Ceramic Coating: What It Is and How It Works

So many elements in nature and traffic conspire to dull the finish on your vehicle. This is about creating a protective coating the keeps a car shiny.

The name can be misleading: you can “ceramic coat” your car?

To be clear, ceramic coating a vehicle has nothing to do with flower vases, roof tiles, or refractory kiln linings. A ceramic coating is clear, very thin, and made to provide a very resilient and dirt-repellent shine on auto body painted surfaces.

Some liken it to wax coatings applied to the paint. But for the most part, a ceramic coating is much stronger and lasts much longer. It also costs more because of the materials used and time it takes to apply by a professional who is adept at working with it.

It is possible to DIY a ceramic coating – but few people have the skills and equipment required to do it to its full effectiveness. Best to find a professional auto detailer shop or, better, a mobile auto detailer to come to you.

What exactly is a ceramic coating?

A ceramic coating is largely composed of silicon dioxide (SiO2), otherwise known as a quartz coating. When applied to the car’s paint surface, it bonds while filling in porous spaces (yes, your car’s paint has very small porosity that can trap dust and dirt, dulling the shine).

The effect of applying the ceramic coating is you get a smooth, glossy surface, pretty much the slickest your vehicle’s paint surface can achieve. Think auto advertising on television or in car magazines, where the car, truck or SUV looks impossibly, enviably shiny.

The benefits of ceramic coatings

But this thin, basically invisible coating goes beyond just good looks. The coatings protect in several ways:

Sun protection. Ultraviolet rays aren’t just harmful to human skin (which promotes aging and wrinkling). It also dulls the car’s paint. The silicon dioxide prevents oxidization, which is what fades and dulls the car surface. If your car is outside a lot, especially if parked in a sunny place during the day, this matters.

Pollution protection. Not counting bird droppings (see below), there are several things in the air, particularly on busy highways, that dull a paint surface. Acid rain, as well as “rail dust,” tiny flakes of metal from vehicle brakes, can pit car paint surfaces. Ceramic coatings resist these things.

Nasty nature protection. Birds and bees and flies and gnats are enemies of car paint. You can sometimes avoid parking under trees where birds roost and drop what birds drop. And if the birds don’t get you, the tree sap will. And while driving those bugs hitting your car are beyond your control. Ceramic coatings protect against the physical and chemical assaults of nature.

Dirt kinda just rolls right off.  Ceramic coatings are hydrophobic, meaning the material repels moisture. This is noticeable when washing the vehicle, but it also has the effect of resisting dirt in the first place. As water rolls off the vehicle, dirt tends to go with the water. This is not to say that is a 100 percent solution freeing you from ever washing your car again, but it noticeably reduces the problem.

There are do-it-yourself ceramic coating kits for non-professional use. But given the nature of the product (gloves, eye protection, and ventilator masks must be worn due to the toxicity of the material), as well as the potential of applying the material incorrectly, this suggest it’s a process best left to the professional.