There are several ways to skin a cat – but ceramic coatings are more complex. Ceramic coatings are designed to provide a semi-permanent bond to a surface, protecting it from exposure to UV rays, chemicals, bird droppings and other contaminants that damage automotive parts.
Applying these coatings have become easier than in years past. In fact, our DIY nano-coating is considered by many automotive enthusiasts as the easiest and longest-lasting coating – that compares with several professional-grade ceramic coatings.
However, eventually, you’ll have to remove the excess ceramic coating if you want to reapply to your valued ride. The key is learning how to do this without scratches. So – how do you remove a ceramic coating or sealant from a car? Are there special tools or supplies needed to avoid swirl marks, and are there certain techniques that work better than others?
These are a few of the questions we’ll dive into today. In the information below, we’ll provide a definitive guide to removing the ceramic coating from your car. Let’s get to it.
Why Would You Remove a Ceramic Coating?
The most popular reason why car owners look to remove a ceramic coating is to apply a newer coat. Whether you’re going back to car wax or stepping up to a professional-grade ceramic, removing the older layer is the first logical step.
As explained above, DIY nano-ceramic coatings are intended to provide a semi-permanent layer of protection – meaning eventually, they’ll wear thin. However, they won’t always wear completely off.
In fact, most ceramic coatings that use nanotechnology to infuse onto porous surfaces slowly wear with car washes, reducing hydrophobic and protection abilities the longer they stay on the vehicle. When the vehicle surface beings to show signs of a worn-out coating, they should be removed – so you can reapply a fresh coating.
There are some specific reasons why many car owners ask about removing coatings as well.
Completing or Repairing Body Work
In most cases, if you’re not looking to reapply a new coating, carnauba wax, a clear bra or paint protection product, you’ll remove ceramic coatings to fix the damage done to bodywork on a car, truck, or SUV. If you’re repairing existing damage, the work completed during the repair process, including sanding, buffing, and prepping the surface for fresh paint, will likely do the job.
Swapping to a New Paint Protection Solution
We get a lot of questions from customers of other nano-coating products that are looking to try Armor Shield IX. In this instance, the current condition or longevity of the coating will determine what removal steps you’ll need to take. Most nano-coatings last a few years – so, the fresher the initial application – the harder they are to remove.
You’re Going to Repaint the Vehicle
Another reason you’d likely remove a ceramic coating is if you’re looking to repaint the vehicle. Now, obviously, paint prep work includes sanding, removing the clear coat, and likely the primary base coat as well. This will remove any coating – period.
*It should be noted, that if you’re going to repaint a vehicle, you need to wait for at least 30-days after the paint and clear coating are done before attempting to apply a DIY nano-ceramic coating.
Three Ways to Remove a Ceramic Coating
I am a strong believer in doing things ‘the right way’ the first time. With that said, when it comes to removing a nano-ceramic coating, it’s very difficult to correctly identify the perfect and right method – without knowing the current condition of that coating.
A general rule I follow is to use a different removal process based on the type of coating used, length of application, and the product you’re planning on applying after the old one is gone.
However, removing ceramic coatings also depends on your comfort level and experience with mid-level to advanced paint correction techniques. It also depends on the surface, whether it be a car’s body, glass, plastic trim, or anywhere it’s applied. It’s also important to verify that your ceramic coating removal method will not cause swirl marks or additional paint damage.
So, to simplify the task of removing ceramic coatings, here are four proven methods for removing any paint protection coating.
Contact the Manufacturer of the Paint Protection Product
This might seem to be weird, but believe it or not, most manufacturers of waxes or chemical paint protection products know how to remove their stuff the best. Formulating a paint protection product like a ceramic coating takes time and loads of R & D.
If you know what type of coating you have currently on the vehicle, reach out to the manufacturer and ask them what they recommend. This also applies to car wax, paint sealants or ceramic coating sprays.
For those of you looking to remove Armor Shield IX, these three methods work very well. The steps listed below are based on the longevity of the coating.
3+ Years – Clay Bar and Washing
If you have a high-quality ceramic coating – with a SiO2 percentage above 80, it’s best to remove it by clay bar and hand washing. At this point in its lifespan, the coating is likely going to be very thin and relatively easy to remove.
Using a wax-stripping car shampoo as a pre-wash is a great idea to begin this process. This is the same type of automotive soap that we recommend as a pre-wash for prepping your vehicle surface. In fact, if you follow this process, you’ll be pretty much ready to reapply a new coating.
Step 1 – Wash with a Wax Stripping Car Shampoo
Using the two-bucket method, and even perhaps a foam gun, wash the vehicle with an abrasive or wax stripping shampoo. While it’s tempting to use dishwashing soap, it’s not the best solution. There is some great wax stripping car shampoos out there – and until the day we launch our new product (coming soon folks) – you can use any of them.
If you’re looking for a quicker and more efficient method of removing the coating safely, consider using a car wash with polishing abrasives. It’s basically like washing and polishing at the same time.
Step 2 – Complete a Clay Bar or Clay Mitt Treatment
The second step for removing an older ceramic coating is the clay mitt or clay bar treatment. In this, you’ll use a high-quality clay mitt along with a concentrated car wash shampoo lubricant. There is some clay bar specific lubricants – but you can use a high-suds producing car shampoo mixed as 1oz soap to 1 liter of water.
Step 3 – Spray Clean with Fresh Water and Dry with Microfiber Towels
Once the clay bar treatment is complete, you should rinse the vehicle completely, and dry with a microfiber towel. Don’t be afraid to use a fresh towel with each body panel.
When the vehicle is completely dry, use an IPA spray or ceramic coating prep wipe down the product for final prep before applying the new coating.
Less than 3+ Years -- Polishing
Most professional detailers swear by using a polishing compound and orbital polishers as the best way to remove a newer ceramic coating. This is simply due to its ability to ‘cut’ into the very hard coating until you reach the actual clear coating.
Here is the problem with this method though – it’s one that requires experience with polishing and knowing when you’ve cut through the ceramic coating – and not too deep into the clear coat.
Most professional detailers will take a gradual approach to remove ceramic coatings with cutting compounds. Essentially, this means they’ll start with a medium-grit cutting compound, then step down in grit percentages – until the coating is fully removed.
Again – this takes skill with the orbital polisher and knowing how and when the coating has been removed.
These are a few tips I suggest for using polishing compounds to remove ceramic coatings.
First – Gather Your Supplies
If your coating is less than 2 years old, I would start by using a medium-grade polishing compound along with several microfiber cutting polishing pads. You should also use a thin or finishing compound for the final removal and prep work.
Second – Wash the Car
Once you’ve gathered everything, wash your car using the two-bucket method with a wax stripping shampoo. This might help to loosen up the coating – but not likely. It will, however, ensure any debris on top of the coating is removed.
Third – Start with the Polishing
Instead of writing this all down, I think it might be better for you to watch this video – which in my opinion, is one of the better ones on the “NET” that introduces paint correction for beginners. It might seem elementary to many of you – but trust me – it’ll help introduce some best practices.
Wrapping it Up
A ceramic coating is intended to last for several years. And, if properly maintained, you can get up to 4 to 5 years of protection against the elements with a high-quality DIY product like Armor Shield IX. If you’re thinking about applying a new coat, make sure to take proactive measures to remove it first. This will provide you with a clean and fresh canvass in which to apply the next coating.
One thing you don’t want to assume is that applying a new coating on top of an older one will ‘work’. Ceramic coatings (like our product) do not layer on top of each other. They work by bonding onto the porous surface. If you have any questions about removing prep work for applying Armor Shield IX, comment below and I’ll be certain to reply promptly.