How To Apply a Ceramic Coating
Taking pride in your car’s appearance pays for itself in a host of ways. It looks terrific, adds to your enjoyment and, when the time comes to say goodbye, a well presented vehicle will almost sell itself. The time taken now to clean, prepare and maintain the bodywork will pay dividends later. Here are a few tips for keeping that motor in pristine order:
What is a Ceramic Coating?
Ceramic coating is a more recent advance in car care. Essentially it is a polymer that is applied by hand to the car’s bodywork where it ‘bonds’ with the paint creating a layer of long-lasting protection. The best products combine this with Carnauba wax for even greater defence.
Why Apply a Ceramic Coating?
Well, this high-tech product combines the very latest in ceramic protection technology coupled with premium Carnauba wax. This combination offers outstanding paint protection, a deep gloss shine and a surface that shrugs off water.
Water beading on car paintwork is a sign that the car is well cared for. A ceramic paintwork coating is thus a worthwhile investment of work, time and money. It protects the car from everything the road can throw at it, far better than with simple waxing or temporary ‘so-called’ solutions can. Best of all, next time it will make interim car washes that much easier!
What You’ll Need
To deliver a fine finish and long-lasting shine that sets a car apart, several items are required. Obviously a thorough wash is the first step, followed by paintwork preparation before ceramic coat can be applied. ‘Be prepared’ is the mantra here. You will need:
- High quality car shampoo
- Clean microfibre or noodle wash mitt
- Two buckets
- Clay bar
- Polish and applicator
- Ceramic coating plus suitable applicators
- Selection of clean microfibre cloths
- Drying towel
- Protective gloves and a face mask
How To Prepare Your Car For A Ceramic Coating
Washing Your Car Before Applying The Coating
A brisk rinse over won’t do. Pay as much attention to washing the car as will be needed for the subsequent jobs. Wash using a premium car shampoo, making sure to get into those little nooks and crannies that the fearsome automated car washes miss. We also recommend using the two-bucket method to rinse the dirty wash mitt. Use an old toothbrush for panel gaps and door surrounds. Rinse with plenty of clean water.
Finally, dry the car with a purpose-designed drying towel. These are very soft and far more absorbent than anything stolen from the bathroom. The soft material also makes them ideal for wiping over or buffing up the bodywork.
Clay Bar Treatment
A car’s paintwork over time will collect minute particles of grit, metal and brake dust. This is what gives the feel of a rough surface when a hand is rubbed over it. It’s time for the clay bar. There are several grades. Pick one that is right for the job: A finer grade will usually serve but for older cars that have seen more action and less attention a medium grade might be more appropriate.
Get a good branded product which ideally will come with a lubricating spray. First work the clay with your hand to render it soft and disc-like. Think of it as kneading dough. Working in small equal sections at a time, start at the top of the car (where there are less particles, keeping the clay fresher for longer), first spraying the lubricant.
Top Tip: Never use the clay on a dry surface, it fragments, and note that water alone doesn’t work well as a lubricant.
With the flat of your fingers roll the clay evenly across the surface in one direction. Do NOT use a circular motion. You will feel the clay picking up that embedded grit. If the clay starts to stick, add more lube. Turn the clay regularly to present a clean surface. As you go, wipe away any remaining lubricant with a microfibre cloth.
Yes, it’s true this is a time-consuming job but, when you feel the surface of the car afterwards, you will notice the benefit. It’s not as if it has to be done at every wash.
Use a Polish for Paint Correction
Now the paintwork is silky smooth it’s time to polish. Using a good quality product, either by hand or carefully using a rotary polisher to apply (find out how here). The idea is to bring back that factory freshness to the paint.
Polish essentially removes a microscopic amount of paint revealing the true colour beneath that time and weather has made dull. Polishing removes oxidisation and the swirl marks caused by careless cleaning using dirty sponges or cloths that might contain grit.
Top Tip: Remember that polishing will remove any existing wax or surface coating. There is no need to further polish a car until the next full treatment as described here is due.
To continue, work evenly across all the paintwork, small areas at a time and using a clean fresh cloth, buff up to a shine, again by hand or with a rotary buffer. Now for those finishing touches.
Applying The Ceramic Coating To Your Vehicle
How to apply a ceramic coating will vary slighlty depending on the product used so follow the manufacturer’s directions exactly.
Here are tips that will apply to almost all coatings used:
- Prime the panel with a premium IPA or degreaser e.g. AutoBead SURFACE PREP. This product will remove all surface residue, ensuring a strong bond is formed between the coating and surface.
- Add a small amount at a time over a small area at a time. This is important. Beware of over-application or left-over product which will be harder to clear.
- Work vertically and horizontally making sure not to miss any spots. Don’t over use the product thinking it will do a better job; it won’t and could lead to smearing.
- Wait, carefully following the instructions, then buff up immediately with a clean microfibre cloth and remember: Patience is a virtue.
- Allow the product to ‘cure’ for as long as required. This will be outlined on the product application directions.
- These jobs are best done on a dull or overcast day. Bright warm sunlight is nice to work in but dries wash water and applied products too quickly. Overcast light also makes it easy to assess the finish.
Aftercare Of Ceramic Coating - How Long Does It Last?
This depends upon varying factors including the product used. Factors that will affect the durability include the care and attention given at the time of application and the mileage, plus the road and weather conditions in which the car is driven.