How To Properly Wash and Maintain Your Ceramic Coated Vehicle
By Christopher Brown – OCDCarCare.com
How Ceramic Coating Protection Is Superior to Waxes and Sealants
Automotive ceramic nano coating technology is steadily approaching popular awareness. OCDCarCare Los Angeles is continually asked for methods of maintenance for ceramic coatings after application.
This is a great question, since ceramic paint coatings require different car care methods than traditional waxes and sealants due to the coating’s technology. This article will explain how coatings are different and explore best maintenance practices for automotive ceramic coatings.
The science behind ceramic nano coating technology is drastically different from traditional topical protections like waxes and sealants.
The two most unique characteristics that set most ceramic (Si02) or “glass” coatings ahead of waxes and sealants are:
- Hydrophobic Properties (Water Behavior caused by Surface Energy)
Most quality ceramic nano coatings create a permanent bond to clear coat (cross-linking), effectively becoming the vehicles outer most protective layer. Therefore, their durability is measured in years, as opposed to months, and may be indefinite with proper care.
The ultimate longevity of coatings will depend on the coatings formulation and proper upkeep with regular maintenance wash intervals. These regular surface cleanings prevent topical contamination from bonding, and potentially altering, the coatings surface properties.
Hydrophobic Properties a.k.a. Water Behavior
Simply stated, hydrophobic properties measure the ability of water (liquids) to rest upon a surface.
A very ‘hydrophobic surface’ contains a low amount of free surface energy like freshly scotch guarded shoes for snowy or rainy days. This causes water to quickly repel off the surface. With vehicles, hydrophobic surfaces tend to stay cleaner longer which decreases the frequency of washing, while also greatly increasing and the ease and speed when cleaning.
Why Maintenance Methods for Ceramic Coatings Require A Different Detailing Approach
This article was inspired by countless of conversations with vehicle owners about how to best maintain their ceramic coated vehicles.
However, to do so requires some knowledge about how Hydrophobics or Water Behavior works. So, a brief explanation will follow below.
For a DEEP dive explore our previous article: “How Ceramic Coatings Work: Science of Surface Energy in Auto Detailing.”
The technology of ceramic nano coatings creates a much lower surface energy than other forms of protection. This causes surfaces to become hydrophobic, meaning liquids have a hard time sticking to or wetting the surface.
Because of this low degree of surface energy created by ceramic nano coatings, different products and approaches are required for regular surface cleaning and maintenance.
If a vehicle has a coating installed, then optimal product for continued maintenance are those that carry similar characteristics. Commonly these are silica based spray sealants. Silica spray sealants contain similar technology as most ceramic coatings on the market, adding another sacrificial barrier to the surface while maintaining a low degree of surface energy.
If a traditional wax or sealant is applied over a coating, then the hydrophobic properties (water behavior) will be masked, cancelling out some of the coating’s beneficial properties.
How to Care for a Ceramic Coating: The First Week After Installation
After a coating installation, avoid all water exposure or vehicle washing for a full week.
During this time, ceramic nano coatings are still finishing the curing (drying) process. Therefore no water or chemicals should be introduced.
If you can leave the vehicle parked in a garage and not move it, that is the best practice.
Normal Ceramic Nano Coating Surface Care Methods After Installation
For a vehicle’s first wash, after 7 days have passed post coating installation, use only a dedicated car wash shampoo that is free of the words “wax” or “shine” in the title or description.
Products containing these elements will leave a layer of wax or some other gloss enhancing agent on the surface. These gloss enhancers will alter the surface energy of the coating therefore lowering the water sheeting ability created by the coating itself.
If performing a waterless wash, the same guidelines for car wash shampoo apply. Use a waterless wash solution without gloss enhancing agents or any type of topical surface protection.
Providing Additional Protection for Ceramic Coated Vehicle Surfaces
At OCDCarCare Los Angeles our philosophy centers around taking paint to its optimal level, then building up layers of protection to maintain that level over time.
To accomplish this, we HIGHLY recommend the use of a topper.
This could be an additional coating or a ceramic (silica) based or similar types of spray sealant technology. Think of this as the final sacrificial barrier in order to protect the surface from unforeseen attack such as bird bombs, love bugs, tree sap, airborne contaminants, seasonal pollen, etc. etc.
You may ask, “Why use additional topical protection if a ceramic nano coating is installed?“
Because building up the layers of protection over time is the best strategy to protect painted surfaces. Additionally, surfaces receiving extensive paint correction before coating installation, remain at their optimal state for both performance and aesthetics.
Long term ceramic (silica) sealants are durable and are often manufactured with similar technology to their coating counterparts. Their low surface energy helps to keep the surface cleaner for longer because topical contamination has a hard time bonding to the surface. The hydrophobic properties of silica sealants causes the water to almost instantly sheet off.
Ceramic spray sealants are highly versatile and may be used for various automotive surfaces compared to some coatings. This is because some coatings contains various types of carrier solvents that may be not be suitable for all surfaces. However, most silica based sealants are suitable for most all exterior vehicle surfaces.
OCDCarCare Los Angeles recommends using ceramic sealants at least 2-3 times a year for vehicles stored in garages overnight. While, for vehicles living outside 365 days a year, we recommend 4-5 annual applications. Of course frequency of application depends on the natural environment and climate conditions unique to your area.
Topical Protection (Ceramic or Spray Sealant) Application Method
The application process will slightly vary based upon the product used.
However typical application method of topical protection is generally straightforward wipe-on-wipe-off style.
The time to apply is very minimal, application time should be no longer than 30 minutes when performed very slowly. The method of application is super simple. Start with a super clean vehicle with cool panels in a shaded area.
Spray 2-3 sprays of the product onto a clean plush microfiber towel then spread evenly over the panel. Use just enough product so that it is detectable on the surface during application. Make sure to spread it thoroughly and evenly over the panel.
As with all vehicle surface wiping, only wipe in the most aerodynamic pattern over each panel.
After applying, use a secondary clean microfiber towel and wipe until the surface is clear.
Hopefully this brief overview has shed some light on proper products and maintenance for ceramic nano coatings.
Avoid Automatic Car Washes: They Ruin Ceramic Coatings & Automotive Paint
These will quickly ruin paint or a coating on any vehicle for two main reasons:
- A) The Brushes and Curtains are harsh and abrasive. They are built for longevity and not with vehicle surface care in mind.
- B) The Brushes and Curtains frequently contain embedded contamination from the 1-150 washes before your vehicle.
These conditions are similar to cleaning your best sunglasses lenses by smacking them with an abrasive cleanser on the end of a towel. Sure it will work, but its overly harsh and, from the first use on, it will damage the lenses.
It’s the same with automated car washes, especially those with brushes. Over time their harsh abrasion and contamination levels will beat up automotive paint jobs and ceramic coatings.
IF an automated car wash is necessary, find a touch less solution.
The best scenario is to hand wash your vehicle yourself or by a trained professional who cares about surface conditions.
Two Ceramic Coating Maintenance Wash Methods: Articles & Videos
Below are links to two articles (including videos) that teach two of safest and most convenient car wash methods.
Traditional Car Wash Method (Bucket & Water):
DIY Car Care: Best & Safest Traditional Car Wash Technique w/ Video
Waterless Car Wash Method (Spray Bottle & Microfiber Towels):
DIY How to: Safest Waterless Car Wash Technique w/ Video
~Keep on Buffin’
© Christopher Brown of OCDCarCare Los Angeles – OCDCarCare.com
► For more informative articles regarding: auto detailing, paint correction, technique discussions, detailing technology, and many other things car care related please browse: OCDCarCare Los Angeles’s – Auto Detailing Article Archive.
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