If you are looking for an incredibly long-lasting way to protect your car’s exterior from the elements, then you’ve probably heard of the term “ceramic coating” before. They can be formulated for use on the paint, glass and alloys, to provide years of protection. Here is everything you need to know about ceramic coatings and why they are so beneficial.
At a Glance
Ceramic coatings contain silicon dioxide, typically derived from quartz crystals in a liquid format. When applied to a car’s exterior, the coating forms a clear layer of protection which is very hydrophobic, slick, and durable. The overall aim is to keep the car looking cleaner and newer for longer.
Diamond Cut Detailing offers a ceramic coating service which is performed in a custom-designed detailing facility. Lewis, the owner and detailer, is accredited by industry-leading brands in the world of ceramic coatings, meaning that he is able to apply the most premium coatings available.
Advantages of Ceramic Coatings
There are numerous features of ceramic coatings which make them a stand-out exterior protection option including:
- Outstanding durability
- High-level of protection
- Self-cleaning properties
- Impressive hydrophobicity
- High-gloss finish
In this next section, we will be going into some more detail to really understand why ceramic coatings are so popular.
Ceramic coatings typically last for several years, and the most premium grades can even last up to 5 years. They last far longer than more traditional forms of paint protection. Typically natural waxes last only a few months, and sealants last around 6-12 months on average. This is one of the reasons why choosing a ceramic coating is becoming such a popular option, because it gives car owners peace of mind that their vehicle is protected, even if they don’t get chance to re-wax it every few months.
High-Level of Protection
The level of protection that a ceramic coating gives to the vehicle’s exterior is also outstanding. All cars are subject to abuse by the elements, particularly those that are driven frequently and stored outdoors.
Ceramic coatings are able to protect the exterior from:
- UV rays
- Water spots
- Dirt and grime
- Other “contaminants”
Exposure to UV rays will cause the paintwork to become dull over time. The structure of the paintwork on modern cars means that a clear layer of paint, known as the “clear coat”, sits on top of the base layer, which provides the car’s colour. The aim of the clear coat is to shield the base coat so the colour stays looking vibrant.
However, the clear coat will eventually wear away over time, leaving the base coat exposed to UV rays which cause it to fade quickly. Ceramic coatings shield the clear coat to prevent it from degrading and consequently, help to keep the colour looking fresh.
Water spots are also particularly damaging to the paintwork. Whilst they may seem harmless, the chalky residue left behind from the water when it evaporates can be corrosive to the paintwork. This residue is essentially, all the impurities that were being held in the water. If left to sit on the paintwork, it can cause “etching”, which means a small groove will form where the clear coat has eroded. Ceramic coatings prevent this from happening by providing a resistant layer of protection to maintain the integrity of the clear coat.
Have you ever felt your car’s paintwork when it was clean, and noticed that it still feels rough? This is because there are embedded “contaminants” in the paint. These include water spots, tar, iron fallout (from brake disks, industry and railways) and tree sap. These contaminants cannot be removed by routine washing once they become embedded in the clear coat. Not only do they cause it to feel rough, but they also contribute to an overall dull appearance. One of the protective roles of a ceramic coating, is to prevent this contamination building up.
Contaminants find it a lot harder to stick to ceramic coatings, so can be more easily washed away. And even if they do manage to attach to the coating, they will not penetrate through to the paintwork, keeping it protected.
This leads us nicely to the self-cleaning characteristics of ceramic coatings. This form of paint protection is particularly known for its “slickness”, but what does this actually do? Essentially, dirt and grime have a harder time sticking to slicker surfaces.
Another way of looking at the self-cleaning properties, is to assess how easy the vehicle is to clean. The slicker the paintwork, the easier any dirt will slip off it. This is a huge advantage for two reasons. Firstly, it makes the cleaning process faster and much less labour intensive. Secondly, it means you won’t have to scrub at the paintwork to get it clean, hence massively reducing the risk of inflicting micro-scratches in the car’s clear coat.
The slickness of ceramic coatings is one of the reasons why they are so popular. Not only does it make cleaning the car a much more enjoyable process, but it also means that you don’t have to do it as often, as dirt and grime are less likely to stick to the finish in the first place.
Another massive benefit of applying a ceramic coating to your car, is that is provides a super hydrophobic layer of protection. This is really useful for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it helps to keep the car looking cleaner. When you drive in the rain, dirty water from the road will spray up onto the lower panels of the car. If it is allowed to dry, then it will leave a layer of dirt and grime on the paintwork. Ceramic coatings allow the water to “sheet” off the surface, leaving it dry. Hence, the dirt and grime are unable to cling to the paint.
This ability of the coating to sheet water off the surface, instead of letting it sit on the panel, also prevents water spots and stains. On an uncoated car, the water will stick to the paintwork and evaporate, leaving water spots behind. On a ceramic coating, this water beads up and rolls off the paintwork, particularly if you drive the car after it has rained. This helps to remove the surface water and keep the finish water spot-free.
Everyone wants a shinier looking car, so it’s good news to know that ceramic coatings are prized for leaving a high-gloss finish to the paintwork. This is due to both the coating’s properties, and the preparation that goes into applying them properly, which really enhances the finish.
Since ceramic coatings form a tough layer of protection on the surface, it is probably not a massive surprise that this offers some level of scratch-resistance. It will not protect the car from deeper scratches; however, it does provide some protection from minor clear coat scratches, which are commonly inflicted during the wash process. A build-up of these clear coat scratches causes the paintwork to look dull over-time.
It’s important to note though, that ceramic coatings will not make the paintwork scratch-proof by any means, but it is reassuring to know that they offer a step-up in terms of protection when compared to waxes.
The Application Process
Due to the advanced level of protection a ceramic coating provides, care and skill must be taken when applying it. This starts with proper preparation.
Preparing the Surface
Ceramic coatings must bond to the surface they are adhering to, be it either paint or glass, in order to achieve their maximum durability potential. This means that the paintwork needs to be completely free from any contamination, or old layers of paint protection. To do this, a full decontamination and preparation process must be performed. Here is a quick outline of the steps involved.
- Thoroughly washing the exterior
- Removal of any old layers of paint protection should as coatings, waxes or sealants
- Chemical decontamination using iron fallout and tar removers
- Physical decontamination using automotive clay to remove any remaining contaminants
- Drying the exterior
- Polishing to flatten the clear coat and enhance the finish
- A panel-wipe-down to remove any polishing oils
If any of these stages are skipped, the it is likely that the surface will not be adequately prepared, and the ceramic coating will not bond to it properly.
Applying the Coating
Once the preparation steps have been completed, the ceramic coating can be applied. The coating comes in a liquid format and can be evenly spread over a section at a time using an applicator, in a crosshatch pattern. It is then “levelled” using a microfiber towel to remove any high spots. The ceramic coating must then be allowed to “flash” or haze, then it can be buffed away using a microfiber towel. Following application, the ceramic coating should be allowed to cure. During the curing time, it is important not to allow the car to get wet.
Ceramic coatings should also be applied in the correct conditions to prevent the humidity, temperature or dust interfering with the process. This is why ceramic coatings are typically applied by professionals in purpose-built indoor detailing studios.
Maintaining a Ceramic Coating
Although a lot of preparation and skill goes into the application process, the good news, is that ceramic coatings require little upkeep, since the durability is so impressive. The slickness and hydrophobic properties help to keep the car looking cleaner for longer, however the car will still need washing. As a good rule of thumb, you should be washing your vehicle at least every month to keep it well-maintained. Here are some steps to follow.
- Wash the car using a wax-free dedicated car shampoo, never use any household products to wash the car.
- Always use a microfiber of lamb’s wool wash mitt, never a sponge or brush to clean the exterior as they can cause micro-scratches in the clear coat.
- Use the two-bucket method, which involves having one bucket containing the car shampoo, and another containing only water. Use the water bucket to rinse the mitt periodically before dipping it back into the shampoo bucket to avoid wiping dirt into the paintwork.
- Use separate buckets and tools for the wheels and paint, as the wheels can be very dirty and you don’t want to transfer this back onto the paint.
- Dry the car using a microfiber towel, don’t use chamois leather or bath towels as these are not gentle enough and will likely cause micro-scratches.
As well as keeping on top of the cleaning, it’s a good idea to make sure the car is kept in the best condition by topping up the ceramic coating. This ensures the ceramic coating lasts as long as possible, and the performance level is maintained. At Diamond Cut Detailing, you can benefit from the maintenance detailing package to make sure you are getting the best from your ceramic coating.
Who Are Ceramic Coatings Aimed Towards?
Ceramic coatings appeal to car owners who want their vehicle to look great and stay cleaner for longer. Many new car owners opt for ceramic coatings because they provide a high-level of protection and outstanding durability to help keep the car looking newer for longer, but that doesn’t mean that older vehicles won’t benefit. Ceramic coating an older car is a wise choice because it helps to avoid the vehicle from showing its age by keeping the exterior well-protected.
Frequently Asked Questions
To round off this article and clear up anything else you might want to know, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding ceramic coatings.
What happens when ceramic coatings wear away?
Ceramic coatings last for many years, however they will eventually wear away. When this happens, you will not see any peeling, instead the performance level will diminish, so the slickness and hydrophobicity will start to decline. This is a sign that a fresh ceramic coating needs to be applied.
Are there different types of ceramic coating available?
There are many different types, or grades, of ceramic coating, produced by a range of brands. The most durable and protective coatings usually contain higher percentages of silicon dioxide in them, which typically commands a higher price.
How much do ceramic coatings cost?
The cost of a ceramic coating depends on the grade, which typically dictates the level of performance and durability. To cost to get a vehicle professionally ceramic coated in the UK usually starts at around £200, whilst the most premium ceramic coatings can cost upwards of £500 to apply.
Are there any disadvantages to ceramic coatings?
You’re already aware of the numerous advantages to ceramic coatings, so it’s wise to ask if there are actually any downsides! The only real drawback in comparison to traditional waxes and sealants, is that there is more preparation and skill involved in applying a ceramic coating, whereas waxes and sealants are more user-friendly to apply.
Where Can You Go from Here?
If you’ve read this article and decided that you want to choose a ceramic coating to protect your vehicle, then there are a couple of routes you can go down.
It is possible to apply a ceramic coating by yourself, however, this should be done with caution. The application process can be tricky if you don’t have some level of experience and applying the coating in sub-optimal conditions is also risky. This is typically why car owners tend to take their vehicle’s to be coated by a professional detailer. Also, many of the higher-grade ceramic coatings are not available to regular consumers and can only be purchased by licensed professionals.
Choosing a detailer to ceramic coat your car ensures that you will get the best performance and durability from the coating. It also gives you access to the more premium ceramic coatings available.
Diamond Cut Detailing caters for the Exeter area and operates in a state-of-the-art detailing studio designed to provide the perfect conditions to apply a ceramic coating. Lewis, the owner and detailer, has also completed a range of training courses and is accredited by some of the leading brands in the world of ceramic coatings.
Get in touch by calling on 07730 783808 or by emailing email@example.com.