Your Guide to Buy & Install the Best Ceramic Coating for Cars in 2020
It’s still early days for automotive ceramic coatings. With the way claims, retorts, and myths are fired from all angles, you could even go as far to say that the industry is currently in its Wild West stage.
On one side, there are ceramic coating products that claim they have the ability to protect a car forever and stop scratches from appearing. Other manufacturers, however, state these are simply lies, spread by marketing people who represent certain coating companies.
Ultimately, this throws up a couple questions. Firstly, how do you know if ceramic coatings for cars are worth it or not? Secondly, what do they actually protect against?
Thankfully, this article is here to shed light upon this subject.
CQuartz ceramic coating line – Image by Absolute Detailing
What is a ceramic coating and what does it do?
First things first, it makes sense to actually explain what a ceramic coating is and how it functions. This section will also explain why a car owner would want to use ceramic coating, and also breakdown what it can and cannot do.
Ceramic coating explained
If you are a newcomer to the world of ceramic coatings, you’ve landed on the right section of this article.
In simple terms, a ceramic coating is used to cover a car with a second layer. This coating, which is clear and doesn’t alter the vehicle’s paintwork, helps to protect against various issues. Essentially, think of a ceramic coating as a shield against common problems that often degrade the appearance of a car.
How does this work exactly? Well, ceramic coatings utilize nanotechnology, which is where tiny particles form together to create an exceptionally fine, thin layer that’s invisible to the naked eye. As for what these particles consist of, the coating’s liquid formula will usually include ceramic, quartz, or glass. The use of such materials helps to explain why the coating offers better protection than a standard clear-coating to many things such as:
- Chemicals that cause stains
- UV Rays
Of course, that’s only the start of what the coating can do – more on that later. Going back to how it functions, the ceramic coating will bond to the paint when applied. Well, it’s actually a semi-permanent bond, but it can last for ten years or more.
As for its history, CARPRO was one of the first companies to introduce automotive ceramic coatings in the USA with its original CQuartz coating.
Why your car needs a ceramic coating
When you purchase a new car, you have one goal in mind: to keep it looking as fresh as it did when you drove away from the dealer’s lot. Yet despite your best efforts of washing and maintaining the vehicle, stains and chips begin to appear. Then you also have to factor in the sun, which will cause the car’s paint to dull and fade.
Your vehicle is constantly under attack from various different threats, and the damage can cause you heartache while also depreciating the car’s value if no proper paint protection is applied.
This is where ceramic coating steps in.
Dust, mud, loose stones, acid rain, ice, bug splats, and so on – the roads and environment throw many different things at your car in an attempt to damage its look. When a car ceramic coating is applied, you can rest easy knowing those threats are negated.
That’s not all. A car ceramic coating is a multi-faceted product that also assists with keeping your car exterior clean. Face it: nobody really enjoys the monotonous and time-consuming nature of washing a vehicle. Automatic car washes are an option, but they can lead to scratches and chemical damage. You can even wax your vehicle to give it shine and a small level of protection, but applying it each month is a time killer. With a ceramic coating, your vehicle maintains its clean and glossy appearance.
The previous point also extends into the third big reason why your car needs a ceramic coating. Remember the opening sentence of this section, talking about how you want your car to retain the look it had when you drove it from the dealer’s lot? A ceramic coating ensures your vehicle keeps its “showroom shine” for years.
CQuartz Lite – Image by Prime Auto Club
What a ceramic coating can and cannot do?
The previous portion of this article has talked up the benefits of ceramic coating. This will continue below, but it will also throw up a more balanced argument. Because that’s right: ceramic coating is not infallible. It can’t do everything, sadly. With that said, here’s a breakdown of what ceramic coating can – and cannot – do:
What can it do?
- It’s hydrophobic: This means the ceramic coating is essentially self-cleaning. The result: your car paint remains cleaner for longer in between washes.
- It is anti-stick: You know how mud and dirt can cling onto a vehicle? This isn’t an issue for cars that possess a ceramic coating, as it is a repellent for both mud and dirt.
- It lasts for years: Instead of waxing or other methods that last a couple of months at best, you can be safe in the knowledge that a ceramic coating lasts for a number of years.
- A waxed look at all times: Speaking of waxing, you also don’t miss out on that shine and gloss, which is typically associated with wax.
- Protection against UV rays, oxidation, and stains: The ceramic coating ensures a number of potential issues are stopped in their tracks. You no longer have to worry about the sun or chemicals causing stains.
What can it not do?
- Last forever: As the saying goes, ‘nothing lasts forever,’ and that’s also the case with ceramic coating. While it can last over a decade depending on the product used and how it’s installed, you will need to reapply a coat when the time comes. If you come across a company claiming it will, in fact, “last forever,” keep in mind they will require you to get a top-up sealant each year.
- Protect against scratches and deep swirl marks: Even though some manufacturers will claim differently, a ceramic coating does not make your car resistant to scratches. The same can also be said for deep swirl marks caused by washing.
- Eliminate the need to wash your car: Unfortunately, and although the frequency is cut down, you will still need to wash your car from time to time.
What are the available options for ceramic coatings?
When it comes to applying ceramic coatings, there are two main options on offer: a professional coating or a DIY coating. Either choice is a valid one, with both having their advantages and disadvantages.
Professional ceramic coating
When purchasing professional ceramic coatings such as CQuartz Finest Reserve and CQuartz Professional, you will receive a number of benefits compared to going the DIY route.
First of all, you are guaranteed to receive more durability. If you were to use CQuartz Finest Reserve, for example, you can expect the ceramic coating to last for ten years or more. On the other hand, a DIY coating will typically only have an average lifespan of 2-3 years. Alongside added durability, a professional coating will also be more resistant when protecting against swirl marks, stains, degradation, and aging.
The actual installation process is also better when going with a professional. You save a lot of time and stress compared to doing the coating on your own. In addition, if you select a reputable ceramic coating installer network, you can rest assured that the coating will be applied properly and deliver the performance it advertises. If you were to receive an improper coating installation, this could lead to several issues. Not only will performance levels be reduced, but it could also cause visual damage such as high spots and water spots.
With all of the positives, it seems unjust to lower the mood with a negative point. However, there is one significant disadvantage to receiving a professional coating: cost. As the client is required to pay for labour, the price of the coating can range anywhere from $1,000 to more than $2,500.
Professional Ceramic Coating – Image by Centre de l’Auto Élégance
DIY ceramic coating
If you opt for DIY ceramic coating, there are a couple of products available that assist with making the job easier. CQuartz UK and CQuartz Lite are both easy to install, yet they offer great protection when compared to traditional waxes and paint sealants.
Of course, the price of DIY ceramic coating is much more cost-effective than receiving a professional coating. CARPRO is proud to offer the aforementioned CQuartz Lite, which is the world’s easiest and most affordable ceramic coating available. At a cost of $33 per 100ml, this coating is a suitable choice for even those operating on a tight budget.
In general, there are only two low points of DIY ceramic coating. One of these is that the user has to apply the coating themselves. Obviously, this takes time to do properly. Plus for those who possess no DIY skills, they may feel anxious about doing the task on their own.
The other negative is that it doesn’t quite match up to professional coatings. You won’t receive the same level of performance, durability, and resistance. However, keep in mind that DIY ceramic coating is still a much better option than alternative DIY products on the market.
CQuartz Lite – The Ultimate Do It Yourself Coating – Image by World of Detailing
Coating for wheels and interior
A car ceramic coating is also useful when dealing with the wheels of a car. In fact, it supplies three significant benefits.
First of all, you have to keep in mind that your wheels are vulnerable. This is obvious. They are the lowest part of any car, and they will be traversing over and being hit by road debris consistently. Due to this, you will want to provide them with as much protection as possible – a ceramic coating is one way of doing that.
The other two main benefits of ceramic coating for wheels relates to aesthetics. As you are now well aware, the coating is particularly helpful when it comes to cleaning. Contaminants stop bonding with the wheels, which means you don’t have to clean them as regularly. Plus, when you do have to get the bucket of water and sponge out, the process is naturally made easier due to the lower amount of contaminants present.
CQuartz Leather – Coating for Interior Surfaces – Image by Centre de l’Auto Élégance
Furthermore, a ceramic coating can give your rims a new lease of life. If they have become dull and worn over time, the application of the coating can supply your rims with a like-new appearance.
The ceramic coating doesn’t have to be exclusively for the car exterior, either. You can also use it to protect the interior of your vehicle. It might not seem the most obvious – or even logical – option to go with, but this type of coating can still protect your interior in a number of ways.
For instance, you can utilise ceramic coating to keep your fabric seats in pristine condition. This is because it can repel against dirt and liquid, stopping both from setting in and causing stains.
Now you know what a ceramic coating is and the choices available for installation, it’s time to decide on which is the right fit for you.
CQuartz DLUX – Ceramic Coating for Wheels – Image by World of Detailing
How to choose the DIY coating that’s right for you and how to install it
If you have settled on DIY coating, you have made a fine choice. As well as being an affordable pick for most car owners, DIY coating supplies great protection and performance – if you choose the right product. Regarding the latter, this guide will highlight the best coating for your needs, and also spotlight how to install it effectively.
Factors to look for when choosing a DIY coating
When selecting a DIY coating, there are three main points to consider. These are:
Ease of installation: Even if you are a DIY expert, you never want to be faced with a scenario that throws an unnecessary amount of trials and tribulations. However, this can be the case if you select the wrong DIY coating and try to install this on your car. If you pick right, however, like with CQuartz Lite and CQuartz UK, you will have a product that is easy to apply. These coatings are designed with the consumer in mind, which ensures even complete beginners can use the products without issue.
Performance and durability: Arguably, the main factor relates to the quality of the coating. If you are going out of the way to splash the cash and install this type of product, you want one that delivers in terms of performance and durability. Going back to CQuartz UK and CQuartz Lite, these have a strong reputation for their overall quality. CQuartz UK is recognised as the world’s strongest ceramic coating product on the open market today. CQuartz Lite, while not as long lasting, features many of the same benefits while being a fine introduction to the world of ceramic coatings.
As you can see, CQuartz products are not only the best on the market – they are also among the most cost-effective choices. Plus, if you want to test the waters with a ceramic coating for cars, CQuartz Lite is at a great introductory price and you don’t have to worry about running out of product during installation.
Conclusion: When deciding on the right DIY coating, you want one which is effective, easy to use, and affordable. Thankfully, CQuartz UK and CQuartz Lite both cover those aspects with aplomb.
How to install a DIY ceramic coating
Now you have selected the right DIY coating for your car, it’s time to look into the process of installation. While this might be the part, you are dreading to even think about, installing a DIY coating can be easier than you expect. This largely depends on how you prepare for the task and the product chosen.
Before you apply the DIY coating, you need to ensure your car is prepared properly. This means the vehicle needs to be 100% clean and free from contaminants, while the paint should be polished to a high standard. To decontaminate your paint we recommend using a clay mitt combined with CARPRO IronX to remove all ferrous contaminants.
Removing swirl-marks can be done with CARPRO Essence or CARPRO Reflect in a process called a “paint correction”, and this will generate a higher gloss and help attain maximum durability for the coating.
To remove polishing oils and have the car sparkling clean ready to be coated, this can be done by using a product such as a CARPRO Eraser. To learn more about this subject before coating your paint, scroll down this article as we do a deep dive into this subject.
To install the DIY coating, here’s a quick rundown of what to do:
– Apply 10-12 drops of your DIY ceramic coating onto a microfiber applicator. Use this to cover approximately 24×24” (60x60cm) of your car, ensuring an even layer is created. Complete the process until the rest of the vehicle is completely covered with the ceramic coating.
– To remove any excess, you can use a specialist CARPRO 2Face Towel. You want to remove the excess – known as high spots – and residue immediately as this could cause problems later on. To check all such issues are eliminated, check the entire car exterior with an appropriate light source. If you find any high spots that were not initially dealt with, don’t worry. For a short time after application, you can remove these anomalies by applying more DIY coating on the problem area, and then wiping it away immediately.
– Once the residue is removed, it’s time to leave the ceramic coating to dry and set. You want to avoid the car getting wet during the first four hours. Moreover, if any water drops find their way on the vehicle within the first 48 hours, they need to be removed. If not, this could cause water spotting on the car. For added protection against water spots, you can apply CARPRO Reload one hour after the ceramic coating application.
Conclusion: As shown above, it is easy to complete a DIY ceramic coating. However, it does require due care and a necessary amount of preparation. Take the time to do the job right, and your car will have the protection you desire.
How to choose a professional ceramic coating and installer
If you have decided to pass on DIY coating and instead opt for a professional installation like our CQuartz Professional or CQuartz Finest Reserve coatings, this has a number of added benefits. With that said, there are also elements you have to keep in mind to guarantee you receive a top-quality ceramic coating.
The advantages of a professional coating over DIY coating
Here are the main advantages of going with a professional coating instead of a DIY one:
- Longer durability: As has previously been mentioned, a professional ceramic coating will last longer and provide greater protection. While a DIY coating can have a lifespan of two to three years, a professional coating has the potential to last over ten years.
- Better gloss appearance: This aspect isn’t simply down to the ceramic coating, but also due to the paint correction that a professional will apply. The result is a car which has a greater shine than before.
- Warranty: When you apply a ceramic coating on your own, there is no warranty in place. This is a different story with a professional coating.
Selecting a professional coating and installer
When picking a professional coating and installer, there are several points to ponder. These include:
Check installer certification, training, experience, and reviews
Before you settle on an installer, you need to do research into their background. What certification and training do they possess? What are their experience levels? Do they have any feedback from reviews?
With the CQuartz Finest Professional Network, you don’t have to stress about the quality of your installer. Every CQuartz Finest Reserve installer in North America is vetted thoroughly for hours before they even receive an invite to orientation. Then during orientation, they need to not only pass a validation test for their skills, but they also require the right professional and personal character. Even when they receive certification from CQuartz Finest Reserve, each installer needs to attend a class every two years to maintain their certification.
As touched upon, CQuartz Finest Reserve takes great care in selecting installers who have the right character. Although personality is a vital component of this, the installers need to be honest and have high moral character above all else.
Check performance, durability, and protection
Along with selecting the right installer, the biggest element to consider is the actual quality of the ceramic coating. When you are spending so much money on a professional coating, you expect a premium service. This means the coating should supply high levels of performance, durability, and protection.
To guarantee you are receiving the best quality, there are two choices: CQuartz Professional and CQuartz Finest Reserve.
CQuartz Professional: Infused with SiO2 and fluorocarbon composite, this coating delivers a deep, rich gloss alongside a stunning reflective shine. Aside from its aesthetic qualities, CQuartz Professional also increases paint hardness while repelling an assortment of contaminants. With proper maintenance, this ceramic coating will be delivering for years and years.
CQuartz Finest Reserve: If you want the best of the best, CQuartz Finest Reserve is the coating for you. Regarded as the “next generation of paint protection”, this product utilises at least two ceramic coatings to provide the greatest paint protection that money can buy. To guarantee CQuartz Finest Reserve is up to the job for years to come, installers also take the time to fully prepare and polish the car before application of the coating.
With a professional coating, you receive one big bonus: warranty. This means if your ceramic coating develops a fault or doesn’t quite match up to the quality you expect, you are covered. Funnily enough, there are some myths – ridiculous ones at that – which circulate about ceramic coating warranty.
First of all, some will say it is mandatory for you to visit your installer at least once a year for a “maintenance/inspection service”. Oh, and this service will typically cost about $150. While this might actually be the case with other providers, CQuartz Finest doesn’t require such services.
Another myth is that you are required to use an installer’s branded shampoo and wash mitt. If you don’t use their branded products, the warranty will be voided. With CQuartz Finest, this is certainly not the case. You can use whatever shampoo and mitt you want. There is no risk of voiding your warranty.
It is also said that a warranty will not cover anything worthwhile. For example, the warranty will state that “your coating will not peel, bubble, and yellow”. This, ultimately, means it won’t cover anything valuable like loss of gloss or staining. At CQuartz Finest, the warranty does cover for staining or loss of gloss.
Lamborghini undergoing infrared baking after CQuartz Finest Reserve installation. Image by Super Car Care
When totalling up the price of a professional ceramic coating, there are several different services you have to contemplate. When you see the work that goes into a professional installation, this gives greater justification for the price associated with the service.
As for the costs, they include:
- Paint correction
- Ultra-violet baking
- Material cost
- Coating cost
Although an installation company might supply a price as a guideline, you will typically have to get in touch for a quote. This is because automobiles come in different shapes and sizes, and the cost can differ because of this aspect.
When you are selecting a professional ceramic coating, you have to pick the right installer to do the job. Alongside this, you also need the correct coating product. If you’re spending the money to receive a coating, you might as well take the extra care to make the right decision.
Do you need a paint correction before getting your car ceramic coated?
First, what is it?
Paint correction is a common term used by both professional and amateur auto detailers worldwide; it describes the process of restoring and revitalizing the paintwork of a vehicle.
This is achieved mostly by eliminating surface imperfections, which dull, oxidize, or haze the surface by reflecting light in different directions.
These surface imperfections include scratches and swirl-marks and are corrected by removing a small amount of coat from the car surface using polishing machines or buffers to apply micro-abrasive polishes. This process levels out the surface.
Lamborghini undergoing infrared baking after CQuartz Finest Reserve installation. Image by Super Car Care
When does your car need it before installing a nano-coating?
- If your paint has swirl-marks and scratches, you don’t technically need it. Still, it is highly recommended as, once you get your car coated, any scratch or swirl-mark that was not adequately removed will still be visible and could even be magnified. You will also not be able to remove those imperfections in the future without removing your ceramic coating at the same time.
- Paint corrections should be your choice if you want to get the most durability out of your coating. It will ensure that the clear coat is flat, even at a microscopic level, which will make sure the car coating bonds better to your paint. This leads to the finished surface being durable and looking great.
Do you always need to do a paint correction before installing a ceramic coating for car?
There’s no easy answer to this question. Sometimes, your car’s paint may not need it, for example, if it is brand new with no imperfections – but this is extremely rare, most brand new cars come with swirl-marks due to the transportation or improper washing techniques at the dealership.
It depends on the type of coating that you use. Some Do-It-Yourself ceramic coatings, like CQuartz Lite, are designed in such a way that it can be installed on paint with no prior correction needed.
Can you do a paint correction yourself, or should you hire a professional?
DIYing it isn’t impossible, but it can be an expensive and timely task and should only be attempted by confident, skilled individuals who have some experience with polishing cars.
The cost is high, as you need proper equipment like a dual-action buffer and polishing pads on top of the polishes and compounds. In total, expect to spend around $400-$500 to acquire the needed DIY kit. Then you will need to deal with the cost of your time: you can expect to spend around 8 to 12 hours.
DIYers also need to consider that doing your own correction incorrectly can lead to significant consequences. If you do not have good experience with a polisher, you can burn through your clear-coat or even inflict more swirls and scratches.
It’s for this reason that getting a trained and certified professional to perform paint correction is almost universally favored; the extra time, money, and potential mistakes are all saved, and you can rest easy that your paintwork will be flawless, ready for ceramic coating.
Image by GL Detailing using CARPRO Clearcut and CARPRO Reflect
How to do your own paint correction before applying your car coating.
Warning: As previously mentioned, it is highly recommended that you hire a professional detailer or body shop to perform a paint correction as it is a complex task that requires months of practice to master.
Attempting to do it yourself is a high risk without the requisite skillset, but if you are looking to learn more about the process before getting your car coated, here are the general steps you need to follow to remove light-to-moderate swirl-marks. Before performing any correction on your car, you should read around the subject extensively and ideally practice on less important metals first.
Step 1: Preparation
The first step that must be taken before any paint correction or nano-coating installation is vehicle preparation. Here are some general tips for anybody undergoing the preparation process:
- Wash the car using the two-bucket method.
- Use a high-quality wax removal cleaner, such as CARPRO MutliX.
- Use a clay bar or a clay mitt along with CARPRO IronX, which helps to remove tiny particles trapped in the clear coat and ensures that you’ll have a fresh, clean canvas to work on.
- Protect all plastic and rubber trims with automotive tape.
Step 2 – Compounding
Throughout the compounding process, make sure to use a dual-action polisher equipped with several quality microfiber cutting pads and a high-quality cutting compound such as CARPRO Clearcut.
Here are the general steps for leveling the paint surface:
- Apply the cutting compound with a dual-action polisher and microfiber cutting pad.
- Make sure you replace the microfiber cutting pad frequently, roughly every six-square foot section. If you do not, or even just forget to replace the pad, you’re just digging a deeper hole.
- Complete this process until you have done the entire vehicle or the total area on which you are focusing.
Step 3 – Polishing
If you completed the leveling step correctly using a high-performance compound like CARPRO Clearcut, you would now be looking at a high-gloss finish, which may even look perfect depending on the type of paint you have. However, to achieve a truly mesmerizing gloss, you will want to follow the compound step with a polishing step using a fine polish such as CARPRO Reflect or CARPRO Essence.
For the polishing step, use this method:
- Start with a brand-new polishing foam pad (these are different from the microfiber pads). This will ensure you get a high-gloss finish.
- Apply the polish using a crisscross pattern on areas no larger than 2 feet by 2 feet.
- Keep changing the pads frequently – and don’t oversaturate your pads with polish; when dealing with diminishing polishes, less is always more!
Step 4 – Installing your ceramic coating!
After completing the previous three steps, you will be done with the paint correction. It would now be time to restart the decontamination stage to make sure all the polish residue is removed from the paint. Refer to the section “How to install a DIY ceramic coating” above for more details.
How to maintain and take care of your car coating?
Routine washing is crucial to ensure you get the most performance and durability out of your finish. We recommend that you maintain a good wash routine, meaning you give your car a proper wash at least every month.
As your coating gets covered in dirt and other contaminants, you will notice a decrease in hydrophobic properties (i.e. water beading & sheeting). It is therefore essential to remove these surface contaminants often.
Centre de L’Auto Elegance using CARPRO Reset to maintain a CQuartz coated Mercedes.
Your coating needs to be kept in excellent condition, so when washing your car, you should use a specially formulated shampoo like CARPRO Reset. A specialized shampoo will help to effectively clean your coating.
It will rinse away easily without leaving behind gloss enhancers or other surfactants that can interfere with a coating’s key properties.
If you have applied your coating correctly, you will notice that your vehicle will be effortless to wash as any dirt will wipe away trouble-free, and your wash mitt will slide effortlessly across the car’s surface.
Likewise, drying should also be easier as the majority of the water can be easily sheeted from the surface. We recommend using a microfiber drying towel for a swirl-mark-free dry.
How to decontaminate a ceramic coated car?
Water-spots are always a potential hazard. Hard water spots occur if the water is allowed to dry on the vehicle’s surface without being washed soon afterward. Sometimes the mineral deposits can become too tough that a thorough wash will not remove them.
Ensure that you always wash your vehicle in a cool and shaded area to prevent the formation of water spots. If you are struggling with tough water spots, please contact us for consultation.
Clean Your Car UK using IronX to decontaminate a coated vehicle.
Ceramic coating for cars withstand bonded contamination (dirt, fallout, etc.) better than most traditional forms of protection, but they can still become tainted over time. This contamination can be easily avoided by a frequent washing routine.
If you do encounter bonded contaminants, we recommend using CARPRO IronX, CARPRO TriX, or CARPRO Spotless to remove them without the need for abrasive methods (like a clay bar), which could scratch and damage your coating.
How to add additional protection to your coating?
Many people are interested in adding additional protection on top of the coating to extend their properties. It is essential to keep in mind that when you are topping your car coating with another product, you are also covering or masking some of the properties of the coating.
If you apply a wax on top of the coating, for example, you will be watching the properties of the wax until it wears off and the coating is exposed.
CARPRO Reload used as a top up sealant by Detail Thugga.
If you’re okay with that, typical spray wax may work fine, but other products perform much better with paint coatings. Our personal favorites are CARPRO HydrO2, which can be used as a stand-alone car-wash soap, or CARPRO Reload, which is a ceramic spray sealant.
These two products are silica-based so they are excellent “coating toppers”. Their properties are similar to the coating that is beneath them.
Let’s wrap it up
This conclusive article will have taught you a lot about car coatings. You will now understand what a ceramic coating consists of, what it can and cannot do, and the differences between a DIY and professional installation.
Before buying a coating, remember the important aspects you have to research. You have to select a coating which offers the best protection for the best price. CQuartz does just that. Whether you go with a DIY or professional coating, you will know with CQuartz that your car is protected – no matter your desires or circumstances.