Are Ceramic Coatings really a gimmick?

With so much hype about how great ceramic coatings are, it’s really not strange to question if ceramic coatings sound too good to be true.

To answer the question we need to delve into how a ceramic coating is being sold to you.

If you’re being pitched hoods struck with objects or scratched with brushes, and then performing magical feats of divine healing, then yes you’re being sold a gimmick.

Ceramic coatings don’t stop rock chips, scratches or anything else that couldn’t already be stopped by your clear coat. What they DO is make the cleaning process easier so that you’re less likely to scratch your paint, by adding slickness. The “hardness” refers to the difference in penetration of light as well as ability scratch the surface with a pencil. Yup, a pencil test is the ultimate testing method scientists use to determine the hardness of a coating. So don’t go relying on a ceramic coating to stop your paint‘s finish from getting ruined off-roading in the woods or track day racing.

The newest claims are “self healing” ceramic coatings. Another marketing play. Do they heal? Sure, I guess. So does clear coat though, and any ceramic coating when put under heat. These companies are selling detailers mini chemistry sets to make them feel like they’re putting some kind of lab creation on a car. Then they demonstrate “self healing” by very very lightly scratching the surface with a wire brush and applying a heat gun or scalding hot water to it. What occurs is the paint temporarily swells and the molecules in the upper layer of the coating rebond, providing no actual deep damage occurred. You know what else heals that level of damage? Hand polishing or machine polishing with a polish or compound that costs a couple bucks not two thousand plus dollars.

If your detailer is being honest with you and setting realistic expectations, that a ceramic coating is a long term, more durable protection replacement for a wax or sealant, that has primary and secondary properties that offer ease of cleaning, improved gloss and depth, slickness, and enhanced environmental protection against UV damage and chemicals, then you’re being educated properly and your expectations can be kept realistic.

With all the crazy new offerings available in the car protection industry, it’s hard to keep up.

Here’s a couple ways to see if you’re being ethically sold something:

1) Check for a proven track record of performance. Ask for references who can speak to or show you their vehicle and the results.

2) Ask for a demonstration of the claims. Be sure there are no parlor tricks. If something is supposed to heal from scratches, sit back and watch it heal then, not be artificially swollen from heat or solvents. The only product available on the market today that can protect a car’s paint from realistic damage is a layer of urethane or vinyl film In the form of paint protection film or color change vinyl (to some degree). If you need a self healing coating to protect your wash process, you need a better wash process and you’re going to eventually scratch right thru the coating regardless wasting thousands of dollars on an overpriced application.

3)Check that the product being used is regulated in some way. Publicly available  SDS sheets, third party testing validating their claims of durability, or a tangible warranty that actually backs something and isn’t language sending you in a circle. Most detail shops are using chemicals and coatings that they aren’t even sure what the ingredients are, let alone have something to present in the event of an OSHA inspection. That’s because their products are mystery liquids in a bottle with water, or oil based solvents that again swell the paint to make it look shiny. A detailer carrying a brand they are familiar with should understand how the chemicals work, what they contain and what they are doing on the surfaces. Ask for copies of paperwork associated with your application. Legitimate companies should have materials to provide you with information on do’s and don’ts, aftercare and legitimate expectations.

Ceramic coatings are a very real level of incredible protection for your car or truck. Unfortunately irresponsible marketing as always will get used by some to make a quick buck. If it sounds unrealistic and too good to be true, chances are, you’re being bamboozled.