When you have something covered in asphalt, you often see warnings to get the surface sealed, sealcoated, coated, or some variation of that within a certain amount of time after the paving is done. You may find all the different terms confusing, but they refer to the same process that entails covering cured asphalt with a thin protective layer. This layer may also be able to repair some very minor damage, but its main point is protection. However, these sealing-related terms are not the same as slurry sealing, and you don't want to get those processes confused.
Driveway Sealing, Sealcoating, and Slurry Seal
Sealcoating, seal coating, sealing, and applying sealant are the same process. Driveway sealing merely means you're sealing a driveway and not, say, a parking lot. You may have a choice of different sealant materials, each with its own benefits, but the process and goal are the same for all: After asphalt has cured, or when old asphalt may have never been sealed before, a thin layer of this sealant is spread across the top of the asphalt.
Slurry seal, however, is not quite the same. This too is a layer that is placed over a surface, but it's a thick layer added to streets to provide more road surface. Rather than sealing an existing asphalt surface, it resurfaces the road.
Protection From the Elements
Once sealcoating dries, the asphalt is protected against UV rays, drips of fluid from leaks in a car, and so on. UV rays can make surfaces brittle and lead to cracking, and if rain starts falling or sprinkler water runs onto the asphalt, the water can end up in those cracks. If the temperature falls below freezing, say, overnight in autumn, the water can freeze. And once you have ice in those cracks, the asphalt is in trouble. Ice expands, and as it does, it can make the cracks expand, too. Sealcoating places a tough layer over the top of the asphalt for protection.
Brief Repairs for Small Issues
Sealcoating or sealing can be used for minor repairs if the damage to the asphalt surface is along the lines of minor cracks in isolated areas. It doesn't really fill in the cracks and make them disappear, though; it might make very tiny cracks invisible to you, but its main purpose is to protect the surface, not to make the cracks not noticeable. It does, however, place a sealing layer over them so that water can't really get in and cause problems. If the lot or driveway has something known as alligator cracking, which looks like a patch of crisscrossed cracks that resemble alligator hide, that's too much damage, and you shouldn't even seal for UV protection at this point; alligator cracking is a sign the lot or driveway needs to be replaced and the base redone. Even slurry seal wouldn't be a good idea as it would not fix what caused the damage.
If you've just paved a driveway or parking lot, you'll have to let the asphalt cure so that all moisture has a chance to dry up. Once that happens, you can arrange for the surface to be sealcoated.
For more information about seal coating, contact a local company.