In this guide:
- Learn the science of ceramic coatings and how you can make yours not only look better, and last longer.
- See the best products to clean ceramic coatings and to top up or introduce even more Si02.
- Master quick and simple maintenance techniques with our step-by-step guide.
What are the benefits?
- You can save yourself cash on premature re-coating.
- Enhancing gloss and prolonging life is easy with the correct products.
- These processes can be completed quickly on every maintenance wash.
Keeping your coating in tip top condition may be easier than you think…
It goes without saying that the correct routine maintenance is crucial for keeping your car looking fresh and contra to popular belief, this includes those cars using ceramic coatings.
Of course, there’s no disputing that ceramic layers offer the most hardcore - not to mention most durable – protection out there; just two of the reasons we developed our Caramics range, which makes application of ceramic resin technology more accessible than ever for home enthusiasts and professionals alike. It’s also undeniable that the low maintenance and easy-clean properties of ceramic coatings only enhance their popularity. But, all this doesn’t mean that your protective layers can’t be enhanced and topped-up during maintenance, both in terms of gloss and durability. Many would have you believe that re-coating is the only way to increase and prolong the performance of your coatings, but this simply isn’t true. And, what’s more, all this enhancement can be achieved in double-quick time. Here’s how it’s done…
What is a ceramic coating?
First thing’s first, to understand why ceramic coatings make maintenance so easy, you need to know how they work. A ceramic coat is a liquid polymer that chemically bonds to paintwork on a molecular level. Like any LSP they need to be applied to a perfectly clean and decontaminated surface (we also recommend full correction before application because, essentially a coating will lock any defects). Where ceramic coats are different to other LSPs though, is all in this chemical bonding. Waxes for example will physically bond to surfaces, and while this bond is strong, essentially, they create a separate layer that sits on top, and can be easily removed. Technically speaking, a ceramic coat creates a similar layer, but because it chemically bonds to the surface, it temporarily becomes a part of the paint (albeit for an extended period of durability). In this way it becomes a whole new surface that is more resistant to chemicals and (although they can be etched reducing their performance) can only be fully removed through abrasion.
Ceramic coatings get their name because they use silicon dioxide (Si02). Also known as silica, Si02 is the major constituent in glass, quartz and other ceramic material. It’s also the main ingredient in a ceramic glaze, just like the waterproof layer you’d find on the outside your tea mug. It’s super hard, super shiny and a layer of silica like this that’s bonded to your paint is what serves up the hardiest protection available. This layer will also slow down the oxidation rate of your paintwork, helping to preventing UV fading.
The tight-knit molecules on the surface create a smooth, impermeable layer that’s free of abrasions, and this means that it offers nothing on a microscopic level for grime or water to stick to. Instead these will either slide away, or sit on top away from the paint surface, waiting to be quickly and easily removed during washing. This is also the bit where your beading comes in, and why we this layer is known as ‘hydrophobic’ - because of the fluid nature of water, a ceramic coating will actively repel it – in other words, it just can’t stick.
Why top up coatings?
It’s as much about visual enhancement as it is durability. Ceramic coatings are specifically designed to keep your car looking better for longer. This is how we can ensure that our Caramics kits are not only easy to use, but will offer hydrophobic performance that can last for up to 12-months. It stands to reason then, that keeping your coating in the best possible condition, for as long as possible, will keep the essential beading and easy-clean performance over an even longer period, helping it to stand up to the rigours of the road.
The best possible maintenance routine is clearly important, but the really good news is that this can be taken even further because ceramic coatings can be quickly and easily reinforced both during and after the wash stage. For this reason, we’ve developed a range of three essential Caramics support products that are specifically designed to not only boost the performance of your coatings for extra durability. But, our Caramics Enhancing Shampoo and Caramics Gloss Enhancer will also add and intensify shine to your paintwork. These ceramic-infused formulas can actually create a layer of protection themselves as stand-alone products, but they really come into their own when boosting previously-applied coatings.
Oh, and as for our Caramics Glass Cleaner? Well, let’s not forget that one - you’ll find that it’s pretty damn special, too!
Do it the Auto Finesse Way...
It doesn’t matter what vehicle you choose to have coated, ceramic layers can all be strengthened quickly and easily during routine maintenance using the Caramics range. To prove the point, we rolled this Toyota Supra up to the Detailing Academy, a car that had its ceramic coating applied some time ago, and one that’s now in the perfect condition for a boost.
It’s hard to ignore we know, but disregard the fact that this particular monster is 800bhp of modified Japanese amazingness - the whole point here is that the paintwork is exactly the same as that on any other car. So, here’s how we not only maintained the ceramic coating, but enhanced it, and all in under an hour…
Step 1: Wheels and Pre-Rinse
As with every detail, we start with the wheels to prevent transferring any of the heavy contaminants to the paintwork. If you’ve utilised our Caramics Wheel Protection Kit, it’s always best to use a non-acidic, coating-friendly products, like Imperial Wheel Cleaner and Revolution Wheel Soap. For a full rundown of the best way to clean your wheels check out our Definitive Guide here.
On to a thorough pre-rinse, which is equally important for removing any heavy grime as it is for further assessment of your paintwork and ceramic coating. After all, detailing is all about assessment, right? Why do any more work than you actually have to? This will also indicate what products you’ll need for the pre-wash stage.
In our case, the coating was doing a decent job of remaining impermeable to grime but the hydrophobic performance could do with a boost.
Step 2: Pre-Wash
Naturally, the products you’ll use here will always depend on the condition of the car. What you’ll find though, is that using the correct pre-wash cleaners on bugs or heavy grime can be extremely effective for removing contaminants without the need for scrubbing. A cleaner like Citrus Power Bug & Grime Remover will essentially cut down on the abrasion caused by making physical contact with your coating.
After our pre-rinse, it was clear that only the lightest soiling remained, so a pre-wash cleaner wasn’t necessary this time around. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not plenty of hard-to-reach dirt traps on any car, so using Avalanche Snow Foam is always necessary to break down the rest of the soiling, and get into every little nook on the exterior. Only after this stage is complete is it safe to move on to the contact wash.
Step 3: Contact Wash
Although ceramic coatings offer a hard-protective layer that’s resistant to chemicals, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be slightly etched and eroded by using the wrong detailing products, and this will reduce their overall performance. Lather Car Shampoo offers a powerful cleaning solution from a pH natural formula that won’t harm any protective layers, least of all ceramic coatings. This means that it can be mighty effective for cleaning in any situation.
For actively boosting ceramic coatings though, while adding a whole load of gloss along the way, nothing touches our Caramics Enhancing Shampoo, a formula that’s been specifically developed to do the job. This one offers all the same cleaning abilities as Lather and is used in exactly the same way.
Here we utilised the usual two-bucket wash method, cleaning the exterior from the top down. The boost to the coating was immediately apparent during rinsing.
Step 4: Drying
Decontamination washing and paint correction shouldn’t be necessary with a car that has a ceramic coating because the barrier should have stopped any contaminants from sticking or any swirls being inflicted, but again, it all comes down to visual assessment. If decontamination and correction is on the cards, then another ceramic coating will have to be applied after these stages.
All being well, you can move on to the drying stage using a soft drying towel like our Aqua Deluxe, or Aqua Deluxe XL. After that, it’s time to get on with some further coating enhancement.
Step 1: Paint Enhancement
Now for the easiest ceramic enhancement you’ll ever undertake. Caramics Gloss Enhancer is essentially a quick detailer with a difference. It will remove fingerprints, light soiling and water spots, as you’d expect, but it also adds a whole new layer of Si02 to boost ceramic coatings and leave behind surface that’s slicker and shinier than ever before. Perhaps best of all, all it takes is a spritz and a wipe over each panel (and it can also be used to top up your wheel coatings). Just remember that a little always goes a long way.
Step 2: Glass Enhancement
Caramics Glass Cleaner is less about the shine of course, and more about the extreme beading abilities to offer better vision all-year-round. This powerful solution purges surfaces from contaminants, and then bonds to add yet more Si02, creating another hydrophobic layer, and boosting any previously-applied glass coatings. Caramics Glass Cleaner is suitable for all exterior glass and, again, a quick spritz and a wipe is all that’s required for a crystal-clear, streak-free finish.
Once applied, all the exterior coatings are now enhanced, and that should be your hour complete… although, we all know that it always pays to go the extra mile, doesn’t it?
Step 3: The Rest
Yes, after feeling a little guilty about the minimal effort involved in all this ceramic enhancement, it would have been something of a crime not to spend a little more time to complete the rest of the big Toyota.
The engine bay was in fairly decent condition, so we treated it to a wipe down with Finale Quick Detailer, followed by a good helping of Dressle All Purpose Dressing.
The heavily modified interior was deep cleaned and dressed using a full complement of Total Interior Cleaner and Spritz Interior Detailer (for a full interior cleaning guide see ours right here). One thing to note is to use Crystal Glass Cleaner on all interior glass, as you never need Si02 coatings or enhancement on the inside. And, with the tyres finished courtesy of Satin Tyre Dressing, the Supra was good to go.
We think you’ll agree that the results speak for themselves here, what our Caramics support products have left behind are exterior surfaces that not only look amazing, but have had their ceramic protection strengthened. This will ensure that this car remains fully protected, and fundamentally looks better for longer.