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What Is a Ceramic Coating?

And Do I Need One?

I am often asked this question by customers and potential customers. There is much buzz around ceramic coatings and with so much of it on social media, the information is not always 100% reliable. This article provides clarity.

Ceramic Coating vs. Wax

Let’s start with the difference between a ceramic coating and wax. Simply put: if wax were makeup, a ceramic coating would be a tattoo. One looks nice, but is temporary, and the other looks nice too; however, it is permanent, or semi-permanent depending upon the longevity rating, which is covered next. Both provide protection and high levels of gloss.

ceramic coating

How Ceramic Coatings are Rated

ceramic coating ingredients
gtechniq ultra
  • 10h paint protection
  • 9-year guarantee
  • Matchless levels of gloss, surface slickness, swirl and chemical resistance

The first level of differentiation is between retail grade (DIY) and professional grade coatings. A retail grade coating typically sells for $30-50 per 35- or 50-ml bottle, whilst a professional grade coating costs upwards of $300 for the same size bottle.

Following those two categories, a ceramic coating is rated for its expected useful life. Here are the typical ratings:

  • No rating
  • 12 months
  • 18-24 months
  • 3 years
  • 5 years
  • 6 years
  • 7 years
  • 9 years
  • 10 years, or Lifetime (The life of your ownership of your vehicle.)

What Are the Benefits?

UV Protection
  • High Gloss
ceramic coating

Concours Package

  • Easy to keep clean
  • UV protection of the paint
  • Resistant to scratches
  • Resistant to bird poop, bugs, and other contaminants

What Are the Risks?

The biggest risk is an improper installation. A coating requires leveling, which takes training and experience to do correctly. Poor leveling leads to high and low spots of the coating, which result in a permanent oily, rainbow appearance on the paint. Professional installers are not immune to high spots; however, they are trained on how to remove them correctly. Installing a coating on your own can result in an uneven appearance and will require heavy buffing to fix.

ceramic coating high spot

What Is It Made Of?

Silica oxide (quartz) and titanium oxide are the primary ingredients, that are suspended by liquid solvents in a glass bottle. Once applied to a surface, the solvents evaporate leaving the active ingredients, which must be leveled and buffed out. Silica is the gloss agent, and titanium provides hardness.


How Hard is It?

pencil hardness test

Coatings rate their hardness on the pencil hardness test scale, where 10h is the high range and 1h is the low. A clear coat is somewhere in the 3h – 4h range, while a ceramic coating is in the 9h to 10h range. This means that the ceramic coating is much tougher than the clear coat, which, by the way, is only about 1.4 mils thick. (The size of a human hair.)


How Do I Clean My Vehicle After a Ceramic Coating?

No Rinse Wash

It is best to avoid automatic car washes for a vehicle with a ceramic coating. Car washes use alkaline and acidic soaps that will harm the coating. Additionally, car washes leave micro scratches in the coating just like they do on the clear coat, except that the coating is more durable. Detailers call car washes, “car scratchers”, because of the damage they cause.

We provide training to our customers on the rinseless wash method. This requires no hose, but rather a spray bottle, special pH neutral soap, a microfiber wash mitt and a microfiber drying towel. It takes 10-20 minutes, on average, to clean a vehicle with a ceramic coating.


A ceramic coating is a long-lasting layer of protection for your vehicle’s paint. Like wax, the coating makes the vehicle glossy and easy to clean, and unlike wax, the coating lasts for years rather than weeks or a few months at best. For best results, consider having a professional install the ceramic coating to avoid high and low spots.

new car ceramic coating paint protection

About The Author

ceramic coating dripping springs Ken Chance is an IDA Certified Detailer and is accredited by three ceramic coating manufacturers. He may be reached at ken@drippingautopros.com.


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