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How to Remove a Ceramic Coating

How to Remove a Ceramic Coating

While there are several ways of applying a ceramic coating, removing one is not as easy. A ceramic coating works by sticking itself onto the clear coat of a vehicle paint surface. The bond creates a thin yet durable layer of protection against UV rays, chemicals, bird droppings, and more.

To remove a ceramic coating, you’ll have to put in a lot of hard work or pay someone to do it for you. In the information below, we’ll explain a few of the reasons why you might want to remove a ceramic coating, along with the three most popular methods for accomplishing this difficult task.

Reasons to Remove a Ceramic Coating

Most people purchase a nano ceramic coating product because they are looking for an affordable, low-maintenance product to keep their car shiny and protected from the elements. A product like Armor Shield IX is a semi-permanent layer of protection. This means that eventually, the coating will wear thin. 

It is a good idea to remove older coatings before applying a new coating, as they are designed to adhere to clear coats and not other layers of coating.

However, there are a few reasons why some consumers would consider removing the ceramic coating:

Body Work

The most popular reason for removing paint coatings is due to having bodywork completed. In most situations, this happens after a vehicle accident, where individual body parts are either replaced or fixed.

With this task, there are two different situations or variables to consider:

  • New body part installation: In this case, you’re not removing a coating – you’re simply repainting an individual body part. If the rest of the vehicle is coated with a ceramic product, you don’t need to remove the older layers and install a fresh coat. You can simply apply the ceramic coating after the paint and clear coat have fully cured (more than 30 days).
  • Repairing existing body panels: If the body is damaged and can be fixed without replacement, you’d follow the same step – prep the body panel by sanding to bare metal, prime, paint and clear coat to OEM factory standards, wait at least 30 days for the paint and clear coat, then apply a coating over that area.

Apply a New Ceramic Coating or Other Paint Protection Product

The second reason why a car owner would consider removing a coating is to apply a fresh coat of the same product or install a different paint protection product. Most manufacturers of coating products agree that after 2 to 3 years of daily exposure to the elements, car washes, and driving, the ceramic coating will begin to wear thin.

When this happens, it’s recommended to remove the old coating from the clear coat, start with new prep work (including paint correction if needed), then reapplying a new ceramic coating. 

New Paint Job

The final reason why you’d want to remove a ceramic coating is to repaint the entire vehicle. If this is the case, you don’t need to worry about damaging the clear coat, as you’ll be removing that as well.

Methods to Remove Ceramic Coatings

As the old saying goes, there are three ways to accomplish something; the right way, the wrong way, and my way. Truth be told, this sort of applies to the best practices for removing ceramic coatings. Let’s dive into a few of the most popular methods for accomplishing this detailed task.

Follow the Manufacturer’s Removal Process

When it comes to installing or removing any paint protection product, it is always best to consult with the professionals. In this case, if you’re happy with your ceramic coating product and want to reapply a new coat when the older one is starting to wear, it makes sense to contact the manufacturer of the product directly.

The product manufacturer should provide you with detailed steps on how to correctly remove the old product, and how to install a new coating. It’s in their best interest to help you.

Chemical Removal of Ceramic Coatings

While most high-quality ceramic coatings are highly resistant to chemicals, they are not chemical proof. Using certain chemical products is widely considered one of the most effective ways of removing these products.

Chemicals alkaline products are best for digging into the ceramic coating and removing it from the clear coat of the paint. The major drawback to this type of removal is that several of these chemicals can – and will impact the quality of the clear coat itself.  

If you’re going to attempt this process, without talking to the manufacturer of the new ceramic coating or the new product you’ll use, there are a few general steps you need to follow:

  • Always check to see how harmful the chemical will be on clear coats. Not doing this might result in damaging your paint to the point it needs to be resprayed.
  • Complete one small section to test the product. Before attempting to use the product on the entire vehicle, test it on one section first. This way damage will be reduced.
  • If in doubt, don’t do it. If you’re hesitant at all about using a chemical product, not recommended by the manufacturer of your new ceramic coating or paint protection product, don’t take the risk. There is other – safer option.

Claying for Removing Ceramic Coatings

The second method for removing ceramic coatings is using clay. This method involves using a clay bar with limited slippery stuff, which increases friction and may loosen up the adhesion of the coating to the clear coat. Clay is used as a prep for installing ceramic coatings as it is great for removing small debris that sticks on the paint surface.

The main disadvantage of this method is that it does not remove iron contamination, which is the microscopic materials that embed themselves on ceramic coatings and clear coats. This makes this method rather ineffective at removing the complete coating.

However, if you want to attempt it, there are a few tips on how to achieve the best success possible:

  • Start by using a traditional clay bar cleaning method: It’s always best to start by using a clay bar as it’s intended to be used. This means, using a lot of lubrication spray to keep the clay bar and the surface slippery so that all contaminants can be removed prior to attempting to penetrate the ceramic coating.
  • Use a left to right/side to side motion. This helps to create more of a consistent pattern that will slowly penetrate into the ceramic coating.
  • Use limited lubrication: Most clay bar kits come with a lubrication spray. However, you can make your own spray by using a good automotive shampoo with water, at a highly concentrated mix. You don’t want to scratch the surface, but you need to create some friction.

Polishing for Removing Ceramic Coatings

Universally recognized as the most effective and popular method for removing a ceramic coating, polishing is the way I’d go. While polishing a vehicle is also a recommended step for installation of a ceramic coating, this method is quite a bit more labor intensive. It’s also pretty specialized and requires some experience with polishing compound.

You see, in this method of removing nano coating from paint, you’ll progressively use different grades of cutting compound to remove the coating, without damaging the clear coat surface.

Here is how it’s generally done – and this video above is actually, one of the better ones I’ve seen to explain the delicate process.

Step 1 – Wash the Vehicle

The first thing you want to do is wash your vehicle. It’s always best to use the two-bucket method for washing – so if you’re not familiar with this process, read this article.

Step 2 – Keep the vehicle in a shaded or enclosed area for at least 2 hours

When you attempt to polish off a ceramic coating, you need to work on a cool surface. This begins by keeping the vehicle parked in the shade or in a garage for a minimum of two hours.

Step 3 – Prepare your supplies

As we indicated above, this is a multiple step and progressive process. You’ll want to start by collecting the following:

  • A high-grade or thicker polishing cutting compound
  • A medium-grade or thinner polishing cutting compound
  • A light-grade or thinnest polishing cutting compound (best to use the same manufacturer for all three products if possible).
  • Multiple hand polishing application pads
  • Some machine microfiber polishing pads and replacement sleeves (a minimum of 20)
  • An electric polisher
  • Microfiber towel or a few

Step 4 – Wet the vehicle and begin the polishing process

When using a cutting compound, especially a thicker grade, you should start with a wet surface on the car’s paint. This helps to reduce scratching or penetrating too deeply. With the initial cutting compound, it’s best to use a hand-held polishing pad or the electric polisher on a very slow setting, with constant pressure applied. 

You also want to use a left to right or top to the bottom pattern, to reduce more swirl marks. Rinse off the pad before it becomes ‘gummed up’ with the compound – and always replace if needed. Wash the vehicle off with fresh water before continuing.

Step 5 – Step Down with Cutting Compound Levels 

After the first application of the most aggressive cutting compound, you’ll want to step down to the medium grade cutting compound, and eventually to the lowest grade or finishing polish. The main problem with this method is that it’s very difficult to explain when you’re ‘done’.

However, when the ceramic coating is removed, the vehicle surface will be more ‘tacky’ or sticky as opposed to being smooth and slippery.

Wrapping it Up

Removing a ceramic coating is not as easy as prepping a vehicle to install the product itself. It is a rather labor-intensive process, that does require some fundamental understanding of paint, clear coats, and the products and methods used for removing coatings and other paint protection products.

This is the main reason why it’s a good idea to contact the ceramic coating manufacturer to determine what they recommend for removing their product. Some manufacturers make a specific formula to remove their coatings, without harming the clear coat of the paint too much. As with any DIY project, when in doubt, seek the input of an auto detailing professional or car care expert to guide you in the right direction.

If you enjoyed this article, then you'll love AvalonKing's automotive care products for Do-It-Yourselfers. We create "No B.S products" for an affordable price. And the best part, we treat our customers like family, so if you have any questions or just looking to chat about cars, we're only an email or call away. Check out our homepage here.

Tim Charlet

Tim is part of the AvalonKing team as a content editor. A 30-year automotive guru, marketing super freak, and accomplished publicist & columnist, “Timmah” is also a licensed NHRA Drag Racer, a proud dad of two, and loves a good Guinness two-part pour.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Brilliant article (as are most of them on this site!).

    So, from what I’ve read, after about 2 – 3 years of applying my Armor Shield IX coating, I should reapply a new coat? It sounds like I don’t need to remove the previous coat before applying a new coat… is that correct?

    Also, how will I generally know it’s time to reapply a new coat? I mean, some people will keep their cars in a covered garage in mild weather while others will have them outside 24/7 in really bad weather. How does a customer know to replace the coating sooner or later?

    Thanks!!!

    1. Hey Rob. Thanks for the feedback and positive comments. I work hard to make these educational and informative. So, let’s answer a few of your questions. First, yes, you can basically start with the initial prep process and reapply after a few years. When you clay bar (or use the clay mitt in our prep kit) you’ll remove most of the older coating after two or three years of continual outdoor use. With regards to how to know when it’s time, well, that’s harder to answer. If your car is frequently outdoors, I’d reapply after 3 years as a proactive measure.

  2. Avalon King, Thank you for Including our “Veteran Detail” YouTube Video in your web page. Removal of a Ceramic coating is a very time consuming process but all of that effort is worth it when you achieve a great result in the clarity to the paint. In our video above we are probably looking at around 4-6 hours of Wash, Clay, Compounding, Polishing, sealing and application of a good quality wax. The main thing to consider is to not go too aggressive with the compounding, its a fine balance between removing the coating and not removing too much clear coat. There should be no reason for people to fear the application process when installing a ceramic coating. The most difficult part is getting the vehicles paint to look the best its ever been before applying the coating. Equally if trying to remove a coating I always find it best practice to compound it off as there is less risk to damaging the paint. With Chemical removal you are always unsure as to how the chemical will react with the original paint/clear-coat.
    Great Article by the way . Regards (Paddy) Veteran Detail.

  3. Do you have to remove the coating after a few years to reapply?

    1. Heya Nate. Armor Shield IX doesn’t require removal before re-applying.

  4. Well, I was excited to now purchase Your product to Ceramic coat my Corvette until I read about how hard it is to remove it.
    I also was going to do my wife’s car but now I am a little nervous. Today I went out and bought everything needed to prep the Vette. Please try and help my calm my nerves.

    1. Heya. What I can say that should put you at ease is that around 99% of our customers that bought and applied Armor Shield IX pretty much did it perfectly and had no issues. In some cases, the issue was corrected by just re-coating and just in a very very small number of cases, the coating had to be buffed and re-applied to correct the issue. The biggest reason you may have to remove the coating is if you are unhappy with the paint condition below (this is the case usually when people coat, see how good the car can get and then have second thoughts on not perfecting the paint beforehand).

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These are our recommended quantities for the respective type of vehicle. The Volume Savings can be seen besides/below.

Type of Vehicle Recommended Quantity Volume Savings
motorcycle   Motorcycle 1 bottle*
small car   Small car 1 bottle*
sedan   Sedan 2 bottles* Save $35 (25%)
pick-up truck   Pick-up 2 bottles* Save $35 (25%)
jeep   Jeep 2 bottles* Save $35 (25%)
suv   SUV 3 bottles* Save $70 (33%)
van   VAN 3 bottles* Save $70 (33%)
boat   Boat 4 bottles+* Save $110 (39%)

*Please note that it may be a good idea getting an extra bottle, ensuring you don't run out when doing an application.

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