When you invest money or blood, sweat, and tears into doing something, you want to protect it – right? While there has been a growing trend in making things to use and abuse, or disposable, the automobile isn’t one of those commodities. We love our cars, so when we spend hours prepping and installing a ceramic coating, it’s natural for us to seek out the best tips for maintaining them.
Although DIY nano-ceramic coatings are exceptionally durable products that can protect a vehicle surface for up to 5 years, reduce swirl marks, and trips to car washes, they are not bulletproof. In fact, prolonged exposure to the elements including UV rays, acid rain (yes – it’s a real thing), bird crap, and bug guts, can accelerate the wear and tear of coatings.
The simple truth is that maintaining a ceramic coated car is important; not only to help extend the life of your paint but for ceramic pro products with warranties – it can make or break your guarantee. So, let’s examine why maintaining the protective layer produced by car ceramic coating is important.
In today’s AvalonKing blog, we’ll dive into explaining the ins and outs of ceramic coating maintenance. We will also explain what happens when you don’t wash your car as recommended and introduce a few of the myths associated with car coating care.
Importance of Maintaining a Ceramic Coating
The application of ceramic coated cars forms a semi-permanent sealant bond that adheres to any porous surface. This means you can apply it to clear coating, headlights, windshields, plastic or polycarbonate materials and more. As its bonds, it creates an exceptionally flat protective layer, which not only hardens to protect what’s underneath but also resists the build-up of contaminants or debris.
However, if you assume that the coating is going to self-clean, you’re quite mistaken. While it’s true that a ceramic coating does contain some great self-cleaning attributes, it’s not 100% perfect. In fact, one of the leading causes of premature degradation of coatings is a build-up of acids like those found in road grime, salts, bug guts, bird crap, and more.
What Removes Ceramic Coating?
There are several contaminants that are the nemesis of ceramic coatings. But arguably on top of the list is that old enemy the sun. UV rays can cause havoc on paint and other vehicle surfaces that are not protected. But it would be asinine to assume that the coatings that protect the items below would be protected from those same harmful rays.
Exposure to UV Rays
Constant exposure to direct sunlight is arguably the leading cause of premature wear and tear of a ceramic coating, paint protection film, car wax, and paint sealants. This situation can accelerate when you have dark or bright colored paints, which naturally soak up UV light.
If you have a daily driver that is frequently parked outside, it is best to invest in a car cover, as that will help block the sun on days when the vehicle is not in use. It’s also a good idea to be proactive about replacing the ceramic coating after about 2 ½ years, to ensure you have maximum protection.
Removing and reapplying Armor Shield IX is rather simple – especially if the coating is exposed to the elements for often than not.
Exposure to Dirt and Debris
Road dirt and debris can also cause a DIY nanocoating to wear down sooner than it should. Dirt contains a lot of stuff that can eat away slowly, especially if it’s given an opportunity to build up. Some road grime contains contaminants from the road itself – like tar, which is used to bond asphalt. Tar contains harsh chemicals and acids, which we all know is not a friend to anything automotive.
Road debris such as salts used for de-icing or bug guts and bird droppings contain acids. And acids, as we know, are designed to accelerate corrosion. Again, while the ceramic coating is very hard, it is still prone to be damaged due to excessive exposure to dirt and debris.
While it will take some time to show noticeable diminishing results, constant exposure without routine maintenance can prematurely wear the coating, increase water spots, and reduce the self-cleaning attributes of a ceramic coated surface.
What Happens to Ceramic Coating If You Don’t Maintain It?
If you spend the hours in prep work and time to apply a DIY ceramic coating yourself, just skip this section. You’re not the intended audience here, as you likely take a lot of pride in your ride and are going to wash and detail your car, truck, or SUV every few weeks like recommended.
However, if you’re just not 100% sold on a ceramic coating or are looking for a no-frills product that you can slap on and just drive without any maintenance, there are some things you should be aware of.
Loss of Shine
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 coating is neglected, this attribute is one of the first to go away. The shine 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, but when it starts to breakdown, it will reduce its luster-producing effects.
Reduced Hydrophobic Effect
One of the best attributes of a ceramic coating is improved hydrophobic properties. Like crazy improved! Mud, water, dirt, dust, and other debris literally slide off the slippery surface. But, when it does stick, it can build-up quickly – and slowly eat away at the coating. When the coating begins to breakdown, the hydrophobic properties will gradually reduce.
It’s because surface energy is reduced. For those not aware, surface energy is defined by how liquid reacts when it touches a surface. In most cases, enhanced surface energy is caused by imperfections on a material. It basically helps the water ‘grab’ to the surface. The ceramic coating is incredibly flat, so water and other debris can’t grasp – and simply slide off. However, the more crap that is on top of the coating, the easier it is for other stuff to adhere.
They Eventually Wear Thin
If you’re hellbent on applying a ceramic coating, and never washing the vehicle again, eventually, it will wear to the point of irrelevance. The good news is that simply washing the vehicle by using the two-bucket method, you can stay off most of these early warning signs and get the best bang out of your DIY buck.
How to Maintain a Ceramic Coating
So, after reading the information above, you’re probably hoping that routine maintenance for a ceramic coating does not involve hours of detailing or specialty products. Well, that all depends on the coating you choose. If you have a professional detailer apply a ceramic pro-grade product, it’s quite possible that you’ll receive a guarantee for expected longevity.
The problem is, for that guarantee to be valid, you’ll have to agree to many terms – including having the detailer complete ‘bi-annual’ or ‘every two months’ cleaning. In most cases, they’ll use a special spray cleaner that they claim will extend the life of the ceramic coating.
However, a DIY ceramic coating like Armor Shield IX doesn’t require special sprays. I basically break down to washing your car as recommended every few weeks.
Here are four easy steps that you should follow to extend the lifespan of your ceramic coating.
Every Two Weeks – Wash the Car
We recommend washing your vehicle every other week – regardless if you have a garage queen or daily driver. Doing so will help to avoid the excessive build-up of contaminants. This should be done by completing the two-bucket car wash method. Watch the video below to explain how this is completed.
*WARNING -- It’s not recommended to take your vehicle to an automatic car wash. If this is your only option -- make sure it’s a touchless wash, and make sure you take time to dry the vehicle with a microfiber towel (or several).
Wash the Car in Low Light Hours
We talked about this earlier – but the sworn enemy of anything automotive is direct sunlight. It creates heat, which can accelerate oxidation when it’s mixed with oxygen and bare metal. But, for car washing, it helps to heat the surface, dry the soap, and lead to scratching. While the ceramic coating will help reducing scratching, it’s not scratch proof.
To ensure you get the best results from your hard work of washing the vehicle, make sure you wash the car in your garage, shop, in the shade, our outside during early morning or late afternoon hours. The key is to wash it when the sun will be at its lowest levels. This will also help to avoid water spots – doesn’t suck.
The Two-Bucket Method is Your Friend
In the section above, we mentioned using the two-bucket method. Hopefully, you watched the video, so I really don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining it here. The main thing to remember is to use separate buckets and supplies for washing your wheels vs the rest of your car.
Here is why this is crucial for protecting your ceramic coating.
Brake dust is typically the leading contaminant that builds-up on wheels – right? What are brake pads and rotors made from? If you answered tiny particles of metal shavings – you’d be correct. These metal shavings will embed in your wash mitt or sponge. If you use the same supplies – even the bucket, those shavings will scratch your freshly coated vehicle.
So – always make sure to protect your ceramic coating by NOT using the same materials that you wash wheels and tires.
Always Use Automotive Soaps
Automotive shampoos and soaps do not contain harsh abrasives, chemical agents or other contaminants. These are all highly toxic materials that can damage ceramic coatings. You don’t need to use any products with added wax or polish – just straight, good suds producing car shampoo.
When you wash (with the two-bucket method) always wash from top to bottom and rinse each section as you finish (like that two-bucket video showed you).
What are the Longest Lasting Ceramic Coatings?
The key to the longevity of any ceramic coating is maintaining a balanced level of ingredients that will provide an ultra-hard shield of protection but make it easy for the DIY enthusiast to apply. When you actively search for reviews on the best ceramic coatings that are easy to apply and last the longest, one tends to elevate over the rest.
And we’re not too proud to toot our own horn here. But, don’t listen to our claims, listen to VinWiki.
Armor Shield IX is constantly reviewed by third-party, independent car owners, automotive enthusiasts, professional detailers, and more. And with each review, more positive information becomes available. But there is a method behind the madness.
Among ALL DIY ceramic coatings, Armor Shield IX is the only one to offer a minimum two-year expected lifespan guarantee. Among ALL DIY ceramic coatings, Armor Shield IX has the highest percentage of SiO2, or quartz, which is the leading source of hardness and longevity of a coating.
While the product itself is engineered for excellence, it is important to understand how important prep work is to longevity, and how critical routine maintenance is for getting the most out of your ceramic coating.
When you apply it onto a clean and debris-free surface, the coating will provide a strong bond with virtually any surface. Once it cures, it needs to maintain a clean surface to extend lifespan. And when you simply wash the car as recommended, every few weeks, you’ll get the best bang for your ceramic coating buck.