By Christopher Brown of OCDCarCare Los Angeles – OCDCarCare.com – 8 Nov 2017
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 because the care methods for paint coatings are much different than traditional waxes and sealants due to the coating technology itself. This article will explore and explain the best maintenance practices for automotive ceramic paint coatings post installation.
How Maintenance for Ceramic Nano Coatings Differs from Traditional Car Care Wax & Sealant Technology
The science behind ceramic nano coating technology drastically differs from traditional topical protection (waxes & sealants) for many reasons, however the two distinct aspects that set most ceramic (Si02) or “glass” coatings apart from other protection are:
- 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, they will remain intact for many years, or perhaps indefinitely with proper care. The ultimate longevity of coatings will depend on proper upkeep with regular maintenance wash intervals. These regular surface cleanings prevent topical contamination from bonding, and potentially harming, the surface.
Hydrophobics a.k.a. Water Behavior a.k.a. Surface Energy
Simply stated, in practical terms for vehicle surface care, surface energy measures the ability of particles and water to rest upon a surface. A surface containing low amount of free surface energy, like freshly scotch guarded shoes for snowy or rainy days, will cause water to quickly repel off the surface. With low surface energy vehicle surfaces stay cleaner longer, greatly increasing and the ease and speed of maintenance washing.
Why Automotive Maintenance for Ceramic Nano Coatings Requires A Different Detailing Approach
The concept of surface energy is what really inspired this article. This topic is explored in more depth in 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 the surface 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 the optimal product for continued maintenance is a silica based or similar spray sealant. 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 is applied over a coating the water sheeting (hydrophobic) properties will be far inferior to the coating alone.
Ceramic, “Glass”, or “Quartz” Coating Care: The First Week After Installation
After a coating installation, avoid all water exposure or vehicle washing for a full week. In this time, ceramic nano coatings are still finishing up the curing (drying) process, therefore no water or chemicals should be introduced.
Normal Ceramic Nano Coating Surface Care Methods After Installation
For a vehicle’s first wash, after 7 days have passed after 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. etc.
Some 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 nature of silica sealants causes the water to almost instantly sheet off.
Ceramic sealants are very versatile may be used for more vehicle surfaces that some coatings. This is because some coatings contains various types of carrier solvents that may 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 24/7 365, we recommend 4-5 applications a year. Of course this depends on the extreme environmental and climate conditions of your area.
Topical Protection (Ceramic or Spray Sealant) Application Method
This will vary based upon the product used, however typically the application method of topical protection is straightforward. 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 wiping 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.
Additional Ceramic Coating Maintenance (Car Wash) Resources: Articles & Videos
Traditional Car Wash Method:
DIY Car Care: Best & Safest Traditional Car Wash Technique w/ Video
Waterless Car Wash Method:
DIY How to: Safest Waterless Car Wash Technique w/ Video
~Keep on Buffin’
© Christopher Brown of OCDCarCare Los Angeles – OCDCarCare.com – 2017
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His passion & dedication to car care lead him to writing in-depth articles about detailing in order to share with the car enthusiast & detailing communities. This lead to detailing training courses designed to develop skills, confidence, and results, enabling detailers to increase quality, efficiency, and profitability.
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