In the automotive world, ceramic coatings are often touted as the next level of car protection.
They promise to keep your car looking brand new, often claiming to be scratch-proof and even boasting protection against stone chips. But do the benefits of ceramic car coating live up to the hype?
In this article, we’ll look into how ceramic coating protects your car and answer some crucial questions about the science behind ceramic car coating. Read on to find out more.
What Is Ceramic Coating
Ceramic coating is a liquid that’s applied to a vehicle’s exterior. Once cured, this coating chemically bonds with the vehicle’s factory paint, creating a protective layer. This protection is primarily known for its water-repelling (or hydrophobic) properties, which means contaminants find it harder to stick.
Unlike these conventional protective solutions, ceramic coatings don’t just sit on top of your car’s paint. Instead, they form a semi-permanent or permanent bond, effectively becoming a part of the car’s surface. This unique characteristic allows them to provide a higher level of protection and a longer lifespan.
The Different Types of Ceramic Coatings
When it comes to ceramic coatings, a few options are available to those looking to protect and enhance the appearance of their vehicle.
Consumer-grade Ceramic Coatings
These are readily available and easy to apply, often marketed as a DIY product. However, it’s important to note that many of these products are polymer-based coatings with only small amounts of SiO2.
They typically cost between £50-£150 and provide hydrophobic properties that can last for a few months, making them an excellent option for those who want to give their car some added protection without breaking the bank.
Hybrid Ceramic Coatings
Hybrid ceramic coatings are a popular choice for those looking for something a bit more advanced. These coatings mix the benefits of traditional waxes and sealants with ceramic components, creating a more durable finish.
While the saturation of SiO2 is often low, they require very little preparation and can come in spray form that you can apply after washing your car.
Professional Grade Ceramic Coatings
If you’re looking for the best of the best, then these are the way to go. With more highly concentrated SiC or SiO2, professional coatings give a glassy finish that lasts much longer than other types.
However, they require extensive preparation and curing time, making them a professional application only. The product alone can cost between £200-£400 per car, with 15-40 hours of preparation required (paint correction or enhancements) plus curing time in controlled environments.
The result is an actual ceramic-coated car with exceptional gloss and colour depth achieved by meticulous preparation.
While many manufacturers claim to have the latest and greatest ceramic coatings, most contain SiO2 or SiC. Some claim to use graphene, but given the high cost of graphene, we remain sceptical of these claims in the automotive sector.
The Benefits of Ceramic Coatings
With proper care, a ceramic coating can last between 5-7 years. Bringing your car in for annual maintenance detailing and coating decontamination is a good idea. This helps restore the hydrophobic properties and often involves using specialised products to extend the life of the coating.
Superior Gloss and Shine:
One of the benefits of ceramic coating is its significant enhancement to the look of your vehicle. By forming a smooth, glass-like finish, they amplify the colour depth and clarity of your car’s paintwork. This results in a stunning high-gloss finish that outshines traditional wax or sealant finishes. It’s like having a permanent wax shine on your vehicle!
Simplified Cleaning Process:
The hydrophobic properties of ceramic coatings make washing your vehicle more accessible and faster. That means less need for pre-wash or snow foam. While you can use them, they won’t necessarily extend the coating’s life. It’s a common misconception to use these products too frequently; they’re best to use every 4-5 washes.
Long-Term Cost Efficiency:
While the initial cost of ceramic coatings may seem high, it’s essential to consider their longevity. Unlike waxes and sealants that need regular reapplication, a quality ceramic coating is a long-term investment in your vehicle’s longevity and aesthetic appeal.
Robust Environmental Protection:
Ceramic coatings provide a robust shield against various environmental hazards. They resist damage from bird droppings, bug splatters, and harmful UV rays. They also withstand the corrosive effects of road salt and acid rain better than standard clear coats.
Make sure that you’re cleaning it weekly, even if your car looks spotless. Regular upkeep will ensure the vehicle remains in top shape, extending the life and hydrophobic properties of the coating.
Understanding the Limitations
When establishing how ceramic coatings protect your car, it’s crucial to understand where the limitations lie. For a little perspective, the thickness of average vehicle paint falls between 150-180 microns, while a fully cured professional ceramic coating is only about 1-2 microns thick. That’s a significant difference, and it’s essential to understand that ceramic coatings, although providing protection, have their limitations.
If you’re looking for the best protection against physical damage, such as scratches and stone chips, Paint Protection Film (PPF) is your best bet. PPF provides ultimate protection against harsh environmental elements, ensuring your car looks brand new for years.
Ceramic coatings are an excellent option whether you want to enhance your car’s appearance or make maintenance simpler. They offer superior protection and ease of care, but it’s important to remember that they have limitations. For the ultimate protection against physical damage, PPF is the way to go.
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