Applying a Ceramic Coating: How Long Does it Take?


Ceramic coating a car can be a daunting process if you’ve not done it before. It’s a big job and does take quite a while to make sure you get the application right, but how long exactly do you need to set aside?

In this article I’ll explain how long the preparation, application and curing stages of a ceramic coating take so you know exactly how to plan your time.

How Long Does a Ceramic Coating Take to Apply?

The process of applying a ceramic coating typically takes 2-3 days to perform. The preparation stages required usually take 1-2 days to complete whilst the coating itself should only take approximately 1 hour to apply. The coating must also be left to cure which usually takes 12-24 hours.

Time Needed for Coating Preparation

Preparing the paintwork for a coating is the most labour intensive aspect of the process. The coating application itself is relatively quick, but the preparation does take a good while.

It’s essential that you properly prepare the surface to make sure the coating bonds to the paintwork properly. This means it needs to be fully decontaminated, polished and panel wiped. Otherwise, the coating will fail and not achieve anywhere close to its maximum durability capability.

Here are all the steps involved and how long they will take on different sized cars.

Coating Prep StageSmall Car e.g. Honda JazzMid-Sized Car e.g. Toyota CorollaLarge Car e.g. Audi Q5
Pre-Wash and Contact Wash60 minutes75 minutes90 minutes
Chemical Decontamination (Iron Fallout and Tar)20 minutes25 minutes30 minutes
Physical Decontamination (Clay Bar)20 minutes25 minutes30 minutes
Wash Again and Dry10 minutes15 minutes20 minutes
Paintwork Inspection15 minutes15 minutes15 minutes
Machine Polishing3-4 hours4-5 hours5-6 hours
Panel Wipe Solution10 minutes15 minutes20 minutes
Total6-6.5 hours7.5-8 hours9-9.5 hours

The wash and decontamination steps are all fairly straightforward and if you have everything packed up and ready, and then work efficiently it should only take 2-3 hours. However, if it’s your first time then you may need an extra hour or so to get to grips with things.

It’s the machine polishing stage where the time required really starts to vary.

If the car only requires a single-stage machine polishing using either a 1-step product or light finishing polish, then most cars will only require around 3 hours of work if you get a good polish and pad combination.

However, if you are going for a two-stage machine polish to remove heavier defects, then it’s likely that the time required will double.

You also need to allow for some extra time if you are struggling to find a good pad and polish combo to suit the paintwork. It’s best to start with your test section, nail the combo and then you can move more quickly around the rest of the car without having to inspect the paint as closely after every section.

If you want to learn more about the preparation process, make sure you check out my complete guide to applying a ceramic coating at home.

Time Needed for Coating Application

On most medium-sized cars, the application of a ceramic coating will take between 30 minutes and 1 hour. The process is pretty straightforward and if you have prepared the paint correctly and follow the coating’s instructions then it should be a pain-free process.

Some coatings take longer to apply than others as they all have different “flash times”. The flash time refers to the amount of time you need to wait between spreading the coating and buffing it.

Coatings with very short flash times e.g. 15-20 seconds will usually require you to work a panel at a time so you’ll need to spread the coating, wait and then buff.

It is possible to spread the product on two small sections at a time and then by the time you have applied the coating to the second, it’ll be time to buff off the first section. This helps to speed things up a bit. However unless you feel confident, it’s a good idea to take a more patient approach especially if its your first time.

Coatings with longer flash times e.g. 1-2 minutes allow you to coat 2-3 sections at once and then buff them off in order after you’ve coated the final section. So, although you may think the process will take longer, it can actually be faster to coat the entire car if you work efficiently with this type of coating.

Ceramic CoatingRecommended Time to Wait Before Buffing
TAC Systems QuartzRemove Immediately
Pyramid Car Care Professional5-15 seconds
Gyeon Pure Evo10-30 seconds
Sonax ProfiLine CC3630-60 seconds
Gtechniq EXO v41-2 minutes
Carbon Collective Platinum Paint1-2 minutes
Angelwax Enigma Legacy2 minutes
Flash times for popular ceramic coatings

Top-Coats and Layering

Some ceramic coatings are designed to be used as stand-alone products, whereas others are designed to be layered.

For example, the Pyramid Car Care Premium, Pro and New Era coatings are all designed to be applied in a single layer making the application process very quick.

However, some coatings such as Garage Therapy Cerberus works best when it is “topped” with their Chimera coating 1-2 hours after application.

Some coatings (e.g. Ultracoat) recommend that you apply two layers of all their coatings.

Hence, you need to factor in this additional time if you are applying a topper or multiple layers of the same coating.

Time Needed for Coating to Cure

Once a ceramic coating has been applied, it must be left to cure. This is when the coating fully hardens and it’s vital that it does not get wet during this period otherwise the coating can fail.

On average, a ceramic coating will need to cure for 12 hours after it has been applied. The car should not be driven or get wet during this period.

The manufacturers of many coatings state that the car must be kept indoors for this period, however there are some coatings (e.g. Pyramid Car Care and Gyeon Evo) that can be applied and left to cure outside.

However you must keep a close eye on the weather. The ambient temperature also ideally needs to be above 10 degrees Celcius.

Here is a list of some popular coatings and their cure times.

Ceramic CoatingCuring Time
Pyramid Car Care Range4 hours
Autoglym Ultra High Definition4 hours
Infinity Wax Synergy8-72 hours
Gtechniq Crystal Serum Light/ C112 hours
Nanolex Si3D HD12 hours
CarPro Cquartz 3.012-24 hours
Adam’s UV Ceramic12-24 hours
Liquid Elements Eco Shield12-24 hours
Gyeon EVO Range12-24 hours
TAC Systems Quartz Power Plus24 hours
Curing times for popular ceramic coatings

Organising Your Time

On average, the preparation and application process of a ceramic coating will usually span across 2-days. In some cases, you may need an extra day if the machine polishing stage is taking longer than expected.

So how should you organise your time?

You do the decontamination and machine polishing stage on the first day if possible. Then the following day you can apply the coating in the morning. This will give you the ideal conditions to let the product properly cure, however it risks dust settling on the car overnight which is hard to remove safely without re-washing the vehicle.

Alternatively, you can decontaminate the car on the first day, and then polish and coat it on the second day. This is fine if you are doing a single-stage polish. Otherwise, it’s unlikely you’ll have time to polish and coat the car on a single day.

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Heather

I first became interested in car detailing around 3 years ago and learnt all the main techniques on my very first car. I spend a lot of time detailing my current car, and trying to keep my family's cars looking presentable too!

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