Ceramic Coating Vs. Wax On My Car

In this article, Greg explains his experience with Ceramic Coatings. From his initial thoughts, to testing them on his own vehicles, to what he thinks of them today.

It took me a while to wrap my head around the cost and claims I had been hearing regarding ceramic coatings. I already had many customers coming to us and asking about ceramic coatings for their cars so I needed to try it out for myself, on my own cars, just to see if it is really a great new product or just marketing hype like the Teflon paint sealants I remember from the 80’s.

Early in 2015, I set out to compare one of the original ceramic coatings available verses one of the top rated automotive waxes available. I properly washed, decontaminated, compounded, and fine polished the paint on my black 2003 RS6. After all the intense prep work necessary was completed, I put a tape line down the middle and proceeded to install a professional ceramic coating from CarPro called CQuartz on one side and a good polymer wax (Meguiars #26) on the other side.

A few weeks after driving and washing the car as I normally would, I noticed the wax side wearing off after a few washes (which is expected). We kind of judge this by the way the water beads on the surface as it is being washed. The ceramic coated side still beaded awesome, in fact it would hardly stay wet! The water slid right off it and took most of the dirt with it too as it was being rinsed. This proved that the claims of “easier to wash” seemed accurate. This is also why even after driving the car in the rain, the ceramic coated side stayed cleaner. I was pretty excited to see any product actually stay on the cars paint for more than a few washes.

I also had reservations about the claim that it made the painted surfaces scratch resistant. I mean, that sounded great, but how could this be possible? Well, for one thing, since it cleans up easier (dirt pretty much pressure washes off), much less friction is necessary to get the surface clean. That means you won’t be touching or rubbing the paint as much therefore less micro scratches and swirls will be introduced. I also noticed that the ceramic coated side had much less micro scratching from normal washing and drying cycles so it must be slightly more scratch resistant. I say scratch resistant because the coating and the paint (clear coat on your car) can still be scratched quite easily…. I don’t want anybody to think that a ceramic coating will make your car scratch proof, but it is at least a sacrificial layer between dirt (the leading cause of micro scratches) and your car’s clear coat.

So then there is longevity, just how long will the ceramic coating last? I am only testing and talking about professionally applied coatings, not the consumer detail spray types. Most of the professional coatings available claim a certain length of time the coating could last on your car if installed correctly and taken care of properly. The manufactures’ claims range from 1 year to 7 years or some even lifetime under all the right conditions. We are certified to install several different brands of ceramic coatings including: CQuartz (2 year), Sonax CC36 (3 year), SB3 Alpha (5 year), Opti-Coat Pro Plus (7 year) and Ceramic Pro. After successfully installing ceramic coatings on hundreds of vehicles, I have personally seen the higher end coatings such as Opti-Coat Pro Plus, SB3 Aplha and Ceramic Pro Gold still displaying great hydrophobic properties well into their 3rd and 4th year now. Of course it has a lot to do with how the car is taken care of after the coating is applied. Friction (like polishing or even aggressive washing) will eventually wear the coating off, so if a customer says they have an everyday wash plan at a tunnel car wash, I might suggest that a ceramic coating would not be worth it for them. Many people even hand wash their cars way too aggressively, so I generally try to help change or improve the way a person washes their coated car. The coatings are extremely chemical resistant and so I normally suggest a “Touch Free” or “In Bay Automatic” wash, the hydrophobic properties of the ceramic coating allow the dirt to be pre-soaked and then pressure washed off very nicely so the car cleans up great without mechanical friction. Most touch free or In-bay automatic washes utilize spot free water and air blowers to blow most of the water off. For an even better final product after going through an “In Bay Automatic” wash, get out and dry the rest of your car completely with thick, fluffy micro fiber drying towels (we have some available in our lobby).

About a year ago I installed Opti-Coat Pro Plus on my daily driver, it gets used a lot, its black, driven in all weather conditions and on dirt roads. So far after 1 year I am thrilled with the way it looks even when it’s been driven in the rain and how easy it is to wash. Even though I am particular about how my car is washed, it gets used year-round and washed a lot, realistically I expect the coating to wear off before 7 years. Really, if I get 2 or 3 years of the major benefits such as: staying clean longer, ease of washing and drying, staying shiny longer and scratch resistance, I am happy. If a car is occasionally driven, washed gently and it receives a suggested “Coating Maintenance Wash” once or twice a year, then I can definitely see a high end professionally installed ceramic coating lasting the claimed 3, 5 and 7 years and even longer! 

So is a ceramic coating better than wax? Absolutely! I love the fact that a ceramic coating actually stays on your car protecting the paint for years instead of weeks, definitely longer than any of the best waxes we have ever used.  I love how my car looks glossy even when it’s not perfectly clean (I stare at it in my garage). I love how the dirt falls off with just pressure washing and dries easier. The paint is much better protected from contaminants like acid rain, iron deposits and bird droppings staining the surface.

If you have more questions or would like to schedule a ceramic coating for your car, please email us at rochappts@classicappreciation.com or call 248 656 2159.