Ceramic coatings, especially professional grade ceramic coatings provide an impressive level of protection from environmental contaminants and even fine scratches and swirl marks. They also have amazing hydrophobic properties and make cleaning significantly easier. But how long do they last?
We’ll explain how long these coatings last as well as what affects how long they last in detail. Just because a ceramic coating states it’ll last a certain amount of time, doesn’t mean there isn’t some hoops you’ll have to jump through on your end.
Let’s dive in to the specifics of these amazing coatings.
How Long Does Ceramic Coating Last?
True ceramic coatings typically last for a couple years or more. Lower quality coatings can last less than a year. Some professional-grade ceramic coatings can last 10 years or more. These coatings will require proper maintenance to get the longest life out of them.
Does Ceramic Coating Wear Off?
Even the best ceramic coating will eventually wear off a car’s paint job. Weather conditions, car washes, uv rays, bird droppings, bug splatter, and road grime all wear away at the ceramic coating.
Keeping your vehicle’s paint clean and out of direct sunlight as much as possible will help slow down the gradual wearing away of the great protection it provides.
How To Care For Ceramic Coatings
The best things you can do to maximize the lifespan of your ceramic coating is to:
- Wash your vehicle regularly using proper methods
- Apply a ceramic coating maintenance spray after each washing
- Once or twice a year decontaminate the surface
How To Wash A Ceramic Coated Car
Keeping your car’s paint clean will remove harmful environmental elements that can break down the coating and shorten its life. Occasionally decontaminating the surface by using an iron remover and clay bar will remove the additional contaminants that a simple car wash can’t remove alone.
Using car wash shampoo that is specifically designed to be gentle on ceramic coatings is worthwhile. Not only are these shampoos safer for your ceramic coating, but they help restore some of the properties that ceramic coatings lose over time.
We recommend using the 2 bucket method hand wash when washing your car or truck and the touchless method if your vehicle’s paint isn’t too dirty and just needs a lighter cleaning. This will reduce the opportunity to cause light scratches in your clear coat.
While ceramic coatings have good scratch resistance, they’re not scratch-proof. Using care when washing your car’s paint job is still a smart move.
First Wash After Ceramic Coating
The first time you wash your car or truck after having it ceramic coated should be typically no sooner than 7 days after the coating has been applied.
The cure time for ceramic coatings will vary so either follow the instructions of your consumer-grade coating for when the first wash is safe to perform, or ask your detailer that applied your coating when it will be safe to wash.
Ceramic Coating Maintenance Spray
Ceramic coating maintenance sprays help restore hydrophobic properties and shine to your car’s surfaces which improves the protection the coating provides, helps keep contaminants from sticking, and makes washing much easier and more effective.
Car owners that keep their ceramic coatings topped with a ceramic maintenance spray will significantly improve the durability and performance of their coating.
What Should You Not Do After Ceramic Coating?
There are a few important things you should be aware to avoid if you own a ceramic coated car or truck:
Avoid Automatic Car Washes With Spinning Brushes
Avoid automated car washes with brushes. These spinning brushes will wreak havoc on your ceramic coating and can also cause minor scratches in your car’s clear coat.
More gentle touchless automatic car washes are the best choice if you’re going to choose to use an automatic car wash. They still aren’t ideal since they use harsh chemicals to make up for the lack of physical contact with your car’s surface.
A ceramic coating should get quite clean in a touchless car wash though due to the coating’s water beading properties and its ability to prevent road grime and environmental contaminants from bonding with the coating itself.
The other popular type of tunnel wash is one with gentle fabric curtains that brush or dance against the finish. These automated car washes are less desirable than touchless but more desirable than ones with bristled brushes.
Do Not Wash In Direct Sunlight
If you wash your car or truck yourself, be sure to wash it in a shaded area. The reason for this is to minimize the chance of causing water spots on the surface of the ceramic coating.
Despite the hydrophobic properties and ability of the coating to reject contaminants from bonding with the coating itself, ceramic coatings are not very good and preventing mineral deposits in hard water from bonding with it.
Hard water deposits are notoriously difficult to remove, even on ceramic coatings. Be sure and dry your vehicle thoroughly with a microfiber drying towel or an air dryer. Microfiber is extremely gentle and unlikely to cause swirl marks.
An air dryer is safer since it isn’t necessary to physically touch the ceramic coating at all. Air dryers are also great because they can get water out of cracks and crevices like wing mirror housings and around doors, trunks, and hoods.
If water in these hard-to-reach spots isn’t removed and you drive your car or truck before it dries, it will run down the side of your vehicle and can cause water spots later.
Do Not Use Traditional Wax Or Paint Sealant On Top Of Your Ceramic Coating
A ceramic coating has superior water repellent properties, better shine, and is a better protective layer than a traditional wax or paint sealant. It may seem like this added protection is a good thing, but it only reduces the superior properties of a ceramic coating and creates opportunities to damage the ceramic coat itself.
Use A pH Neutral Car Wash Shampoo
Avoid using aggressive dish washing detergents (such as Dawn dish soap) or other cleaners that aren’t designed specifically for washing car paint. A pH neutral car shampoo is designed to loosen the bond that dirt and contaminants have with your ceramic coating while not being so harsh that it will damage the ceramic coat itself.
Using the two bucket method or a touchless method to wash your car or truck will minimize the chance of damaging your ceramic coating or clear coat.
Only Let Microfiber Come In Contact With Your Ceramic Coating
Traditional cotton towels, paper towels, and other products can actually cause light scratches in your clear coat. They can even do so through a ceramic coating.
Microfiber is extremely gentle and the safest material to allow to touch your vehicle. Swirl marks and fine scratches in your clear coat can significantly diminish the look of your vehicle.
Microfiber towels, cloths, and wash mitts are inexpensive and well worth taking the time to keep on hand.
How Long Does Ceramic Coating Take To Cure?
While ceramic coatings usually dry within minutes, they can take days to even weeks to cure completely. The amount of time will vary between coatings. Ask your detailer or the instructions if you’re applying the coating yourself.
While ceramic coatings are curing, you should avoid contact with water. This obviously means you shouldn’t drive in the rain. But it also means you will need to avoid accidental contact from sprinklers or even morning dew. This can be difficult if you don’t have a garage to protect your car or truck.
Can I Drive My Car After Ceramic Coating?
While it’s perfectly fine to drive your vehicle after you apply ceramic coating to it, you’ll need to be vigilant.
One of the problems you could face is getting the finish wet from rain or other sources of water before it has fully cured. If this happens it can prevent the coating from curing properly and shorten its life.
You’ll also want to prevent road tar, bird droppings, bug splatter, and other contaminants from getting onto the surface. This can be tricky. If a bird poops on your vehicle, you can’t wash it off because you need to avoid contact with moisture during curing.
You can try using a microfiber towel to gently wipe off anything that lands on your finish and hope that it won’t affect the curing process.
Ceramic Coating Prep
If you’re going to apply ceramic coating yourself, you need to understand what’s involved with preparing your car paint for a ceramic coating. Properly preparing the paint surface is key to ensuring the ceramic coating has a proper permanent bond with the surface of the clear coat.
Washing, decontaminating with iron remover and clay bar, performing paint correction, and an IPA wipe down are all steps that should be performed before you attempt to apply ceramic coating.
These steps are meant to ensure that the paint surface is as pristine as possible before you apply a ceramic paint protection. Any contaminants left on the surface can create a weak point that can cause the ceramic coating to prematurely fail.
No step should be skipped to ensure the ensure a proper permanent bond with the car’s surface and you end up with results that are worth the time, money, and effort involved.
Ceramic coatings a pretty miraculous in their abilities when compared to waxes and sealants. But the reality is that they require some upkeep to ensure that they last as long as possible and perform as well as they did when they were first applied.
Most ceramic coatings will last for years whether you give them proper care or not. But they will lose a lot of their benefits due to this neglect.
This amazing paint protection can last an extremely long time. As much as 10 years or more for a professional grade coating that is properly cared for.
Hopefully you’ve learned a lot about the significant amount of preparation required to apply a ceramic coating and the work that will be involved with caring for one of these coatings.
As much as we would all love to be able to apply a coating and never have to wash or maintain the exterior of our car or truck again, that just isn’t realistic.
Good luck and happy detailing.