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Ceramic Coatings for Cars

Hype or a Rentable Investment? A Review of Ceramic Coatings for Cars

written by DrBommel, retired scientist of nanoCare

DrBommel

 

The internet is full of questions like, "What is the best ceramic coating?" or "Is nanoceramic coating worth the money?”. Especially in automotive detailing forums, there’s a lot of discussion about those miracle finishes, which offer paint protection with a glossy finish. But what is the truth about the technology - how can I identify high-quality brands?

In the following post, I will describe, in detail, the chemical nature of durable products, separate fact from fiction, and take a look at the future of auto detailing.

Below, I’ve answered ten common questions from the web:

#1. What is Ceramic Coating?

It is a polymer coating, which acts as a second skin to the clear coat to protect it from dust, UV rays, bird droppings, water spots, and scratches. In contrast to waxes or silicones, the car coating can chemically bond to the top coat of paint, offering outperforming durability. This is why ceramic coating comes with a lifetime warranty and no aftercare plan –  it is the most permanent system based on micro- and nanotechnology in the modern era.

And here is the first surprise: There are two durable technologies available - organic and inorganic! 

Phew! So, we have to dissect both to learn more about the impact on the car paint. 

 

Organic coatings have the following characteristics:

A. Water repellent and non-stick effect: brake dust and dirt can be easily removed (not self-cleaning!)

B. UV protection: the aging process of protected surfaces is slowed down by additional UV ray blockers.

C. Paint protection film to protect against micro-scratches: This protection film will not save your car’s body during an accident, but it will help prevent the swirl marks that appear in the lacquer after a car wash.  This means avoiding paint correction and polishes in the future.

D. Corrosion protection and hardness: a dense three-dimensional network results in sealing out humidity, salt, air, and other environmental elements.

E. Anti-graffiti effects: the coated surface repels permanent markers and graffiti, making these marks easy to remove.

Chemically speaking, it is a "pre-ceramic" coating, since an original transparent ceramic material can only be created by curing it at a temperature above 800 degrees, which I don´t think is applicable in real life.

 

Inorganic sealants are quite different:

A. Although they have an powerful nonstick effect, they are not very water repellent. This is why ceramic coating brands that work exclusively with inorganic solutions apply a finish or a top coat for beading and shedding.

B. The protective characteristics are outstanding, due to their pore-free curing possibilities. Unparalleled corrosion and scratch protection with a pencil hardness of 9H are easily achieved.

C. Anti-graffiti effects are similar to those of the organic options.

And here is the second surprise from the chemical side: This protective technology consists of only inorganic quartz. Yes, there’s no ceramic coat at all. This application is quite complicated since it is not compatible with common wetting agents or solvents used in paint engineering. This is why brands are offering "5 layers of ceramic pro" – one layer may not be thick enough to act as a real paint coating.

 

The conclusion from the first answer: Ceramic coatings work and outperform all available products, but there is no ceramic on the final car body...but hey, if we as chemists created the marketing, the world would be a boring place. Now that you understand the two protective coating systems described above, you’ll likely want to know…

Key Features of a Ceramic Coating

#2. Where can I find the best ceramic coatings?

The next surprise: the organic and inorganic raw materials used to formulate the polymers are made in Germany or Japan. You shouldn’t assume that a supplier outside of these countries is a scam or fraud, but in terms of the price-performance ratio, you will need to think about shipping and importing costs. However, to be fair, the real quality of such paint coatings is a result of formulation with the right solvents and additives, which makes the country of origin less important.

By the way – I’ve noticed a recent flood of finishes marketed as ceramic paint coatings, which are based on waxes or silicones. This means old stuff with a new label and could be considered fraud, since car detailers normally do not have all the knowledge included in this article and primarily learn about durability and protection options via videos on the web.

For comparison: silicones and waxes do not offer any of the described characteristics except water repellency, which can be determined visually.  This quality is usually discussed on YouTube in "beading/shedding" videos from auto industry influencers.

how to find the best ceramic coatings

So how would an expert detect such fraud? A quality paint sealant should:


A. Have the strong scent of ammonium hydroxide – organic and inorganic ceramic coatings can’t be manufactured without it.

B. Be sensitive to humidity – they react with air humidity to create a chemical bond.

C. Be sold in pressure-resistant aluminum or glass bottles – they can create pressure in the bottle.

D. Not be IPA or ethanol-based – these coatings are either silane or polysiloxane technology, which only has a fraction of the durability and protection of true ceramic coatings.

Isn´t that easy? You can identify low-quality products through smell, curing, packaging and ingredients listed on the MSDS!

#3. What are its limitations?

The coating product is not self-cleaning. What makes ceramic coating state-of-the-art is its easy-clean effect, with noticeable beading and shedding, but there is no superhydrophobic property or self-cleaning effect in rain.

It will not help you avoid washing a car and will not protect you in a car accident. We are talking about a coating thickness between 1-2 micron (inorganic) and 2-30 micron. If this coating was actually effective at preventing damage in car accidents, the next generation of cars would only weigh as much as a bicycle.

 

#4. What is the difference between Nano Coating, Ceramic Coating, and Diamond Coating?

Ceramic and Diamond Coating are branded synonyms. I hope that the Diamond brand name refers to the shiny effect and brilliance and not to the hardness because it is a far cry from the 9H pencil hardness of a ceramic coat (up to 10 on the Mohs scale of a Diamond).

Nano coatings for car lacquer, which were mainly sold from 2000-2008, protect the car lacquer for a shorter duration because they need a lot of OH groups to bond. This makes them highly effective as a glass coating for windshields but not as paint protection.

#5. Can it be applied as a dot-it-yourself product?

If you search the web, most articles say no. This is for a few reasons:

- The formulated nanoceramic is badly formulated and leaves hologram or rainbow effects if applied without adequate training.

- The brand wants to assure quality or to earn money based on its certification (most of the times both).

- The paint protection shall be exclusive for marketing reasons.

 

From my work at Nano-Care, I can say that those products can be applied DIY with a short, maybe 5-minute, training. The bulk of the work is surface preparation.

#6. How do I apply a Ceramic Coating and how long does it take?

  • Step 1: General cleaning with car shampoo or soaps.
  • Step 2: Paint correction and clay bar (optional).
  • Step 3: Degreasing—removal of all residues on the car's surface.
  • Step 4: Application of the ceramic coat – apply some drops on a less absorbent microfiber towel and distribute the liquid without pressure. In most cases, rainbow effects appear, and you can wait 2-5 mins for evaporation. During this step, the coating is absorbing the air humidity to bond to the car paint. Afterward, continue by gently wiping until the surface is completely free of coating residues.

The reaction with air humidity means that you have to control it at the time of application. 30-80% humidity levels are necessary to achieve a proper result and bonding. You should also avoid temperatures below 10 or higher than 30 degrees Celsius. You can expect surface preparation to last 3-12 hours and coating to take 2-3 hours for one average-sized car.

#7. What are the costs of a Ceramic Car Coating?

The coating liquids arrive at the applicators (car detailers) for $50-$100 in a 50 ml coating kit, which they will need for the whole car. However, most of the costs are caused by surface preparation, paint correction, and proper application. A cost of $500-$2000 is normal, although I would think twice about paying for kits on the higher end.

#8. Are there new inventions or innovations in development?

Yes, and my boss (greetings to him) might be not happy with me about posting this video:

It shows a transparent protective film with self-cleaning properties. Yes, you are right - the future of car detailing will involve keeping your car clean with one step – you will only have to refresh this Nano-Care superhydrophobic finish with a simple spray. The film improves the repellency from the Petal effect to the Cassi Baxter state. Interested? Soon, I will release a new article all about superhydrophobic coatings, so stay tuned. 

This new generation of ultra-hydrophobic sealants are solving a big problem, which the product Neverwet failed at addressing in the past. That product left white residue on most car surfaces. This new superhydrophobic finish far surpasses those results.

For preliminary information, please contact my colleagues at Nano-Care.

never need a car wash again? nanoCare superhydrophobic ceramic coating finish

#9. What are the further applications of ceramic technology?

10. Can I see a case study?

I conducted a "real life" test with my grill. I coated the right half with the Nano-Care product Nanoflex Dura HD in May 2018.

Then I used it all summer but left it outside without a cover. Also, in the autumn, it stayed outside without any protection other than this nanoceramic-enabled product. The winter came like in Game of Thrones, and in Germany, we generally have wet and cold nights with snow and freezing temperatures. The grill was also not under a roof, so the forces of nature could rage for 12 months.


I was astonished myself: of course, you could already see during the application that this would become a meaningful experiment. The deepening of the color of the product on the aluminum happened quickly – dried fingerprints or dried rain and fat droplets were hardly visible. Also, they were as easy to clean as a PTFE-coated frying pan.

The result after one year nevertheless sets new standards: an incipient corrosion on the aluminum lid was suffocated in the core and the aging of the plastic cladding was delayed. I only need to wipe it once more with a damp cloth before continuing to grill this year.

 

Conclusion

If you use high-quality products, you also get an excellent and sustainable result. However, you should always keep in mind that, according to the current state-of-the-art technology, no self-cleaning is to be expected, but you will see excellent anti-adhesive properties. In the laboratory in Germany, improvements are still being made and, as you can see in the video, it will not be long before ceramic coatings can also be equipped with superhydrophobic effects.

I hope that with my first blog post I was able to give you deeper insight into the world of nano- and microtechnology, especially nanoceramic coatings. For some readers, there might have been one or two surprises. If you liked the article or if you have any questions, write to me at drbommel@nano-care.com.