Tag: auto

DYI vs. Professional Ceramic Coating

DYI vs. Professional Ceramic Coating

We know lots of car enthusiasts like to tinker with their cars and will perform a lot of work themselves. Many will even handle their own maintenance washes and minor at-home detailing. While it is certainly possible to apply a ceramic coating to a car by yourself, it might not be the best idea. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of doing a DIY ceramic coating compared to using a professional shop.

DYI Ceramic Coating

To get a better understanding of what’s involved in a do-it-yourself ceramic coating application we will first briefly review the ceramic coating process. Before even getting to apply the actual ceramic coating a do-it-yourselfer must be able to perform the below steps. Note: this is not intended to be a guide on how to perform the ceramic coating process!

  1. Thorough 2-bucket wash
  2. Decontamination – Usually, this process involves a hand wash, iron removal, rinse, and clay bar decontamination.
  3. Paint correction – The current condition of the paint will determine how much or little paint correction is needed. Most vehicles will need at least a 2 stage paint correction. A 2 stage paint correction involves a cutting polish to remove light swirl marks and a finishing polish to restore depth and shine.
  4. Prepare for coating – To prepare for the coating application and to get the best bonding usually the car is wiped with an isopropyl alcohol type solution. Sometimes this is referred to as an IPA wipe. The IPA wipe will make sure all the oils are removed from the polishing phase leaving the car ready for the actual ceramic coating.

After completing the above steps, the car is ready for the ceramic coating application. The process will vary slightly between coating manufacturers. Generally, the process is to evenly apply the coating using a microsuede cloth and foam block while trying to keep the coating as level as possible. The excess coating will then be wiped away and after the car is complete a silica spray is used to help the coating set and protect the car while it cures. With a better understanding of the work involved in applying a ceramic coating lets take a look at some of the pros and cons of doing it yourself.

Do-it-yourself Pros

  • Cost – it is significantly cheaper to do-it-yourself (assuming you don’t do any damage during the process).
  • Satisfaction – if working on cars is one of your hobbies and you have the time and skill to perform the ceramic coating process, the end result can be very satisfying.
  • Attention to detail – There is no one that cares about your car as much as you. If you are a skilled detailer you will be able to spend as much time on every step of the process as you’d like.

Do-it-yourself Cons

  • Time – There is a lot of effort that goes into applying a ceramic coating and it is a lengthy process, even for detailers that have done these hundreds of time.
  • Quality – There is definitely a learning curve to paint correction. If this is your first time performing any of the steps, the results simply will not be as good as using a professional shop.
  • Damage – Related to quality, it is possible to damage your vehicle – especially during the paint correction.
  • Tools – To correctly perform the ceramic coating and paint correction process you will need lots of tools and products. If you don’t already have these you could end up spending as much money on equipment as it would cost to have a professional perform the service.

Professional Ceramic Coating

Using a professional detail shop to perform the ceramic coating can be a lot less stressful and get you a high-quality result. Now we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of using a professional detail shop for the ceramic coating process.

Detail Shop Pros

  • Quality – If you use a reputable detail shop, you can almost be guaranteed the outcome is going to be excellent.
  • Time – Professional shops can often turn around the vehicle much faster than a do-it-yourselfer
  • Warranty – Many ceramic coatings come with a warranty when installed and maintained by a professional detail shop
  • Overlap savings – If you are also getting a clear bra there can often be some savings to get the coating and clear bra installed at the same time due to an overlap in the process.

Detail Shop Cons

  • Cost – A professional shop will cost quite a bit more than a do-it-yourself ceramic coating.

For the majority of people, it will make sense to use a professional detail shop instead of the do-it-yourself approach. Do-it-yourself should be skilled in paint correction and have a bit of detail work under their belt before attempting to perform this service. If you are looking to give it a try, we suggest starting with a vehicle where you won’t be too upset with a subpar outcome. We’ve also included a video below that shows the ceramic coating process in greater detail.

Maintenance Car Wash Routine

Maintenance Car Wash Routine

A proper maintenance car wash routine is an important part of keeping your car’s paint in great shape. Cars with ceramic coatings can be a bit quicker and easier to wash. However, our maintenance wash process is the same whether or not the vehicle has a ceramic coating. The goal of a maintenance wash is to keep the car looking as good as possible between detail washes without spending tons of time or breaking the bank. Here’s a look at our preferred maintenance wash routine and a few of the products we like.

2-Bucket Wash Process

To avoid smearing dirt across the vehicle, we think a two-bucket wash is a must. The two-bucket method simply uses a separate wash bucket (with soap) and a rinse bucket (with water). After each section of the car is cleaned, the wash mitt is first dipped into the rinse bucket before being loaded up with suds. Here are the steps for our typical two-bucket wash.

  1. Wheels first – The wheels are usually the dirtiest part of the car which is why we like to hit them first. To begin, give them a good rinse using either a pressure washer or garden hose with a jet nozzle. Next, spray the tires with a rubber cleaner and give them a quick scrub with a tire brush. After cleaning the rubber, spray a generous amount of wheel cleaner and use an EZ detail brush to remove all the dirt and brake dust from the barrel of the wheel. To finish the wheel, give it a good rinse and repeat the process on the remaining wheels.
  2. Rinse – Now that the wheels are clean, give the car a good rinse. Make sure to use high pressure on areas with lots of dirt or particles stuck to the paint.
  3. Foam gun (Optional) – If you have a foam gun it’s time to cover the vehicle in foam. We like to start with the top the vehicle and work toward the bottom. We like to think of the foam as a lubricant for our cleaning with a wash mitt, so we don’t rinse it off the car before the next step.
  4. Hand wash – With the car already covered in foam it’s time to get the wash mitt, soap bucket, and rinse bucket out. Starting at the top of the car and working toward the bottom load the mitt up with soapy suds and work in sections, rinsing and reloading the mitt as needed. We prefer to start at the top because most of the dirt tends to be at the bottom and we want to avoid grinding any grit into the paint.
  5. Rinse – A quick rinse using light pressure (ex. shower setting on an adjustable hose nozzle).
  6. Dry – There are a few options to drying. Either first blow the vehicle with a blower to remove the majority of the water or use large waffle weave towels. Next, using a drying aid and high-quality microfiber towel to remove any water spots and add a nice shine.
  7. Wheels – To finish this wheels, we like to use a microfiber and dry them while removing any dirt that wasn’t picked up in step 1.
  8. Finishing Details – In this step it’s time to wrap up the maintenance wash and hit any of the final details. Tire dressing, glass, mirrors, and door jambs are all little details that you don’t want to forget!

Maintenance Wash Tips

Here are a few tips to consider when performing a maintenance wash.

  • To avoid water spots, perform the wash in the shade and preferably cooler weather.
  • Use high-quality microfiber towels and wash mitts to keep from scratching the paint.
  • Have dedicated microfiber towels for different parts of the car (ex. wheels, paint, interior).
  • Don’t use too much pressure – let the cleaning products do the work!
  • Use a high-quality car shampoo, not dish soap – especially if your car does not have a ceramic coating.

Wash Products

High-quality wash products are an important part of a maintenance car wash. Below you’ll find a list of some of the products we like to use.