In this guide:
- Discover the science of ceramic coatings and how they work
- Learn how to apply Caramics and get professional results
- See the difference side-by-side that coatings make on exterior surfaces
What are the benefits of ceramic protection?
- Coatings offer the hardest, most durable protection available
- They safeguard your vehicle and make routine maintenance much easier
- Our Caramics range is easy to use, and suitable for everyone from enthusiasts to professionals
Caramics simply makes ceramic coatings accessible to everyone
When it comes to surface protection, nothing offers more security for your car than a ceramic coating, that’s just a fact. But, it has to be said that there’s much more to the story than just hardcore protection. In reality, ceramic coatings offer so much more in terms of gloss, hydrophobic water behaviour and, with our Caramics Range at least, ease of use and extreme durability. We’re often asked though; how our coatings work, how easy they are to apply and what results can be expected. So, here’s everything you need to know about getting 12 months protection on your car, and why you should do it right now…
What is a Ceramic Coating?
A ceramic coating is a liquid polymer that chemically bonds to surfaces on a molecular level. These are called ‘ceramic’ coatings because they introduce a layer of silicone dioxide (Si02 - also known as silica) which is the major constituent in glass, quartz, sand and other ceramic material. Similar to the clear ceramic glaze you’ll find on plates and cups, when cured a coating of Si02 is extremely hard, shiny and waterproof.
How do they work?
Bonded to painted surfaces, ceramic coatings not only offer a great deal of gloss (all the while locking in any paint refinement work you have carried out), but most importantly they offer a much smoother surface.
On a microscopic level paintwork isn’t actually flat, there’s all sorts of abrasions which grime and water can stick to. As the water or contaminant molecules cling on, the car gets dirtier and dirtier, not to mention harder to clean without inflicting more swirl marks.
The tight-knit molecules in a ceramic coating however, create an impermeable layer that smooths out these abrasions. First of all, this levels the optical finish making, it look deeper and glossier (much in the same way as a wax does) but crucially, it offers nothing for the grime to stick to. This means that contaminants will either slip straight off of the surface, or simply sit on top without being allowed to hold fast. It’s what makes surfaces that have been coated much easier to clean during routine maintenance. Because they’re impermeable to water and gasses, ceramic coatings will also slow down the oxidation rate of your paintwork, helping to prevent UV fading.
On surfaces like glass, ceramic coatings may be more about better vision, but they work and protect the surface in the same way. The hard Si02 layer will actively repel water that lands on top, this is why they’re known as ‘hydrophobic’ and the reason you see beading or water running off without settling. On paintwork this looks amazing, but on glass it simply offers better visibility in all weather conditions.
Our Caramics Protection Kits offer this kind of Si02 protection, but most importantly it lasts and lasts.
How can Caramics coatings be so durable?
This is all in the way that ceramic coatings bond to surfaces, it's known as ‘chemical’ bonding. Take waxes for example, these physically bond to surfaces, essentially clinging on as a completely separate layer. The physical bond is pretty strong making them reasonably durable, but they can easily be removed with chemicals or simply worn away.
A ceramic coating creates a similar layer, but because the molecules chemically bond, technically the coating becomes a part of the same surface, creating a whole new top layer that’s much more resilient to general abrasion and chemicals. In fact, true Si02 coatings can only be fully removed through heavy abrasion, which means physically cutting and polishing the surface until you’re completely through the silica layer.
What makes Caramics kits different?
Caramics offers a whole range of specially developed Si02 coatings, but the key here is how you physically get these coatings onto your vehicle.
Traditional ceramic products are extremely difficult to apply correctly, making them unsuitable - and perhaps a little bit dangerous - for enthusiasts and even professionals without significant training. Caramics is a whole new concept, we’ve specifically designed each kit to be straightforward and quick to apply, and to contain everything you need along the way. Basically, what we’ve achieved is making ceramic coatings accessible and user-friendly for everyone.
When can they be applied?
Like any LSP, Caramics coatings need to be applied to a perfectly clean and decontaminated surface. Essentially a coating will lock in any defects in the surfaces, so we always recommend correcting and refining any paintwork too. For this, depending on the level that’s needed, you can either use One Step All In One Compound or our range of Revitalise Restoring, Polishing and Refining compounds. What’s important here is that these don’t contain any waxes or fillers that will create their own protection layer and stop the coating from chemically bonding.
How easy are they to get onto your car?
Well, like we said, we’ve made it easier than ever. There’s slightly different methods for each of our Caramics exterior coatings though, and the best way to explain how simple they are is to grab a test car and show you!
So, here’s a rundown of how to apply Caramics, the results you can achieve, and how easy your car will be to wash on the next round of maintenance…
For the very best results, it’s critical to fully prepare your car. This will usually consist of two stages; a full decontamination wash and a spot of paint correction/enhancement.
The point of the wash stage is simple decontamination – to rid the surfaces of not just grime, but any hidden or embedded contaminants. It’s also to make sure there’s no other dirt and dust in panel gaps and door jambs that could be blown out later and interfere with your coating.
For these reasons (after you thoroughly clean your wheels with Imperial Wheel Cleaner of course) an effective pre-wash with Citrus Power Bug & Grime Remover, followed by using Avalanche Snow Foam (to work itself get into all the gaps) comes highly recommended.
After your pre-wash, you can move on to the contact wash phase. A few capfuls of Lather Car Shampoo and a standard two-bucket wash is all you need here.
Last of all we’d always recommend full 3-stage decontamination before doing any machine polishing. This will ensure that the paint is free from the metal contaminants (often found in brake dust) and environmental fallout, along with sticky tar and glue resides and embedded organic and inorganic contaminants. The products we use for these processes are Iron Out Contaminant Remover for metal particles, ObliTARate Tar and Glue Remover for sticky residues, and claybarring with our Clay Bar (or Clay Pads), using Glide Clay Lube as a lubricant.
You can find more information about safe paint decontamination, and a full rundown on how it’s done, in our guide here.
On to the paint correction and refinement, the level of which will always vary from vehicle to vehicle.
On our test car here we used a DPX Dual action Polisher, along with Revitalise No:2 Polishing Compound on a medium Revitalise No:2 polishing pad, completing the correction over the whole vehicle. This would ensure that the paintwork was suitably refined and free of swirl-marks before coating.
Application of Caramics
Now, with the test vehicle fully-prepared, we could begin coating. But first we masked off a line down the middle - just so you can see the difference Caramics will make. Obviously don’t try that particular bit at home – always be sure coat the whole car in one sitting, and not leave one side unprotected.
Stage: 1 - Paintwork Protection
The way we’ve made our Paintwork Protection Kit easy to apply is by engineering the coating to come in the form of special Ceramic Wipes. Using these is a quick and simple way of transferring the ceramic polymer to the vehicle. As well as paint, these can also be used on vinyl wraps.
The kit also contains a specially formulated Prep Spray which is used first to ensure there are no polishing oils, residues or fingerprints left on the bodywork from the previous stages. Just spray a light mist over the surface, and wipe clean with a fresh microfibre Work Cloth.
Open out your wipe fully, and then fold it into quarters, we find this is the best method to ensure that the wipe fits into your fingers, making it easier to hold flat on the surface of the paintwork.
Coat the car in an overlapping crosshatch method, first up and down, and then side to side. Make sure you go all the way to the edges, turning over and refolding your wipe after every pass to make sure that the coverage is even.
Our Si02 coating cures quickly, and that means that you can start to buff off the residue after just 2-5 minutes. What’s important here is to ensure that you remove all the residue and buff to a shine using a fresh microfibre. It helps to use a light source, just to make sure. Check, and then check again.
When you’re happy that all the residue has been removed, move on to the next panel, and continue until all areas of paintwork are completed. If you have lacquered carbon fibre parts or modern plastic headlights, you can coat these too.
Stage: 2 - Glass Protection
Once again, we’ve designed our Glass Protection Kit to use wipes for application, but here the other steps are slightly different.
First of all, glass needs to be deep-cleaned, simply to make sure that no oxidation and contaminants are present, this will prevent defects from being locked in. It’s a particularly important process on glass because it’s clear, so take your time using the supplied Glass Polish to thoroughly decontaminate each window first.
Apply with a microfibre pad, leave to haze and then buff with a clean cloth. This will not only scrub your glass clean on a microscopic level, but prepare the surface so that the coating can make a stronger chemical bond.
Next you can use your Glass Wipes in the same way as you used the Ceramic Wipes on your paintwork. Taking one wipe for each window, work in a side-to-side pass, followed by and up-and-down pass, once again it’s important to make sure you have full coverage.
Finally, it’s time to buff away the residue. We’ve included a special Residue Remover spray to make this easier. Just spritz directly onto the glass, and then wipe over with a fresh microfibre, before folding your cloth and buffing until your glass is clear and smear-free.
Stage: 3 - Wheel Protection
The last stage for total exterior protection is to use our Caramics Wheel Protection Kit. Once again, we’ve made this straightforward, but this time the coating comes in the form of a spray-on product.
The first step is to use the included Prep Spray to make sure the surface is ready to accept the coating. This can either be sprayed directly onto the wheel and wiped dry with a microfibre cloth, or sprayed onto the cloth first for more fiddly areas. What’s most important here is that you cover the entire face of the wheel, along with every little recess.
Once you have wiped your wheel dry, you can spray on a liberal mist of our Wheel Coating Spray. Then use the supplied Micro Wipe Applicator to spread the product around the wheel and into all the nooks.
The final stage is to buff away the residue with a fresh cloth. Again, using a light source always helps to identify any stray smears here. Be sure to remove them all.
As we’ve seen, a coating does a great job of adding gloss and locking in your prep work, but that’s just half the story. What we’re even more interested in here is the water behaviour, the protection offered and how easy a coating makes the car to clean the next time around.
For this we’d have to get our test car dirty again…
After a few days…
So, after a few days of use in winter weather, we could perform the first quick maintenance wash and scrutinise the results.
First up, the wheels – a quick rinse reveals how easily the general grime and brake dust slides off the surface of the coated wheels.
Now a thorough pre-rinse on the body, and we can already see how quickly the grime is shifted on the coating side where it has been stopped from latching on.
On to the wash steps, where we wash the car as normal. Pre-wash with Citrus Power, utilise Avalanche Snow Foam and then a two bucket contact wash with Lather Car Shampoo.
The final rinse reveals the true, long lasting water behaviour that the coating installs. The side treated with Caramics quickly beads off water, and the unprotected side lets the water settle on both paintwork and glass.
Topping-up and Enhancement
So, it’s clear that Caramics protection keeps your car looking better for longer, but don’t forget that the life of your Si02 coatings can also be extended - and their hydrophobic properties topped up - on every maintenance wash. In fact, with our Caramics support products, we can even add even more gloss, too.
Caramics Enhancing Shampoo is designed to reinforce coatings and enhance shine. The one only reason we didn’t use this product washing our test car the first time around, is that it actually installs some Si02 protection itself, so it would have interfered with the results.
Caramics Gloss Enhancer is another great product. A simple mist on and wipe off affair, it enhances gloss and leaves behind a slick, shiny surface with an extra layer of protection.
Finally, we have Caramics Glass Cleaner, which being so effortless to use, has become one of our most popular products ever. Once again, this prolongs the life of coatings and leaves behind even more ceramic protection. It’s also an easy-to-use product for a quick, smear-free finish on all exterior glass.