A flawless show car shine is the Holy Grail of the car care industry. For over a century, professional auto detailers and car enthusiasts have searched for that magical solution. A solution that will produce a long-lasting shine, repel dirt, environmental contaminants, and rain so that the vehicle’s paintwork has the best protection available. A solution that can keep that new car shine longer than waxes and sealants while saving razor-thin clear coats from needing machine polishing. The solution? Ceramic coatings (also know as nano, quartz, or glass coatings).
What Are Ceramic Coatings?
When applied to a vehicle’s paintwork, ceramic coatings bond with the surface to form a glossy, long-lasting protective barrier that repels water, contaminants, and UV rays. The purpose of ceramic coatings is to preserve, protect and enhance the appearance of an unblemished finish.
Ceramic coatings contain polymers, which are collections of bonded molecules. These polymers crosslink, creating what is known as the nanostructure. Ceramic coatings bond with the paint’s clear coat layer through the transfer of these particles, thus becoming part of the paintwork surface. Some of these bonds are so durable that the only way to remove them is by aggressive abrasion or sanding. Less durable ceramic coatings, on the other hand, can be removed with a strong solvent.
Ceramic, Glass, Quartz, What’s The Difference?
Ceramic coating brands often describe their coatings as “nano,” “glass,” or “quartz.” These are nothing more than marketing buzz words used to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. When in reality, nano, glass, quartz, and ceramic are all the same thing.
So what does the word “ceramic” in ceramic coating mean? Ceramic refers to “nanoceramics,” which are made from nanoparticles. The nanoparticles are what create the nanostructure of ceramic coatings.
Not long ago, ceramic coatings could not last more than a few years due to the limitations of SiO2 (Silicon dioxide, also known as silica, is an oxide of silicon with the chemical formula SiO2). However, with the introduction of incredibly durable silicon carbide coatings, ceramic coatings can now last well beyond ten, even twenty years. Ceramic coatings are most often made up of a blend of various ceramic nanoparticles rather than one to achieve a unique protective quality.
Hard Coatings Are Easier To Scratch
Hardness is another over-hyped marketing trick in the ceramic coating market, with brands claiming that their ceramic coating has a “9H” hardness (which, by the way, is the highest level on the pencil hardness scale) in an effort to sell customers on scratch resistance. However, the truth is that hard coatings are actually more susceptible to scratching, here is why.
Think about Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Hard coatings have a hyper-dense structure, so when a scratch occurs, there’s less surface area to spread out the pressure from the abrasion. When the pressure is returned, it’s concentrated within that small surface area, creating such a high level of pressure that a scratch occurs. With a ceramic coating that has more elastic properties, the nanostructure is less dense, allowing for pressure to spread out more evenly, so the reacting pressure is not strong enough to scratch.
In the ceramic coating marketplace today, there are self-healing ceramic coatings. The mechanics behind them vary; some self-heal fine scratches with the help of heat (supplied by heat guns or hot water) while others self-heal naturally over time in a process called auto-mechanical self-healing. As science and technology continue to evolve, who knows what will be available in the future.
What Are The Benefits Of Ceramic Coatings?
First of all, their durability is remarkable. Ceramic coatings last years longer than waxes and sealants. They protect your paint from environmental contaminants, oxidation, UV sun rays and add a little cushion room in terms of light scratches.
Secondly, ceramic coatings are thicker, so they protect against marring and etching better. In a way, ceramic coatings have taken the benefits of a polymer paint sealant and amplified them on a massive scale. Their water repellent properties exceed those of sealants. They prevent oxidation and block out UV rays in ways polymer sealants can’t. And finally, the gloss that ceramic coatings produce are in a category of their own.
Many coatings require an authorized ceramic installer or professional detailer to apply them. This is a huge bonus for car enthusiasts because they have experience in prepping the paint before application. Your paint will look better than new because of how much work goes into preparing the car for ceramic coatings. Once the coating is applied, the already insane level of gloss produced by the surface prep is amplified by the coating.
What Are The Downsides Of Ceramic Coatings?
For at-home car enthusiasts, much of the downside of applying ceramic coatings come from the amount of time needed to prep the vehicle before applying the coating. Before application, the vehicle’s surface should be washed, decontaminated, and 100% free of any defects in the paintwork surface. A multi-stage paint correction involves labor-intensive machine polishing (this applies to new cars, too).
You also need to ensure that the paint is kept pristine while applying the coating, which is difficult for anyone who isn’t working in a clean indoor facility. The ceramic coating application process (which is a relatively simple process) can pose problems if you aren’t careful. An uneven coating application can result in high spots that, once cured, can only be removed by machine polishing. In some cases, the entire panel has to be stripped and reapplied.
Working indoors in a well-ventilated area is strongly recommended, as many coatings contain solvents with foul-smelling chemical fumes that can make you lightheaded, dizzy, or even nauseous. 100% Solids coatings, on the other hand, have no solvents, so there are no chemical odors to worry about.
And lastly, ceramic coatings can be quite expensive, though there are lower-grade coatings at more affordable prices. If you have a coating installed by a professional, you’re looking at a potential four-figure price tag.
What Are The Alternatives To Ceramic Coatings?
The main alternative to ceramic coatings would be to get a paint protection film (PPF) installed on your vehicle to protect your paint from rock chips and scratches that ceramic coatings can’t protect against. However, you’ll still want to coat the PPF with a ceramic coating, as these films aren’t naturally hydrophobic and require added UV protection to prevent yellowing or peeling.
Of course, there is always carnauba waxes and polymer paint sealants. Although you won’t get the kind of durability, contaminant resistance, and gloss that ceramic coatings provide.
So what’s the final verdict on ceramic coatings? They’re the best paintwork protection available in the car care industry today, bar none. Sealants and waxes don’t even come close. Show Shine Garage offers an extensive range of ceramic coating for every exterior and interior surface of your vehicle. From gloss or matte paint finishes, window glass, PPF film, vinyl car wrap, plastic trim, headlights, and even leather, carpet, and fabric upholstery.
Are you ready to take your detailing skills to the next level?
Increase your knowledge, skills, quality, confidence, and profits with training guides from Show Shine Garage and IDA Certified Master Detailer Todd Coldiron.