Ceramic Coating Maintenance (The Pro Detailer’s Guide)

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Ceramic coatings are the best way to protect the paint of your vehicle!

Ceramic coatings contain microscopic SiO2 particles less than 100 nanometers in diameter that fill the cavities and pores in your clear coat, leaving a thin uniform film on top.

As the coating cures, the carrier fluids evaporate and the remaining material hardens into a thin glass-like layer on top of your paint, protecting it from practically everything you could think of - UV rays, heat, dirt, road grime, brake dust, salt, mineral deposits, industrial fallout, bird poop, tree sap, bug guts… the list goes on.

Ceramic coatings have high surface tension, giving them non-stick and hydrophobic properties, meaning they repel and bead water and pick up less dust and contamination.

When properly applied, ceramic coatings give your vehicle a brilliant glossy shine.

All these amazing qualities are indisputable and have been proven throughout the industry time and time again. Anyone who cares about the condition and quality of their paint should get a ceramic coating!

However, for all their might, they are not invincible, don’t last forever, and don’t make your car maintenance-free. Nothing does!

Turbo Waterless Detailer Enhances SiO2 Coatings
The Best Way To Maintain a Ceramic Coating

★★★★★ Turbo is our anti static waterless car wash and quick detailer with ceramic. It helps enhance the longevity of Ceramic Coatings and applies easily anywhere, anytime. You'll get high gloss shine and hydrophobic shine. Great for touch ups in between traditional car washing or as a waterless wash. The anti-static feature is well loved by supercar owners because dust  and dirt stays off. 

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Table of Contents

Do Ceramic Coatings Require Any Maintenance? Absolutely.

Sure, ceramic coatings are phenomenal products. However, myths circulating throughout the detailing industry have made some people believe that ceramic coatings are some alien material that exerts a force field around the car, repelling everything from dirt to scratches, bad vibes to drunk drivers.

We need to address a few of these misconceptions before we proceed forward.

Myth #1 - Ceramic Coatings Prevent All Scratches

Ceramic coatings are hard and resist abrasion themselves. However, they are also incredibly thin and cannot protect the underlying paint from any scratches, bumps, or stone chips.

At best, you can get away with some minor scuffs, but that’s pretty much it. Don’t expect any miracles.

If you’re looking for chip and scratch protection, you should check out our article on paint protection films. And yes, they create a perfect symbiosis with ceramic coatings for the ultimate defense.

Myth #2 - Ceramic Coatings are Self-Cleaning

This is far from the truth. Ceramic coatings make it harder for dust and contamination to stick to the surface, helping your car stay cleaner for longer. However, dirt, brake dust, water spots, and other road grime will eventually build up on the surface of the coating itself, inhibiting its hydrophobic properties and dulling its shine.

While you still need to wash your vehicle, ceramic coatings make this an absolute breeze. You can use much milder chemicals and even go touchless if you follow a regular cleaning schedule.

Myth #3 - Ceramic Coatings are Indestructible

When maintained well, high-quality ceramic coatings will last for years. Even so, indestructible they are not.

As with anything in life, they will eventually wear away. It depends heavily on the quality of the product and the initial quality of the installation.

Moreover, depending on how and where you drive your vehicle, the coatings can wear off considerably quicker. If you go off-roading or drifting, or if you wash your car rarely or use an automatic car wash with strong chemicals and hard brushes, the longevity of your coating will be reduced.

How To Wash a Ceramic Coated Vehicle

Ceramic coatings need to cure for 24 hours to 5 days, depending on the product, before you can drive the vehicle. However, you need to resist washing it for another 2-3 weeks after that as the coating continues to outgas and attain its final strength.

After this, you should wash your ceramic coating at least twice a month to remove the film and grime picked up from your daily commute. Of course, don’t take that as law and wash your vehicle any time it gets particularly dirty.

Which Soaps to Use 🧼

Ceramic Car Shampoo - Your #1 Soap!

Our new Ceramic Car Shampoo is the easiest way to maintain your Mirror Shine or Ceramic Shined car. We added ceramic to help enhance and extend the protection every time you wash! It's a high lubricity formula that's PH balanced so it's harsh on contaminants but soft on your car. The formula cleans without leaving residue or water spots.

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A regular car wash soap or shampoo is perfect. Use whatever you already have, so long as it doesn’t contain any polishing compounds, waxes, or sealants like those all-in-one products.

If you’re buying a new product, pH-neutral is best. Try our Ceramic Car Wash - a pH-balanced, highly lubricating car shampoo that’s hard on dirt but easy on ceramic coatings.

Strong acidic and alkaline cleaners can potentially degrade your coating depending on its contents. Ceramic products contain between 15-95% SiO2 particles.

Those on the lower end also contain various binding polymers that can be susceptible to acids or bases, just like paint sealants and waxes wash away with hard detergents.

High-end ceramic coatings with 90%+ SiO2 particles are fairly resistant to acidic and alkaline cleaners. However, if you wash your vehicle regularly, you shouldn’t need to use these often, if at all.

Mechanical or Touchless Wash?

Improper washing techniques will scratch and mar the surface of your vehicle regardless of whether you have a ceramic coating. The two-bucket method still applies. Clean rags, back and forth motions, lots of lubrication, and little to no pressure will keep the finish swirl-free.

It’s easier to get great results with a touchless washing method if your vehicle is coated in ceramic. The coatings are slippery and retain much less dust and dirt over time, which makes it easier to keep the car clean with a touchless wash if you do it frequently.

If you have a foam cannon, power washer, and an air dryer, you can complete the wash in 15 minutes or so. Do that weekly, and you’ll have a super clean car all the time.

Every now and then, you’ll have to use the wash mitt to remove filth that can’t come out through soaping and rinsing only. However, you won’t be bent in half and slaving away on your car every other day, even on a black car.

Avoid automatic car washes if you can. Mechanical ones use hard brushes, which can scratch the paint, while the touchless ones use harsh chemicals to dissolve all the contamination. Either way, your ceramic coatings will be subjected to increased wear.

Wash These Within 48 Hours:

Ceramic coatings make the car easy to clean, but not if you let all kinds of crap sit there marinating on the surface for weeks.

Any contamination will inhibit the hydrophobic and non-stick properties of the coating, accumulating even more dirt and grime.

Any time you make a complete mess out of your car, you should clean it, or at least rinse it down quickly before the dirt has time to bake onto the surface.

If you drive your car daily and park outside, it will get soiled eventually. Bird poop, bug splatter, and tree sap are highly acidic. While the best ceramic coatings out there will not be damaged, lower-grade products can suffer some deterioration.

Leaving these to bake on the surface will force you to use a strong alkaline product later on and mechanical action to scrub the surface.

If you want your coating to perform well in the long run, you should clean these up as soon as you detect them. Keep a bottle of Quick Detailing Spray and several clean microfiber towels on hand to spot-clean whenever you need to.

Torque Detail’s Turbo Ceramic Waterless Detailer is perfect for this job. It makes light work of cleaning blotches of bird poop and bug guts, without the need to wash the entire car. It contains lots of lubricants to mitigate marring the finish, and it will also enhance your ceramic coating underneath.

Rain or Sprinkler Overspray

Ceramic coatings are excellent at repelling water, causing it to bead up and sheet from the surface. However, this beading up can cause its own problems when the vehicle is left to try on its own, or even worse, in the sun via direct sunlight.

Mineral deposits will form just as easily on the surface of the ceramic coating as they do on any other surface. Its hydrophobic properties will reduce the effect, but can’t do anything for drops that remain on the surface.

Mineral deposits can be hard to remove once they harden without using abrasion. If you have to use abrasion to remove them, you will compromise the coating and might need to reapply. You definitely don’t want that, so always be sure to properly rinse and dry your vehicle.

Sprinkler systems in areas with hard water will cover the whole car in water spots and mineral deposits, so watch where you park.

Rain is always slightly acidic, but industrial pollution and volcanic activity can create harsh acid rain, which wreaks havoc on unprotected paint. Although it’s much more resistant, you also don’t want acids dwelling on the surface of your ceramic coating forever, so thoroughly rinse the car after acid rain, or any rain for that matter.

Salt

Road salt will corrode any unprotected metal components. If you live in an area with lots of snow, remember to hose your vehicle after driving in the slurry to prevent corrosion and rust.

The coating will protect your paint, but not metal components under the body panels.

Decontamination

As good as they are, even ceramic coatings will eventually build a thin layer of brake dust at the front and rear.

Depending on your usage and driving environment, you will need to perform a decontamination pass every 6 to 12 months. This includes removing brake dust with an iron remover, as well as any oils and organic pollutants with degreasers if needed.

You don’t want to use detailing clay if you can avoid it. The clay is an abrasive and will work to diminish the ceramic coating over time. That said, the coating is quite hard and shouldn’t get significantly damaged so long as you use a clean piece of softer clay, lots of lube, and literally zero pressure - just enough to hold the clay on the surface.

Still, try to keep the clay bar as a last resort.

Ceramic Toppers

Turbo Waterless Detailer Enhances SiO2 Coatings
The Best Way To Maintain a Ceramic Coating

★★★★★ Turbo is our anti static waterless car wash and quick detailer with ceramic. It helps enhance the longevity of Ceramic Coatings and applies easily anywhere, anytime. You'll get high gloss shine and hydrophobic shine. Great for touch ups in between traditional car washing or as a waterless wash. The anti-static feature is well loved by supercar owners because dust  and dirt stays off. 

BUY NOW

You don’t need to put wax or paint sealant on top of your ceramic coating. It already exhibits all of their protective and hydrophobic properties in much greater intensity.

In fact, stacking the products will only hinder the properties of the ceramic coating underneath, making it ineffective.

What you can use, however, is a ceramic booster. Some quick detailers like our own formulation, Turbo, contain extra SiO2 particles, which replenish the ceramic coating you already have on the vehicle. You’re left with a super slippery surface with extra anti-static and hydrophobic properties, along with a fantastic shine.

The Truth About How Long Your Ceramic Coating Will Last

Okay, here’s the deal. Ceramic coatings are totally worth it, but you have to approach them with realistic expectations.

Longevity depends on many different factors - the quality of the product, the quality of the install, the quality of the maintenance, and the environment in which ceramic coatings need to work.

One of the biggest factors is the content of SiO2 particles - the more you have, the better and longer-lasting your coating will be.

Ceramic sprays will typically last a good 6 up to 12 months. Liquid ceramic coatings should endure at least 12-24 months, with the highest-grade and professionally-installed products reasonably offering 5 years of protection or more.

Quality Of Installation Matters... A Lot

The quality of installation is instrumental to how well your coating bonds to the surface, how consistent the ceramic layer is, and how clear and shiny the finish appears at the end.

Meticulous preparation is key. Any leftover contaminants or imperfections in the clear coat will show through the ceramic coating and be locked in for good.

If you’re doing your own ceramic coating for the first time, expect some defects and a shorter life span. Just check out these ceramic coating fails.

It’s best to start out with a ceramic spray such as Torque Detail’s Ceramic Shine, which is easier to manipulate and leaves a consistent layer with no high spots or streaking.

If you have the money to spend, consider a professionally-installed liquid ceramic coating. Those offer the best protection and longest life, but are much more expensive.

How Much Maintenance Is There?

There’s no getting around maintenance, but you’ll find it a lot more enjoyable when you have the ceramic coating on. Your vehicle will stay cleaner for longer, and it will be much easier to wash when you need to.

Still, expect that you’ll need to wash your car at least twice a month, and more frequently if the car gets covered in dirt and crap as a result of your driving style.

The Easiest Spray-On Ceramic Coating

★★★★★ "I didn't want to apply a full-on ceramic coating to my car (and didn't want to pay a pro to do it), so I thought I'd try this spray-on solution. All I can say is Holy Smokes! It reflects like glass and repels water like it's a job! So far I love it." - Ramsey H.

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How Much Do They Save?

Our final point is that ceramic coatings, when executed with acceptable quality, will save you money in the long term.

The average high-quality paint job costs around $5,000 on a daily driver. More luxurious vehicles come with more expensive paints. Supercar paintwork can easily go up to twenty grand or more.

If left unprotected and out in the elements, any paint will eventually lose its shine, fading and degrading beyond saving. It doesn’t matter if you drive a Civic, an S-Class, or a Lambo. Granted, not all paints are made equal, but without protection, all will face the same end sooner or later.

Compare the price of a repaint to that of ceramic coatings, which cost under $50 for most spray solutions, around $100 for higher-quality liquid products, and a few thousand dollars for professional paint correction and installation.

Ceramic coatings will protect the paint from all sources of damage - UV rays and heat, bird poop, bug splatter, tree sap, brake dust, mineral deposits, industrial fallout, and many other contaminants and pollutants.

So, are ceramic coatings worth it? Every time!

Published on Jan 07, 2021