Now and then, a product that appears better than reality comes to the market. Such is the case with the 9H ceramic coating taking the car detailing industry by storm. But like everything else, all that ceramic coating goodness comes with a downside or several.
Ceramic coating can be bad for your car, and here are some of the reasons:
The rest of this article will look in detail at the negative side of ceramic coating, so you can make informed decisions when choosing your paint protectant. Keep reading.
Ceramic Coating a Car Is Very Expensive
The biggest lie going around about ceramic coating is that it’s a more cost-effective option compared to waxing your car monthly or applying Clear Bra. These sellers won’t tell you that while the bottle of ceramic coating is quite affordable, the application process isn’t.
I’ll discuss the intricacies of applying ceramic coating properly in the following points, but this is what you need to know—only an experienced professional should do ceramic coating. Contrary to what people are saying, the last thing you want is to DIY your ceramic coating unless you know what you’re doing.
Speaking of professionals, the average cost of ceramic coating a medium-size vehicle is $2,000 for a used car and $1,500 for a brand new one. This average cost can be more or less.
Some of the factors that’ll determine the final cost you’ll need to pay for ceramic coating your car are:
If you have a big car that requires a more severe paint correction and preparation, be ready to spend anywhere between $2,000 and $5,000.
Ceramic Coating Takes a Lot of Time To Apply
Applying ceramic coating on your car is actually pretty easy—just spray and wipe.
However, ceramic coating is a transparent product that magnifies a car paint’s imperfections. Things like swirls, discoloration, and scratches will look even worse after the coating, so remove them first.
That’s where ceramic coating gets expensive, not to mention time-consuming. If you were thinking about taking in your car for a detailing job and picking it up in the evening, that wouldn’t happen. The sheer amount of surface preparation detailers do is so much that you may need to forfeit the car for a week or so.
It includes thorough washing, polishing, chemical decontamination, and sanding to remove any paint damage—yes, such is done on a brand new car too. As it turns out, fresh-off the shop cars have slight paint damage due to automatic car wash, dust, and transportation.
Once the surface preparation is over and they apply the coating, the car needs to stay in the detailing shop to dry. This process can mean another two days without your car and possibly more, as you’ll see below.
Ceramic Coating Is Easy To Mess Up
There’s a reason why I recommend taking your car to a skilled professional if you want ceramic coating. Improper application can leave your auto-baby with ugly streaks, hazing, high spots, and horrifying reflections.
Here’s a video showing what bad ceramic coating application can result in:
Remember, this coat will last for years on your car, so you should do it right.
Once the coat bonds with your car paint, it’s almost impossible to remove—expensive and time-consuming, too.
Common ways you can mess up ceramic coating include:
Any little defect on the surface of the car’s topcoat will also ruin your outcome.
For example, applying ceramic coating when the weather is really cold can cause the product to slide off the paint and pool on the edges of your car. Conversely, if you do it when it’s too hot, the product can dry up too fast before you have time to buff and smooth everything out.
Unfortunately, even taking your car to a professional isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get a good outcome. Car detailers aren’t made equal, and some only claim to know what they’re doing to the shock of many clients. In other words, you have a 50/50 chance of getting a good ceramic coating job, and the alternative isn’t pretty at all.
When applying a ceramic coating to your car, it’s crucial to search far and wide for a skilled detail shop specializing in such types of paint protection. Doing so is important because you’ll be forced to spend a whole lot of money to correct a job badly done by someone else.
Ceramic Coating Takes Time To Cure
As noted above, the ceramic coating needs about a week or so of curing time to reach its full potential. During that week, cross-link bonds form between the ceramic coating and your car’s clear coat to fuse. The bonds grow stronger with time until the coat becomes an impenetrable barrier.
Here’s where the problem lies: If a contaminant like water or dirt touches the barrier before it’s fully cured, the cross bond links will destabilize and fail. That’s why you should let your car stay in the shop for two days after the coating and then park it in your garage for a week after that.
If you need the car every day, waiting for the workshop to finish curing your car won’t be a feasible option for you. It’ll also not work if you don’t have an enclosed garage to hide the car for a few days to cure.
Speaking of time, you shouldn’t wash or even touch the car’s outer surface for at least a week or two after the ceramic coat application.
Ceramic Coating Is High Maintenance
I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t the whole point of ceramic coating to reduce maintenance and washes? You would think so, but that’s not entirely accurate.
The point of ceramic coating is to give your car that candy-looking shine and a protective barrier against dirt, UV rays, and minor scratches. For the coat to retain its protective nature, you have to maintain it, and this ends up costing more money than maintaining an uncoated vehicle, as you can see in this video:
According to Autocare, things like clay, mitts, and washing clothes are too abrasive for ceramic coating and can cause it to break down. The paintwork will start off looking swirled and faded, and eventually, it’ll completely wear off before its time.
So, what products should you use to wash your car instead? And how often should you wash it?
Ideally, you should wash a ceramic-coated car at least once every two weeks if it doesn’t get too dirty. Since the coating prevents the dirt from sticking, you can use a power hose to wash the car. The pressure will most likely wash down every dust and particle trying to stick to your car without destroying the ceramic coating.
Alternatively, go to a waterless car wash where they use a handy spray to loosen dirt and then wipe it clean and shiny with a soft microfiber cloth.
If the car is somewhat muddy or you can see some paint contaminants like bird mess, use a premium microfiber or cotton cloth and PH balanced car maintenance shampoo to clean the surface. The ceramic prep shampoo is especially helpful as its high concentration results in the complete breakdown and removal of stubborn grime and dirt.
You can also use an iron fallout or tar remover to safely remove those contaminants and then rinse down the vehicle immediately.
Lastly, the ceramic coating needs to be touched up every few months. You can do this with a ceramic reinforcement treatment to restore the hydrophobic nature of the coating.
The cost of buying all these premium cleaning essentials and maintenance products can add up fast, especially if your car stays outside.
Ceramic Coating Doesn’t Protect a Car From Common Threats
Many misconceptions are going around about the power of ceramic coating, but the biggest one has to be that it’s a guarantee of invulnerability. Ceramic coating can’t shield your car from common threats like paint chips and scratches despite what you hear outside there.
Flying stones will still chip your beautiful paint, tree sap and bird poop will still stain your car, and rogue shopping carts and terrible drivers will still dent your fender.
If you’re looking for protection against these common occurrences, go for paint protection film instead or on top of ceramic coating. All those stories about ceramic coating being self-healing, fire-proof, and chemical resistant are hearsay.
It also doesn’t last forever, and it’ll definitely not protect your car from getting dirty. You still need to hit that car wash every week or two (refer to previous point above), except with ceramic coating, your car wash cost will be higher since you can’t run through those dollar automatic washes.
Ceramic Coating Is Semi-permanent
There’s an up and a big downside to this statement. The upside is that once ceramic coating cures properly, it lasts for years and sometimes through the vehicle’s lifetime with minimal touch-ups. You no longer have to think about waxing your car every two months or washing it twice a week to retain the shine—though you still have to wash it at least once every fortnight.
However, this longevity is also a disadvantage. As discussed earlier, it’s incredibly easy to mess up the ceramic coating and cause streaks and high spots. Sometimes, you won’t notice those imperfections until the coat is dry.
Here’s where the problem lies: Removing ceramic coating after it has dried is one of the most difficult undertakings in the car-detailing world. You must wet-sand the coating with 3,000-grit sandpaper, all the while ensuring you don’t touch the actual car paint. To guarantee this doesn’t happen, hire a professional to do the job and be ready to pay a pretty penny for it.
Let’s say you had a perfect ceramic coating job done, and you went home happy and stayed happy for months. Then one day, a rogue shopping cart in the grocery store comes running towards your car and leaves an ugly scratch mark or dent. What do you do?
Believe it or not, you have to go through the grueling process of removing the ceramic coating and the paint underneath and then having it reapplied. Fortunately, you don’t have to remove the coating from the entire car.
What Is the Downside to Ceramic Coating?
The downside to ceramic coating is that it doesn’t protect your vehicle against common threats like rock chips, water spots, and scratches despite being so expensive to apply. The coating takes on the characteristic of paint, so you also have to maintain it regularly, and that’s an extra cost.
Will Ceramic Coating Hurt My Car?
Ceramic coating shouldn’t affect your car or the paintwork as long as it’s done properly. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly hard to find a car detailer who can guarantee a good job and also give you a warranty in case they mess up.
The effectiveness and safety of ceramic coating depend highly on the quality of the detailer and the product itself.
True professional detailers train and educate themselves continually on car detailing to give you the best quality. To be a professional ceramic coating detailer, you also need in-person training and certification, which many detailers are unwilling to spend money on.
More often than not, car owners end up with a ceramic coating that does more harm than good to the car because it was badly done.
Is ceramic coating bad for your car? No, if it’s done right by a qualified car detailer. Yes, if it’s done wrong, you’ll have to take it off and risk ruining your car’s real paint.
Some of the reasons ceramic coating is bad for your car are as follows:
Just like you would when choosing a doctor for your body, look for a detailer who has the required training, certification, and experience.