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What is Polymer Sealant?

By Ian Christopher Abrams
Updated Feb 29, 2024
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Polymer sealant is a particular variety of automotive sealant that is made up of synthetic ingredients, called polymers, in a liquid base that is applied to a car's finish during detailing. The application of polymer sealant creates a barrier between the finish and the elements, preventing damage and preserving the attractiveness of the car's appearance. Polymer sealant is used in detail work performed by the car owner as part of routine maintenance; as part of a commercial detailing package at a car wash, dealership or garage; and in industrial applications. Consumers can purchase polymer sealant over the Internet from various online vendors, or in person at automotive repair shops, hardware stores, and other retail outlets. It is usually packaged in plastic containers of varying size.

Automobiles come from the factory with high-quality paint jobs, but through daily use and contact with the elements, a car's finish can be damaged, resulting in an unsightly appearance. To prevent damage, periodic detailing work is necessary, and as such, there exists a market for products such as automotive sealant that will prevent damage and maintain a vehicle's exterior when applied during detailing. Polymer sealant is an alternative to other types of paint sealants. One competitor is botanically based car wax, such as carnauba wax, which is considered more difficult to apply and less durable.

The word "polymer" means "many parts" in Greek, and accordingly, polymers are very long chains of chemicals with repeating components. Rubbers, plastics and fibers are popular commercial manifestations of polymers, and they share in common the trait of unusual sturdiness. Automotive sealant seeks to create an extremely durable barrier between a car's finish and the elements, so polymers are a sensible ingredient in car paint sealant because of their inherent strength. The barrier created by an automotive sealant is called a sacrificial barrier, because it is meant to absorb the damage that otherwise would be inflicted upon the car's paint as part of wear and tear, thus sacrificing its own integrity. After it has absorbed the maximum amount of environmental damage, reapplication of the polymer sealant is necessary.

Whether performed by the car owner or an automotive repair professional, detailing is a necessary part of vehicle upkeep. The application of a sealant is crucial to the process. Polymer sealant is an option that is thought by some to provide superior protective strength and to represent a good value for its price.

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Discussion Comments

By anon956406 — On Jun 13, 2014

Where can I buy some clear coat polymer paint? Which one is the best kind?

By aplenty — On Nov 13, 2011

@GenevaMech- Applying a tri polymer sealant is as easy as waxing your vehicle. I use polymer sealant a couple of times a year to keep my car looking shiny. I live in a high-pollution city, so it is essential to protect your vehicle's finish from smog and acid rain. at least once a year, I use a clay bar on my car to take the pollutants out of the clear coat, then I reseal the vehicle with a polymer sealant. The clay bar gives the car's paint a very smooth feel because it works out all of the gritty particles that build up on the vehicles clear coat and sealant.

The first time I used a clay bar on my vehicle before sealing it, I thought I was doing serious damage to the paint because I could feel and hear the pollutants being ground out. When I was done with the job though, I realized that I was doing it correctly. If you use a clay bar before you apply your polymer coating, be sure to apply the polymer immediately afterward. After the clay bar, your vehicle's paint is porous and exposed to the elements.

By GenevaMech — On Nov 12, 2011

How do I apply polyurethane sealant to a car finish? Is it the same process as applying a car wax? I would appreciate any advice anyone can offer.

By PelesTears — On Nov 12, 2011

Believe it or not, the cutting edge of polymer paint sealants comes from the shells of ocean crustaceans. In the near future, cars may come with paint that heals scratches on its own.

New breakthroughs in the search for self-healing polymers have led to a new sealant that heals scratches and cracks in under an hour in direct sunlight. While this sounds like an expensive coating and somewhat science fiction, the polymer sealant can actually be produced very cheaply and uses partially biodegradeable products.

The article that describes this research is in a recent issue of Science and is peer reviewed. In summary, the polymer contains oxetane (a ring shaped molecule), and chitosan (derived from the chitin in lobster, shrimp, and crab shells). When a scratch occurs, say from a rogue shopping cart, the oxetane breaks. Where this oxetane breaks, the chitosan forms a lattice web stitching the broken bonds back together. What activates this chemical reaction is the breaking of the oxetane and ultraviolet light. With this new technology, we may never have to wax a car again. It will also save people bundles of money in paint touch-ups and detailing when it comes time to trade in the old car.

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