Does Car Ceramic Coating Work?

by John Smith   |   May 5, 2020
car ceramic

Keeping your vehicle’s paint job looking brilliant and new can prove to be a challenge for most car owners. People use all sorts of products to help protect their car’s paint job from abrasion or from being damaged by external elements.

However, some modern car coatings and paint protection products are considered far more reliable than others due to the enhanced protection they provide.

Car ceramic coatings have recently come out as the premier method for protecting the new and vibrant appearance of your vehicle’s paint job. These special coatings were invented fairly recently and are able to outperform traditional car waxes and paint sealants by a decent margin.

How do car ceramics work?

Car coatings are typically applied on top of a vehicle’s finished paint job to protect it from external elements such as dirt, small projectiles, rain-water, and acidic liquids. All car paint protection products function as sacrificial barriers between the car paint and the surrounding environment.

Car ceramics function similar to car sealants, in that their coating molecules bond to the car paint to provide enhanced protection that last longer. This protection can last for years with the right application and maintenance.

By contrast, car wax is far less effective and durable due to the fact that the wax layer does not bond with the paint surface. This wax simply sits on top of the paint and can be stripped and abraded fairly easily by external physical forces such as debris. As a result, wax has to be reapplied fairly regularly compared to car ceramics and sealants.

Do car ceramics actually work?

Car ceramics are advertised as being able to protect car paint from UV rays, scratches, and prevent water from pooling on paint surfaces. As it turns out, car ceramics are fairly adept at providing these protections.

UV protection

Car ceramics do block out a large portion of UV rays from sunlight and prevent them from damaging the car’s paint job. UV light that falls onto painted surfaces for extended periods of time can break down paint molecules this may lead to the car’s paint job fading. This problem is especially prevalent for car owners who park their cars outdoors while they are at work throughout the day.

Water Protection

Water stains are a common issue for car owners that live in rainy areas. Cars that are left uncovered during a rainstorm may end up with pools of water on the car roof or the hood of the vehicle. This water tends to leave visible spots or blemishes on the car paint surface as it evaporates.

Car ceramic provides fantastic protection from water due to the fact that the ceramic coating molecules fill in any empty spaces or pores in the paint surface. This prevents water droplets from seeping into the paint layer and taking away the paint job’s shine.

Car ceramics are able to protect car paint not just from sitting water, but actively discourage water from pooling on the car’s surfaces. Car ceramic molecules are highly hydrophobic in nature, meaning that they have a natural tendency to repel water. When rain falls onto the surface of a car with a ceramic coating, the water droplets tend to bead together and slide off instead of sitting on the surface.

Many experts believe it isn’t the water itself that causes damage to unprotected vehicle paint, but the minerals contained within the water such as calcium and magnesium that create deposits and leave water spots. These water spots can be difficult to remove and may permanently alter the look of the vehicle’s paint job.

Therefore, it is recommended that vehicle owners take preventative measures by using car ceramics to protect their car from such water damage.

Scratch protection

Car ceramics are often touted as strong  and solid coatings that prevent paint surfaces from scratches. These claims are partially true, but the scratch-protection capabilities of car ceramics are often exaggerated.

Some manufacturers have claimed that car ceramics are able to protect vehicle paint from flying rocks or rock chips, however these claims are generally untrue. Car ceramics create relatively strong coatings, but they can’t prevent external projectiles beyond a certain size from damaging the car surface.

However, car ceramics are effective at preventing small scratches from occurring on painted surfaces. In the event that a minor scratch does occur, it will usually be limited to the ceramic surface itself, and can be made less visible by buffing the damaged surface.

Car ceramic myths

Car ceramics certainly are effective at protecting car paint from a variety of external elements and conditions; however, there are still many myths surrounding the capabilities of these coatings. Some of the most common car ceramic myths are shown below.

Car ceramics can protect against chemical damage indefinitely

Car ceramics are advertised as being able to protect car paint surfaces from chemical damage. This claim is partially true, as the layer of protection provided by the ceramic does keep the paint safe from chemicals in the external environment.

However, chemicals do gradually eat away at the ceramic coating surface and eventually get to the paint layer underneath over time. A more realistic claim would state that car ceramic provides limited-protection against chemicals.

Car ceramics with 10H ratings are as strong as diamonds

Many car ceramic manufacturers advertise their ceramic coatings as being rated with a 9H or even 10H hardness. Many people tend to assume the hardness scale ceramic manufacturers are referring to is the Mohs scale, but this is incorrect.

The Mohs scale is used to describe the hardness of minerals, and ranges from 1 (the hardness of Talc) to 10 (the hardness of Diamond). This is why some people tend to assume car ceramics are as hard as diamonds.

However, the hardness scale used by ceramic manufacturers is actually based on pencil hardness. So a 10H coating is still only as strong as the strongest pencil lead.

This provides some protection to car surfaces, but nowhere near as much as people think.

Cars with ceramic coatings don’t have to be washed

Another myth states that cars with ceramic coatings never need to be washed. This is completely untrue. This slick microscopic ceramic coating is great at preventing dirt from sticking to the car’s exterior, but dust and bits of debris can still make their way onto your vehicle’s surfaces.

These foreign particles can mask the car paint’s glossy and shiny finish, so you will have to wash your vehicle eventually if you want to keep it looking new.

Car ceramics can hold up to repeated cleanings

Car ceramics do fare better than car wax does when the vehicle’s exterior is washed. However, as mentioned earlier, car ceramics can be worn down by chemicals and physical abrasions.

Cars that see regular usage generally need to be washed more frequently than cars that are used less often. The ceramic coatings on these cars will get stripped down over time from repeated washings, especially if the car’s owner isn’t taking the right precautions.

Cars with ceramic coatings should not be washed too frequently, and any washing activities that are performed should be done by hand.

Taking a car with a ceramic coating through an automatic car wash is very likely to ruin the coating’s finish and leave swirl marks. This is because automated car washes use bristles that are highly abrasive and often contain dirt and pebbles from previous washes. One bad trip through an automatic car wash could undo the coating’s pristine finish permanently.

Car ceramics have to be applied by professionals

This myth is false; however, it was true when car ceramics were first introduced in 2014.

When car ceramics were initially introduced, they could only be applied by professionals such as qualified car detailers. This is because the process of applying car ceramic features an extensive preparation procedure in which the car is thoroughly cleaned using special tools and products in a sealed facility.

A layer of ceramic is then carefully applied and left to cure at a specific temperature under heat lamps. This process can be difficult to perform at home, so people had to rely on professionals to apply ceramic coatings in the past.

However, in recent years, many car ceramic manufacturers have introduced DIY car ceramic kits that make it easier for car owners to apply car ceramic to their vehicles themselves. These kits don’t require special curing tools, so car owners can apply ceramic from the comfort of their homes and driveways.

The next generation of car ceramics

As we’ve seen, car ceramics are capable of providing car paint surfaces with many protective features. The technology behind car ceramic is far from perfect, but it is still more effective than other paint protection products such as wax and sealants. Car ceramic technology is still evolving, so we may see protecting coatings that are even more effective in the near future.

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