Spray On Ceramic Coating: A Genius Innovation Or Not?

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Ask a dozen detailers what they think about ceramic coating sprays and they’ll give you no less than two dozen answers.

It’s one of the most disputed topics in the car care world, and rightly so. There are many different products on the market making big claims but offering mixed results.

In this article, we’ll dive down the rabbit hole of ceramic coating sprays and explain how to pick the best product for your needs.

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Table of Contents

What Is A Ceramic Coating And How Does It Work?

In order to really understand what ceramic coatings are - spray or no spray - we have to take you back to science class and talk about material properties for a bit.

Ceramics are inorganic compounds of metal and non-metal elements. One of the most common and easily accessible ceramics is silicon dioxide - also known as SiO2 or silica. There are literally tonnes of it at your local beach in the form of quartz - just look for the small glass-like shards in the sand.

Ceramic materials are incredibly hard and abrasion-resistant. They are strong in compression (pushing), but are also brittle and easily break when shocked, bent, or pulled apart. Ceramics are resistant to UV rays, heat, chemicals, and acids. They don't conduct electricity and are incredibly stable under a wide variety of environmental conditions.

Coincidentally, these are all the things that will ruin your car’s paint within a few years if left on its own.

So, if we’re able to apply ceramic properties to our vehicle’s exterior, it will be protected from the elements and grit of daily driving.

However, burying your car in sand wouldn’t exactly produce the results you’re looking for.

Stick with us.

To use a ceramic material as a coating, you need to reduce it to nanoparticles. Nanoparticles are between ten thousand to a million times smaller than a millimeter (sorry, science is metric). They are so small that, compared to their scale, your otherwise smooth and polished clear coat layer looks like the Grand Canyon.

Dust, dirt, contaminants, and water all work their way into this “rough” surface, lodging in and slowly eroding the clear coat until they reach the color coat underneath. Once exposed to the elements, the colors will progressively fade and lose their qualities, ruining your paint irreversibly.

Now, if you apply a coat of ceramic nanoparticles to the clear coat, they will penetrate deep into its pores, completely sealing the surface and forming a protective layer on top.

Ceramic coatings are up to three times harder than your clear coat. This means they are much more resistant to abrasion and scratches from dust, rock chips, and other hard particles on the road. They will eventually degrade, but the paint underneath will be protected.

Because the nanoparticles are so small, they form an incredibly tight and low friction surface, preventing dust, debris, and bird droppings from sticking to the surface, and helping the paint stay cleaner and making it easy to wash with just water.

Some ceramics also exhibit hydrophobic properties. They prevent water from adhering to the surface, forcing it to bead up and sheet off the body.

So, ceramic coatings are pretty much ideal for any car, meaning you should go and get yours coated straight away, right?

Well… yes. However, there’s one drawback.

How Do Ceramic Coatings Differ From Ceramic Coating Spray?

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Ceramic Shine by Torque Detail

"My car is slick as glass!! I put the Ceramic Shine on my Corvette Stingray and it is very slick and shiny. I should have purchased it sooner." - Charlie F.

Traditional nano-ceramic coatings are somewhat difficult to apply. They take hours of painstaking preparation and installation and they need to cure for at least 24 hours up to several days before taking the vehicle outside.

The wrong job will leave awful results and can seal in dirt and grime not previously removed. This makes traditional ceramic coating a rather expensive service that will run into the thousands of dollars at any respectable detailing shop.

That’s where sprayable ceramic coatings come into play.

These contain various amounts of SiO2 or other ceramic particles suspended in a mix of polymers and solvents, which can be easily sprayed and worked into the surface. The ceramic coating sprays are easier to spread, much more forgiving when you make a mistake, and require less curing time.

You can easily spray your own ceramic coating, whereas you probably want to go to a professional detailer for a traditional ceramic coating.

In the sections below, we’ll explain exactly how to use a ceramic coating spray for the best results on your vehicle.

Nano Ceramic Coatings Vs. Ceramic Spray Coatings

Nano-ceramic coatings really mean that the size of the ceramic particles is between 1 and 100 nanometers (a millionth of a millimeter), which allows them to penetrate deep into the clear coat and bond on the atomic level.

These usually come in liquid form and require some experience to use and get good results. Nano-coatings are the most durable, lasting several years. However, they are also the most expensive option.

Ceramic spray coatings still contain SiO2. However, this is usually suspended in some type of polymer or resin, which secures the bonding to the paint.

Sprays are less durable, but also more forgiving and significantly cheaper.

Spray Ceramic Coating Vs. Spray Wax

The common feature in both products is the polymer and resin carrier solution, which makes them easy to spray and work into the surface.

However, from there, ceramic particles and wax are entirely different and create entirely different results.

If anything, you should always apply the ceramic coating first and then finish off with a wax. Doing it the other way around will render both products ineffective and will not protect your paint properly.

The Types Of Ceramic Coatings

In the detailing world, you’ll encounter a few “types” of ceramic coatings. We’ll take a quick look at each one below.

Quartz / SiO2 Ceramic Coatings

To be entirely correct here, there is only one type of ceramic coating. These contain a high amount of ceramics such as SiO2 (above 75%) and come in gel or liquid form.

These are the most effective coatings and endure the longest, especially if used in nanoparticle form. However, they are also the most expensive and more difficult to use.

Silica is the most common ceramic used in car paint coatings since it’s very cheap and effective. However, a coating can contain other ceramic materials such as TiO2 (titanium dioxide), which contributes hydrophobic and self-cleaning properties.

Polymer Coatings

Polymers and ceramics have nothing in common.

Polymer coatings are made from petroleum derivatives and synthetic resins. These adhere to the surface and form a protective coating, which has strong hydrophobic properties as well as resistance to UV rays and other environmental hazards.

Paint sealants and synthetic waxes are polymer coatings. They are cheap and very easy to use. Sealants offer decent protection to your paint even though they don’t last more than 4 to 12 months.

Hybrid Coatings

True to their name, hybrid coatings contain some amount of SiO2 particles suspended in a type of synthetic polymer or resin.

Ceramic coating sprays can be considered hybrids, and they try to combine the best properties of both materials in a product that’s affordable and easy to apply yourself.

For the most part, they do. Ceramic coating sprays are a great middle-ground solution for the average DIYer.

How Long Does A Ceramic Coating Spray Last?

A traditional liquid coating contains a high amount of SiO2 - typically above 75% for a high-grade product. The amount of SiO2 is directly linked to the durability of the coating.

For a traditional coating, you’re looking at 2 to 5 years, depending on the environmental conditions and levels of abuse.

Top-grade professional nano-ceramic coatings can have as high as 95% SiO2, effectively lasting the lifetime of the vehicle when properly maintained.

A spray ceramic coating will typically contain less than 30% SiO2, reducing its durability to a maximum of 12 months. The average DIY auto enthusiast will find this a perfect middle ground based on price and installation difficulty.

Ceramic booster sprays and waterless wash products can have as low as 5% SiO2, which renders them only effective as a supplement to another coating.

How To Use A Ceramic Spray Coating

Before you go ahead and use a ceramic coating of any kind, you need to properly prepare your vehicle. It must be meticulously cleaned and free of dirt, grime, brake dust, stains, AND any wax or sealant previously used.

Any contamination on the surface of the body panel will be sealed by the ceramic coating, producing awful results and compromising the protection of your paint.

Any wax or sealant on the surface will prevent the ceramic coating from adhering to the clear coat, so it must be removed.

Finally, if you’re going to polish your paint, you need to do so before you spray your ceramic coating on.

Once all the prep work is done, applying the ceramic coating spray is really easy.

You’ll need the spray product of your choice and two separate microfiber towels.

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On a dry body panel, spray a few spots and then work the product in with a microfiber towel. You can also spray directly into your towel and apply this to the surface.

Make sure to use conservative amounts of ceramic spray. A little will go a long way, and too much can cause a bad finish.

When applying with your towel, use a cross-hatch pattern - up and down and then left to right, overlapping your motions and carefully covering the entire panel.

After you’ve covered the entire surface, give it some time to flash out and wipe the excess with a clean towel.

Depending on the product, it can take a few seconds or a couple of minutes. You’ll recognize it’s ready when you see streaking or a rainbow effect. Be sure to wipe off all the extra spray before it has time to adhere and set.

Most products will need to cure for a few hours before exposing them to the environment.

With proper application, your vehicle should gain a high-gloss shine with glass-like reflectivity. It will be incredibly smooth to the touch, water will bead up and sheet off, and contaminants will slide off easily without leaving a mark.

Once fully set, you can only remove a ceramic coating with a polishing machine and a fairly aggressive compound.

What’s The Best Spray-On Ceramic Coating?

If you’re looking for a great balanced ceramic coating spray, you have to try Ceramic Shine by Torque Detail.

This product is a proprietary solution of SiO2 particles and synthetic polymers, which achieves good hardness and scratch-resistance while also maintaining great toughness and durability.

Ceramic Shine reaches a hardness of 7H on the pencil scale. The best professional ceramic coatings attain a maximum hardness of 9H, while the clear coat of your car gets up to about 3H.

Ceramic shine is more than enough to protect the paint of your vehicle, although you have to be realistic about driving a rally course.

The car’s paint will be thoroughly protected from UV rays, contamination, bird droppings, tree sap, and other mild chemicals in the environment.

The combination of ceramic particles and polymers achieves a great level of hydrophobicity, meaning water will not stick to the surface, instead beading up and sheeting off the panels on its own.

Finally, Ceramic Shine’s greatest quality is that it’s so easy to work with. You don’t need to be a professional detailer or even an amateur one.

All the preparation you need is a simple wash and wipe of the vehicle. To apply Ceramic Shine, simply spray a few spots and use a microfiber towel to work it into the surface with a cross-hatch pattern. Then, wait just a couple of seconds and wipe the excess off with a clean towel.

That’s it - your Ceramic Shine coating is applied, so just let it sit overnight and cure. Your vehicle will be protected for the next 12 months.

It’s that easy.

Summary

Well, this has been an intensive ride through the world of ceramic coatings - at least as far as paint protection is concerned.

Let’s quickly recap what we learned in this article.

Ceramic coatings are the apex of automotive paint protection. They secure the greatest protection to your paint from scratches, dust, environmental pollution, acids, and UV rays.

High-grade nano-ceramic coatings offer the best results and durability. However, they are the most expensive and often require installation from a professional detailing shop.

Ceramic coating sprays are engineered for the DIY auto enthusiast. They still offer good protection and decent durability for up to 12 months. Ceramic spray products are very affordable and easy to work with, giving car owners the ability to apply their own coatings.