The Truth About Ceramic Coatings: Part 2
If you haven’t read our Part 1, Click Here
In this edition we break down Warranties on ceramic car coating, Pro Vs Non Pro coatings, and how to select the right product and installer.
Due to popular demand, I decided to write a part 2 to our popular blog “The Truth About Ceramic Coatings”. I want to thank everyone for the support, I get messages from around the world telling me how my last blog helped them learn more about Ceramic coatings, and what to really expect. Currently, the blog post gets 5-6k views a month and growing, and i never expected it to go that far, and am truly humbled by all the good feedback – so keep it coming! I want to preface this with a little disclaimer that most of this is my opinion derived from continuous research, experience(s) and professional consultations / collaborations with other highly skilled detailers all over the globe. I hope you guys like Part 2 just as much. Lets Go!
OK, so you you know what ceramic coatings are and how they can benefit your vehicle. But here comes the hard part: Which brand of Ceramic Coating should you select and
who should you select to apply it? There’s LOTS of brands, most of them make the same or similar claims as the other, some come with warranties of varying degrees while others do not. Some you can purchase online or in a detail supply store, while others are professional use only. As a detailer, it’s hard for even me to sort through that mess. And as far as installers go, there are both professional and non-professional detailers galore offering them at various price points, and unfortunately, skill levels.
Professional Only -VS- Over the counter coatings
First thing i’d like to talk about is the main differences between a professional only brand (PRO Coating), and an over the counter brand (DIY Coating for self-installation). Generally, in my experience, pro brand coatings are more difficult to apply because they cure faster (Harder levelling) and as far as quality goes they usually have higher quality ($$) raw materials. As a professional I feel that offering a Pro brand coating is the best way for us to ensure the highest quality possible for our clients. However, I know many detailers who use DIY coatings from well known brands due to their lower cost, and easier application. And in my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with that so long as the client is made aware. There are many high quality DIY brands out there, we actually will be releasing our own pretty soon which will install easily in Hawaii’s climate!
So, if you’re going to be looking for a professional install, there’s some more info you need to arm yourself with. There are 2 main SiO2 coating systems, single part coatings and 2 part coatings. A single part coating system consists of a product that provides an “All-In-One” approach for an easy and strong application. On the other hand, 2 part coatings consist of 2 separate product applications that combine or “Cross-Link” to each other after curing.
For installing on our clients cars, I tend to lean in the direction of 2 part coatings. For example, the 2 part coating system we use with Pearl Nano has a base coating that has higher adhesion to paint for a stronger bond, but with less ingredients that gloss and water bead. The top coating comes in and bonds with the base coat and adds on the extreme gloss, slickness and water beading. In my opinion this creates a film with characteristics that surpass those of a single coat application. Technology is always changing, and there may be some single part coatings out there that can be equal to a 2 part coating. Our soon to be release DIY coating will be close.
And to play devil’s advocate, The down fall to 2 part coatings is the cost. Not only does the detailer have to buy 2 products instead of one, they also have to apply 2 layers with surgical precision. This will increase the cost over doing just a single coat install, so expect to pay more for a 2 part coating. **And one more thing, some single part coatings offer a spray coating (sealant) as a 2nd layer. DO NOT confuse this with a real 2 part coating in which each layer is a real resin based nano coating versus a water based spray coating, which is actually more like a traditional sealant than a coating. I’ve found that single part coating systems that require a spray sealant as a topper, is using that to hide lower hydrophobic properties of the coating.
Layering a coating is different than applying a 2 part coating. Yes I know, a 2 part coating is applied in layers, but the definition of layering (or stacking) for this purpose is the act of applying the same product to itself in layers. There are a few brand and installers who sell up to 10 layers, and maybe even more! The research and personal testing i’ve done doesn’t support the theory that adding more than 2-3 layers of coating is actually doing anything beneficial besides lining someone’s pocket. Using a Coating Thickness Gauge, i found no added thickness in a 10 layer versus a 2. And I noticed that the more layers I applied, the easier it was to wipe off, as if the product wasn’t bonding (Anyone who installs knows that the paint feels sticky during application and curing). I’d say that anything more than 3 layers, and you’re just wasting money.
Truth about Warranties
Another consideration is whether there’s a warranty given or not, and what that warranty requires the vehicle owner to do after installation. No one can deny that a warranty provides peace of mind for the buyer, it can show how much a manufacturer believes in their product and installers.
But the warranties I’ve read, require proper care by the vehicle owner and regularly scheduled “Maintenance Services” to be completed by the Installer.. This isn’t uncommon in the warranty world, car manufacturers will only warranty your engine if you change the oil regularly and with the proper products. But the Ceramic Coating warranties I’ve seen, seem as if they’re written with the intent to exclude claims (blame on the client for improper/lack of maintenance), and to continuously drive repeat business to the installer as a profit center (Scheduled maintenance services).
For Example: the requirement of product re-application or “coating maintenance”, usually done semi-annually, or annually forces a warranty holder back to the installer to clean, inspect, and add a spray coating or a 1 year topper coating usually costing a few hundred bucks. And if you miss your first one, well guess what.. Your Lifetime warranty just ended at 1 year!
In other words, in order for you to keep your warranty valid you need to pay to have your vehicle re-coated at least every year or two. Its equivalent to buying a TV with a lifetime warranty that’s only valid if you pay to have the motherboard replaced every year. In that case, I rather buy a cheaper TV with no warranty, use it for 2-3 years then buy a new and better one when it breaks. I probably would have spent less money in the long haul, and I get a newer and better TV too! The truth is – that warranty only serves the brand and installer, as a way to keep you coming back and spending money with them.
Other reasons why I don’t like coating warranties is that they’re written by highly paid lawyers and are designed to deny claims. There’s always an inclusion that states something like “We will warranty properly installed coatings…”, which always can be used as a way out of paying a claim. They can always just blame the installer, which could possibly leave you out a good chunk of money unless the installer takes it upon himself to make it right out of his own pocket. I learned this from first hand experience (Long story). So I was always skeptical after that, ad thoroughly read any warranty for a brand that was pitching their coatings to me. So until this day we proudly do not offer any warranty with our coating installs, although when we wash your coated vehicle monthly, we WILL repair any cases of a failed coating during the stated lifetime at no charge to the customer. So we are not just going to leave you hanging.
A secondary reason why you as a consumer should be weary of a warranty, especially in the small islands of Hawaii, is that the brand will require the scheduled maintenance services and claims be done by one of their certified installers. Here in Hawaii, there may only be one certified installer, If he goes out of business, gets revoked as an installer of the brand, or switches to another brand by choice – you may be stuck with noone to maintain your warranty and/or perform claims. For example, let’s say there’s excess claims made to a warranty brand from a particular installer, they may feel his workmanship isn’t up to par and revoke his certification. Then what? I’m not sure what happens, remember there’s always that exclusion in the warranty that states “..Properly Installed..”.
Honestly, I’m not trying to play that game, and neither should you. But if you’re set on having a warrantied coating installed, do your research on the installer. Yelp reviews, Google reviews, social media reviews and accounts, should all be thoroughly looked over. And if that installer is always switching brands, I’d be EXTRA careful.
Help For the DIY Installer
Generally, a good indicator of a quality coating is always going to be price. Looking on Amazon and Ebay, you can find coatings priced as low as $8 per bottle, which (to me) screams STAY AWAY! In speaking with quite a few manufacturers, the highest quality raw materials are very pricey and are becoming more and more rare. Chances are, these low priced ceramic coatings are manufactured in China, using poor quality materials. With that being said, being high priced doesn’t automatically mean high quality, there are some well known brands that source inexpensive coatings to re-label them for sale, at a high profit margin. But there’s no way to know that for sure, its a closely guarded secret where their coatings come from. I would stick with the well known brands of OTC coatings available such as Cquartz, and IGL.
Make sure you know the difference between a real ceramic nano coating, and a spray coating. I constantly see new products being peddled as “coatings” for the DIY detailer. REAL ceramic coatings are based on a resin, that will cure into a glass layer that has some minute thickness to it. WHere spray coatings have ceramic in it, they’re usually water based, sprayed on, and do not provide all the benefits of a resin based coating, specifically the durability.
The marketers are playing the words games, using the words “ceramic coating” to describe their product when it is in fact NOT a true ceramic coating. If it’s sprayed on and rinsed or wiped off like a spray wax, it is not a coating in respect to what this article is about. I can rub peanut butter on your car and say “I coated it”. The two brands that come to mind are F11 Top Coat and Hydrosilex (although Hydrosilex is supposedly a good product that professionals use, i’ve never tried it but have used similar products). F11 Top Coat is not a ceramic coating, it is a sealant and I’m not entirely sure it even has SiO2 in it. It has been tested to not live up to its boastful claims, just google it.
Thanks again for reading, please drop me an email at EcoWashHawaii @ Gmail
Owner Eco Wash Hawaii