I've had a couple of interesting jobs in lately that have received Ceramic Coating treatment, so this post will have two case studies rather than one! For those that don't know, 'Ceramic Coating' is a barrier of protection applied to the car which does what a wax does, and so much more.
Firstly, these coatings are generally made up of Silica Dioxide (SiO2) or some modified variant of, which is an incredibly tough and durable material. Once applied to a surface and cured, they manifest in a durable, hard and shiny finish.
"So it's a bit like that dealership stuff, then?" Yes, in a fashion and to a degree. There is a huge mistrust in dealership applied packages, and I have seen enough evidence that they sometimes aren't actually applied at all, but the customer is assured that their three figures have been well spent and that the car won't need any polishing. A professional detailer will take pride in using what they think is a good product on your car, and the benefit is that you can watch them apply it in some cases.
Before I start with the write-ups, I would like to clarify that the consensus amongst most professionals is that coatings should be applied indoors. This is correct in some cases, especially with more specialised and sensitive coatings. However, having spoken with Krystal Kleen Detail/Liquid Elements UK/Feynlab UK mad scientist and proprietor Marc Linekar quite a while ago on the phone, I was imparted with the knowledge that coatings are good to go in conditions above 11*C temperature and relative humidity below 70%. Indeed, there is even a reactor product available to Liquid Elements approved technicians that help with the curing of coatings if conditions are borderline unideal.
I've used many coatings over the years, the first being Optimum Opti-coat back when my business was unit based between 2012 and 2014. However, there wasn't much call for this at the time so it wasn't something I did often. It did however, contribute to how well my Peugeot 206 looked.
Aside from Optimum Opti-coat, I have also used CarPro CQuartz UK. I have a customer on the books for regular cleans to a vehicle I applied this to back in November 2016, at the time of writing the car is still looking very glassy. The key to prolonging the life of a coating is keeping it clean; allowing dirt to accumulate and bind to the coating will degrade it. As Craig Hall, head of CarPro UK recently wrote in an article for the Pro Detailer magazine, coatings will start to fail on the bottom edges of the car where there is the most impact from road debris. Small pinholes will cause the coating to lift microscopically. CarPro have launched a Silica based polish called Essence Plus that is designed to repair coatings that are showing signs of wear.
Here are Craig's own words in a message:
"Essence Plus as mentioned is a filler polish with a resin coat that we call a "coating restorer"
You've probably had the following scenario.. coat a car, 6-12 months down the line that customer comes back and the coating is still performing as new but the car has picked up some marring, maybe the customers wash technique isn't quite tip top.
Essence Plus can be machined on to hide this marring, and top the coating up with a Silica resin protection for up to another 6 months.
Before now, it would require polishing away the perfectly good coating to remove swirls and re-apply.
So for all intents and purposes it's for the client who wants there car looking good, but doesn't want to pay out for another enhancement and re-coat 6 months later because they've picked up a little wash marring."
I have also used Liquid Elements Eco Shield, but these days I am currently applying Feynlab Universal as pictured above. This particular coating product was in fact designed with fleet management companies in mind, where their particular cars will be beating up and down the motorway and seeing high wear and tear. To counter this, Feynlab designed Universal to be very strong, helping it to be scratch resistant (but not scratch-proof, remember this is coating not a forcefield) and durable. Another attractive feature of this product for me to want to use it on my customers' cars is that it was formulated to be used where prep work may not be carried out properly by fleet management companies, nor in ideal conditions. Myself being mobile, and not all of my customers owning a cushty garage for me to work inside of, was drawn to this to minimise any potential 'come-back'.
Think of it this way - if it was designed to work on and protect cars that may not be looked after too well and be applied by non-detailers, then it should be perfect for cars that do get cared for and especially being applied by myself as I am very anal about the preparation process. But don't let this fact decieve you though, whilst a 250ml bottle may treat 5 or 6 cars, it still costs me £180 to buy, with my suede applicators and other paraphernalia costing more on top. I like to think I'm paying for quality. Oh, and don't forget the panel wipe, no polishing oils can remain on the surface when applying coatings.
Take for example this Jaguar XE, it was only purchased new by the customer two weeks before my visit to detail and protect it. The Iron Fallout treatment identified a numerous amount of metallic deposits sintered into the paint, which were then confidently removed with clay barring. This probably occurred because the car is kept on the driveway next to a busy main road with high traffic.
There were some marks and blemishes to be removed so the whole car was given a light machine polish. So there we go, not even brand new cars are defect free and the preparation and polishing processes should always be respected. I did encounter a small issue with this job, another peril of working outdoors, in the form of the gardeners turning up and blowing clippings and sediment all over the vehicle just as I had finished machine polishing. Some panels had to be re-done as a result of this, so for any potential customers that may be reading this post, please ensure that there are no destructive interferences during my visit.
The following car is a 2008 Volkswagen Golf R32 that I had already detailed last year, but wanted freshly re-visiting and coating ready for sale. Enjoy the images, I even taken a microscope image of the paintwork afterwards...