Ceramic coatings are one of the most durable paint protection options available on the market and have become increasingly popular over the last decade. They’re usually applied by professional detailers, but can they also be safely applied at home?
In this article, I’ll be taking you through step-by-step, how to apply a ceramic coating by yourself at home so you get the best finish and durability without paying for a professional.
The Quick Answer
It is possible to apply a ceramic coating at home by yourself. It takes a certain level of skill and also ideally an indoor space to prepare the paint and apply the coating. This is typically why most car owners get their vehicle coated by a professional detailer.
In the rest of this article, I’ll be explaining exactly how to prepare and apply a coating, then comparing the DIY and professional option directly.
Clean and Decontaminate the Paint
The first step, is to properly cleanse the paintwork to ensure that it’s fee from all contaminants. This goes beyond simply washing the paint, and involves “decontaminating” it to remove any bound particles that can’t be removed by standard wash techniques.
This step is essential to ensure that the ceramic coating is able to properly bond to the paintwork to maximise the durability.
Contaminants, include things like iron fallout, tree sap, tar and water spots which often build up on the paintwork. You’ll know if they’re there by feeling the paint when it’s clean and dry. If it feels rough, then it needs decontaminating.
There are two steps involved in the decontamination process:
- Chemical decontamination (using iron fallout remover and tar remover sprays)
- Physical decontamination (using a clay bar or clay mitt)
You can also check out my recommended decontamination products to find some great options.
Chemical decontamination is a very simple process and should be performed first to remove as much contamination as possible. It just involves spraying the chemical onto a wet panel and rinsing it off after 1-2 minutes in most cases. Always check the manufacturers’ instructions though before using any product.
Physical decontamination using a clay bar or mitt is also easy, but there are a few rules to follow. Clay is abrasive, so will likely cause light swirls that can be easily removed in the next step. However, mis-use can cause deeper scratches and marring.
- Always keep the paintwork lubricated (check out the best clay bar lubricant options here).
- Use straight-line motions.
- Keep checking the clay for contaminants and folding it to reveal a clean side.
- Never drop the clay bar on the floor. If you do, throw it away and get a new piece.
- Be gentle, don’t apply any pressure and let the clay glide across the paint.
Once the paintwork has been decontaminated, it can be rinsed and dried ready for the next step.
Polish the Paintwork
The next step, is to polish the paintwork. This is an abrasive process which removes a thin layer of paint to reveal a fresh-flat layer for the coating to be applied to.
It’s important for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, a ceramic coating is long-lasting, so it’s best to remove any light paint defects (scratches and swirls), before applying the coating.
Secondly, polishing helps the coating bond to the paint to maximise durability by ensuring the surface is completely free from waxes, sealants and old coatings, and also that the surface is flat.
Polishing can be performed by hand or by machine. It’s a pretty simple process, but can be daunting for a lot of first-timers.
If you’re completely new to it, then check out this guide on everything you need to polish your car to help you get started.
Use a Panel Wipe Solution
Polishing leaves behind oils which must be removed before applying the ceramic coating. If these oils are not removed, the ceramic coating will not bond to the paint and the durability will be massively reduced.
There are a couple of options here:
- Homemade isopropyl alcohol (IPA) mixture (25% IPA and 75% water)
- Pre-mixed panel wipe solutions e.g. Gtechniq Panel Wipe Solution
The homemade option is the cheapest, whereas pre-mixed options are a bit more user-friendly and also claim to be more effective.
The process is easy enough with either choice:
- Spray the solution 2-3 times onto a soft, plush and clean microfiber towel.
- Wipe over the panel until it evaporates.
- Work in small areas at a time e.g. 0.5 x 0.5 meters
- Wait around 20 minutes after using the panel wipe before applying the coating to ensure it’s fully evaporated.
Consider the Weather Conditions
Before applying a ceramic coating, you need to be conscious of the areas you’re working in. It needs to be:
- Free from dust
- Around 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit (20-30 degrees Celcius) if possible
- Away from direct sunlight
- Moderate-low humidity
If you have a garage or indoor area to store your car, then it’s well worth using it.
Otherwise, make sure it’s not a windy day so dust and debris won’t end up flying onto the paint, and make sure it’s not likely to rain.
It’s also important to consider the weather in the next 24 hours. You don’t want the coating to get wet in this period, or the durability will be affected.
I know the weather forecasts aren’t always that reliable, so it can be hard to tell. But try and choose the day wisely.
Apply the Coating
The application process of the coating itself, is probably the easiest part luckily! It varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, so always check the instructions and follow them to the letter.
What You’ll Need:
- Application block (usually made of foam)
- Suede applicators (usually at least 2-3)
- Nitrile gloves
- Microfiber buffing towels (at least 3)
How to Apply the Coating:
- Wrap the suede applicator around the application block
- Add around 10-12 drops (evenly spaced) of the coating onto the applicator.
- Wipe the product onto the panel in a cross-hatch pattern working in small areas at a time (approximately half a panel)
- Wait the recommended time (usually from 30 seconds to 2 minutes) and buff off the product.
Give it Time to Cure
Ceramic coatings need to “cure” to the paint after the application process. This gives them time to full bond. The process is normally completely within 24 hours, but some coatings may take less or more time than this. Here’s what to keep in mind:
- Make sure the car doesn’t get wet within 24 hours.
- Try to keep the car dry for 48 hours if possible.
- Don’t use any chemicals (shampoo, snow foam etc.) within a week of applying the coating.
Maintain the Ceramic Coating
If you want the best out of your ceramic coating, then it’s important to maintain it properly. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Try and wash the car regularly (every 2-4 weeks)
- Pre-wash the car using a snow foam
- Use a pure pH neutral car shampoo (free from waxes or gloss-enhancers) during the wash process
- Keep the coating topped up with ceramic coating maintenance sprays a couple of times a year to maximise performance.
Professional vs DIY Ceramic Coating Application
So that’s the complete process of applying a ceramic coating at home, by yourself. But you may still be wondering if it’s the best option for you. In this next section, I wanted to directly compare both options so you can decide if it’s best to get a professional to apply the coating, or take the DIY-route.
|Comparison||Professional Coating||DIY Coating|
|Cost||$300+ approximately||$150 approximately|
|Coating Quality||Higher grade coatings||Lower grade coatings|
|Time||Car will be away for the full day at least||Full day at home|
Professional Ceramic Coating
The main advantage of this is that you get access to higher-grade coatings, which typically offer longer protection (up to 5 years). These premium coatings are only available to professionals and cannot be bought by DIY detailers. However, there are still some excellent options out there if you want to ceramic coat your car at home.
It’s also a good idea to choose this option if you do not have a garage and have a lack of experience decontaminating and polishing the paint.
Of course, the disadvantage is that this will cost significantly more and your car will be away at the detailers for at least a day.
DIY Ceramic Coating
This option is much cheaper. The coatings themselves usually cost around $75-100. But you’ll also need to get some decontamination and polishing equipment and chemicals if you don’t already have them, meaning the cost can add up pretty quickly.
However, if you’ve got some machine polishing skills, the right environment and at least a day to dedicate to the process, then this could be a really good option.
Frequently Asked Questions
Don’t worry if you still need some answers! This next section will address all the most commonly asked questions about ceramic coating a car.
Is ceramic coating a car difficult?
Ceramic coating a car does take a certain level of skill, particularly during the preparation process. It also requires an indoor space in most cases, which is why most car owners get their car’s ceramic coated by professional detailers.
How much do ceramic coatings cost?
Ceramic coatings typically cost anywhere from $75-150. The cost depends on the manufacturer and durability claims primarily. Professional grade ceramic coatings are most expensive than consumer grade coatings.
What is the best DIY ceramic coating?
There are many great options, but pyramid car care offer a premium and pro option. The best thing about these, is that the cure time is low (4 hours), so they’re good for people who don’t own a garage or live in areas where the weather is unpredicatable.
Here’s a link to both options:
- Pyramid Car Care Premium Ceramic Coating (2 years protection)
- Pyramid Car Care Ceramic Coating Pro (5 years protection)
Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve found this article helpful. Here are some other articles you might find useful.