What is a ceramic coating & what are the benefits of ceramic coatings?
Ceramic Coating is a paint protection liquid that is applied on top of existing vehicle paintwork, this additional coating helps to keep the underlying paint surface protected and looking its best for many years.
The simplest analogy is to think of a ceramic coating as a non-stick surface that you might find on a frying pan but that is completely clear, it basically stops things from sticking (e.g. road dirt, tar spots etc).
The technology originated from NASA to protect things in space, these coatings offer automotive surfaces protection from acid rain, freezing rain, harsh wash chemicals and direct sunlight as well as the following benefits:
- They form strong chemical bonds with substrates at the atomic level so these coatings cannot be removed using paint cleaners or pressure washers; they will not wash away in a storm like some waxes: they are inherently extremely durable.
- Optically clear, ceramic coatings provide a high, crystalline shine, particularly effective on metallic paintwork where the metal flake ‘pops’ brilliantly.
- Helps to speed up cleaning as dirt basically doesn’t stick to the paintwork as much
- Helps to protect your paint against bird poo and tree sap (this should still be cleaned as quickly as possible though)
- Helps with inferior cleaning practices in the future (e.g. swirl marks)
- Helps with very small stone chips
- No need to use car wax in the future on the bodywork
- Can be applied to most surfaces including plastic
- Water simply beads and runs off the car
Is it worth the money?
It should cost you around £300-£1000. The person applying should also do a full detail first on the paintwork to ensure the paintwork and the clear coat is in the best possible state prior to application (make sure this is being done). It should last roughly 2-6 years and is 100% worth it.
How long does it take to apply? & how long does it take to cure?
It should take 5-36 hours to apply depending on the quality of the job, the number of coatings and time set aside for curing.
All ceramic coatings require a curing process so often your car will need to stay in a dust free environment during and after application to allow the ceramic coating to cure/bond and to ensure dust etc doesn’t get embedded into the coating.
Does it really need to be applied in a controlled environment free of dirt and dust?
Yes, various detailers I’ve spoken with have all agreed it should be done inside away from any dust/pollen etc. Some detailers argue this isn’t the case but I think this is to simply cut costs (for owners and installers) by not having to have the vehicle in their buildings overnight + allows them to travel across the country applying on driveways etc. The jury is still out on this one but if it was me I’d find a decent detailer local to me that I can find decent reviews on before getting a home visit application done.
Is one coating enough?
It depends on the service/product you go for, often the cheaper installers/products are 1 or 2 coats which might last for 1-2 years. The version I went for (Liquid Elements) was guaranteed for up to 6 years and had a total of 6 layers.
If it cannot get washed off how come it might only last 2-6 years?
It’s very hard wearing but it will still slowly come off over time e.g. during a weekly clean. The more contact with the paintwork the quicker it will wear.
Do I have to clean the car in a special way after application?
Yes, you need to ensure you don’t EVER apply any shampoo that contains any wax on a ceramic coating. Applying wax on top of the ceramic coating is pointless as it will stop the hydrophobic properties from working as intended and if poorly cleaned and more wax applied your car will quickly look dull and dirty.
Can I apply it myself?
Sure, just buy the products and follow the instructions on the packet, however the key to a superior ceramic coating is the prep work. The actual application is fairly simple as long as the car is clean, kept clean throughout and has decent paint finish to begin with, if you’re not confident don’t risk it. Many owners have done a DIY job – Review
Be careful you don’t end up paying for a wax coating instead of proper ceramic
Car showrooms (not Tesla) often will offer ‘new vehicle car detailing packs’ with a coating of some description included these are all crap and don’t last long and are simply a money spinner for the garage, often it’s just a wax coating worth a few quid but they will happily charge £100-£200 for it.
A ceramic coating requires many hours to apply and even longer to set and fully harden, during this first setting period (1-2 days) the car will be left inside a workshop to ‘cure’. You’re not supposed to wash a ceramically coated car for at least 7 days after application.
What are my options?
This will depend on who is going to install your ceramic coating, it’s best to find a local installer who will install one of the following:
- Liquid Elements
- Gtechniq Exo (better for home application) – EXO is a hydrophobic top coat
- Gtechniq Crystal Serum (common for professional application) – Review | Another review | Another review
- Gtechniq Crystal Serum Light is the DIY version of Crystal Serum – Review | Review
- Gtechniq Crystal Serum topped with Exo V3 as the ultimate combo
- Opticoat Pro
- Cheap import route
- You can buy ceramic coatings from China directly, most likely this is the sort of products cheaper/unbranded installers will use anyway. Of course, you risk buying a poor quality product so it’s not advised.
Who are trusted installers?
What are my other options?
- PPF (Paint Protection Film) which is a clear protective layer starts at around £2000 for the front end and goes to £6000 for a full vehicle.
- Just forget about it and keep it clean and use standard waxes etc
- Learn how to properly clean your Tesla