Ceramic Coating Marketing Lies: BS Hardness Values 9H 10H

How Ceramic Pro, GTechniq, and IGL Coatings 9H and 10H hardness values and marketing info are false.

By Christopher Brown of OCDCarCare.com 

Many automotive ceramic coating manufacturers feature claims of 8H, 9H, or even 10H Applied Surface Hardness. Guess what—it’s all a pile of horse manure. Unfortunately these claims are ceramic coating marketing lies at best.

Most anyone, browsing ceramic coating products or services, has encountered advertised hardness (xH) ratings from automotive coating manufacturers.

Applied coating hardness marketing claims, both directly stated or heavily implied, have steadily gained frequency in the past 8-10 years. This is partially due to the increasing popularity and influence of short style copy, hashtags, and the formats of many popular social media platforms.

The applied hardness values of 8H, 9H, or 10H for ceramic coatings are not true, nor have they ever been.

Because little information exists, exploring the applied hardness of automotive ceramic coatings, the goals of this article are:

  • to educate detailers and the vehicle loving public about how applied automotive ceramic coatings function to enhance and protect paint.
  • to demonstrate the true nature of automotive surfaces  vs.  the bogus marketing claims surrounding the claimed, or implied, absolute ceramic coating hardness values–using known detailing information and experiences.

There will be no grey-area claims, smoke and mirrors, or slight of hand to distract attention from the topic at hand. And definitely no products will be mentioned by name or endorsed to allow bias to creep into the discussion.

Are You Considering a Ceramic Coating for Your Vehicle or Detailing Business?


Basing a purchase decision on automotive coating manufacturer claims of absolute hardness ratings, and their associated protection, is a dangerous proposition. And, its essentially totally false information.

If you want more information–read on. Don’t worry simple info and explanations will follow, so prior knowledge isn’t necessary.

How False Ceramic Coating Applied ‘Hardness’ Values Became Perceived ‘Reality’

At this point you may be wondering, “if these common claims about ceramic coating hardness values are false, then why does most of the auto detailing industry use and support these claims?

The answer is a single word: Marketing.

On media and social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok OVER oversaturation is normalcy.

In recent years, many detailing product companies, advertising campaigns, and even individual online personas/reputations were entirely built on social media. They positioned their ‘credibility’, ‘authority’, and ‘professional chops’ through social posting and marketing alone.

The oversaturation strategy relies on a relentless barrage of marketing and advertising campaigns promoting: catch phrases, slogans, hashtags, or ‘cool clickbait style images.’ For the companies or individuals implementing these strategies the offering of: facts, actionable content, and valuable information is rarely an objective.

Essentially these methods are nothing more than attrition based ‘marketing strategies’. At the heart of this strategy is the belief:

If a phrase, slogan, or mantra is repeated enough–over a long enough timeline–eventually people will start to accept it as fact.

This is the basis of indoctrination through repetition. And it is eerily similar to the psychological concept called the “illusion of truth effect.”

People may recognize this concept from the infamous phrase from the 20th century; “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.

It is WIDELY ACCEPTED that marketing “Statistics” and/or “Claims” are often narrow slivers of information ripped completely out of context. Often, these thin claims are then reapplied as ‘scientific fact’ or ‘proof’ in other areas. And often, these reapplied ‘facts’ hold little to no merit out of context.

The general public is typically skeptical when many statistics are quoted in rapid fire succession to validate statements or arguments. Therefore, it shouldn’t shock anyone when unsupported manufacturer marketing campaigns, centered around automotive ceramic coating absolute hardness values (e.g. “xH”, “9H”,”10H”), are challenged as factually hollow and false.

What is a Vehicle Substrate? How do Substrates Impact Applied Ceramic Coating ‘Hardness Values’?

A Substrate is defined as either the base material something is made from, or the material that something attaches to.

Within auto detailing, substrates for ceramic coating applications are mostly automotive clear coats (paint) and variations of exterior plastics.

To understand the significant role substrates play to ceramic coatings, let’s examine an similar concept outside of detailing; construction. Let’s explore how substrates play a critical role when choosing paint for a home.

Most people, and certainly all contractors, agree that different paint types are required for the various the duties of paint for many needs of the interior and exterior of a home. Even just for exteriors, the needs of an exterior pant for a home in the winter frozen extremes of Duluth Minnesota are entirely different than a house enduring the hot sticky summers of Baton Rouge Louisiana. And both of those have needs which are vastly different than a beach front house in

When painting inside the home, a painting contractor’s list quickly fills up with three, four, or more types of paint when tasked with repainting the entire interior of the home. The types of paint typically used on kitchen cabinets, on walls, on baseboards, and in bathrooms are unique and are vastly different than the paint used on the average bedroom or hallway. This is because these substrates have varying needs and require unique paint formulations to meet such needs.

So, its commonly understood that varying substrates inside the home require specialized paint because they have unique characteristics which have specialized needs. If that is the common understood practice in home construction industry, then why is that principle not applied inside the auto detailing industry?

For instance, when discussing ceramic coatings, why isn’t the concept that not all automotive paint systems have the same characteristics applied in the marketing or advertising of ceramic coatings when applied to automotive paint?

These questions are highly relevant, since most intermediate or advanced auto detailers understand the characteristics of automotive paints (substrates) vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and even vehicle to vehicle .

Detailers know from daily experiences that the characteristics of all vehicle paint systems, even different colors on the same year & model, may greatly vary. Again, this is widely regarded as fact for most of the auto detailing industry. So if it commonly understood that automotive paints can greatly vary in the characteristics, then why don’t ceramic coating manufacturers speak to these points when marketing the hardness their ceramic coating formulas?

Because coating manufacturers don’t want to talk about the realities surrounding paint systems. They don’t want to address the vastly different physical characteristics of the many different automotive paint systems. Instead, they want to create the illusion their products will grant equal and universal physical improvements to ALL paint systems.

This is of course, fiction at best. A sleepy time bed time marketing tale designed to lull auto detailers into a happy and content state. The goal is to push detailer minds into happy land when its time for them to click the “order” button.

However, reality tells a different and more complex story. All automotive paint formulas (systems) have a very diverse spectrum of traits and characteristics just like the many surface found in and outside of a home.

Going back to construction. A painter, evaluating a home for an exterior paint job, must always take the surface substrates into consideration when choosing paint. They understand that the type of paint needed is determined by the surface’s (substrate’s) characteristics. The long-term needs of wood, stucco, vinyl siding, synthetic stone, or brick are all drastically different. This is because each substrate’s physical characteristics, durability, and appearance all depend on their material’s composition.

The same is true of automotive paint systems. A high-solids ceramic clear coat, from either Mercedes or Audi, contains completely different chemical composition and characteristics when compared to a GM or Tesla non metallic paint.

Therefore, it’s ridiculous for automotive ceramic coating manufacturers to claim, or imply, that a single coating formula will offer the same ‘hardness’ benefits for all vehicle paint systems, which have a few different substrates. This claim is just as ridiculous as a house painter who declares that one type of paint is needed for all interior and exterior surfaces.

Ceramic Coating Technology Works With Automotive Paint, it Doesn’t Replace It


Ceramic Coatings, applied to vehicle surfaces, DO NOT REPLACE the physical characteristics of substrates they adhere to. (mainly polyurethane clear coat)

True cross-linking coating chemistry adheres to a substrate and works in harmony with the native characteristics of that substrate.

Ceramic Coatings ONLY amplify or enhance the pre-existing physical characteristics of the substrate.

* Within the Context of Automotive Paint: Ceramic Coatings cannot replace the base characteristics (especially ‘hardness’) of the substrate they bond to—NO MATTER the Manufacturer’s Claimed Hardness Rating of a Coating.

Let’s examine this issue using another logical non-detailing analogy:

With current scientific technology, it is impossible for scientists to create a standard cotton t-shirt that’s bulletproof from handguns. It wouldn’t matter if it was constructed 2 inches or two feet thick.

The cotton’s physical characteristics, and the final material’s weave construction, are the limitation. Neither are strong enough to withstand the force of a bullet fired at a modest rate of ~400-600meters/second.

Now, if scientists constructed a t-shirt of the same dimensions and thickness, using the strong material and weave of Kevlar, they could easily make a t-shirt capable of withstanding handgun fire. Why is this? Because the unique physical characteristics of the Kevlar, and its unique weave, make it possible.

. . . Now back to our regularly scheduled ceramic coating program:

Keeping the Cotton vs. Kevlar t-shirt analogy in mind…


How can a single automotive ceramic coating formulation transform ALL different paint systems—with greatly varying starting physical characteristics— to the same “X” hardness levels?

Simple Answer: It cannot.


How can a ceramic coating manufacturer honestly claim “X” hardness levels on all current or past formulations of automotive paint?

Again, they cannot.

And proving these hyped up marketing claims, would be a near impossible task for ceramic coating manufacturers who promote them.

Imagine the cost of testing and formulating one coating, to obtain 8H, 9H or 10H (advertised or implied) hardness for use on EVERY automotive paint system made globally, in the last 10 years alone.

That task would be so cost and time intensive that the company could never profitably fund the development.

Furthermore, if a company honestly attempted to develop ONE single coating formulation to solve all automotive surface woes it would be incredibly expensive to test the formula’s efficacy.

Not even a company as big as Amazon would attempt such a test…due to the extreme cost. Imagine the monumental logistical challenge of trying to track down ALL different paint systems (OEM + Refinish Industries) developed for all vehicle manufacturers in North America alone. Then, include the rest of the world.

So, by only examining logistics, the task would seem near impossible to complete.

YET several automotive ceramic coating manufacturers–many of which sell their products globally–use these cluster bomb like marketing tactics.

They market to both the general public, and to the detailing industry, hardness claims as high as 8H, 9H or 10H achieved by their installed product.

All of which factual un-biased scientific testing methods and data CANNOT PROVE.

Why Ceramic Coating Claims of 8H, 9H, & 10H Hardness are False

To understand how claims of applied ceramic coatings hardness values are false lets use an analogy of building a house. For this example one house will be built on a sandy beach shoreline and the other building on land that is solid bedrock.

The Unstable Beach Land represents a low solids Japanese clear coat: say Lexus Jet Black.

The Solid Bedrock Land represents a high solids ceramic clear coat: say Mercedes Metallic Blue

No matter what ceramic coating is applied to the low solids jet black Lexus paint, its final surface hardness characteristics will NEVER reach the starting point of the uncoated high solids ceramic Mercedes Paint. Just as a house’s foundation, poured on sandy beach, will never be as stable as house’s a foundation poured on a land base made of solid bedrock.

Detailers who have suffered the pain of super ‘soft’ towel marring paint will understand the following statement:

Coatings only enhance surface hardness, offering limited resistance to fiction. They are NOT bulletproof barriers of protection.

Therefore, It’s pretty safe to say that almost NO EXPERIENCED DETAILER ALIVE would EVER Claim that a super ‘soft’ towel marring paint could be transformed (with a coating application) into a rock hard, difficult to polish, high-solids Mercedes ceramic paint.

However, coating manufacturers regularly state or imply that using their coatings will transform surface hardness into 7H, 8H, 9H, or even 10H on a daily basis!

Are you starting to see the trouble with marketing techniques that claim absolute surface hardness values on ALL paint systems and substrates yet?

Why the Pencil Hardness Test or the Mohs Hardness Scale is Irrelevant to The ‘Hardness’ of Installed Automotive Ceramic Coatings 

This article will not fully delve into the pointless use of the ‘pencil hardness’ (Wolff-Wilborn) test. Or even of the flawed and outright blatant misrepresentation of the Mohs hardness scale. Why? Because common logic dictates that no automotive ceramic coating is anywhere near as hard as a diamond. It doesn’t take a PhD material scientist to UNDERSTAND that.

Neither the pencil hardness test, nor the Mohs scale, hold any actual merit for the context they are frequently referenced– applied ceramic coating hardness values. They literally have nothing to do the ‘hardness’ of a ceramic coating once applied to an actual vehicle paint system.

Instead, the pencil hardness test measures the hardness of the substrate which the ceramic coatings are applied to for the laboratory testing; which frequently are 9H, 10H, or 11H prior to the coating application.

To summarize, the 9H or 10H coating pencil hardness testing claims are, in actuality, skewed laboratory tests performed in a vacuum. These tests literally have zero relevance to the many varying real world vehicle paint systems they are applied to.

Therefore, to mention the data derived from the ‘scientific test pencil test’, in the context of a ceramic coating applied to automotive paint, is pointless. At best it’s similar to an attraction found at a traveling circus or carnival. When walking around you frequently hear or see a large commotion. A person is heavily touting a unique visual spectacle as or legendary experience at a booth to quickly grab attention and generate a crowd. Yet, when the audience gathers to examine the attraction up-close, they realize there isn’t much actual substance to the larger than life words of the hype man.

Mentioning the ‘scientific pencil test’, or the the Mohs scale of hardness, in reference to an applied vehicle coating, is no more useful or truthful than the endless claims spouted by greasy used-car salesmen. These outright false and completely misleading bits of ‘scientific information’ are simply marketing tools, used to perpetuate hype to boost product sales. And, unfortunately, this hype has proven highly effective for most of their existence in the detailing industry.

The problem is this–Many of the false product claims about coating harness values are now frequently believed and marketed as fact throughout the detailing industry!

Why Do Some Automotive Ceramic Coating Companies Claim Absolute Hardness Values to Applied Surfaces?

It’s simple, automotive coating manufacturers pass product spec sheets onto their marketing departments or to independent marketing agencies.

Marketers generally don’t know much conceptually or scientifically about how or why products work or about auto detailing businesses or processes for that matter. A marketer’s single objective is to position products to be: understood, relatable, and desired by the target audiences or industry for immediate purchase. Typically, they use simplistic product details and bullet points to appeal to consumer wants, aspirations, and pain points.

There is often a huge disconnect between the realistic functionality of a product when speaking to a scientist vs. speaking to a marketer. When marketing campaigns for new products debut, the advertised functions, benefits, and realities of the product may greatly differ from the real life results. Often, other departments within the company view this advertisement wording as harmless ‘marketing speak.

It’s currently the second decade of the 21st century, so obviously the general public understands that marketing speak isn’t reality — or do they?

Here’s the rub. There really isn’t a mechanism, other than potential legal concerns or consequences, to prevent companies from claiming anything they want about products they market. Generally, company marketing agendas and beliefs are not publicly altered until false information or misleading claims are widely and publicly accepted or proven as false or misleading.

Sadly, some automotive coating companies use these false marketing claims and tactics. They do so because of the lack of knowledge of automotive paint within the general public and within the dealing industry.

Due to this missing public knowledge, select companies have taken the opportunity to flood the market with endless marketing campaigns about claimed hardness ratings of their products.

These unrelenting campaigns have taken place over many years.

So, what once started off as a marketing strategy has morphed into a ‘perceived reality’ for a large majority of the detailing culture and by direct influence—the general public.

Remember the “illusion of truth” effect, mentioned at the start of the article?

Here’s the gist of it: Repeat a phrase, belief, or slogan enough times, for long enough span of time, and it will become the accepted norm.

THIS is the golden goose or ideal that all marketing slogans and campaigns chase over years or decades. It’s War of Attrition Marketing at its finest.

Cigarette manufacturers practiced very similar strategies for many years in the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s, and into the early 60’s. Many companies used a variety of health and weight-loss claims and fully developed campaigns to market and sell cigarettes.

This went on for decades until Surgeon General Luther Terry published the first “Smoking and Health Report” In 1964. This first public safety report (and 32 subsequent reports over the past 50+ years) prompted warning label regulations to cigarettes and forever changed how they could be marketed to the public.

Before this information, and the regulations that followed for marketing to the general public, cigarette companies were essentially free to market their products however they saw fit—even if they knew the info was false or misleading.

The current marketing history of automotive and marine ceramic coatings is on a similar trajectory as the cigarette industry of the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s.

Currently the public, including much of the detailing industry, is unaware of how coatings and automotive paint systems work on a scientific level. Therefore, companies exploit this market aspect and advertise many coatings with fixed hardness ratings. These advertising campaigns either explicitly mention, or strongly suggest, a coating’s ‘fixed applied hardness value’ as a solve-all solution to vehicle surfaces.

The countless ways this advertising affects, misleads, or outright fools the detailing industry, and therefore the mass public perception, could be the subject of another dedicated article. And, frankly it should be written in the narrative of a Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western because these marketing tactics are often achieved in a “wild-west-free-for-all” style.

How Ceramic Coating Manufacturers Could Accurately Test & Prove Applied Hardness Gains

IF Ceramic Coating Manufacturers Wanted to ACCURATELY Report and Market the ACTUAL hardness gains of their products — WHEN APPLIED TO SURFACES — they could EASILY do so.

Here’s how:

Before suggesting a fair test, and its parameters, let’s first address WHO should perform the test while recording and reporting the results.

In order to have a truly scientific test, it should go without saying that such a test should be conducted by a well known independent third party with zero ties to the automotive industry. This would not allow any bias to creep into the process anywhere along the way.

A FAIR Applied Ceramic Coating Hardness Test for Manufacturers:

* * Select a few Widely KNOWN low or medium solids ‘Soft’ to ‘Agreeable’ Clear Coats from popular manufacturers. For example: Lexus jet black, GM jet black, Honda dark metallic blue, and Hyundai red metallic clear coats.

  • A) Document the hardness of the virgin clear coat substrates on their own.
  • B) Apply ONE LAYER of each of coating in the test and allow them to fully cure.
    Include a pre-established curing time frame that would allow all coatings within the test to reach FULL crosslink density. Because even after IR curing, most coatings with varying chemistry types, require additional time to fully set up, reaching optimal stability. (potentially 30-60 days)
  • C) Document the surface hardness values after applied coatings fully cure.
  • D) COMPARE & DISPLAY a chart of all the coatings tested, showing:

Starting Hardness Values of Virgin Paint Surfaces
The Hardness Values of the Surfaces Post Coating Application

Alone, the raw data displaying original paint ‘hardness’ values would absolutely legitimize this test.

Experienced detailers are familiar with the characteristics of popular automotive paint systems. They know which paint systems have tendencies toward being ‘soft’ and difficult to polish and which are agreeable to work with.

Secondly, the ‘hardness’ data, of applied and fully cured coatings, would show the true nature of the ‘strength enhancement capability’ of each applied coating formulation. Of course the ‘softer’ the paint system to start, the more difficulty a coating would have toward improved hardness gains. Just as it is more difficult to improve the hardness of jello than it is a soft piece of wood.

The final values of “xH” ratings of paint systems after this controlled application, curing, and testing of coatings would be most interesting. It would prove the fact that it’s almost impossible to transform ‘very soft’ clear coats into 7H with a single layer coating application. And that’s no where near some of the claimed 8H, 9H and 10H values.

The sad fact is, coating marketing departments don’t wanna play fair and show real data. As the above test would demonstrate. They want to sell product, based on a marketing story and a perceived characteristic.

In today’s ‘created persona’ online world, often times perception is reality. And if not; the illusion of positive perception is reality — at least for a time. So, in a contemporary playing field of smoke and mirrors, companies want to leverage any tactics they can to get ahead of competition in the marketplace. INCLUDING willingly marketing false data about the stated or implied hardness values gained from surface application of their products.

Three Potential Problems for Detailers Who Reinforce & Market False Ceramic Coating Product Claims

It’s important to state and explain the dangers and potential issues that auto detailers face by perpetuating the information of misleading ceramic coating marketing information or campaigns.

False claims and information, even those born directly from manufacturers, are serious. They carry a huge potential liability to negatively impact both individual detailing businesses and the automotive detailing industry as a whole.

The following three topics represent the tip of the iceberg of a larger discussion that needs to occur within the detailing community about the dangers of ceramic coating hardness marketing:


Many detailers are unaware of the true science behind automotive paint. And they have no practical means to validate or test coating manufacturer marketing claims of absolute coating hardness values. Without the time, or ability to test these claims, many auto detailing businesses simply pass on marketing info from ceramic coating manufacturers directly to their clients as truth, without much thought.

This could potentially cause a large negative effect on a business over time. Because real world conditions (climate, nature, and owner vehicle care habits) have the potential to quickly demonstrate the actual performance of any coating compared to the marketing information that coating’s sale was based on.

If enough unsatisfied and remorseful clients speak up; they can wreak havoc locally or over social media about a business. They even have the potential to negatively influence an industry over an entire a geographic area or market. This negative impact could be especially damaging to a small auto detailing business operation and its reputation, if that business blindly passed on the false marketing claims from a coating manufacturer over a long period of time to sell coatings.


It’s true, many detailing businesses simply follow the lead and repeat the manufacturer claims of a coating’s hardness values. This includes the associated benefits of that hardness when applied to automotive surfaces. The problem with this approach is that the actual liability for a product’s marketing claims falls on the business which physically sells and applies the product.

A business is legally responsible for all terms they market products and services for. Legally the business must ensure products they use meet the claims and terms that business used to sell that product to the consumer.

Therefore, if real world performance of the coating does not live up to the marketing hype, its on the detailing business. The client’s first action will almost ALWAYS involve seeking out the detailing company who applied the product for a fix or for recourse.

Many unsatisfied customer claims could, over time, cost the detailing business a great deal of money. These expenses pile up quickly in the form of out of pocket labor and product expenses. Additionally, the detailing business misses out on revenue (opportunity cost) for new jobs when fixing issues from a previous jobs.


Ultimately, the worst victims of false automotive ceramic coating marketing claims are vehicle owners– a.k.a. the general public.

Vehicle Owners are often sold on many outlandish and wild claims of extreme protection from absolute coating hardness values. Over time they discover real world conditions are not as kind to treated vehicle surfaces as many coating marketing campaigns portray.

In the end, the entire detailing industry also suffers from false coating hardness marketing claims. Because many regretful consumers feel burned by the hollow promises of a few manufacturers.

This leaves these consumers with a skewed long-term negative view of ALL ceramic coatings. Unhappy consumers are extremely likely to communicate their negative experiences or beliefs to friends, family, or other vehicle enthusiasts. Over time, unhappy and regretful customers negatively influence the public perception of coatings as a technology.

This, in turn, slows down the influx of the detailing coating economy as a whole. This affects ALL detailers. But those most affected are detailing businesses those within the immediate geographic areas of a few burned and vocal customers. Because people tend to have the most influence over other local people.

Final Thoughts on Ceramic Coating Marketing Lies Featurning Applied Hardness Values

To Close… Let’s Revisit One Fact and One Analogy About Applied Vehicle Ceramic Coating Hardness:


Ceramic Coatings CANNOT fully replace the base characteristics of the substrate they bond to.

Instead, Ceramic Coatings ONLY amplify or enhance pre-existing physical characteristics. This includes the original ‘hardness’ values of the clear coat substrate they adhere to.


For house building, supports or substructures cannot make sandy beach land as strong and supportive as land made up of solid bedrock. Instead, these substructures work to make the sandy beach land more stable than its original starting point.

It’s the same with automotive ceramic coatings when applied to paint: they only work to enhance hardness. And their ultimate enhancement capabilities have limitations which are completely dependent on the paint’s original characteristics.


One last thing to consider, even if some of the advertised ceramic coatings were truly 9H when applied to automotive paint systems (which they are not)– most coatings are hoping to obtain 1-2 microns in film build a.k.a. thickness.

Even at 2 microns, an automotive ceramic coating is still 22 times thinner than the average vehicle’s clear coat it adheres to… which measures about 44 microns on average.

Does it seem plausible that a protective layer–that measures 4.5% (four point five percent) of the thickness of the substrate it’s supposed to protect–has the ample physical capability to physically protect that substrate?

Seems quite unlikely at best. Its pretty safe to say that if asked, most people would laugh at the idea that a coat of kevlar paint, or two, could protect their home or vehicle from an onslaught of .45 caliber bullets fired at it at close range. Yet many ceramic coating manufacturers, professional detailers, and vehicle owners have bought into the fact that a ceramic coating, .045% as thick as the average vehicle’s clear coat, can protect the paint’s surface from physical abrasion and impacts…

That seems a bit far fetched in the realm of material science.

“ALWAYS Keep Learning to Strengthen Your Passion & Your Business.”

© Christopher Brown – OCDCarCare Los Angeles

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Christopher Brown