This blog is dedicated to explaining what automotive ceramic coatings are, what they aren’t, and how to decide if they’re the right option for you. We also dispel any myths that are regularly thrown out by marketing companies on what a ceramic coating is capable of.
There are many different kinds of ceramic coatings, majority of them being SiO2 (Silicon Dioxide) based with different formulations to tweak their performance characteristics such as water repellency, hardness, self healing, etc. There are other forms of ceramic coating - SiC (Silicon Carbide) or Carbon-based, which have different properties to SiO2 based ones. They are proving to reap some brilliant results as well as complying with strict environmental standards, watch this space!
Ceramic coatings are considered 'semi-permanent' in that they will always be there until they are abraded off the surface. Once cured, most ceramic coatings will display high levels of water repellency, increased gloss, greater resistance to abrasion and chemicals, and boosted UV protection to prevent colour fading and oxidation. Ceramic coatings are not paints, but they will bond to and protect paints. Think of them as a second layer of skin, or a sacrificial layer of protection.
There are 2 main SiO2 coating systems, single part coatings and 2 part coatings. A single part coating system consists of a product that provides an 'All-In-One' approach for an easy and strong application. Conversely, 2-part coatings consist of 2 separate product applications that combine or 'Cross-Link' to each other after curing. Recently the coating industry has developed NSPs or ‘Nano Surface Primers’, by Dr Beasleys, which reduce any minor swirls and prepare the surface for better coating adherence.
Pictured above is an example of chemical staining from naturally acidic contaminants, they can eat into the paintwork of any uncoated car very quickly! Ceramic coatings create a chemically resistant surface from pH1 to pH13 (with most top-tier coatings), and can keep some contaminants from bonding to your vehicle’s paint. The result is that your vehicle will be more resistant to staining and etching, provided contaminants are removed in a timely manner. If you think a bird dropping can stay on your newly coated vehicle for weeks without having an effect, think again!
One of the most significant features of a ceramic coating is that it is hydrophobic, which is a fancy way of saying it repels water. When a vehicle has a hydrophobic ceramic coating, water will bead on the surface and slide off more easily.
Food for thought - Most coating companies boast about their higher water contact angles (usually in the range of 110°) but through our testing, water sliding angle means a lot more, essentially the lower the water slide angle, the better. A fantastic link here from the masters at Dr Beasley's https://www.drbeasleys.com/blog/2019/03/28/ceramic-coating-sliding-angle/ shows that water contact angle means little these days.
These factors combined result in mud and grime having a more difficult time bonding to your vehicle’s paint, and when you wash your vehicle, contaminants can be removed with less effort.
If you want your paint to pop with gloss, you will want to add a Ceramic Coating. A good Ceramic Coating enhances the reflective properties of your car’s paint and clear coat, adding to the depth and clarity of your paint. Some argue that a good quality wax gives a better 'wet' look, all we will say is, it's all up to personal preference and what you want your vehicles protection to achieve.
The scratch-resistance of a Ceramic Coating is often exaggerated, a coated vehicle will not be completely resistant to the risk of rock chips or parking lot scratches. It is important to know that a Ceramic Coating is not a substitute for more serious rock chip protection (such as Paint Protection Film). This is because a typical ceramic coating will add 2-5 microns of thickness to your vehicles clear coat , whereas a Paint Protection Film will add over approximately 200 microns!
You may have heard ceramic coatings claim improved hardness up to 9, or 9H. This doesn’t mean the coating is impervious to scratches, all this means is that a certain pencil will not scratch it. It is a marketing gimmick as most hard objects will exceed the comparable 9H pencil. If you put your drink can on your vehicle and it slides off – it will scratch your ceramic coating. Or if someone keys your vehicle it will go through. All this should mean to you is that only the lightest of abrasions will be prevented by installing a ceramic coating.
Water spotting after rain is common in Gibraltar, especially with the 'Saharan' influence (see picture above). A drop of water contains a certain amount of dirt or minerals, namely Magnesium & Calcium. When water evaporates from your vehicle’s surface, the minerals are left behind, creating visible spots. Detailers and consumers may assume that the hydrophobic quality of a Ceramic Coating will eliminate water spotting, since water slides off the coated surface. While it is true that some water will be repelled from the hydrophobic surface, other water droplets will bead and remain on the vehicle, creating the opportunity for water-spotting.
Ceramic coatings keeps your car looking like-new with comparatively minimal maintenance, not no maintenance. Let’s face it, the road is a dirty place. If you are driving your vehicle, it will get dirty, even with a ceramic coating, you will still need to wash your vehicle regularly in order to maintain its appearance. The benefit of a ceramic coating is that the cleaning process will be easier. Thus, a ceramic coating does not make your vehicle maintenance-free, but it does mean that with less work you will be able to maintain better results.
Simply put, it is important to be educated about a product before making a decision about whether it is right for your vehicle. Will ceramic coatings benefit your vehicle and add value? Certainly! Are ceramic coatings a miracle, one-stop-shop solution for all of your vehicle’s exterior problems? Certainly not!
You’re probably asking yourself 'How often should I maintain a ceramic coating?' if you got one installed on your vehicle. The answer is a bit more complicated since each vehicle is different to the next. In most cases, we recommend revitalising your coating in some shape or form every 2-3 months, for optimal results, see below.
Use SiO2- infused products to the surface reintroduces the same chemistry back to your surface to rejuvenate the coating, instead of starting from scratch and wasting time and money with separate polymer technologies. By using SiO2-infused products repair the worn down sections of your coating and rejuvenates the beneficial properties of the coating, restoring the perfect angle for the sunlight to show the shine.
The vehicle below has been recently coated and displays high levels of gloss! This can be maintained using SiO2 based products.
Warning - media hype is high with ceramic coatings:
Layering a coating is different than applying a 2 part coating. There are a few brand and installers who sell up to 10 layers, and maybe even more! The research and testing we have done doesn’t support the theory that adding more than 2-3 layers of coating is actually doing anything beneficial besides lining someone’s pocket. Using a Coating Thickness Gauge, we found no added thickness in a 10 layer versus a 2. This is why we have never associated with companies offering these miraculous claims.
In the warranty world, car manufacturers will only warranty your engine if you change the oil regularly and with the proper products. But the ceramic coating warranties we have read seem as if they’re written with the intent to exclude claims (blame on the client for improper/lack of maintenance), and to continuously drive repeat business to the installer as a profit center (Scheduled maintenance services).
In other words, in order for you to keep your warranty valid you need to pay to have your vehicle re-coated at least every year or two. Its equivalent to buying a TV with a lifetime warranty that’s only valid if you pay to have the motherboard replaced every year. The truth is – that warranty only serves the brand and installer, as a way to keep you coming back and spending money with them.
Pro Tip: Look for an installer that is capable of maintaining your coating on a regular basis using ceramic 'toppers'.
To conclude, a ceramic coating is not a miracle product that will protect your vehicle from scratches or rock chips, and it will not mean that you will never clean your vehicle again. A ceramic coating is the most advanced chemical technology available in vehicle protection and can make maintaining your vehicle easier than ever before.
We hope that this blog has equipped you with the information you needed to help you on your decision whether to apply a ceramic coating on your vehicle or not!