With the days of salt and snow almost over, it’s time to get the shine back on your car again. You probably know that it’s a bad idea to wash your car with dish soap — but putting the sparkle on your ride, inside and outside, may not always be as easy as it seems. Many questions pop up: What’s a glaze? Should you treat your leather? Does dashboard protectant actually cause long-term damage?

Jim Dvorak, a car care specialist at Mothers, a leading car care products company, helps sort out the basics in this interview.

Q If a new car has a warranty on its finish, why bother to wax or take care of it at all?

A A factory warranty is there to protect you to ensure that the paint preparation and application process was sound, that quality paint was used, and that it was cured properly. New-car warranties don’t protect you from fallout or oxidation over time, which will occur naturally if paint is not waxed or cared for properly. Car wax, whether synthetic or carnauba (a palm tree derivative), acts as a sacrificial layer between your paint and Mother Nature.

Q Waxes? Sealants? Glazes? Polishes? What’s the difference? Do many people get confused shopping for paint care products?

A There are a lot of products out there named to catch the eye of the consumer more so than to communicate their actual function.

“Wax” has become a segment of products designed ultimately to protect your paint. They traditionally have contained carnauba, though in recent years they might instead contain a synthetic wax or polymer. Some wax products also contain cleaners or polishes, while some are just pure wax.

A “sealant” is essentially a synthetic form of a pure carnauba wax, and can require extensive preparation and drying time, so they’re generally sold in the “enthusiast” community to people who don’t mind spending all weekend working on their cars.

A “glaze” adds depth and shine while helping to fill in minor defects that normally reflect in the sun and cause a spiderweb-like appearance to the finish. A glaze should always be followed by a pure wax.

Q Should I treat my leather seats? Doesn’t the factory treat leather seats so owners don’t have to?

A Some factory leath­ers do have a coating to protect the finish to an extent — though they should also be maintained. A thorough vacuuming of the surfaces, especially the seams, will help to remove grit, which may damage the finish. A routine cleaning and conditioning should still be done next. Some premium leathers benefit from dedicated conditioners with natural oils, while others can get by with a combination cleaner and conditioner.

Q Is it true that some vinyl / plastic protectants can actually damage materials over time? If so, what’s important to look out for?

There are many myths about vinyl protectants — and some of them find their origins many years ago when some products were made of ingredients that did cause problems. The rumours were continued by people who used products as a last-ditch effort to revive their sun-beaten dashboard, only to find it became cracked — not realizing the pressure of applying the product simply accelerated the aging process. In other words, they used the product too late. Quality brands today use modern ingredients, which are safe, so these myths from years ago are no longer valid.

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