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  1. #1
    kmaher's Avatar
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    The TRUTH about Ceramic Coatings

    On forums, FB groups, meets, etc., I am always hearing a wealth of misinformation about ceramic coatings, so I figured why not start a post that folks can read about what to expect (and not expect) from their ceramic coating, and when to apply it. Keep in mind I am NOT a chemist, but have a relatively extensive knowledge, and lots of experience with them, as a detailer.

    - First and Foremost, DO NOT expect your ceramic coating to enhance the appearance and gloss of whatever you're applying it to exponentially. When you observe ads and images for ceramic coatings (yes, even my own business included), the end results published are after hours of correcting every defect in the paint and engaing in multi-step polishes to refine the surface and maximize the luster. The end result of the ceramic coating adds depth to that luster, but is NOT responsible for creating it. To best describe what it does, it accentuates the beauty underneath - nothing more. We advertise it that way because we want to depict it at its best, and nothing impresses someone more than a concours quality shine. We also want you to shell out the $$ to us to help you make your vehicle look that way, or the manufacturer wants you to shell out your $$ thinking your vehicle will look that good.

    - This being said, you SHOULD NOT apply a ceramic coating to a vehicle you care about unless it has been properly compounded, polished, and prepped for a ceramic coating. If you have swirls in your paint, a coating will NOT fix them. Instead, you'll be applying a semi-permanent resin over the top of the blemished paint, giving it an infinite lifespan of ugliness. Truth be told, if you're not competent and extremely familiar with paint correction, quality ceramic coatings are best left for the pros. It took me years upon years to develop the skills of paint correction and enhacement, and as talented as you may be, you don't want to learn on your precious investment, and Rome wasn't built in a day. If it's BRAND NEW and your dealer hasn't screwed up your new baby (mine had instilled all sorts of washing swirls), maybe you'll feel comfortable tackling this endeavor yourself, but the coating you're using is a "dumbed-down" rendition of professional products that are much easier to apply with solvents that are much more forgiving in their flashing.

    - Biggest myth out there - "My ceramic coating will protect my ski from water spots". Absolutely untrue, and if anything, you may find that your coating of choice will exacerbate the water spots. This is because water spots are caused by minerals in the water that get etched in by the sun. With a ceramic coating, your ski will become extremely hydrophobic, so water will not want to adhere to the surface, but it will bead (unless you select a coating with sheeting qualities), and it usually collects in large beads, that, when left to dwell, will etch in water spots. Because of how the water will now collect on the surface, water spots can be worse. Now, when it DOES etch, it only etches into the coating, which is more resistant to water spots, but it still spots nonetheless. Don't expect otherwise. I sound like a broken record, and you've probably heard this before from me on the forum, but the best prevention of water spots is to carry a quality waterless wash with you in your tow vehicle, and as soon as you're done riding, use your waterless wash on the entire ski and engine compartment. It'll keep it looking amazing all season long, sans water spots

    - Second biggest myth - "My ceramic coating will prevent scratches!". The reason this isn't the most significant misnomer is that it's true...to an extent. Coatings are measured by hardness, and you'll see a lot boasting a 9H rating, which is simply a test using measured pencils of specific hardness to scratch a substrate. The higher the number, the more resilient it is to scratching. That said, even with multiple layers of a high quality ceramic, you're still only getting maybe 3 mils of protection on the vehicle, and that's using an optimistic figure. Plus, when is the last time you saw your PWC get bombarded by pencils? Docks are much harder than pencils. Rocks? Also harder. You get the point....even using proper washing techniques, it's possible to instill defects into the craft. Just like the spots, though, they will be in the coating, not on the paint, so you can polish off, and apply a new coating. And, no matter what, unless you purchase one of the self-healing clear coats on the market and apply it to your PWC, a ceramic coating IS harder than your paint and more resilient to scratches. Just don't expect it to protect your craft if you beach it, etc.

    - Third myth - "Now that I have a ceramic coating, my PWC is maintenance free!!". So you decide to bite the bullet, and you want a ceramic coating. There's lots of ads out there proclaiming you'll never have to wax again, and that their coating is self-cleaning. What an absurb thing to say - "self-cleaning"? All coatings need to be maintained, and NONE last forever. Go ahead and tell me about the one you just paid $1,200 for that has a lifetime warranty. No $&*^. You just paid for that coating and the associated re-coatings ten times over. While you're at it, check the fine print and the warranty...that's right...you have to bring your vehicle to me annually to "inspect" and "maintain" your coating, which is where I actually surreptitously apply a SiO2 booster to keep its appearance and hydophobic properties at their finest. Yeah, and I charge you to do so every year. Now for realstic expectations: Your coating is semi-permanent, but will degrade over time, especially with exposure to salt, caustic or acidic compounds, and in the case of a PWC - constant waves of water slamming into our crafts at 70+ MPH. The first thing to go will be its hydrophobic properties - the beading will gradually wear away and be replaced with sheeting water, and then? Nothing. In Ohio, I tell folks that their coating will last 1 - 3 years, depending on the quality of the coating they purchase, and the first place it will degrade are on the lower side panels of their car where it's subjected to the most elements. Everywhere else it will bead nicely, but the lower panels have lost the hydrophobic properties. So what do I have them do? Buy a new coating? Not necessarily. Again, the coating is still present (and a pro can measure this with a mil guage), but it just needs a boost, which we accomplish with a SiO2 or TiO2 spray (or a hybrid). These sprays are cheap. Keep it in your arsenal and apply every 3 months or so, and you'll always be happy with the appearance and performance of your coating. That said, it will still wear over time, eventually to the point where it's gone. If you're using a booster, you won't even know it's gone, because you'll still see hydophobic properties, which is ANOTHER good reason to seek out a professional with this stuff and brings me to my last point:

    - Go to a PRO!! It doesn't have to cost you a fortune - there are good, reputable, honest detailers everywhere throughout the country, and PWCs are SMALL and EASY for us to work on. Truth be told, I can probably maintain your craft far cheaper than you can, because I already own all the materials to do THOUSANDS of PWCs. You have to buy each component separately. For a well-maintained craft, I can polish your paint using the best tools and materials, prep the surface, and apply multiple layers of a high quality coating for less than you can purchase just a generic coating online. Add in the years of your favorite detailer's experience and knowledge, and I really don't understand why people are trying to tackle this on their own with subpar to mediocre results. But if you REALLY want to try (we all have to start somewhere), here's what you actually need to do the job right:

    - A good dual-action or forced rotation polisher, but you really need both given the contours of a PWC. You can also get the best of both worlds with a dual-action forced rotation polisher like the Flex 3401

    - A number of different sized backing plates for your polisher, along a multitude of different grade compounding and polishing pads. For most PWCs you'll want to use foam, but on some, microfiber is best. Don't know? Ask an expert. Most of us are nice and happy to provide knowledge for free - we all got started in this business knowing little to nothing. You'll need a multitude of sizes to best polish your craft

    - The right compound and/or polish for your craft. Each will have a different level of "cut", and you need to know the right one to get the best results. Again, ask away, and I'll be happy to share insight. Have a new Yamaha? They LOVE Menzerna 2500. It will correct most defects and leave an incredulous shine. Then again, if you really want it shine, dual stage it, but that's an entirely different story.

    - Lots of high quality microfiber towels to remove polish and residue. You'll want different grades for different things here, too.

    - Coating prep materials....depending on your coating, this can vary. Sometimes its a wax and grease remover, and other times it's an IPA solution. You can always do both, too. Just make sure to dilute your IPA!!

    - The coating itself. There are TONS on the market (it's the newest craze). Do yourself a favor, RESEARCH what you're buying. Don't just buy it because it's "sponsored", on your favorite website, or a "friend recommends" it. Seriously, everyone, this is a SEMI-PERMANENT COATING. I have my opinions, but they are just that - opinions. If you came to my business, I have four different brands I would recommend, depending on the quality you're seeking and the price you want to pay.

    - Proper applicator pads, infrared heat source (depending on your coating), and/or microfiber towels to buff and level off (NOT the same as your polishing towels)


    Best of luck folks, and I hope this helps to dispel some of the rampant rumors out there!!


  2. #2

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    This is a very timely and, I believe, accurate post. The user needs to have the correct expectations before buying a coating. I bought a used Porsche 911 three years ago and it appeared that the "detailer" used a rotary buffer from Walmart to add some shine. There were halograms and smear marks all over. I spent $800 to have the paint condition corrected and a coating applied. Today the only scratches I have are on the front bumper where I used a scrub pad to remove bugs. Of course, the manufacturer of the pad said it wouldn't scratch. I also usually use a rinseless wash product to clean the vehicle

    BTW I use my skis in salt water and the best product I've found to prevent water spots is Optimum spray car wax.

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  4. #3

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    Nice write up. All being said ceramic coating along with some SIO2 maintenance is a game changer for those OCD about keeping their paint looking top notch.

  5. #4
    I thought it was a known fact that compounding and polishing before ceramic necessary, guess not

  6. #5
    MSX 150 guy lives on Mr. GP1800's Avatar
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    Wow. Great post. Thanks for taking the time to explain this to everyone

  7. #6
    WaterDR's Avatar
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    Great post. I am actually a chemical engineer and in strategic marketing. Terms such as nano, ceramic, green, organic are tossed around without a whole lot of regulations and consistency. “Ceramic” is the new thing now.

    Waxes, sealants, paint protectants, ceramics...they all aim to do the same thing...same outcomes but different mechanisms.

    customers want a finish that will shine, last forever and require zero effort and cost. Maybe someday we will get there. None of these coatings are any of those things. However, ceramic (silica based coatings) I think are the closest thing.

    You don’t need a professional to apply at all. And you don’t need to do anything to prep the surface other than remove all oils and waxes. You may WANT to buff the the paint, repair scratches etc....but you don’t have to.

    i have a two month coating of Hydro Silex on my Lincoln. Car has 23k miles on it. It still looks amazing. I have used this stuff on my bike, my boat and my 2019 Waverunner. Easy as hell to apply. I like little effort. Will I win any shows? No. But I don’t care.

    Thanks for being the only other person other than me who can actually explain what a water spot is and why coatings help but are not perfect. So unless you coat the machine with an oil coating, you will always be subject to water spots. However, my black 2016 VX Cruiser HO that was protected with velocity visions still has no noticeable water spots. They wipe off.

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  9. #7
    kmaher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WaterDR View Post
    You don’t need a professional to apply at all. And you don’t need to do anything to prep the surface other than remove all oils and waxes. You may WANT to buff the the paint, repair scratches etc....but you don’t have to.

    i
    I should clarify - you don't HAVE to compound or polish to apply a ceramic, but I still maintain that you absolutely should. I have never seen a perfect finish on a vehicle. Even my current car, that I had built from the factory, had inherent defects. I went as far as having the dealer leave on the plastic sheeting when it arrived. Also, I don't know of a manufacturer (maybe high end?) that actually polishes down the paint before it leaves for delivery to the customer. Add in rail dust and contaminants from transport, etc., and I think it becomes an essential. Otherwise, you're rending those defects permanent by applying a ceramic over them.

    With cars, I get why an enthusiast may want to ceramic coat a vehicle by themselves. The cheapest I will ceramic coat for someone is $329, and that's on a sub-compact with an economy-grade ceramic.

    On a ski, though? Most that I've done have been $100 or so (unless it needs some real serious correction), and that includes spot compounding and polish, plus a professional-grade ceramic. Assuming most folks are paying $80 just for consumer-grade ceramic, they really do get more for their money having it done for them. Then again, that's under the extraordinary assumption that their local detailer would be in the same ballpark as I am for pricing.

    They should be, though...all skis have either soft automotive paint that's really easy to correct, or a gelcoat that's a heck of a lot more forgiving that we don't have to use a lot of finesse to correct.

    Of course, there's the satisfaction of doing things by yourself to take into consideration as well, which may explain why so many people decide to do it themselves. I'm a horrible mechanic, but I still keep wrenching on things myself....probably just to be able to say that I'm the one who made it work.

    For the enthusiast, though, it's really hard to beat SiO2 sprays....same basic properties as a ceramic coating, minus any risk of application error, and incredible ease of use.

    That actually gives me an idea.....

  10. #8
    WaterDR's Avatar
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    I think I paid less than $200 for all my materials and did four vehicles....and some elbow grease. No doubt a pro would do a better job, but I got a lot done and stuff looks great. Second coat will go on the Waverunner this weekend. I’ll report on how it holds up.

    i remember years ago...probably in the mid 90s a dealer wanting to charge $400 for Teflon paint sealant for a new car.

  11. #9
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    kmaher - great post. Great service to this community. I did the same once regarding LiFePO4 battery technology, and addressed many myths and assumptions. A lot of which are were a combo of vendor negligence and amp'ed up marketing to make a sale. Lithium Iron batts do have their utility, as long as we know the true how and why.

    I come from a DIY'ers auto-body paint background. Old-school. We have always attained that showroom luster by doing a base-coat (color), sometimes a 2nd & 3rd-stage (pearls), followed by the final deep 2-part clear. We'd build-up the clear quiet thick to add depth, and to well... afford us the margin (thickness) to polish it to that showroom mirror shine. Like anything else, there are cheap clears, and there are the real-deal, full UV protection non-reactive to basic solvents.

    A quick word on water-spots. Water spots are indeed everything you & Water DR said they are. They will bind/etch onto the surface. What's is on my ski's surface? Usually FluidFilm. So when these minerals dry on top of that layer of FluidFilm (FF), and since FF is weak and "fluidy", the spot deposits basically washed off with the film when washed. Granted, it means a new coat of FF needs applying - but hey, who doesn't love a bit of one-on-one time with their beloved craft.

  12. #10
    WaterDR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimeBandit View Post
    kmaher - great post. Great service to this community. I did the same once regarding LiFePO4 battery technology, and addressed many myths and assumptions. A lot of which are were a combo of vendor negligence and amp'ed up marketing to make a sale. Lithium Iron batts do have their utility, as long as we know the true how and why.

    I come from a DIY'ers auto-body paint background. Old-school. We have always attained that showroom luster by doing a base-coat (color), sometimes a 2nd & 3rd-stage (pearls), followed by the final deep 2-part clear. We'd build-up the clear quiet thick to add depth, and to well... afford us the margin (thickness) to polish it to that showroom mirror shine. Like anything else, there are cheap clears, and there are the real-deal, full UV protection non-reactive to basic solvents.

    A quick word on water-spots. Water spots are indeed everything you & Water DR said they are. They will bind/etch onto the surface. What's is on my ski's surface? Usually FluidFilm. So when these minerals dry on top of that layer of FluidFilm (FF), and since FF is weak and "fluidy", the spot deposits basically washed off with the film when washed. Granted, it means a new coat of FF needs applying - but hey, who doesn't love a bit of one-on-one time with their beloved craft.
    FF is really the best solution for spots.

    Also, keep in mind that all spots are not created equal. MgSiO2 is about the hardest to remove. This is another reason why some people claim one approach works for them when it doesn’t for someone else. FF however you can just wipe off.

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