In a perfect world, every car on the road would be eternally pristine, as if it had just rolled-off the assembly line. Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world, and no amount of washing or waxing can protect an automobile from the scratches, chips, stains, and fading that come with vehicle ownership. Fortunately, the advent of modern ceramic coating products has given car owners a major weapons upgrade in the war against the elements and things like surface scratches, bird shit, acid rain, and much more.

A high-quality ceramic coating may not be the final say in paint protection, but it sure as hell is going to be better than anything south of bulletproof armor shielding, which last we check was both excruciatingly expensive and heavy as hell. So unless you are outfitting your Unimog with a $100,000 aero kit, chances are a ceramic coating is going to be your next best bet, and here’s why…

What in the hell is ceramic coating?

Difference between Ceramic Coated and Non-Coated surfaces.

Uncoated surface = dirt and pollutants can sit in paint pores.

Ceramic coated surface = Dirt and pollutants cannot attack paint.

Unlike traditional coatings, which are typically concocted from polymer resins, a ceramic coating is silicon dioxide or silica (SiO2) based. Commonly derived from quartz crystals and sand, silica creates an invisible, extremely resilient “nanotechnology coating” when combined with elements like titanium dioxide, polysilazane, triethanolamine, water, and various other ingredients. Once cured atop a hard surface, this viscous liquid forms a crystal-clear shell, a product that is referred to as a nano ceramic coating, or ceramic coating for short.

Why is ceramic coating used on cars?

Automakers use ceramic coatings due to its superior heat, abrasion, chemical, H20, and impact resistance, making it the ideal protective sealant for many car components. From a car’s wheel hubs and undercarriage, to its engine bay and interior, this transparent ceramic spray coating is virtually everywhere.

That said, automakers typically don’t apply a ceramic protective layer to a vehicle’s paint, leaving ample room for product specialists like AvalonKing to step forward. So strap-in, pour a drink, and cue the superhero music, because we’re about to get nerdy ya’ll…

What’s with all of the online hype about ceramic coatings?

Is ceramic coating snake oil?

As with any new product to hit the market, there’s a lot of hype out there about ceramic car coatings, and a quick search online reinforces this statement. Videos show people throwing mud on their truck’s hood, just to watch it sheet-off, leaving a near spotless paint coating in its wake. Dig a bit deeper, and even more brutal ceramic coating tests surface, some of which are hard to fathom.  

Naysayers are quick to comment too, either claiming that these videos have been staged, or that ceramic coatings are unlikely to work at all. Accompanying these skeptics are those who fear that applying a ceramic coating product will compromise their vehicle’s paint in some way, and that it is impossible to get 2 to 5 years worth of protection from a bottle that small. Don’t worry guys. It’s not the size. It’s how you use it.

In order to dispel these unfounded claims and unrealistic real world concerns, we have put together the following ceramic coating guide to both inform and inspire car owners. Nano ceramic coatings like Armor Shield IX aren’t some form of snake oil, or black magic in a bottle, we’ll leave that business to Ozzy Osbourne and his homemade hooch.

Most ceramic coatings are highly refined products that have been stringently lab tested and proven to work on most hard surfaces. The only catch is, there are a few things you need to understand before taking the plunge.

Know Your Ceramic Coating Options

Armor Shield ix in packaging with car. Ceramic coating about to be applied to car's paint surfaces.
A car eagerly awaits an Armor Shield IX ceramic coating, which will help give it a mirror-like shine, unrivaled scratch and swirl resistance, and water-repelling hydrophobic properties.

When broken down to its bare bones, you’ll find that there are but two common ceramic coating products: “Professionally Applied Products” and “DIY Consumer Kits.” While both approaches provide a protective layer of nano coating, they vary greatly in regard to both price and the amount of prep time involved. 

Despite their popularity in the professional car detailing sector, ceramic coating costs have just recently begun to reach a point where they are financially feasible on a DIY level. Just like there are varying quality levels of sushi (just say no to gas station sushi), not every ceramic coating is created equal.

Professional Grade Ceramic Coatings

Cost: $500 – $3,000

A pro ceramic coating product is an ultra high-end sealant that must be applied by highly skilled, certified professionals. This translates to the need for controlled environments, expensive equipment, and highly trained staff members, which in turn, translates to extremely high installation costs.

Although a $500 intro price for the application of the ceramic coating itself may seem tempting, the fact remains that most cars require quite a bit of prep work before they are ready to receive said coating. This means scrubbing down surfaces with a clay bar, a ton of isopropyl alcohol spraying and microfiber polishing, and hours/dollars burnt, as ceramic coating takes a back seat to surface prep. Don’t believe us? Ask any professional ceramic coating installer, and they’ll agree that prep time always adds the most zeros to a final bill. 

Speaking of time. On average, the installation of a pro ceramic coating takes around five days to complete. Naturally, this time frame can be reduced drastically if the car’s paintwork is in pristine condition, or if the vehicle in question is small of stature. Yet even then, chances are you are still going to have to cough-up a few grand for your professional ceramic coating install, and here’s why.

Let’s say a professionally installed ceramic coating package like Ceramic Pro Gold runs you upwards of $2,000 when installed by a licensed specialist. But halfway through the clay bar decontamination phase, the installer discovers that your entire rear quarter panel is oxidized to hell and back. This translates to a full paint correction procedure, which for the average car owner, is entirely too steep to justify, especially when combined with the initial two grand invested in surface prep and the ceramic coating itself.

Professional Ceramic Coating Costs

Ceramic Pro Prices

Opticoat Ceramic Coating Costs

DIY Ceramic Coating Kits

Cost: $20 – $150

Most people can’t afford a pricey pro ceramic coating, and instead have to opt for a product that is designed to appeal to the average DIY enthusiast. While a professional cleaning and install will almost always render the best results, it is hard to ignore the value associated with applying a ceramic coat on one’s own.

The benefits of opting for a DIY ceramic coating kit go well beyond value too. These specially formulated chemical blends are far less finicky than professional-grade car coatings, therefore making them an ideal option for the common car owner. However, it is important to note that quality, durability, and longevity all correlate to the hardness grade associated with the ceramic product being used, so opting for a ceramic coating with a 9H hardness rating will always yield the best long term results. 

Interestingly enough, the biggest complaint people have about a DIY ceramic coating isn’t so much the product itself, but the poor customer support and vague installation instructions that go along with it. In contrast, the highest rated consumer-grade ceramic coating on the market, AvalonKing’s Armor Shield IX, comes with detailed instructions, superior customer service, easy-to-understand ordering recommendations, and an unbeatable money-back guarantee. AvalonKing has even gone as far as publishing a set of guidelines for properly preparing a car’s paintwork for ceramic coating, along with various application tips and tricks, and maintenance and after-care advice.

Spray Coating For Cars Repels Water And Dirt — Here's How

Perhaps the most notable ceramic coating benefit, is its water displacing/hydrophobic capabilities. As this video, and numerous others illustrate, water, and all of the dirt, grime, and gunk that is encapsulated within it, quickly bead-up and roll off. Thus leaving the ceramic coated side of the car almost completely devoid of liquid.

Why Not Wax?

While wax may add a lustrous level of shine to a car’s paintwork, it falls short in both staying hard for prolonged periods of time. Yes, we know it may sound like an erectile dysfunction infomercial, but natural carnauba, spray waxes, and ceramic waxes only for a while before they go limp. Simply put, the protective layer they provide is not nearly as permanent as a true ceramic coating, and will not protect surfaces from things like scratches and falcon feces.   

While the up-front cost of a DIY ceramic coating may be more expensive than the average car wax, the superior levels of protection it offers are clear. Factor in the amount of time and money spent on stripping and reapplying car wax every month, and a ceramic coating’s benefits become even more obvious.

Further Reading:

How it Works

FAQ

Common Ceramic Coating Myths

"Myths" and "Facts" direction signs.

Myth #1: A Ceramic Coat Will Make a Car Bulletproof

The varying levels of hardness associated with automotive ceramic coating products are all registered on a numbered scale, just like our neighbor’s parole officer visitation days. While people are quick to associate these numbers with the MOHS (mineral hardness scale), all ceramic car coating products are tested on the common pencil hardness scale. Therefore, a 9H ceramic coat rating does not correlate to nearly diamond level hardness levels, but the amount of pressure the coating can withstand before a mark or line can be seen.

While this may do jack-shit to protect your car’s hood from that boulder that just fell out of the bed of the dump truck in front of you, it can help in other areas. 9H hardness levels do wonders for preventing small scratches, scuffs, swirl marks, and road debris from cutting into, or embedding into clear coat. 

Myth #2: A Ceramic Nano Coating Doesn’t Need Maintenance

Despite having superior hardness and water repelling properties, the average ceramic paint coating still needs to be cleaned regularly. So while you may not be able to prevent road grime, pollen, avian fecal matter, and various other contaminants from caking onto your car, at least there is a way to make clean-up far less frequent and labor-intensive.

Myth #3: A Ceramic Paint Coating is Permanent

Although a ceramic coating forms a semi-permanent bond with a vehicle’s paintwork, glass, plastic, or clear coat, this sacrificial layer is by no means an indestructible coat of armor. Over time, the molecular structure of even the hardest 9H-rated ceramic coating will begin to deteriorate, at which point it is best to strip the coat entirely, and reapply a fresh layer. That said, a well-made ceramic coating product typically provides 2 years worth of protection at the bare minimum, especially when properly applied and cared for by the consumer.

Myth #4: Ceramic Coating is Easy to Apply

While DIY ceramic coating kits feature an application process that is relatively easy, the amount of prep time required prior to installation is quite time consuming. Surface blemishes, clear coat oxidation, and paint correction must all be attended to ahead of applying a ceramic coating. Remember, once cured, a genuine ceramic coating product will become semi-permanent, so it is best to do your prep work properly the first time to avoid any regrets down the line. Just like marriage prenups…

Myth #5: Ceramic Coatings Hide Imperfections

While ceramic coatings will give a much smoother look to surfaces, they do little to hide things like faded paint, swirl marks, scratches, obscenities scribbled in permanent marker, or any other notable blemish. Regardless as to whether it is attractive or not, what you see on your car’s surface gets locked into place once a ceramic coating cures, therefore making said imperfection all the more noticeable. So be sure to make sure that surface is looking exactly the way you want it to look before locking it semi-permanently in place with a ceramic coating.

Quick Nerd Note: Perhaps the most notable nano ceramic coating benefit, is its water displacing/hydrophobic capabilities. As numerous videos have illustrated in the past, water, and all of the dirt, grime, and mud that come with it bead-up and roll off, leaving the car’s paint almost completely devoid of liquid. So beware of “ceramic” spray-on products that depend heavily on polymers to replicate hydrophobic attributes, for they are notorious for having poor durability and piss-poor longevity.

Frequently Asked Questions and Ceramic Coating FAQs

Warning about spray-on ceramic products.

"Remember, not all ceramic coatings are created equal, especially when it comes to their hydrophobic coating water displacement capabilities. Many ceramic spray products my boost an easy spray-on application process and superior water disbursement properties, but they often rely heavily upon polymers, and therefore do not last very long."

1. How long does ceramic coating last when properly applied to a vehicle’s paintwork?

Although a high-quality DIY ceramic coating like Armor Shield IX is guaranteed to provide protection for 2 years, there have been many reports of it lasting as long as 5 years. In order to achieve this level of extended longevity, the following three factors must first be present.

Proper Prep Work and Application. If a ceramic coating is applied to a clean vehicle, it will always bond better, penetrate imperfections and porous areas properly, and cure harder. 

Formula Quality. Not all ceramic coatings are created equal. Watered-down versions don’t adhere as well or last as long as high-end 9H formulas. A high-quality ceramic coating should always go on smoothly without appearing too watery, nor too gooey.

SiO2 Percentage. A good bottle of ceramic coating will contain at least 80% silica dioxide (SiO2). The stronger the SiO2 dosage, the harder the ceramic coating will cure, which in turn helps boost durability. 

2. How do you remove ceramic coating from a car?

Removing ceramic coating is rarely as easy as its application, but with the proper tools and a cold six pack, this task can be accomplished in anyone’s garage on a Sunday. But fair warning friends. While a chemical stripper specifically designed for ceramic coating removal may appear to be the easiest route, the acidic nature of these chemicals can cause damage to softer surfaces like tires and door moldings, so proceed with caution.

The best approach is to wait until your car’s ceramic coating is on its last leg, and use a clay bar or clay mitt to scrape away the thin layer residing on the surface. You can also go the paint correction route, and put an approved polishing compound and a power buffer tool to work. Just don’t get carried away, because you might cut into your car’s clear coat.

3. How do you maintain a ceramic coating?

The best way to keep a ceramic coated vehicle looking sharp is to regularly hand wash the entire vehicle with water and a pH neutral car shampoo. Make sure that your shampoo does not contain any waxes or sealants either, and use the two-bucket hand washing technique every other week.

Applying a high-quality SiO2 ceramic boost spray to your freshly washed machine every other month will go a long way to boosting the longevity of that ceramic coating as well. This slick, stackable layer rests on top of the existing ceramic coating, and negates the need for removal. Going this route not only significantly extends the life of a DIY ceramic coating, but it also adds additional depth and shine to the paint below.

4. What is ceramic coating made of?

In order for ceramic coating to form a layer of protection on a surface, it must contain the appropriate ingredients in carefully measured amounts. Once this balance has been achieved, the coating can then penetrate all of the microscopic imperfections lurking beneath the surface.

The main ingredient in any true ceramic coating is silica dioxide or SiO2, which as we mentioned earlier, should make-up at least 80% of the formula. However, there is a point where too much SiO2 will turn the ceramic coating viscous, thus making it difficult to apply. A good rule of thumb is to avoid products boasting an SiO2 rating of 85% or above. Other ingredients commonly found in ceramic coatings include titanium dioxide (nano TiO2), activated fluorine, silicon brightening particles, polysilazane, triethanolamine, and water.

5. How many layers of ceramic coating does a car need?

Nano ceramic coatings don’t layer well, so properly applying a ceramic coating to a car’s finish the first time should be all that is needed. The only reason why people tend to coat a vehicle twice, is to guarantee that no areas were missed during the first application.

6. Can you apply wax over a ceramic coating?

Applying car wax to a fresh ceramic coating is like putting vinyl wrap over a $20,000 paint job. It might help protect the coating itself, but it will also negate the hydrophobic properties that make ceramic coating so special. In turn, this will make the vehicle a magnet for all of the contaminants you wish to avoid, so skip the wax, and opt for a ceramic booster instead.

Parting Shots

Buffing a car headlamp.

A ceramic paint coating not only offers rock-hard paint protection, but hydrophobic/water-repellent properties as well. This transparent layer of armor resists UV rays, repels road grime, and prevents scratches, chemicals, extreme heat, and swirl marks from eating into your car’s paintwork. When properly applied and cared for, this semi-permanent ceramic shield will last for years, requiring little more than a quick rinse when dirtied. 

If money is of no concern, and protecting your show machine at all costs is the objective, having a professionally installed ceramic car coating applied to your vehicle is the best option. The peace of mind associated with this service, along with the meticulous attention to detail that a trained ceramic coating installation professional provides, offers more benefits than we can mention.

But for most of us, coughing-up a few grand for the installation of a ceramic coating for our daily beater is completely out of the question, leaving the DIY ceramic coating kit as the next best option. And while it may take a bit of elbow grease, and some TLC once installed, the perks to DIY coating a car far outweigh its initial cost and required care. 

Still not sure whether ceramic coating is right for your ride? AvalonKing’s Armor Shield IX ceramic coating DIY kit currently has a 4.8/5 positive rating score after 1,800+ reviews, and offers a 2-year guarantee with every kit, all for just $69.99

Shining car that has had ceramic coating applied to bodywork to protect paint.

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.