How tough is the Model 3’s paint job?

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#1
We just got our new Model3 and keep seeing hints that the paint job may be fragile. Lots of owners seem to be getting a paint coating.Is this a necessity? Is it true that you shouldn’t take your 3to a car Wash?
We are both advanced in years and not au currant. Help!
 

TheTony

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#3
We just got our new Model3 and keep seeing hints that the paint job may be fragile. Lots of owners seem to be getting a paint coating.Is this a necessity? Is it true that you shouldn’t take your 3to a car Wash?
We are both advanced in years and not au currant. Help!
I wouldn't characterize it as "fragile". I think that description tends to be thrown around in comparison to automotive paint from years past (a generation ago or more) and is common to most modern automotive OEM paint, as opposed to something unique to Tesla.

Ceramic coating is not a necessity. Proper care and maintenance will help avoid most of the issues that might harm your cars paint finish. That said, ceramic coating will help protect your paint job, mainly with micro-scratches/swirls, chemical resistance and environmental fallout. Their lifetime is generally limited, but proper care can maximize how long they last before they need to be reapply. In any event, they tend to last for at least a year and the professional grade products/installation can last up to several years. It also offers hydrophobic properties, which can make your car easier to wash and dry.

People avoid automatic car washes for two primary reasons. The first applies to car washes that have physical agitation as part of the wash. This means scrubbing bristles or chamois that physically touch the surface of the car. The concern with these is that bristles can introduce small swirls or micro-scratches into the finish, or that those surfaces can attract road grime and debris which, when they contact the car, can do the same. It's the same reason people discourage use of the foam brush at self-service washes. As such, people will often suggest use of touchless washes. However, this leads to the second reason people avoid automatic washes, which touchless washes may also be affected by, which is the water and detergent used. Sometimes these washes, especially touchless ones, use very concentrated detergents, to clean the car, which can strip products you may have applied to the car, such as wax. Some car washes do recycle water, meaning the high pressure sprays on these washes may still introduce grit to the cars surface during the rinse.

As such, many people limit themselves to home washes (2 bucket, 1 bucket, rinseless, etc), so they can control more of the process. For folks in climates where winter sand/salt/deicers are a reality for months of the year, using an automatic wash (or self-service wash) is unavoidable since having salt/brine/sand on the car's surface is probably worse than what a touchless wash may do.

To be clear, there is no surefire way to protect your car from all damage to the paint/clearcoat. If you drive the car or wash the car, this type of damage is inevitable. Taking steps to avoid this damage only reduces or minimizes the opportunities for this damage - it does not eliminate them. As such, some people live with the wear and tear, so it's certainly not a necessity, it's more a matter of how much work, money or time you want to put into maintaining it. This is something many 3 owners are paying attention to because these are new vehicles that many want to keep for years or simply want to keep looking as new as possible for as long as possible, which many other car owners strive to do as well.
 

MelindaV

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#4
People often consider a 'soft' paint to be a negative, but detailers will often prefer to work on a car with 'soft' paint over one with 'hard' paint. The soft can more easily (or with less abrasion) be corrected than one with hard paint, that will take much more effort.
 

RocketRay

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#5
I wash my car 1-2 times a week at an express car wash (H2Go Express to be exact) and I've seen no indication of any wear on the paint.
 
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#6
I wouldn't characterize it as "fragile". I think that description tends to be thrown around in comparison to automotive paint from years past (a generation ago or more) and is common to most modern automotive OEM paint, as opposed to something unique to Tesla.

Ceramic coating is not a necessity. Proper care and maintenance will help avoid most of the issues that might harm your cars paint finish. That said, ceramic coating will help protect your paint job, mainly with micro-scratches/swirls, chemical resistance and environmental fallout. Their lifetime is generally limited, but proper care can maximize how long they last before they need to be reapply. In any event, they tend to last for at least a year and the professional grade products/installation can last up to several years. It also offers hydrophobic properties, which can make your car easier to wash and dry.

People avoid automatic car washes for two primary reasons. The first applies to car washes that have physical agitation as part of the wash. This means scrubbing bristles or chamois that physically touch the surface of the car. The concern with these is that bristles can introduce small swirls or micro-scratches into the finish, or that those surfaces can attract road grime and debris which, when they contact the car, can do the same. It's the same reason people discourage use of the foam brush at self-service washes. As such, people will often suggest use of touchless washes. However, this leads to the second reason people avoid automatic washes, which touchless washes may also be affected by, which is the water and detergent used. Sometimes these washes, especially touchless ones, use very concentrated detergents, to clean the car, which can strip products you may have applied to the car, such as wax. Some car washes do recycle water, meaning the high pressure sprays on these washes may still introduce grit to the cars surface during the rinse.

As such, many people limit themselves to home washes (2 bucket, 1 bucket, rinseless, etc), so they can control more of the process. For folks in climates where winter sand/salt/deicers are a reality for months of the year, using an automatic wash (or self-service wash) is unavoidable since having salt/brine/sand on the car's surface is probably worse than what a touchless wash may do.

To be clear, there is no surefire way to protect your car from all damage to the paint/clearcoat. If you drive the car or wash the car, this type of damage is inevitable. Taking steps to avoid this damage only reduces or minimizes the opportunities for this damage - it does not eliminate them. As such, some people live with the wear and tear, so it's certainly not a necessity, it's more a matter of how much work, money or time you want to put into maintaining it. This is something many 3 owners are paying attention to because these are new vehicles that many want to keep for years or simply want to keep looking as new as possible for as long as possible, which many other car owners strive to do as well.
What's your thoughts on Sealants like Opti-Seal vs Ceramic Coatings? I don't mind applying sealant every several months but I wonder if it would protect my car's paint as much as a ceramic coating?
 

PNWmisty

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#7
We just got our new Model3 and keep seeing hints that the paint job may be fragile. Lots of owners seem to be getting a paint coating.Is this a necessity? Is it true that you shouldn’t take your 3to a car Wash?
We are both advanced in years and not au currant. Help!

No, the Model 3 paint is actually quite durable - it's just that people love their Model 3's and are extra particular because of it.

Modern water-based polyurethanes are more durable than paints from decades past. A good automotive wax, applied regularly, can help it look good for years to come.
 
Last edited:

TheTony

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#8
What's your thoughts on Sealants like Opti-Seal vs Ceramic Coatings? I don't mind applying sealant every several months but I wonder if it would protect my car's paint as much as a ceramic coating?
A ceramic coating would probably stand up to chemical contaminants better, and would be more hydrophobic for longer. Granted, sealants are far more forgiving, in terms of application. When you get into professional grade products, if there's any error when applying ceramic, it's a pain to remove a layer (not a concern unless you're DIYing).

If you're willing to apply sealant regularly and found a product you like, you're probably going to get good results without doing a ceramic. If you want properties like water beading as well, perhaps consider something like a silica sealant that'll get you some of the added properties of ceramic coatings without the cost. However, if you've already found a sealant product that gets you good results, you're not giving up too much by sticking with it, as long as you're mindful of maintaining it. This is really the key with any of these products. Even ceramics require a maintenance schedule.

I personally decided not to do a ceramic. I'm not exacting about washes but try to keep it clean as much as I reasonably can (including garaging it). With minimal wax/sealant product so far, I have had good results.
 
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Jay79

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#9
I use Touchless washes in the Winter months and the 2 bucket method in the Spring and Summer season. Ceramic Coating is an attractive option if you have an extra few thousand to spend
 
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#10
I use Touchless washes in the Winter months and the 2 bucket method in the Spring and Summer season. Ceramic Coating is an attractive option if you have an extra few thousand to spend
I see you're from Michigan too. Aren't Touchless Wash kinda dangerous because of the pressure hitting the sensors?

edit: spelling