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Is Prepping for DIY Ceramic Coating That Important?

Is Prepping for DIY Ceramic Coating That Important?

Prep work is what makes the dream work. Marinated meat makes the BBQ taste amazing when it’s cooked low and slow. A properly warmed up race car reduces the potential of major mechanical failures and enhances performance for chubby-producing laps. And headed into a concert properly lubricated just makes the show that much better.

However, failure to prep your vehicle before applying a DIY ceramic coating will – not maybe, or likely, or could possibly – it WILL produce negative results. So, in today’s AvalonKing blog, we’re going to dive into the world of prepping for applying our DIY ceramic coating – Armor Shield IX.

We’ll provide you with all the steps you need to follow in order to ensure your application is easy, effective, and the finished product is of superior quality you expect from The King.

What Happens if You Don’t Prep for Ceramic Coating?

One fact that simply can’t be argued is that the better the prep – the higher quality results follow. For ceramic coatings, the prep process involves washing the car correctly to removing excessive chemicals, wax, and debris from the surface, completing some paint correction (in most cases) and finally, removing all waxes or polishes with an IPA spray and microfiber cloth.

That really doesn’t seem that difficult – does it?

Well, you’d be shocked at how many folks simply think that’s too much work for them to handle. And that’s cool – some folks just put gas and go and never change their engine oil either. However, my dad always told me – if you’re going to do a job – do it right the first time.

Prepping for a ceramic coating MUST be completed for the coating to correctly infuse onto the porous surface of choice. This includes clear coated metals, plastic materials, vinyl wraps, PPF, glass, even polycarbonate.

Failure to do so will result in the coating having difficulty bonding to the surface. The higher the quality of that nano-technological bond – the longer it will continue to adhere. This results in longevity, a more enhanced shine, and improved hydrophobic properties. However, if there are contaminants or damage to the surface where the coating will bond, there will be some negative side-effects.

Reduce Luster

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Many car owners apply DIY coatings like Armor Shield IX because once it cures, it enhances the shine of the paint underneath. But, if the surface is contaminated, the bond will not be as strong or deep. That brilliant shine produced by DIY ceramic coatings is enhanced because the cured surface is exceptionally flat.

It’s also comprised mainly of quartz (SiO2) which is basically microscopic glass. This will amplify the shine underneath. However, if there are contaminants or scratches on that surface, it will have a reverse effect.

Reduced Hydrophobic Properties

This is typically the result of the coating not lasting as long vs the initial coating. Once the coating has bonded onto the surface, it’s going to leave a flat surface on top – which will produce the hydrophobic effects ceramic coatings are known to produce. However, if the bond is weak, the coating will wear thin sooner – which eventually reduces the flatness of the coated surface and thus – the water, dust, and debris preventative properties.

They Wear Quickly  

If you fail to prep the surface correctly, your efforts of applying the ceramic coating are going to be wasted. It’s simple – but we need to reinforce this fact. Like in Drag Racing – No Prep usually leads to more potential of wadding up your shit. With ceramic coatings, reduced prep work or higher contaminant levels under the coating will accelerate the wear process. It can also lead to oxidation – which may develop rust.

Understanding the Process for Ceramic Coating Preparation

So, now that we’ve clarified why it’s important to prep your ride correctly before spending hours applying the coating yourself, let’s break down the process.

Before we sold our first bottle of Armor Shield IX, we spent years researching the right ingredients at the correct percentages to have the best results for DIY car enthusiasts. During the formulation process, we determined that the best way to attain optimum performance for our product is, to begin with, a surface that is perfectly smooth, clean, and stripped of any chemicals or contaminants.

To accomplish this, we recommended a four-section, 12-step process.

Noted below are the supplies we recommend collecting before planning out your prep process. To complete it correctly, the average car will take a few hours from start to finish. However, if your car has a lot of fine scratches (like swirl marks or spider webbing) you should complete paint correction – which can take a few days.

Two wash buckets: We recommend the two-bucket wash method, so make sure you have (2) clean wash buckets ready. Stay away from the automated car wash if you’re serious about positive results. 

Automotive / car wash soap: To wash the car, you’ll want to purchase a high-quality automotive-specific basic shampoo. Don’t use any product with additional waxes or polishes, as this is used to wash your paint at a ratio of 1 oz per 4 gallons of water. It can also be used as your super-slick clay-bar lubricant in the third phase of prep.

A microfiber wash mitt: You should look for an extra-plush microfiber that will drench your car paint with thick foaming suds, which will reduce scratches or swirl marks. 

Clay mitt: This is a newer product that simplifies the process of clay-bar treatment. In fact, we’ve got in our recently released Armor Shield IX prep kit.

Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) Panel Wipe: The final step involved in the ceramic coating prep work is spraying an isopropyl alcohol solution on each panel and wiping clean.

Multiple microfiber towels: You’ll need several microfiber towels to dry, polish, and wipe off the IPA. Always use fresh and clean microfiber towels with each step to avoid contamination. You also don’t want to have any water spots before you apply the good stuff. 

Non-Wax Polishing Compound: After the washing and clay bar phases, you’ll want to polish the surface with a non-wax polishing compound. Always use high-quality car care products. 

Polish Wheel & Microfiber Pads: To reduce the potential of swirl marks and scratches, use a variable-speed polish wheel and multiple microfiber polishing pads. We’ll touch more on this in the polishing section below.  

Part One – Washing

The first section in the ceramic coating prep is washing the car. Here are the four steps for correctly washing the vehicle.  

Step 1 – Pre-Wash the Car

The pre-wash helps loosen dirt, debris, and other contaminants that need to be removed from the surface of any materials you intend on coating. To accomplish this, spray the entire car with a high-pressure hose or use a soap cannon.

Step 2 – Prepare the Wash Buckets

Using the (2) bucket method, you’ll prepare two individual buckets. One of them with fresh water (used to clean the dirty wash mitt after use) the other with approximately 1 oz (30ml) of high-quality concentrated car shampoo for 2-4 gallons (7L) of water. This will produce soapy suds that will help penetrate and remove debris from the car paint.

Step 3 – Wash the Car

Make sure to soak the wash mitt in the shampoo solution, wash each section of the vehicle by starting on the top and progressing to the bottom. Work in overlapping lines from side to side and avoid washing in circles to reduce swirl marks.

Step 4 – Rinse Each Section Upon Completion

One of the biggest contributing factors to scratches occurs when people wash a car that is not properly ‘lubricated’ with water or suds. By rinsing each section as you wish, you’ll be sure to keep the car wet as you go – reducing the potential for damage – which can significantly reduce the effectiveness of your ceramic coating. When you’ve completed all washing, completely rinse the entire car one final time.

Part Two – Clay Bar Treatment

Don’t have a beer after washing the car – move directly to the next part, which is clay bar or clay mitt treatment. For this section, you’ll want to use your clay bar or clay bar mitt (that we include in our ceramic coating preparation kit) and make a clay lube solution to improve the removal of contaminants and old car wax.

Step 5 – Prep the Clay Bar Lube 

To make a clay bar lube solution, in a clean bucket, use approximately 1-2 oz (60ml) (of the same car shampoo you used earlier) for 1 gallon (3.5L) of water. The lube should be thicker than the soap so that it provides a smooth application with the clay bar or clay mitt.

Step 6 – Soak the Clay Mitt in the Lubrication Solution

By using a clay mitt, you’ll be able to keep more of the lubrication solution on the mitt and improve your removal of microscopic particles that are hard to debris through traditional clay bar use.

Step 7 – Glide the Clay Bar or Mitt in Sections

When working with the clay mitt, make sure to glide it back and forward over the surface in straight lines. Use gentle pressure until the vehicle surface feels smooth to the touch. Don’t be fooled by the lubrication, so use some rinse water to clean the surface before proceeding.

Step 8 – Rinse, Buff & Dry

After you’ve completed clay bar treatment for the entire vehicle, you’ll need to completely rinse, buff, and dry the vehicle using a microfiber towel. Again, don’t buff the vehicle in circles, go side-to-side to avoid swirl marks. If the microfiber towel is getting wet, use another.

Part Three – Polishing or Paint Correction

This is the ‘depending on your paint condition’ part of prep work that we simply can’t 100% predict. If your paint has some noticeable swirl marks or other signs of paint distress, you’ll want to read our article on how to complete DIY paint correction – which can be accessed by clicking this link.

If you need to polish or complete mild paint correction, these two steps should be considered ‘guidelines’ – not 100% accurate steps. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended process for polishing.

Step 9 – Apply Non-Wax Polishing Compound

To polish your vehicle surface, we recommend using a non-wax polishing compound. You should apply it in very thin layers, and as with each of the steps indicated above, in small sections at a time. It is advised to prime the polishing pad with a small amount of the polishing compound, then apply the body panels.

Step 10 – Use a Polishing Machine Until Perfectly Smooth

If you’re new to polishing or would like to review a refresher – watch this video.

Part Four – The Final Wipe Down – Isopropyl Alcohol Solution 

The final step in the ceramic coating prep work project is to spray an IPA or Isopropyl Alcohol solution, which provides a final removal of any contaminants on the paint.

Step 11 – Spray the Prep Solution

Depending on the manufacturer of your ceramic coating, it’s a good idea to follow their specific recommendation for the final prep solution. Most of the time, it’s comprised of Isopropyl Alcohol while others use a ‘cut’ blend of IPA and water. The key is to use a fine mist spray, so it will evenly coat the body panel.

Step 12 – Wipe the Solution Clean

The final step in the ceramic coating prep work process is to wipe the car clean with multiple microfiber towels. You should always replace any soaked microfiber towels with dry ones, as you want to reduce any streaking. Also, make sure to wipe off with a clean microfiber towel in straight lines.

Wrapping it Up

Anytime you’re going to spend money on improving your vehicle, it just makes sense to do the job right. When you add an air intake, improving the flow of your exhaust and tuning the fuel curve should quickly follow. Changing suspension set-up? Matching that with new wheels and tires and brakes to optimize performance again makes sense.

If you want to protect your vehicle from exposure from UV rays, bird crap, and more, and want to get the optimal performance, simply follow the recommended prep work before attempting to apply. We offer an awesome DIY prep kit, that will be available here on our website.  

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 2 Comments

  1. Tim, all great advice.
    What is your reccomendation for breaking up this work into multiple days, where the car being worked on is your daily, and you do not own a garage. I am worried that i wont be able to get enough done in one day and get the coating on.
    I am planning a 2-3 stage paint correction before, and perfecting the paint before im ready to apply ceramic coat.

    1. Hey John:
      Thanks for the question. If you’re going to go through a 2 to 3 stage paint correction, then that’s OK to do over multiple days. Once that’s done, you can move forward to the actual application process. However, right before you apply it (which should take a few hours to complete), just wipe down the body and other parts you want to coat with IPA and microfiber. This needs to be done before you apply it. Also, make sure NOT to do this in direct sunlight, as it will make it more difficult to apply. You can also apply the coating in sections if you’re worried about time restrictions. Start with the hood and roof, then complete the right side, then the left side if you need to. Just make sure to set enough time to completely wipe down with IPA, then apply and let dry.

      Let me know if you have any other questions and we’ll help ya.

      Tim Charlet

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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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