Ceramic coatings have become extremely popular for protecting the finish of your car. It used to be that a good quality wax was the only way to go. Even the best carnauba wax needs to be reapplied every couple of months to be effective.
Ceramic coating your car or truck is definitely worth the money and effort. Quality DIY ceramic coatings provide years of protection along with a surface that will be easier to clean and will stay cleaner longer. Properly preparing the finish prior to applying the coating is key to ensuring the best performance and durability of ceramic paint protection.
Professional grade ceramic coatings that have to be applied by a professional detailer with special equipment can last as much as 10 years. That’s truly amazing.
Besides simply lasting longer, ceramic coatings have other benefits. A quality ceramic coating can provide a deep candy gloss like appearance.
Also they make keeping your car clean so much easier by making it difficult for dirt and road grime to be less likely to adhere to your finish and easy to wash off.
Unfortunately all is not puppy dogs and rainbows with ceramic coatings. Applying the coating of even the easiest to apply ceramics is more complex and involved than waxes or paint sealants.
Protective ceramic coatings bond with the clear coat on your finish and need to be applied properly prior to the coating bonding.
If you don’t follow the application process correctly you can end up with a real mess that will require some serious effort to remove and redo.
The coating will likely have to be wet sanded off and this process will almost certainly end up removing a bit of the clear coat with it.
If applied properly though, they are a great protective coating for your finish.
Is ceramic coating on cars worth it?
It definitely is worth it. Your car will look stunning, be far easier to clean, and require less effort to maintain the finish for years. It is critical to buy a quality ceramic coating and apply it properly though.
Many people opt for having a professional detailer apply it to ensure it is done right and to be able to get a much higher quality ceramic coating that will last orders of magnitude longer than consumer grade ceramic coatings.
Having your car or truck ceramic coated by a professional isn’t cheap. Paint correction must be done to prepare it for the coating. The time and materials add up to a hefty sum.
Saving money is alluring to many making consumer grade ceramics very attractive for someone willing to do the work themselves. It should be pointed out that paint correction is still a very good idea and the surface needs to be pristine prior to application. The majority of the work is in prepping the surface.
How To Prep a Car for Ceramic Coating
To get the best performance and ensure the ceramic coating adheres well you need to properly prepare the surface of your vehicle. The following steps are a high-level overview of what’s involved to properly prep your finish to accept a ceramic coating.
Proper washing uses the 2 bucket method to ensure that you’re not causing any damage to the clear coat prior to applying a ceramic coating.
Clay barring takes washing a step further by removing any embedded contaminants that simply washing couldn’t remove from the surface.
Polish and/or Paint Correction
Polishing and Paint Correction deal with swirls, fine scratches, and paint imperfections prior to applying the ceramic coating.
Wipe down with IPA Solution (diluted isopropyl alcohol)
This final wipe down is necessary to remove any waxes or oils that may remain on the surface so that the ceramic coating will adhere properly.
Wax vs Sealant vs Ceramic Coating
Wax isn’t the most effective way to protect your paint but it will work well for a couple months before needing to be reapplied. It’s fairly easy to apply and generally inexpensive. The big advantage wax has over sealants and ceramic coatings is shine. Some sealants and ceramic coatings can get pretty close though. When it comes to carnauba car wax, it doesn’t get any better than P21S.
Sealants are a great alternative to wax. The advantage they bring is they last much longer than wax. Your average sealant lasts 4 to 6 months while some can last up to a year. Plus they’re even easier to apply than wax typically. They generally don’t have that show car shine you can get from wax but they come close. An extremely long lasting and highly rated sealant is Wolfgang Deep Gloss Paint Sealant.
Sealants more than double the life of the protection but ceramic coatings really bring the big guns with consumer grade coatings lasting close to 2 years and professional quality coatings lasting as much as 10 years. Even the easiest consumer coatings are more involved to apply and a lot of prep work is involved.
If you’re interested in going with a ceramic coating a product you can trust that is DIY friendly is Cquartz UK 3.0 by CarPro. Probably even more beginner friendly is Adam’s UV Ceramic Paint Coating which includes a UV additive to the coating and a UV flashlight that make finding spots that were missed super easy. Cquartz UK 3.0 will easily last over 2 years while Adam’s UV Ceramic Paint Coating lasts well beyond 5 years.
DIY Consumer Grade vs Professional Grade Ceramic Coatings
As mentioned earlier, consumer grade coatings can last up to 2 years while professional coatings can last up to 10 years. Consumer coatings are easier to apply. Professional coatings typically can’t be purchased unless you’re a professional detailer and have met requirements by the manufacturer. Professional coatings will generally have higher performance in addition to longevity, including greater hydrophobic properties and better shine.
Ceramic Coating Myths
I will no longer need to wash my car or truck
- Unfortunately not true. It’ll be significantly easier to do so but it will still need to be done. It will also tend to stay cleaner without washing.
Ceramic coatings last forever
- They will wear off eventually. They are difficult to remove if you have to remove them but the will wear off over time.
Ceramic coatings make my car or truck scratch proof
- They will be more scratch resistant but definitely not scratch proof and not a substitute for rock chip protection. They can help protect from swirl marks and light scratches when washing your car.
How to care for a ceramic coating
While ceramic coatings are supposed to protect your paint, you still need to care for the coating. You want to maximize the life of the coating so you’ll need to take precautions to ensure it lasts.
- Never run your car through an automatic car wash. If you must, find a touchless automatic car wash. Automatic car washes that use brushes are the worst and will wear away at your coating.
- Even if you wash the car yourself be sure and do it right. Using the touchless carwash method is the best solution. As the name sounds, it is a way of washing your car that eliminates direct contact with the car itself.
- If you don’t wash your car as often as you should you probably won’t be able to get away with the touchless method and will have to go with the 2 bucket method. The 2 bucket method is simply a method for keeping the dirt and grime that comes off your car off of your wash mitt so you don’t scratch the paint.
- When washing your car be sure to use a gentle automotive shampoo that is Ph neutral. It will be safe for the coating and won’t leave water spots.
- Some ceramic coating manufacturers suggest maintenance products. It is wise to use these. These products usually consist of something that is applied after washing the car or truck.
- Occasionally you’ll end up with bird poo, tree sap, or some other aggressive contaminant on your paint. You need to remove this stuff as soon as possible to prevent it breaking down the coating. The good news is it’s not breaking down your clear coat!
Now that you’ve learned all about ceramic coatings you can make an informed decision about whether you want to coat your car. Sealants are a very user friendly alternative to stepping up to ceramic coatings.
If you’re going to go with a ceramic coating you’ll need to get out the clay bar and brush up on paint correction skills to ensure the surface is pristine before applying.
Be sure you buy a quality ceramic coating and not one without a proven track record.
Carefully follow all instructions for applying. If you know you want to go with a ceramic coating but aren’t up to doing it yourself you can have a professional do it for you.
While this won’t be inexpensive, you can get one of the more advanced coatings applied and get as much as 10 years of lifespan out of your ceramic coating if you take care of it.