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Ceramic coatings for vehicles

Paint protection then and now…

Car care has come a very long way over the years and one of the newest technologies in vehicle paint (and more) protection is ceramic coatings. Back in the days, the only thing that we had to protect a vehicle’s paint was a quality carnauba wax. Carnauba is an extremely hard wax that comes from palm trees and is usually imported from Brazil. The tree produces the wax to protect its leaves from the sun’s harmful rays and from other elements in nature and does the same when it’s on your car’s paint. While traditional waxes are still fantastic and provide excellent protection, ceramic coatings are far superior in every category when it comes to shine, protection and durability. 

Traditional “boutique” waxes are designed to give a great shine and protect the paint, but unfortunately they’re not very durable. Some of the more expensive (and I do mean EXPENSIVE!) carnauba waxes on the market claim to have a durability of up to 12 months, but this is very subjective and it also means that they’re probably made with synthetic additives to increase their longevity. The average store-bought wax has a life expectancy of around 3-4 months (this may decrease or increase depending on climate conditions) depending on driving and washing habits. Taking that into consideration, this means that a car should be waxed at least 4 times a year to ensure proper protection. If you enjoy cleaning your car and waxing it on a regular basis, than this shouldn’t be a problem for you, but the simple fact that you’re reading this right now more than likely means you don’t have the time, the patience, or the know-how (or perhaps none of the 3 🙂 ) to do it yourself. This is why ceramic coatings have become so popular in the car care industry over the past few years… they’re stronger, more durable, shinier, provide much better protection and the real beauty of it all is that it only needs to be done once a year! Some ceramic coatings can last up to 5 years, but just as with carnauba waxes, the manufacturer-claimed durabilities are subjective. If applied properly and if cared for properly, a good ceramic coating should last at least one year and perhaps up to 2 years. 

How do ceramic coatings work? 

I’ll try to explain how ceramic coatings work without getting too nerdy and technical :). Most ceramic coatings on the market are made with the same solid matter, which is Si02 or silicium dioxide. In other words “quartz”, hence the name “ceramic coating”. Some are made with titanium dioxide (Ti02) and some manufacturers like IGL have developed a way to infuse their coatings with graphene, which is an extremely durable material and provides unparalleled protection. 

In a nutshell, these nano-sized particles of Si02 become part of the clear coat on your car via a covalent bond. This means that those tiny particles of Si02 lodge themselves into the pores of your paint and with the help of a, let’s say, “glue” (covalent bond) they become part of your car’s clear coat. Waxes and synthetic sealants simply reside on the surface of the paint, which is why their durability pales in comparison to that of a ceramic coating. Not only is the bond of a ceramic coating much stronger than a traditional wax, the Si02 itself is much more chemical resistant, heat resistant and far more superior at protecting your paint from the elements of nature than waxes or synthetic sealants.

A detailer told me that a ceramic coating will add 1-3 microns to my paint thickness? 

Simply put: A. They’re lying to you. B. They have no idea what it is they’re working with. C. All of the above. Let’s do some math and put this into perspective shall we? 

A strand healthy human hair is roughly 70 microns thick. Let’s say for the sake of simplicity that it’s 100 microns. Now if we split that strand of hair into 100 pieces, one of those pieces is 1 micron, right? Right! Now take that 1 micron of hair and divide it by 1,000 and you have a nanometer which is 1 nano particle. 

 
 

 This should give you a faint idea of how big a nano particle is, but let’s do a little more math to give you another visual of its size. The area of painted surface on the average car is anywhere from 15-20 square meters (take note of this size). To fill a 1 square centimeter surface with one MICRON you would need 100,000,000 microns to fill that space. In nanometers that’s 100,000,000,000,000… I can’t even say that number. So now we have 1 sq cm of area filled in with nano particles of Si02… we’ve still got a long way to go. Now also take into consideration that the average-sized car needs around 20-30 ml of material to coat the entire car and most ceramic coatings come in 30 ml bottles so there’s just a bit more than enough to coat the paint. If there’s 30 ml of coating in a bottle, that means that there’s 30 cm3 in one bottle. 1 ml or 1 cm3 = 1e + 21… that means 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 nano particles are needed to fill that 1 cm3.

That means there are

 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 nano particles are in a single 30 ml bottle of ceramic coating. Nope. 

Take that number and multiply it by 3 to accommodate the guys who claim it adds 3 microns of thickness :). This number gets especially interesting when you take into account that coatings are more or less impossible to work with if they are comprised of more than 60% solid material, so in layman’s terms, 40% of the 30 ml bottle of coating evaporates…