What is a Ceramic Coating? Everything you need to know...
Updated: Jul 7
What is a ceramic coating?
Ceramic protectants (coatings) provide a much higher durability than wax. It’s almost like putting glass over your clear coat. It resists heat, UV rays, environmental contaminants & harsh detergents much better than wax. Wax simply sits on top of the paint’s surface. It does not create the chemical bond like we find with ceramic coatings.
WHY IS CERAMIC COATING BETTER THAN WAX?
Most ceramic coatings can last three to five years, sometimes longer, with periodic cleaning to keep the ceramics integrity and looking its best. Waxes only last about six weeks – 3 months before they begin to wear thin and crack so ceramic coatings are almost always the better choice over wax when trying to preserve the lifespan of your vehicles paint job. Ceramic coatings last for years with proper wash technique and periodic maintenance.
“MY CAR IS NEW, IT DOESN’T NEED A CERAMIC COATING”
We hear this often, but the reality is dealerships aren’t in the business of preserving paint, they are in the business of selling cars and moving them quickly. Unfortunately this means wash processes are about speed and not care. We’ve yet to see a new car come in with perfect paint. In the last several years, dealerships have starting offering their customers "ceramic coating" at an additional price when purchasing their vehicle. More times that not, this ceramic coating is sprayed over the top of the cars current paint and NO PREP is done before adding the ceramic coating. In which case, your ceramic coating is sealing in the imperfections in your paint and magnifiying the imperfections.
So, if we take that new silver Porsche 911 and compare it to say, a 3 year old black 2500 Truck, you’d expect the black truck to require much more work to prepare that surface for a coating, Probably triple the amount of work needed to polish a finish in that condition, on a vehicle that size. This greatly increases the cost of the coating preparation thus increasing the cost of the coating.
Now that we understand the paint preparation side, the coating technology also plays a factor in the cost. Coatings are usually going to be rated by years of life. The professional grade coatings will have been tested to survive for a duration of time under normal conditions, outdoors. This includes rain, snow, and sun to determine the rating for a coating. Coating manufacturers will have varying degrees of requirements to keep their coatings ‘under warranty’ so you’ll want to speak with each installer and determine what is required for the coatings to be warrantied. Some will require inspections and maintenance, others will not.
However, pricing will also be impacted by the ceramic coating you choose. A 1 year coating will cost far less than let’s say a 5 year coating. This will also vary per manufacturer as some require multiple layers stacked to get the duration required for warranty, others build in the strength as the nano level to achieve a specific lifespan - both are ok. You are buying a product that is warrantied for its said duration thus pricing will rise with it.
KEY TIP #1– Have your car coated as soon as possible after purchasing from the dealership, as you’ll require less paint correction or prep work – which can save you money and time.
Why Is Labor So Expensive When Going To A Pro Detailer For A Professional-Grade Ceramic Coating?
Just like ceramic coatings, not every detailer is the same! Your quality of service and end results are mostly based on the quality of detailer you decide to go with.
But just like inquiring about a doctor for major surgery, you want to know that your detailer has the required training, certifications, and just as importantly, experience. You might receive a quote from another detailer that’s far cheaper, but keep in mind the cost of quality products, training, certifications, experience, and also time. Your average coating application, including prep work with a well-experienced professional detailer, can take hours and sometimes even days depending on the coating being applied, condition of the vehicle, and customer expectations.
Washing a vehicle will only remove a fraction of the chemicals, waxes, and pollutant crap lurking on its surfaces. In order to truly deep-clean a car, and ensure that a ceramic coating is going to work, additional surface prep procedures must be implemented.
However, if you decide to skip the prep stage, and leave all of those surface contaminants and imperfections in place, a few unpleasant surprises will surface.
Straight out the gate, you will discover that your ceramic coating has not only locked all that contaminates sitting on the surface into place, but it has amplified its appearance as well. The second surprise, is that your crappy looking ceramic coating is not doing a very good job of repelling contaminants and moisture. This is followed by the realization that the product’s intended lifespan is unachievable, and that it requires replacement after a very short time.
In order for a ceramic coating to work, it must be allowed to fully bond with a surface, which is why prepping a vehicle prior to installation is such a detail-oriented and crucial procedure.
Preparation Stages of Ceramic Coating….
1. Each panel is washed thoroughly; Rinsed; blow dried
2. Surface Decon of Iron Particles
3. Clay Decontamination with clay lube
4. Rinse, Inspect, Wipe, then dry
5. Apply Cutting compound
6. Buff to remove
7. Apply polishing compound
8. Buff to polish out
9. Use ceramic Prep solution
10. Apply Ceramic Coating 1 panel at a time and allow to cure for 12 - 16 hours.
If that’s not enough to convince you that the ceramic coating surface prep process makes a difference, here are a handful of reasons why pre-installation sweat equity can mean the difference between success and catastrophe.
Stronger nano-molecular bonds: Once fully cured, a nano ceramic coating turns into this super strong, completely invisible surface shield. By removing contaminants from a vehicle’s exterior, and fixing any blemishes, you create a blank canvas that the coating can properly bond with on a molecular level.
Smoother surfaces: Contrary to common belief, automotive clear coat is anything but smooth. A quick glimpse through a microscope will show that your car’s clear coat is home to a vast expanse of peaks and valleys. Removing these microscopic peaks and filling those invisible valleys is what will allow a nano ceramic coating the room it needs to fill in the gaps afterwards, and thus create a truly smooth surface.
Improved shine: Ceramic coatings produce a brilliant shine, especially if they are of a grade that can cure to 9H or 10H hardness levels. Being that whatever a ceramic coating adheres to gets locked into place, your shine will only be as resilient as the surface area beneath it.
Is a Ceramic Coating really worth it?
There are many advantages of ceramic coatings:
Your vehicle will be easier to clean due the hydroponic properties of the ceramic coating, dirt, water, and road contaminates, etc. will not stick to the car’s surface. Ceramic coatings repel mud, dirt and water
No more waxing 2-4 times a year.
It's cost effective
An extra layer of hardened protection
Keeps your vehicle looking new for years
UV protection to prevent fading and loss of shine
Makes removing bugs simple and fast change
Coating makes cleaning faster and easier
How long does it take to have a ceramic coating applied to your vehicle?
When all is said and done, you can expect your car to spend a total of three to five days in the shop when you bring it in for a ceramic coating.
What may also increase the price, if not just labor, but the current condition of your vehicle. Even if your car is brand new, straight off the dealership, it can have paint problems that need correction. This is either a fault of the auto manufacturer or possibly the dealership.
When dealerships wash their cars, they unfortunately often hurt the paint more than they help it. And you frequently take your car to automatic car washes, that’s another cause of scratches that can increase the price of the job.
How much can I expect to pay for ceramic coating?
Depending on the size and condition of your vehicle, the quality of ceramic coating you get, and assuming that you go to a well reputable detailer, get ready to spend anywhere from $1500 to $5750. The average well-used car will cost around $2,000 while a brand new car would cost around $1500. Any price more than that has to deal with using a more premium ceramic coating product, having a larger vehicle, and having more severe paint correction work required.
How can you tell if a car has been ceramic coated?
If you want to know if a car has a ceramic coating, take the car for a drive. Spray the car with water; as you increase the speed of the vehicle, water beads will gather into streams that will flow from your vehicle. In the absence of ceramic coating, the drops of water will cling to the car's surface