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Thoughts on ceramic coatings.


shane@detailedreflections
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A combination of posts here and having just attended accreditation training for another coating have once again gotten my writing mind working. It’s also an effort to go back to some detailing related discussion as opposed to this weeks special edition detail spray. 

 

It seems there are a million questions about ceramic coatings. What’s worse is that there are two million opinions on ceramic coatings, what they can and can’t do and when they should and shouldn’t be applied. So let’s get into it a bit...

 

What can a ceramic coating do?  Ceramic coatings are simply a different last step product that can change the maintenance regiment for your vehicle. They are not maintenance free by any means. A ceramic coating can lock in a deep gloss look that’s easily maintained and restored while offering some better scratch resistance (which we will get into shortly). 

 

What can’t a ceramic coating do?  A ceramic coating won’t stop rock chips. It’s not impossible to scratch (meaning proper care and technique when washing is still required). Also, a ceramic coating can’t last forever despite anyone’s claims that they will do so. Setting your hood on fire because it’s ceramic coated isn’t a good idea either.

 

So why would you want to ceramic coat your car?  Well, it’s typically lower maintenance than having to reapply the finish every so often and provides an amazingly slick surface that’s a bit easier to clean or keep clean. 

 

Maintenance?  Yup. The biggest complaint from “failed” coatings isn’t that they’ve failed, it’s that they haven’t been decontaminated properly to allow them to function normally. They still require periodic maintenance by claying and iron decontamination. To go the extra mile, some coatings require reapplication of a top layer. This is sometimes a spray or an actual top coating layer. This is widely variable based on the coating used. 

 

Can I do this myself?  It is in the wheelhouse of most serious weekend warrior detailers. It can seem overwhelming, but it shouldn’t be. Understand that the prep phase is literally everything. Poor prep will result in a poor coating. Great prep will help to get that great result. 

 

How do I do it?  Well, the prep is similar to most other details. Decontaminate the vehicle with wash, clay and iron remover. Polish the paint until you’re satisfied with the results (once you apply the coating, what’s there is there).  Give it a good wipedown to prep for coating. And install. We do wheels, trim and then paint last typically. You can change it in any order you like. In fact, we actually spray wheels when we have them pulled for an easier application. This comes at the expense of using more product. 

 

Rules of thumb?  Textured plastic gets trim coating. Painted plastic get paint coating. Textured plastic doesn’t usually require leveling, where painted trim does. Work in small bites. Know you’ll go through a bunch of towels and a bunch of applicators. It’s a slow process, especially when you’re not familiar. 

 

What kind of tricks are there?  Start working small. Make a “puddle line” down the middle of your working area. Then spread the coating across it (think like an H). The puddle line across spreads the heaviest product. When crossing it you’re spreading it and thinning it for a very even coverage.  

 

We use three towels when we buff off a coating. We use a low pile suede for the initial buff, then we go wider with a microfiber to pick up the push and then we use a third microfiber to get any remaining spots.

 

If it’s hot and/or humid, rapidly flashing coatings can be frustrating. We can stretch the open time of the coating by storing the bottle in a cup with ice in it prior to and during application.  This will give you some more time to let the coating flash and then buff off. I won’t get into flash times since they’re widely variable based upon environment and what coating you’re using. Always keep the cap on when you’re not applying to the applicator. And a little really does go a long way. 

 

If you get some coating where it shouldn’t be, wipe it immediately before it cures. 

 

If you have high spots, you can try brilliant glaze before it’s cured. You can also try a little polish on a rag and your finger. Or worst case you’re polishing it out and reapplying to that section. Adams coatings usually come off with glaze/polish. We do work with a coating that has to be wet sanded down once it fully cures. High spots are a nightmare. 

 

Which brings us to lighting. And a bunch of different types. Light from different angles and sources will reveal everything. Have multiple eyes look at it and see what they see. Things blend together after a while. 

 

Take your time. Plan appropriately for the time to prep, install and cure. Don’t rush it or you’ll pay the price. 

 

And lastly, what coating is for me?  That’s a very open ended question based on what you expect out of your coating for performance and durability. Only have the car a couple of years?  Use a lower end coating. Keeping it for a while and daily driving it?  Maybe a higher end coating is for you for longevity. Not all coatings are available to everyone. We have two coatings that are accredited or authorized installers only. We can’t even sell you a bottle if you wanted one. That’s because they’re a bit harder to work with and less forgiving. The flip side is the results from them are amazing. 

 

I think that’s all my brain has kicked out off the top of my head. If you have quesrions, ask. Between myself and others here there’s a thinktank of answers available. Take advantage of it. 

Edited by shane@detailedreflections
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Great write up and very informative!

I coated my wheels before I had my tires mounted. Just a tip of advice and something I learned the hard way... the wheel weights would not stick to the barrel of my wheel due to the coating. ?

 

My my question is on coating outside (not in a garage). What are your thoughts and is it worth it? I know I run a higher risk of contamination during the cure time. But can it still be done and look nice? 

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You could coat outside, but you’re right about the risk of contamination. The major risk is when you apply the coating and before buffing off. The other concern is the panels themselves could be pretty hot. This heat can alter flash times and force you to rush your application. I’d work in much smaller bites if attempting to do this. 

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We coat the jams with at least one coat on every coating. 

 

We will coat under trunk decks if it’s not complicated to do so. 

 

Engine stuff is much harder requires extra money outside of the lower windshield trim. The amount of prep an engine bay takes can be extensive. We have done them, but that’s one I won’t just toss in the package. 

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10 minutes ago, 8675309'SS said:

Shane what are your experiences and thoughts with coating over paint protection film.  Have you done it? Would you do it again? I’m thinking in terms of when it’s time to remove coating and reapply.  

 

Man, going right after the questions with complex answers!!!  

 

Let’s start at the beginning with how PPF is treated. For the most part, PPF is tested like paint. You can seal over it, wax over it and coat over it. You can even gently polish some, but you always need to pay attention to how hot the films get or permanent marring will be left behind. 

 

With all of that being said, you don’t necessarily have to apply a coating over the newer films. Most films come with a top coat already on them that provide the hydrophobic properties. However, we still tend to last step product over them for continuity. There are even a few manufacturers that have or are releasing a coating specific to vinyl films. 

 

We have taken an Adam’s coating (generation 1) off of ppf. It wasn’t easy and was slow going with polishing it. Polish a little. Go somewhere else on the car to let it cool. Lather. Rinse. And repeat. And here’s where what I say may get a little less popular given the nature of the forum and where we are. Adams paint coatings are consumer grade coatings. They are nowhere near as strong or durable as some others on the market that may be limited in who can apply them. So if someone came back with an Adams coating, sure we can probably take it off. If someone comes back with one of our other coatings, it’s probably not coming off since to remove it wet sanding is involved (or at the very least extensive rotary work with compounds and pads). 

 

I’m also very aware that if I mess someone’s film up removing a coating, it’s on me to replace said film. This can include replacing all of their existing film even if I mess up one panel so it all looks uniform (cut pattern, wear, coloring, etc). That potential cost is built into the cost of removing a coating, at least somewhat to shield myself from the risk. 

 

If a coating has abraded down to the point there isn’t much left, whatever is left should come off easily with a fine polish being careful to speed, pressure and heat buildup before reapplication. 

 

I hope that answered your question!  And thanks for making me think so early in the morning! 

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Great information Shane!  And congrats on the newest certification.

 

A question about something you probably don't deal with, but the weekend warrior may - how do you store your coatings? 

Like most of us here I may have a bottle of product that takes a year to two to use up, and once it is open it can begin to deteriorate.  I have been storing my opened coatings in glass canning jars, with a rubber seal in the lid.  My thinking is this should protect the product from exposure more than the plastic lid on the bottle.   And they are stored indoors, out of the heat and cold.

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Thanks for the congratulations. 

 

We simply store our coatings in a toolbox drawer. Most coatings have a shelf life of 6-12 months it seems once they’re opened up. So you really want to use it before that or it can change how it spreads and all the finer chemical stuff. One of the things I dislike about the colored bottles is you can’t see the clarity of the product. I did have a clear bottle that the product become yellow indicating something wasn’t right, so it went straight to the garbage. 

 

We try to burn through open bottles quickly. So in the case of Adams, if I knew I had an open bottle longer than I anticipated, I’d do a special and get off of it. With our newest product, it’s not an issue as it’s one bottle per car since I need the information out of it for the warranty which is good for one use. 

 

That being said, if I had leftover product and a friend wanted something...I could stretch it and hook them up but without a warranty. Or I’d have to warranty it myself. Things get shady at that point and it’s not how I like to do business. 

 

Sorry for the tangent...but for storage once it’s open, store it tightly sealed and try to use it in approximately 6 months ideally. The sooner the better. 

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I have used it as a stand alone on my 16 Ram for a year now (original formula, which I still have a lot) with excellent results. Beads water for weeks, even when I clean the truck with a waterless and then detail spray.  Also works well on my Viper, which has C Quarz. I find it slightly easier to apply then CarPro Reload.

 

I'm a Boost believer.

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21 hours ago, shane@detailedreflections said:

 

Man, going right after the questions with complex answers!!!  

 

Let’s start at the beginning with how PPF is treated. For the most part, PPF is tested like paint. You can seal over it, wax over it and coat over it. You can even gently polish some, but you always need to pay attention to how hot the films get or permanent marring will be left behind. 

 

With all of that being said, you don’t necessarily have to apply a coating over the newer films. Most films come with a top coat already on them that provide the hydrophobic properties. However, we still tend to last step product over them for continuity. There are even a few manufacturers that have or are releasing a coating specific to vinyl films. 

 

We have taken an Adam’s coating (generation 1) off of ppf. It wasn’t easy and was slow going with polishing it. Polish a little. Go somewhere else on the car to let it cool. Lather. Rinse. And repeat. And here’s where what I say may get a little less popular given the nature of the forum and where we are. Adams paint coatings are consumer grade coatings. They are nowhere near as strong or durable as some others on the market that may be limited in who can apply them. So if someone came back with an Adams coating, sure we can probably take it off. If someone comes back with one of our other coatings, it’s probably not coming off since to remove it wet sanding is involved (or at the very least extensive rotary work with compounds and pads). 

 

I’m also very aware that if I mess someone’s film up removing a coating, it’s on me to replace said film. This can include replacing all of their existing film even if I mess up one panel so it all looks uniform (cut pattern, wear, coloring, etc). That potential cost is built into the cost of removing a coating, at least somewhat to shield myself from the risk. 

 

If a coating has abraded down to the point there isn’t much left, whatever is left should come off easily with a fine polish being careful to speed, pressure and heat buildup before reapplication. 

 

I hope that answered your question!  And thanks for making me think so early in the morning! 

Thank you, Shane.  My follow up question would be in regard to coating over PPF for continuity of the overall look of finish.  If one were to exclude filmed panels from the coating, how evident would the difference between coated panels vs non coated ppf panels be? It seems to me that it might be? 

 

I have a few more questions specific to what I’m trying to do, and think it might veer away from the topic at hand. Will send a PM.

 

 

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2 hours ago, 8675309'SS said:

Thank you, Shane.  My follow up question would be in regard to coating over PPF for continuity of the overall look of finish.  If one were to exclude filmed panels from the coating, how evident would the difference between coated panels vs non coated ppf panels be? It seems to me that it might be? 

 

I have a few more questions specific to what I’m trying to do, and think it might veer away from the topic at hand. Will send a PM.

 

 

 

I would be concerned with the difference in appearance which is why we coat over the films. To me it’s the best practice, even if it’s sloghtly redundant with with the top coat of the film. 

 

I will keep my eyes open for that PM and try to help. 

Edited by shane@detailedreflections
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Shane, I appreciate your effort in elightneing us on the forum on a daily basis, just know it is appreciated. I have applied 1 ceramic coating to date, and am thrilled with the results. As you know I did this in the middle of summer. My question is when is the ideal temperature to apply a coating, I am thinking along the lines of painting and 72 degrees, low humidity? For The Weeknd warriors like myself, seems like fall would be ideal time of year. 

Edited by Red Rambler
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Bumping this thread.

@shane@detailedreflections you mentioned something in another thread (I’ve quoted it below) about the new Coatings coming out at SEMA that are marketed towards PPF.  What are your thoughts? I’ve only begun to read up on these new trendy ideas, but am not quite getting to the Why.  Why apply these instead of the already existing Coatings?  Is it marketing/ hype or is there truely a need for a separate coating for PPFs? 

 

On 11/2/2018 at 11:33 AM, shane@detailedreflections said:

Treat it like paint. Wax it, seal it or ceramic over it. This year at SEMA the latest trend is coatings dedicated to PPF. We are waiting for ours to come in to see what it’s about. It should essentially be a bit more flexible than paint coatings. But historically paint coatings have been fine over films. 

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6 hours ago, 8675309'SS said:

Bumping this thread.

@shane@detailedreflections you mentioned something in another thread (I’ve quoted it below) about the new Coatings coming out at SEMA that are marketed towards PPF.  What are your thoughts? I’ve only begun to read up on these new trendy ideas, but am not quite getting to the Why.  Why apply these instead of the already existing Coatings?  Is it marketing/ hype or is there truely a need for a separate coating for PPFs? 

 

 

You ask some interesting questions. I’m not sure how we feel about them all yet since they were just announced. On the surface, it makes sense to have film specific coatings rather than just using paint coating on it. Paint and film have two different properties and different hardheaded. Film is flexible but once installed it becomes hard as it’s backed by the vehicles body. 

 

My biggest question in the whole thing is how they interact with other coatings. By this, do you apply the film coating to just the film and paint coating everywhere else. Then the topcoat goes over it all?  

 

We are an accredited installer for another brand, I’m just waiting for all the details to come out. I wish we went to SEMA since then I’d have answers.  Oh well, next year!

 

We will bring in the film coating because as a business and accredited installer, I feel we should have it to perform work in an ideal fashion and deliver the highest tier of service to our clients. 

 

Is the film coating something I think everyone needs or should consider?  I’m not sold on that aspect yet. We’ve seen no negative results of using paint coatings on film to date. 

 

Food for thought and discussion. 

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6 hours ago, Red Rambler said:

Shane, I am certain you have answered this previously, however I can’t find it. What is the typical maintenance procedure for a coating. What are the steps and how often. I am ultimately trying to make my coating last as long as possible. Thanks in advance. 

 

Maintaining a coating is pretty easy. Once or twice a year depending on enviorent and how much it’s driven, you’ll want to wash (you can strip wash if you want), iron remove and clay the vehicle. This will pull any contaminants out of the paint. Once that’s done, you can maintain with ceramic boost or whatever top coat there is from your coating manufacturer. They’re pretty simple to do. 

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