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Are Ceramic Coatings Worth it?

Ceramic coating is a polymer solution that is applied to the exterior of a car to protect it. We’ll explain how it works and give some expert tips.

The Rise of Ceramic Coating as a Cost-Effective Alternative

Ceramic coating serves as a protective method in car detailing, often replacing traditional carnauba wax and polymer sealants for post-cleaning protection. It has gained popularity as an alternative to paint-protection wraps, offering a more affordable option, especially when compared to labor-intensive full wraps.

Originally a service provided by detailing shops, ceramic coating has become more accessible, affordable, and user-friendly for do-it-yourself enthusiasts. Available in various forms, including concentrate kits, hybrid waxes, and convenient wet sprays, ceramic coatings cater to different preferences in car care.

Some users opt for ceramic coating as a cost-effective substitute for a paint protection film (PPF), which is a clear wrap used to extend the lifespan of a new car's paint. While ceramic coating may not match the robustness and self-healing properties of PPF, it provides multi-year paint protection at a more budget-friendly cost, making it an attractive choice for many car owners, both professionally applied and maintained by enthusiasts.

What Is Ceramic Coating Made of?

Ceramic coating is commonly made up of silicon dioxide (silica, SiO2) derived from natural sources like quartz and sand. Certain varieties and brands may include titanium dioxide (titania, TiO2) as an extra hardening agent. Once applied to a car's paint, these elements form a chemical bond, imparting hydrophobic properties, meaning the surface becomes water-repellent.

What Is the Purpose of Ceramic Coating?

Ceramic coating safeguards a car's paint, preventing blemishes and damage, and extending the cleanliness of the surface. Following application, it simplifies subsequent car washes and provides protection against harmful UV rays. Notably, ceramic coating enhances water beading, facilitates dirt run-off, and imparts an exceptionally glossy shine to the vehicle.

In a visual representation, the cutaway image depicts the structure of a standard paint job with visible scratches. Typically, a clear coat measures between 40 to 120 microns in thickness, with a thicker coat offering better protection against scratches and maintaining the color's integrity.

car paint levels

The concept behind any paint protection method is to establish a barrier between the clear coat and external elements. In this context, wax serves the purpose of filling in minor scratches and safeguarding pores, preventing exposure to weather conditions and road debris.

ceramic coating in regards to car paint

A premium ceramic coating is crafted to fill in and conceal all gaps, divots, and scratches present in the clear coat, essentially making them imperceptible.

ceramic coating

When Should I Use Ceramic Coating?

Apply ceramic coating only when your car is in excellent condition after a thorough wash. Ensure there are no contaminants, dirt, or oily films left on the car, as the ceramic coating requires a clean surface for proper sealing.

Make sure to refer to our "How To Detail a Car" guide before using our "How To Apply Ceramic Coating" guide for comprehensive and effective car care.

Levels of Ceramic Coating

The budget a person allocates significantly influences the quality of the ceramic coating they choose. Here's a breakdown of various types:

  1. Professional:

  • Description: Real garages and detailing companies possess the necessary facilities, products, tools, and resources. They invest ample time to ensure the vehicle is fully prepared for a ceramic coating, with attention to detail that can extend the job duration to days.

  • Cost: Ranges from several hundred dollars to over $1,000.

  • Durability: Professional coatings are expected to outlast DIY alternatives.

  1. DIY Home Kit:

  • Description: Priced between $100-300, DIY ceramic coating kits include concentrate, specialized sponges, applicators, and occasionally pre-cleaners and toppers. The process resembles professional jobs, and users need to follow specific instructions for optimal results.

  1. DIY Hybrid Spray or Wax:

  • Description: Companies like Meguiar’s or Turtle Wax offer "hybrid ceramic" products, combining high-level technology with accessibility. Hybrid ceramic wax, costing about $15-30, is applied like traditional wax. Hybrid ceramic spray coating, priced at about $10-20, can be applied to a wet car, wiped off, providing an easy application method.

Ceramic Coating Expert Advice

Mike Pennington, the Director of Global Training, Event Marketing, and Consumer Relations at the cleaning product powerhouse Meguiar’s provided some tips and insights about ceramic coating for additional context: 

  • "If you are applying a DIY ceramic coating or hybrid ceramic product, always make sure to follow the directions closely for the best experience, as well as protection and longevity of the product."

  • "While professional ceramic coatings & hybrid ceramic products for the DIYer are the next generation of paint protection, they still do not provide a permanent solution or 100% protection against swirls, stains, scratches, etchings, or water spots. Therefore, proper and frequent maintenance with the right products is still needed to keep the paint looking its best for a longer period of time."

  • "Ceramic coatings & hybrid ceramic products typically do not provide any true surface restoration and/or correction. They are simply an advanced layer of protection, so when needed, surface prep is a must before applying any type of ceramic coating or hybrid ceramic product. This means inspecting the surface closely with your eyes and hands after washing and drying, and if needed, removing any and all defects (swirls, scratches, stains) using a compound and bonded contaminants (fallout, overspray, tree sap mist) using a clay system."

  • "The best way to maintain and boost the look and protective qualities of a ceramic coating/hybrid ceramic wax product would be with the right automotive wash, a ceramic-based spray wax, and a mist-and-wipe spray detailer."

  • "While Si02/ceramic is the next level of technology, it is still vital to use premium microfiber accessories when washing, drying, and maintaining vehicles in order to minimize any chance of swirls or scratches."

Get started. Pick a plan that suits your needs, and we’ll see you on the other side.

For a spotless ride, trust Detail On The Go's seasoned professionals. With years of experience, we handle tough spots and stubborn stains, whether hidden in delicate fabric or deep within your car's interior. Choose us for meticulous detailing that goes beyond the surface.

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