than wax spray ceramic water performance after rinse:
Turtle wax’ ceramic spray wax water performance after rinse:
Technician’s choice Ceramic Detailer water performance after rinse:
Chemical Guys Hydro-slick water performance after rinse:
First wash results
I know the rinse would not normally be a component of testing since it would be a similar equivalent of rain. However, I just wanted to see which one had less “sticking to it” or reduced water beading. The above results do not factor in to the conclusion but just a nice to know. The results from the rinse were almost the same as the first wash shown here below. I will let you review the images so you may reach your own conclusion.
Turtle Wax’s Ceramic detailer performance after washing:
Nu Finish The better than wax spray ceramic performance after washing:
Turtle wax’ ceramic spray wax performance after washing:
Technician’s choice Ceramic Detailer performance after washing:
Chemical Guys Hydro-slick performance after washing:
I really enjoyed doing this test. It helped answer some questions I have had for a while. All of them seem to offer some protection after 4 weeks of exposure and some products did better than others. All of the products were easy to use and were predictable in application. I would be splitting hairs over which one required more elbow grease.
I do like the benefits of the spray products that are applied as you dry. To me this is a big benefit saving time but also in removing water spots more easily. For this the Turtle wax and Nu Finish products do well.
My top picks from this test would be Nu Finish The better than wax as #1 and Technician’s Choice ceramic detail spray for #2.
Either one of these are great and the Nu Finish has the added bonus of dry while you apply.
#3,4 would be the Turtle wax product due to cost and ease of use. Again any protection is better than no protection.
We do appreciate your comments and feedback, if you enjoyed this article please let us know below what you liked or didn’t so we can keep improving. Also if you want to see this test expanded or maybe change it up.
If you are interested in these products and want to look further into them below are some links to their product pages.
- Nu Finish The better than wax spray ceramic: https://www.nufinish.com/product/nu-finish-better-than-wax-ceramic-coating/
- Technician’s Choice Ceramic Spray Detailer: https://tomahawkusa.com/products/ceramic-detail-spray-pint
- Turtle Wax Ceramic Spray Detailer: https://www.turtlewax.com/products/hybrid-solutions-ceramic-3-in-1-detailer-32-fl-oz
- Turtle Wax Ceramic Spray: https://www.turtlewax.com/products/hybrid-solutions-ceramic-wax-spray-coating-16-fl-oz
- Chemical Guy’s Hydro-slick: https://www.chemicalguys.com/hydroslick-intense-gloss-sio2-ceramic-coating-hyperwax/WAC22916.html