Before applying your car’s ceramic coating, it is important to thoroughly prep your car. This preparation comes down to washing, applying clay to the paint, polishing and wiping your car to ensure it looks great and will best hold the coating. Of course, there are more steps after applying the coating. You must allow the finish to cure and then properly maintain it to keep it looking its best.
For the precise steps and to answer that question of when to apply the coating, we talked to the pros at Calgary Paint Protection Film. We provide those insights for you, below.
Preparing Your Vehicle
As mentioned above, preparing your vehicle for its ceramic finish involves four steps. These are washing, clay bar treatment, polishing and wiping down.
Wash Your Vehicle
Use the two-bucket method to wash your vehicle to remove surface dirt, grime and debris. You want your vehicle to appear clean before application of the semi-permanent coating. Obviously, there is no point in locking dirt beneath the ceramic for the next several years.
Clay Bar Treatment
Clay bar treatment removes debris from the surface of your vehicle. This semi-hard bar of clay works with highly concentrated soap serving as a lubrication fluid. The process breaks down contaminants and reaches deep into the microscopic crevices of your car’s clear coat. The clay removes debris from those cracks and valleys so the nanocoating can bond directly to the clear coat surface, creating a flat finish to better protect your paint.
In turn, a better bond with the clear coat enables your ceramic coat to provide excellent hydrophobic protection, reducing water spotting for a cleaner appearance.
Your car’s nanocoating will improve its overall appearance. But this coating does not actually fix damaged paint. In fact, the ceramic finish will magnify any existing imperfections on the paint, such as swirl marks, light scratches or fading.
This is why it is important to fix paint or clear coat damage before applying a ceramic finish. Paint correction is a key step in the polishing process. Do whatever your vehicle’s paint needs to create the ideal canvas on which to apply the nanocoating.
Wiping Down Your Vehicle
Finally, after washing, clay bar treatment and polishing, you need to wipe down your entire vehicle using an isopropyl alcohol solution. This step removes oils, chemicals, polishes, waxes, lubricants or microscopic debris left on the body.
Applying the Coating
After fully preparing your vehicle using the steps above, it is the right time to apply your ceramic coating. Of course, you should have your vehicle stored inside after polishing and for the actual ceramic application process. Before starting your coating, ensure the vehicle has not been in direct sunlight for at least three hours.
Only apply the coating to a perfectly clean and smooth vehicle that is no warmer than 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Also never apply the nanocoating in direct sunlight.
Typical supplies you need to apply DIY ceramic protection include:
- One to three bottles of your coating, depending on the size of your vehicle
- Applicator sponge for even distribution
- Suede cloths for use around the sponge
- Nitrile gloves as protection from the coating’s stickiness
- Microfiber buffing cloth for buffing flashed coating from the surface when dried
When applying your coating, remember to work in small sections. Consider breaking up the hood into two to four sections, for example. Apply as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions and buff off. Start buffing when the coating “flashes.” This is indicated by the cloudy surface that appears after application.
Always complete one section of the vehicle before moving onto the next. You can leave the vehicle after application of one coat or allow one to two hours before adding a second coat for even greater protection.
Follow your DIY ceramic coating’s specific instructions for application and curing. Some recommend having the vehicle sit indoors for up to 48 hours before use. Allowing this curing time reduces the coating’s exposure to the elements, such as rain, environmental water, dew or high humidity. It also prevents adhesion of dirt, grime or bird droppings before it is fully cured.
After curing, the coating will protect your vehicle from the sun’s damaging rays, bird droppings, road grime, acid rain and other contaminants for up to five years.
Caring for Ceramic Coatings
Maintenance of ceramic coatings is as important as preparation before application of the nanocoating. Some manufacturers recommend use of specialized sprays after curing. But overall, your vehicle will be easier to maintain after coating application. You will not have to use polishes or waxes to clean your vehicle and make it look its best, anymore.
General maintenance tips for ceramic coatings include:
- Bi-weekly washing to prevent excessive build up of contaminants
- Avoiding washing in direct sunlight to prevent water spotting and streaks
- Avoiding cross-contamination when washing the vehicle by starting at the top and working your way down to grimier areas
- Using the two bucket method for washing your vehicle, one bucket for rinsing your mitt and one with fresh soapy water
- Using a separate mitt for the vehicle body and one for its wheels
When to Apply Ceramic Coatings
Clearly, anytime is the right time to apply ceramic coatings, given you have properly prepared your vehicle and have the space to work indoors.
Applying your nanocoating is not as hard as it seems, if you have the time, space and energy to invest in the process. You do not have to have advanced knowledge or training on how to do so. You also do not need to know anything about paint correction or advanced techniques. But if your vehicle’s paint has faded areas or light scratches, you probably should let a professional detailer prepare your vehicle through paint correction, first. Then, after the pro does their part, you can apply your DIY coating.
Of course, it is always critical that you follow the coating manufacturer’s instructions. Also contact them directly if you have questions about the application process or ongoing maintenance.