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 car ownership. Fortunately, the advent of modern ceramic coating products has given car owners a major weapons upgrade in the war against the elements and surface scratches.

What is ceramic coating?

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

Why is ceramic coating used on cars?

Automakers use nano ceramic coating for its superior heat, abrasion, chemical, H20, and impact resistance, making it the ideal protective sealant for almost any car component. 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.

A ceramic paint coating not only offers rock-hard paint protection, but a 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. 

Is ceramic coating snake oil?

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

As with any new product to hit the market, there’s a lot of hype out there about ceramic car coating, 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 only compromise their vehicle’s paint in some way, and that it is impossible to get 2-5 years worth of protection from a bottle that small. 

In order to dispel these unfounded claims and real world concerns, we have put together the following ceramic coating guide in order to both inform and inspire car owners. Nano ceramic coating isn’t snake oil or some form of black magic in a bottle. It’s a highly refined product that has been tested and proven to work on any vehicle. There are just a few things you need to understand before deciding whether a ceramic coating is the right protection for your ride.

Know Your Ceramic Coating Options 

Despite their popularity in the professional car detailing sector, ceramic coating costs are just now beginning to reach a point where they are financially feasible on a DIY level. As you saw in the intro, not every ceramic coating is created equal, and the same goes for these paint protection products.

The two most common car ceramic coating products are “Professionally Applied Products” and “DIY Consumer Kits.” While both approaches provide a vehicle’s paintwork with a protective layer of nano coating, they vary greatly in regard to both price and the amount of prep time involved. 

Professional Grade Ceramic Coating

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, all operated by highly trained staff members, which in turn translates to extremely high margins.

Although a $500 intro price for just the application of the ceramic coating itself may seem tempting, the fact remains that most cars require quite a bit of prep work via a clay bar, followed by a lot of microfiber clear coat polishing. Being that time is money, this surface prep stage often adds a lot of zeros to the final bill. 

On average, the installation of a pro ceramic coating takes up to five days to complete. Naturally, this time frame can be reduced drastically if the car’s paintwork is in excellent condition, and if the vehicle in question is small in staure. Even then, chances are you still going to be coughing-up a couple grand for this professional grade ceramic coating install. For instance, a pro ceramic coating package such as Ceramic Pro Gold, runs upward of $2,000 when installed by a licensed specialist. For the average car owner, the cost associated with a pro ceramic coating is too steep to justify, leaving them with the option of DIY coating, and little else.

Professional Ceramic Coating Costs Ceramic Pro Prices Opticoat Ceramic Coating Costs

Ceramic Coating on ferrari
A Ferrari receives a professional ceramic coating to achieve a mirror-like shine, unrivaled scratch and swirl resistance, and water-repelling hydrophobic properties.

DIY Ceramic Coating Consumer Kits

Cost: $20 -- $150

Most people can’t afford a pricey pro ceramic coating, and instead have to opt for a car ceramic coating that is designed for 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 yourself.

The benefits of going with 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 that 9H 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, 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 nano ceramic coating feature, is its water displacing/hydrophobic capabilities. As this video and numerous others illustrate, water, and all of the dirt, grime, and gunk that come with it, quickly bead-up and roll off, 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 protection and longevity. Natural carnauba, spray waxes, and ceramic wax may work for a while, but the protective layer they create is not nearly as permanent as a true ceramic coating.  

While the up-front cost of a DIY ceramic nano 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

Difference between Ceramic Coated and Non-Coated surfaces

What is a ceramic coating?  The image above illustrates how a nano-ceramic coating penetrates paintwork, turning a previously unprotected paint job into a rock-hard surface.

Common Ceramic Coating Myths

5 Myths About Ceramic Coating

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

The varying levels of hardness associated with automotive ceramic coating products are registered on a numbered scale. People are quick to associate these numbers with the MOHS mineral hardness scale, when in fact 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 little to protect your car’s hood from that rock that just fell out of the dump truck in front of you, it can help reduce the amount of small scratches, scuffs, swirl marks, and road debris embedded in your clear coat. 

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

Despite their 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, 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 nano ceramic coating forms a semi-permanent bond with a vehicle’s paintwork, glass, plastic, and 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, prior to applying a fresh layer of nano coating. That said, a well-made ceramic coating product typically provides 2-3 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 true ceramic coating will become semi-permanent, so it is best to do your prep work properly to avoid any regrets down the line.

Myth #5: Ceramic Coatings Hide Imperfections and Offer Superior Shine

Unlike waxes and polishes, nano ceramic car coatings don’t specialize in providing a super shiny, gloss-like finish. While they will give a much smoother look to a car’s surfaces, ceramic coatings do little to hide things like faded paint, swirl marks, scratches, 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.

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car paint nano coating water repellent test

Perhaps the most notable nano ceramic coating benefit, is its water displacing/hydrophobic capabilities. As this video and numerous others illustrate, 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. Beware of “ceramic” spray-on products that depend heavily on polymers to replicate hydrophobic attributes, for they are notorious for having poor durability and do not last long.

Frequently Asked Questions/Ceramic Coating FAQs

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 will provide protection for at least 2-3 years, there have been reports of it lasting as long as 5. In order to achieve this level of extended ceramic coating 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 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 be sticky, yet never gooey, and it should always go on smoothly without appearing watery.

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 may not be as easy as its application, but it can still be done with the proper tools and a little time. While using a chemical stripper specifically designed for ceramic coating removal may be the quickest route, the acidic nature of these chemicals can cause damage to softer surfaces like tires and door moldings.

The best approach is to wait until your car’s ceramic coating is on its last leg, and use a clay bar to scrape away the thin layer residing on the surface. You can also go the paint correction route, and put an approved polishing compound to work. Just don’t get carried away and 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 ride every two months will go a long way as well. This slick layer rests on top of the existing ceramic coating, and can be layered, thus negating the need for removal. Going this route significantly extends the life of a DIY nano coated vehicle’s ceramic coating, and 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 right 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% and 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 do not layer well, so properly applying a ceramic coating to a car’s finish the first time should be all that is needed. Just be sure that all surfaces are evenly covered, and add a layer of SiO2 ceramic boost spray every other month for increased longevity.

6. Can you apply wax over a ceramic coating?

Applying car wax to a 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, thus making your car a magnet for all of those contaminants you wish to avoid.

limitations of ceramic coating on cars
When you apply a layer of nano ceramic coating to a vehicle’s paintwork you give your car an additional layer of skin. A really, REALLY tough layer of skin. However, even the best ceramic coating can’t make a car indestructible.

Wrapping It Up

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 makes going this route the obvious choice.

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

Ceramic Coating Black Glass
“Look at this thing, it’s like black glass” -- Moe, Happy Armor Shield IX Customer

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