What Is Ceramic Coating?
What if there was something that could change all this? A product that would provide protection from environmental hazards such as bird droppings and make your car much easier to wash; an application that you didn’t need to reapply every couple of months like ordinary waxes; Something that made your paint shine like crazy and help protect it against bird droppings, brake dust and swirl marks.
There is! Chemical engineers have created Ceramic Coatings, and Ceramic Coatings can add substantial value to your vehicle at the time of resale. For show cars, it can make the difference between being first or being second. No kidding.
But before you make a decision on what is right for you, it’s important to get the facts straight. When you do your homework about Ceramic Coatings, you will hear some competing claims. On the one hand, manufacturers and car detailers make wonderful promises about the performance of their Ceramic Coatings, while conversely, some auto care commentators offer criticism of many of them.
How do you know what to believe? What’s the truth about automotive Ceramic Coatings? What are their benefits? What are their limitations?
What will be best for your vehicle?
Common Questions About Ceramic Coatings
What are Ceramic Coatings?
Will Ceramic Coatings Do What The Manufacturer Claim?
What Do They Do?
What Don’t They Do?
What to Look For When Choosing an Installer?
Are Ceramic Coatings Guaranteed or Warranted?
Ceramic Coatings are often referred to as Glass Coatings or Nano-Ceramic Coatings.
But before we go further, let’s talk about today’s automotive factory paint finishes. There 2 stages of paint applied, the first being a Base Coat, or color coat, which provides the color for your vehicle. And second, is the Clear Coat, which provides depth, gloss, and a degree of protection of your color coat. Factory clear coats are paint without pigment, and they are intended to protect your color coat from damage and UV fading. Clear coats are less likely to oxidize, which makes cars look newer for a longer time. Unfortunately, factory clear coat systems have weak water repellency, and poor chemical and dirt resistance. Worse yet, they are easy to scratch and swirl.
Until the invention of Ceramic coatings, the best way to protect your clear coat was Waxes and Sealants. However, waxing or sealing the paint still doesn’t completely protect from elemental damage. As we all know, Waxes and Sealants are not hard enough to prevent the scratches or swirls, and are not very heat or chemical resistant. The durability of Waxes and Sealants ranges from weeks to months, and they need to be re-applied frequently, something that most people simply don’t do. The best solution to these shortcomings is Ceramic Coatings. They have been around for ages, but only recently have become more common and popular with the vehicle enthusiast.
So, what is it?
In its simplest terms, a Ceramic Coating is a liquid polymer made up of ceramic particles suspended in a clear resin that when applied creates an impermeable surface that is chemically bonded to your vehicle. We all know what a molecule is, right. Well, polymers are materials made of long, repeating chains of molecules that lock together with each other….just like linking arms with your friends. Some polymers bend and stretch, like rubber and polyester (they are polymers). Others are hard and tough, like epoxies and glass. It depends on just how hard the molecules lock arms together.
The main ingredient chemical of Ceramic Coatings has been added to many other products as well such as car wash soaps, waterless car washes, and paint sealants. These are NOT considered “coatings” and only provide protection for days to months depending on what they were designed to do. For a product to be a “coating”, it should be resin based. Please be careful when opening up your wallet for detailers out there selling you a “Ceramic Coating” when you are actually only getting a sealant. It happens more than you might think. Chose a brand name you can research and trust.
A Ceramic Coating creates a permanent or semi-permanent bond with your vehicle’s paint, meaning that it does not wash away or break down and does not require repeated application every few months like automotive waxes or these false “coatings”.
It provides an excellent layer of protection, but it isn’t quite as simple as spreading it on and waiting for it to dry!
How is a Ceramic Coating Applied?
After meticulous paint correction of your vehicle at our shop, a Ceramic Coating is applied by hand to a vehicle in a liquid form using a small sponge-like applicator. The exact application technique will vary depending upon the characteristics of the chemical polymer in the Ceramic Coating you chose.
We all know that there is a certain amount of time before any paint hardens. This happens as the links between the molecules fuse together and this is referred to as “flashing”. We have all seen paint “dry” and that is called “flashing” or getting hard.
The molecules of automotive paint take a relatively long time to harden and therefore automotive paint can be sprayed on. It has time to level itself out (get smooth) before it fully dries. However, the molecules of a good Ceramic Coating hardens, or “flashes”, much faster, so it dries quickly and doesn’t level very well. That means that a higher quality Ceramic Coating needs to be carefully applied by hand, to a small area at a time, and is partially levelled by hand as the technician applies it.
Different products flash in different amounts of time with some coatings flashing in as little as 15 seconds. You can well imagine how difficult it would be to paint something if it dried in 15 seconds! It doesn’t leave much room for mistakes.
This drying process makes a good application difficult to achieve because the Ceramic Coating does not level by itself. It requires buffing with different types and sizes of specific buffing pads to level the Ceramic Coating in order to remove ridges and marks made by the small sponge-like applicator itself. A good ceramic technician has to stay ahead of the flashing process and adjust buffing wheels and pads frequently to get the best shine. Far too often, a shop that only does Ceramic Coatings as a sideline fails to achieve the ultimate gloss.
What Are the Advantages of Ceramic Coatings?
Hardness… Lustre… Protection… are three words that immediately come to mind.
If applied correctly, Ceramic Coatings will not delaminate or chip off of the paint surface. The coating is considered “semi-permanent” and will be there until it is abraded off the surface. Once cured, most Ceramic Coatings will display awesome water repellency, superior gloss, and significantly greater resistance to bird droppings, tree sap, abrasion and chemicals than Waxes or Sealants.
Ceramic Coatings also have additional UV blockers to prevent color fading and oxidation. They are NOT paints, but they will bond to and protect paints. Think of it as a second layer of skin, or a sacrificial layer or protection.
Yes, Ceramic Coatings are much harder than your clear coat. An abrasion test in which pencils of different hardness (1 being the softest and 9 being the hardest) is used to grade how susceptible a surface is to scratching. Most automotive clear coats have a hardness of 4H-6H on the scale. Ceramic Coatings that are claiming improved hardness above 9H, simply is a marketing lie as the hardness scale ends at 9H. 10H or 11H coatings are measured on a different hardness scale which is the equivilant to 9H. Any higher numbers are simply just made up! Now, keeping all this hardness scale jumbo in mind, this does NOT mean the coating is impervious to all scratches. If you hit your car with a pipe (or anything sharp/rough) – it will scratch your Ceramic Coating and your paint clear off.
- No Need to Wax Your Vehicle Again
Yes, it is true. Ceramic Coatings are like supercharged waxes and sealants on steroids. There is no need to wax or seal over a Ceramic Coating. It will do just about everything better than a wax or a sealant can, and for a lot longer. There are some Ceramic Coatings that require a re-application of a booster product on a periodic basis, these are usually part of the requirements for maintaining the warranty and keeping it at top level. Show cars tend to follow that option although there are work arounds to keep costs under control.
- Chemical Resistance
Yes, there definitely is a tremendous improvement on the almost non-existent chemical resistance of clear coats. Most ceramic coatings will not allow chemicals to penetrate through and damage your clear coat. But, it’s not bullet proof. If you allow bird droppings to sit on your car for weeks because you have a Ceramic Coating – you are in for a surprise!
- Improved Gloss
Yes, there definitely is a potential and tremendous improvement in gloss, which varies by the product that is used. Some coatings are harder than others and hardness has a lot to do with how much gloss is achieved. If the product you use provides a harder surface for more protection and you want to increase the wet look, then a top coat may be the answer. For some customers, that is their preferred system.
- Brake Dust, Wheels and Dirt Shedding
Yes, there is a significant improvement in how the dirt and brake dust washes away. Run your finger gently over your car’s finish and you can feel the small microscopic deposits of embedded dirt and grime in the top coat. After Ceramic Coating, try the same test and it should feel like a baby’s bum! That smoothness means that dirt and brake dust more easily are rinsed away. Pressure washing at the local car wash bay should deal with most dirt and dust problem. You should be amazed at the improvement.
- Rock Chip Resistance
Unfortunately, some installation shops claim that Ceramic Coatings are “rock/stone chip resistant”. If a rock flung at your car at 20mph can chip your glass, chip your paint, dent your bumper, it’s going to do all of that whether you have ceramic coatings or not. So if you see any installer or manufacturer claiming chip resistance they are simply over selling the product instead of reccomending a proper solution for you.
Differences in Ceramic Coating Qualities
There are a lot of brands of ceramic coatings in the market. And unfortunately, there are a lot of sealants being promoted as “coatings”. CeramiCoat Kingston offers a full range of products, from basic, 1 year over-the-counter type coatings, right up to the best Ceramic Coatings with a lifetime warranty.
The main determination of the quality of the product is whether it can be bought at the retail level by you directly, or is it only available to Certified Installers. Over the counter Ceramic Coatings are typically more user friendly for the non-professional, but will not have the hardness, durability, slickness, or any other key features associated with certified professional Ceramic Coating.
For some customers, that is all they want…something that is a big improvement over normal waxes and sealers, and something they can apply themselves at a lower cost. If that is you, no problem, CeramiCoat has retail and REAL ceramic coatings for sale at our shop.
RISK – Highly skilled professionals will opt to use a professional grade product to ensure the best quality for their clients. Others will install an over the counter “Ceramic Coating” to keep costs down and profits high. Ask questions when you shop!
The QUALITY and DURABILITY of the coating are determined by how skillful the installer is on correcting and preparing your vehicle’s surfaces BEFORE ceramic is applied.
Even a great product will fail if installed improperly. Again, is the installer that is going to apply the coating to your car actually Certified…or is s/he just someone who works for a certified installer?