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There are many different steps involved in the process of cleaning and maintaining an airplane. Three of the steps are polishing, waxing, and applying a sealant to the exterior surface, but some who are new to owning an aircraft may be confused as to how these steps are different. What is the difference between airplane polish, airplane wax and airplane sealant? What function does each of these products perform? Here’s what you need to know:
Polishing an aircraft is necessary in order to remove fading, water spots, sun damage, cloudiness, and corrosion from the surface of your airplane. It’s also a huge part of restoration, so if you ever find yourself working on a classic aircraft, polishing will play a role in bringing it back to life.
Some new aircraft owners may think polish is only used to preserve the appearance of the plane. Although this is a benefit of using polish, it’s not the only one. Scratches and corrosion on the surface of a plane can eventually cause crucial aircraft fixtures such as joints and screws to deteriorate and malfunction. How do you prevent scratches and corrosion from putting you in danger? By polishing your plane regularly.
Polish also removes any debris that may be clinging onto the surface of your plane, such as the bodies of dead insects. This may not seem significant, but over time, these bodies will begin to decay and release an acid that slowly causes the surface of the plane to deteriorate. As you can see, polish is about much more than making your plane look brand new again—it can actually keep you and your passengers safe during flight. Because you are actively taking care of your plane and preventing damage by regularly polishing it, you end up saving money on repair costs as well.
Make sure you choose a polish that is approved for aircrafts. New aircraft owners often assume they can use car polish on their planes, but this is a mistake. Cars and airplanes have very different needs, so you should never use the same product for both.
Before applying polish, you have to thoroughly wash and sand down the surface of your plane. Then, choose how you want to apply the polish. Polishes can either be applied using an electric buffing machine or by hand using a soft cloth. Most aircraft owners choose to use the buffing tool because of how time-consuming and exhausting it would be to polish the entire plane by hand.
Because polishing an aircraft focuses on removing damage from and smoothing the surface, this takes place before wax or sealant is applied. In fact, the main difference between polish, wax, and sealant is polish actually improves the metal surface of your aircraft, while wax and sealant are used to preserve the work of the polish.
Although it’s necessary to polish your plane on a regular basis in order to protect it from corrosion, water spots, and scratches, whether you want to wax your plane or not is completely up to you. However, it’s strongly recommended for painted planes, since it can help prevent the color from fading.
If you do choose to wax your aircraft, make sure this is one of the last things you do. Wax was designed to be used after the aircraft has already been polished and cleaned, so don’t make the mistake of applying it before you do a complete polish. When it’s applied after a polish, it can help your plane retain the beautiful shine you achieved through buffing and polishing. Some waxes also contain a UV protectant, so if your plane is frequently exposed to direct sunlight, make sure to choose a wax with this feature.
There are some spray-on aircraft wax products, although it’s recommended that you choose a paste wax, since these are usually of a higher quality. Waxes can be applied by hand, but if you already have the machine from polishing your aircraft, you may want to use it to apply the wax as well to speed the process up.
Keep in mind that wax will not actually remove any of the dirt, scratches, or water spots on the surface of your airplane—that’s the polish’s job.
Sealants are very similar to wax as they also help you put the finishing touches on your plane after a thorough washing and polishing. Although they both have the same job, they work a little bit differently. Sealants offer more long-lasting protection against water damage, debris, corrosion, and other environmental elements, while wax provides a better shine. So, if you’re choosing between wax or sealant, consider which is more important: your plane’s appearance or how its protection. If you plan on showing your plane at a trade show or fly-in, wax may be the better choice because it will make your plane look more impressive. However, if you’re cleaning your plane for everyday use, try a sealant, which is usually much more durable than wax.
It’s also recommended that you use a sealant instead of wax when you are preparing your plane to be stored away for the winter. Sealants can better protect your plane from the dust and dirt it may encounter while hibernating in the winter, so this is a much smarter choice.
Unlike waxes or polishes, sealants are applied using a brush, injection gun, spatula or spray gun. Because its applied in one of these ways instead of by a buffing tool, you will need to be sure there are no air bubbles, pieces of debris, or oily substances on the surface of the aircraft. If there are, the sealant will seal these in place and you will need to purchase a sealant remover to start all over again.
Remember, to properly take care of your aircraft, you have to know how and when to use each cleaning product. Polish, wax, and sealant are three of the most important products when it comes to keeping your plane safe, free from damage, and visually appealing.