What is it? Professional-grade ceramic coatings are a nano-particle solution that bond with the surface they are applied to. Compared with tradition waxes and sealants that sit on top of the surface they are applied to. This difference is the reason Ceramic Coatings often come with warranties backed by their manufacturers that are several years in duration. Most ceramic coatings are a form of silica di-oxide (SiO2) that is suspended in a “separating” chemical in the bottle. As this formulation is applied, the separating chemical is designed to evaporate leaving the Ceramic (SiO2) on the surface and it immediately begins to cure and bond. Not all Ceramic Coatings are created equal. Many of those you find in big box stores, auto parts stores or amazon are formulated to be easy to apply by your typical weekend car enthusiast. The difficulty and amount of training needed to properly apply a ceramic coating is often directly proportional with the strength of the bond and ultimate durability.
Why pay a professional? Most reputable coating manufacturers require their installation shops to be properly trained to purchase and install their products, and for good reason. As the ceramic cures during the application, the leveling process must be thoroughly completed in a matter of minutes, or the results will be an uneven “blotchy” finish that will likely need to be re-polished and the process completely re-started. In addition, the most important step in the process is the preparation of the surface to be coated. Similar to painting a wall in your house or sealing your deck, the surface of your vehicle’s paint must thoroughly cleaned, decontaminated, polished, and stripped free of any waxes, polishes, oils, or contaminates. If any of these substances are present during the coating process, it will significantly affect the coating’s ability to bond and reduce durability. The paint itself should be thoroughly polished in a process known as “Paint Correction” to remove any light scratches or swirl marks. Although light scratches and swirls do not affect the performance of the coating, they will be noticeable and likely even more noticeable once a coating is applied. Ceramic Coatings do not “fill in” scratches or swirls, they will actual highlight them with even greater reflective properties.
What are the benefits?
There are 3 major benefits to Ceramic Coatings vs traditional waxes/sealants:
- Additional layer of protection: a Ceramic Coating adds a layer of protection to your paint, glass, trim, wheels, etc. This added protection helps guard against premature fading from UV rays, it is more resistant to chemicals and environmental hazards such as bird and bug stuff, and it acts as a sacrificial layer that helps keep light scratches and swirls on the surface.
- Easier maintenance: A ceramic coating creates a strong bond and is much more difficult to remove. It also repels water, dirt and debris more efficiently. These qualities make cleaning your vehicle with proper methods much easier, allowing safe removal of bugs, bird stuff, tar, and brake dust without removing the coating itself. Traditional waxes/sealants are easily removed with most bug, tar and wheel cleaners.
- Cost effectiveness: compared with regular re-application of waxes and sealants, ceramic coatings are more expensive to apply, but in the long-run will save you time and money with faster cleaning time and far less frequency of re-application. Many single coat professional applications offer 3-4 years of protection.
Despite some aggressive claims for marketing purposes, the biggest myth is the scratch resistance of Ceramic Coatings. Although many are harder than your factory paint, ALL ceramic coatings can be scratched, swirled, marred, scuffed and provide very little protection from stone chips. Scratch and chip protection are better served by Paint Protection Film (hyperlink to PPF page).