Ceramic coatings are well known for offering outstanding, long-term protection to a car’s exterior, but how long do they actually last? Often the answer isn’t always clear-cut, so in this article I aim to give you a real indication of how well a coating will last on a vehicle and all the factors that affect it.
The Quick Answer
As a general rule, ceramic coatings last between 2-3 years, but can last up to 5 years. The most durable 5-year coatings usually have a higher concentration of silicon dioxide. Low-grade ceramic coatings marketed at entry-level may only last between 1-2 years.
Average Durability of Popular Ceramic Coatings
Various manufacturers offer different coatings, and they are not all equal in terms of durability. Here is a list of some of the most popular ceramic coatings on the market and how long they typically last on a well-prepared surface when maintained properly.
Durability of Popular Ceramic Coatings
|GYEON Q2 Pure||1.5 years||$110 or £80|
|Nanolex Si3D||1.5 years||$55 or £40|
|CarPro CQuartz 3.0||1.5-2 years||$70 or £50|
|Sonax EVO||1-3 years||$130 or £95|
|Carbon Collective Platinum||2 years||$55 or £40|
|Gtechniq Evo x3||2 years||$100 or £73|
|Pyramid Car Care Premium||2 years||$85 or £60|
|TAC Systems Quartz||3 years||$110 or £80|
|Gtechniq C1||5 years||$100 or £70|
|Carbon Collective Molecule||5 years||$110 or £80|
|Pyramid Care Care Pro||5 years||$140 or £100|
Coating Grades Affect Durability
Often, the durability potential of a ceramic coating is based on the “grade”. The grade of a coating is a loose term based on a few factors:
Coatings will often be described as 9H, which is the hardest rating a coating can have. It is based on the pencil scale of H to 9H (9H pencils are harder than 1H etc). The scale simply refers to the hardness of pencil which is capable of damaging it.
If a coating is free from damage when pressing a 9H pencil at a 45 degree angle, it will receive a 9H rating. If it is damaged by a 9H pencil, but not by an 8H pencil, it will be rated 8H, and so on.
Silica (Silicon Dioxide) Content
Silica is the “ceramic” component of the coating. Silica must be mixed with liquids in order to ensure the coating is in a liquid format, but the higher the silica content, the harder and more durable the coating is generally.
Most ceramic coatings which offer at least 2 years durability, will usually contain at least 70% silicon dioxide).
Most brands have at least one coating in their range. The more durable (and more expensive) coatings, usually have a higher silicon dioxide content and hardness rating.
It’s worth noting, that many ceramic coatings which last for 5 years, are often not available to the public, and can only be purchased and applied by certified detailers. This is usually because they contain higher concentrations of silicon dioxide, which makes them more difficult to apply.
You can still get some great ceramic coatings off-the-shelf though and apply them yourself. All the ones listed in the table at the top of the article are available to purchase by the public.
In addition to the coating composition itself dictating how long it will last, the extent to which the surface was prepared will also make a massive impact. Ceramic coatings must bond to the paintwork and cure for an adequate period of time in order to make sure they last for as long as possible.
- This means the surface must be free of any contaminants, waxes, sealants and polishing oils to allow the coating to properly bond to the paintwork.
- Most coatings must not be exposed to chemicals for at least one week and should not be exposed to water for at least 24-48 hours. Although the exact time frames do depend on the coating and some may cure faster or slower.
The extensive preparation process that goes into a ceramic coating application, is often why car owners choose a professional to apply it, rather than go the DIY route.
Here is a quick rundown of the steps involved in preparing a car for ceramic coating:
- Wash the paintwork using a deep cleaning wax-free shampoo.
- Chemically decontaminate using an iron fallout remover and tar remover.
- Physically decontaminate the surface using a clay bar.
- Polish the paintwork using a machine polisher.
- Use a panel wipe solution to remove any polishing oils.
- Apply the coating in a dust free environment, with low-moderate humidity, away from direct sunlight and in the recommended temperature range (usually around 10-15 degrees Celcius).
It is possible to apply a ceramic coating outdoors, as long as you choose one which is designed for outdoor and indoor use. You will also need to follow the temperature and humidity guidelines and keep the car dry for the recommended period of time (usually at least 12 hours).
This entire process will usually take between 1.5 to 2 days to perform.
Properly caring for a ceramic coating will go a long way to maximising its lifespan. If you do not regularly wash your car with safe chemicals, then the durability will suffer.
Here are some tips to maintain your ceramic coating:
- Wash the car frequently (at least monthly) using snow foam/ citrus prewash and a car shampoo.
- Use a deep cleaning shampoo (e.g. Garage Therapy /ZERO: Decontamination Shampoo) every 6 months to un-clog the coating and keep the water behaviour strong.
- Apply a “ceramic top-up” spray e.g. CarPro Reload or GYEON Wet Coat every few months to maintain the water repellency.
- Do not take your car to an automatic or roadside car wash as it is likely that scratching may occur and harsh chemicals will be used which can degrade the coating.
If you are not able to wash your car yourself, consider asking the detailer who applied your ceramic coating to wash it every month. They often will offer a “maintenance package” for customers who have had their cars coated. This will ensure it is properly cared for and lives up to its durability claims.
Check out my article on how to wash your car at home without causing scratches if you’re planning on maintaining the vehicle by yourself.
Conditions and Exposure
Even if you have a high-grade coating that was applied properly and cared for with the correct chemicals, using the right techniques, your coating may not always live up to its maximum durability claims. This is often due to the exposure the car receives to the elements.
A ceramic coating will not last as long if the car is:
- Stored outside
- Driven daily
- Subjected to harsh environments e.g. cold winters or very high temperatures
It is difficult to judge the exact amount of difference this will make. For example, if you have a coating which has durability claims of 5 years and you drive it every day for 5 years up and down the highway in torrential rain, it could only last 3-4 years, but that is just an estimate. Equally, if your car is rarely driven and stored in a garage, you may get more than 5 years of durability out of the coating.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to some questions you may have about ceramic coating durability.
Do ceramic coatings wear off?
Ceramic coatings will wear off over time. They will not wear away by peeling off the paintwork, but the performance will diminish and the hydrophobicity, slickness and protective characteristics will decrease indicating that a new coating should be applied.
What is the longest lasting ceramic coating?
Some of the longest lasting ceramic coatings include Gtechniq C1, Carbon Collective Pro Coatings and Pyramid Car Care Ceramic Coating Pro which all last up yo 5 years. Generally, the longest a ceramic coating is expected to last for is roughly 5 years when applied and maintained properly.
Will applying multiple layers of a ceramic coating make it last longer?
Typically, applying more than two layers of a ceramic coating will not make it last any longer. Some coatings may last longer when layered up to four times, but for most coatings, this is not required and will not add any extra benefit. The manufacturer will provide information regarding layering to suit the specific product so make sure you always follow their guidance.
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