How to apply a ceramic coating to your car – why it’s easier than you’d think
You don't need to be a pro
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A little while ago we busted some of the common myths and misunderstandings about ceramic coatings. We learnt that while it definitely won’t make your car bulletproof, it will absolutely make it a darn sight easier to keep clean for a couple of years. The main effort in applying ceramic coatings is in the prep work – basically getting your car’s paintwork looking as shiny and fresh as possible before putting the invisible protective ceramic coating over the top.
With that in mind, here are some basic tips to help you make sure your ceramic coating applies correctly, and give your car the ultimate shine it deserves.
Step 1: Wash your car
Might seem obvious, but your car needs to be totally clean before applying the ceramic coating. This means the ceramic coating will properly bond with your paint, and it also guarantees your car looks fabulous under the ceramic coat. You don’t want any crud on the surface of the paint – even tiny, hard-to-see spots of tree sap will stop you getting your money’s worth out of the ceramic coating.
The usual rules of car washing apply. Use two buckets – one for shampoo mixed with water, one for rinsing dirty cloths. Don’t wash your car in bright sunshine, and for pete’s sake don’t let any of your rags touch the floor.
One bucket is just for cleaning the mitt when it's dirty, before re-soaking it with shampoo. Please always, always do this.
But first give your car a thorough rinse just to remove any surface muck that could leave nasty swirl marks when you get onto physically cleaning the car with your wash mitt.
Once you’re satisfied you’ve got most of the loose dirt off your car, it’s time to wash it with proper car shampoo. Wash your car in sections, and from top to bottom – stopping to rinse the mitt in your clean water bucket when it’s dirty.
Then it’s time to give the car another rinse, removing all the soap suds and bubbles. Then it’s time to dry your car carefully, using a microfibre cloth to avoid any remaining dirt scratching the paintwork. Swap to a dry cloth every time the one you’re using gets saturated.
Step 2: Clay bar treatment
Now your car’s dry, you need to clay the paintwork. You can grab a clay bar cleaning kit from your nearest decent car supplies store, or from Amazon. First, squirt a clay lube (which is usually concentrated car shampoo) onto the paintwork, then start running the clay bar over the car, methodically and in sections.
Using a clay bar to clear tiny bits of crud off your car is immensely satisfying
Clay bars are slightly magic and hugely important for getting your ceramic coating to bond. The semi-soft clay pulls microscopic bits of dirt out of the tiny troughs in your paintwork – troughs that will later be filled with your ceramic coating product.
Step 3: Paint correction
Now your paint surface is blemish free, it’s time to get your paint as shiny as possible. Don’t go thinking that ceramic coating will do this bit for you – it’s not going to magically improve your paintwork. Now’s the time to break out the rotary polishing tool and cutting compounds to remove swirl marks, water marks and other imperfections from your paint.
Do your research carefully before starting this bit of the process
You need to be extremely careful during this phase – you can get it wrong and spend ages chasing your tail to undo damage – there’s more to it than we can cover here, but Avalon King has an in-depth guide to DIY paint correction, so check that out before you start:
Step 4: It’s time for the ceramic coating
Believe it or not, this is actually the easiest bit of the process. Applying a DIY ceramic coating kit is as simple as wiping it onto your car methodically, section by section, and then wiping it off. It bonds with your paintwork and hardens, forming a smooth coating that fills in the microscopic lumps and bumps in your paintwork.
And that’s that – your car’s ceramic coated. It’s a labour intensive process, but it’s definitely something you can do without too much specialist kit, and it saves you a lot of washing effort for the years to come.
Want to know more about the benefits of ceramic coating? Check out our guide here.