If you’re new to car detailing, you may be wondering what the terms “curing time” or “cure time” mean.
Curing times are not always stated by manufacturers of car waxes or sealants. Sometimes it takes a bit of research to discover if the product you’re using even has one.
WHAT DOES “CURING TIME” MEAN?
It refers to how long it takes for a car wax (be it natural or synthetic) or sealant to bond with the clear coat.
A clear coat is the shiny transparent layer that sits atop your paint to protect it. Therefore, any wax or sealant you apply goes on it. Modern cars all have clear coats.
This is why detailing experts always recommend using a clay bar to remove any contaminants before polishing and/or waxing. You want to apply the product to the cleanest possible surface.
Cure time very much depends on the product itself and what the manufacturer recommends. Climate influences it as well – if it is too hot or too cold, the curing time can be longer or shorter.
WHY DOES CURING TIME MATTER?
Waxes or sealants must bond with the clear coat in order to maximise their effectiveness. Think about a freshly painted wall. Until the paint dries, you can’t touch the wall without staining your hands.
Likewise, until a wax or sealant has “dried” or bonded with your clear coat, they can’t protect it properly.
WHAT SHOULD I DO DURING THE CURE TIME?
This is where things become impractical and even inconvenient. During the curing phase, you must not get your car wet. If your car is rained on before the wax or sealant has cured, the layer may be compromised.
Ideally, avoid driving your car for at least 12 hours after waxing it. If you’re considering having your vehicle ceramic-coated, the curing time will probably be 24 hours.
There are products that claim to not require a curing time. But to be on the safe side, we’d recommend waiting at least 12 hours before driving your car – assuming it’s in a sheltered carpark.
All jokes aside, why not detail your car interior during this period?
DOESN’T “CURE TIME” HAVE ANOTHER MEANING?
Curing time also refers to how long it takes before you can buff off the excess wax or sealant.
When applying a wax or sealant, aim for thin and even coats. Using too much wax is wasteful because it doesn’t increase the protection and the excess can even be hard to remove.
After application, it usually takes a few minutes for waxes to dry or cure. When you swipe your finger over the hazed-over areas and it doesn’t smear, you can buff off the excess.
But for the purposes of this story, curing time refers to how long it takes for a wax or sealant to bond with your clear coat.