Can you ceramic coat your own car? Yes, you can! DIY ceramic coating projects are becoming common among gearheads, especially after many of us started working from home and had more time on our hands.
Here are some things for you to remember when undertaking a ceramic coating DIY project:
Choose the Right Coating
Many people can’t differentiate between the different types of protective coatings you can put on a car. We’ll break down some of the most common ones so that you can distinguish between them and know what to expect.
Paint Protective Film or PPF is similar to a transparent wrap that adds four protection layers against minor impacts and scratches. PPF is one of the most expensive and difficult coatings to install on a car.
Much like a TPU phone screen protector, there are chances of air bubbles showing up on your car that will take away from its look.
One of the most common types of protective coatings for cars is ceramic. Before undertaking your DIY ceramic coating project, you might want to know what this material is and why it’s so popular.
Think of ceramic coating as sunscreen for your car; it forms a thin layer of chemicals that cover your car to protect it from UV rays, minor scratches and repels water to make it easier to clean droplets.
Many people confuse glass and ceramic coatings, but to their credit, they aren’t entirely wrong. Both glass and ceramic coatings have the same chemical composition but a different atomic structural arrangement.
Glass coatings are more expensive but offer greater resistance against water spots and have better durability. However, for most people, they aren’t worth the premium over ceramic coats.
While there are a few types of wax coatings available, we will be generalizing them into one category to reduce confusion. Wax coatings apply a smooth layer of wax to protect your car against the elements.
However, wax is the least durable material for car coats from our list of options. It is also one of the easiest to apply at home and is a great way to make your car look good and keep it protected.
Starting a DIY Ceramic Coating
Now that you know the differences between some of the most common paint coatings let’s dive into giving your car a layer of ceramic coating. While starting off a DIY ceramic coating may seem hard, don’t worry, we’ll walk you through every step along the way.
Before you get excited, there’s a long road ahead to prepare your car for the ceramic coating. Luckily, most people find the preparation step more challenging than applying the actual ceramic coating itself. However, we assure you that it’s worth it.
Here are some things you will need:
- Microfiber towels
- Electric polisher and pads
- Clay mitts
- Wax-free polish
Ready? Now let’s get started!
The Good Ol’ Two Bucket Wash
One of the things in the auto care industry that has stuck around is the two bucket wash. This car washing method is essential for getting rid of any dirt on your car while preventing any swirl marks. Before you do that, hose your car down with low-pressure water to loosen any dirt.
Next, make a shampoo solution in one bucket while filling the other one with clean water. Frequently rinse off any dirt from your sponge by rinsing it in the clean water bucket.
The better your washing technique, the lower the chances of damaging your car’s paint. After all, you don’t want to drive around with unsightly swirls all over your car!
Ideally, you should be exerting as little force as possible to prevent damage to the paint. Most of us tend to exert extra pressure out of sheer laziness to refresh the sponge and end up scratching the paint.
Never wash your car under direct sunlight or leave it on longer than you have to. The soap is absorbed into your car’s paint and damages it. We recommend cleaning one panel at a time.
Rinse your car with a hose after washing every inch of it. The stronger the car soap you use, the easier it is to get rid of old wax and other impurities.
Check out our in-depth guide on a DIY car wash for more tips.
The next step in your DIY ceramic coating project is getting rid of any particles that are left over after your car wash. Remember that a car wash won’t eliminate all the wax and microscopic dirt from your car’s paint.
Use a clay mitt and a clay lube solution to start the clay decontamination process. Soak up your mitt in the lube to improve its ability to glide over surfaces to clean up your car panels.
As with the washing process, ensure that you don’t exert too much pressure and damage your car’s paint. Whenever your mitt starts feeling like it’s “sticking” to the paint, lube it up to ensure the best results. You might want to add the concentration of shampoo in your clay lube to get rid of stubborn wax and ceramic coatings. Specialized products such as ceramic coating prep shampoos are the best for this job.
After completing the process, wear plastic gloves and run your hand over the freshly clayed surface. If you feel resistance in certain areas, you might have to re-do the claying there.
When you’re satisfied with the results, hose the car down and dry it using a soft microfiber cloth.
The most dreaded part of a DIY ceramic coating is the paint correction process. Take a step back and shine ample light on your car to look for swirls and scratches on your body. Any uneven reflections indicate that you need to undertake paint correction.
You’ll need a machine to get started with the paint correction process, which can be intimidating. We recommend practicing paint correction on a spare panel you can get from a junkyard.
During the process, you need to apply light and consistent pressure. After you have practiced enough, it’s time to start patching up your ride.
Using multiple sizes of polishers is an excellent way to address large panels and smaller areas on your car. For starters, you should choose a soft pad to ensure that you don’t overcut the paint.
Modern paint correction liquids come with “diminishing abrasive” technology. These liquids are abrasive initially, but break down and prevent damaging your car’s paint as you continue with the process.
After each run of the polisher, wipe the panel with a microfiber cloth and inspect the paint. Remember, you don’t want to overdo the process and damage your car’s finish.
Your car would have polish residue on it after the paint correction process. Get to buffing your car with a couple of fresh pads to reduce the risk of contamination and continue till your vehicle is polish-free.
Once you are satisfied with the results, it’s time for the next step in the preparation process.
Opening a Cold One
You’ve had a hard day of preparing your car for your ceramic coating project. It’s only fair to want to open a cold one and take a break. However, don’t forget to give your car the same treatment.
Instead of a beer, treat your car with an Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) solution. The solution breaks down any leftover oils, dirt, chemicals, and wax left on the car’s body.
You should never skip this step because it affects how effective your ceramic coating will be. Ceramic coatings need to stick directly to your car’s paint, and any impurities will reduce the expected longevity of the coating.
The worst part is that any leftover dirt stands out more if you don’t catch it before the coating.
Applying Your DIY Ceramic Coating
Now it’s time for what you have been waiting for. It’s time to give your car a DIY ceramic coating and make it shine!
For the coating process, you’ll need:
- Ceramic coating product
- Application sponge
- Suede cloths
- Nitrile gloves
- Microfiber towels
The ceramic coating process is time sensitive. During a DIY job, it’s easy to slack off and take breaks, but this comes at the expense of a poor final result. Any dust that settles on your car’s surface is likely to stick, so be wary of that.
While the instructions for each ceramic coating product vary slightly, these are the general steps you should follow.
First and foremost, put on a pair of nitrile gloves to prevent contaminating the car’s surface during application.
You should divide your car’s panels into imaginary sections to make the process easier.
Secure the suede cloth around the applicator sponge. Then, shake the ceramic coating product bottle and add enough drops to saturate the fabric. Apply the ceramic coating on every panel and ensure you layer it evenly.
While attempting a DIY ceramic coating, apply the product to one panel at a time and inspect it from various angles to ensure even application. Keep checking your suede application cloth. Ensure that you keep dampening it to achieve the best possible results.
As you continue applying the coating, you have to replace the applicator cloth after every few panels. If you see crystalline deposits of the product building upon the cloth, immediately swap it out; otherwise, you’ll risk damaging your paint.
The application itself requires you to make smooth horizontal motions for proper coverage. Follow up with a vertical application, and then crisscross it to ensure that you fill up all the hills and valleys in the paint for maximum protection and shine.
After you apply the ceramic coating, leave it untouched for around 5 minutes. Doing so allows the treatment to adhere to your car’s clear coating. Then, buff it out with a microfiber towel to get rid of the residue.
Continue gently buffing the section till the cloudiness clears up. Repeat the process on all other sections of the car till you cover every inch of it.
Some people might want to go for extra protection and opt for a second layer of ceramic coating. However, you should wait atleast 2 hours before applying another coat.
You might think you are ready to show your car off to the world with your fresh DIY ceramic coating. Well, we have some bad news for you.
Although it takes a few minutes for the coating to adhere to your car, it needs approximately 24 to 48 hours to cure. You should ideally keep your car indoors in a temperature-controlled environment with no exposure to any sort of moisture, including rain or high humidity.
You would be surprised to know how many people think that ceramic coatings do not need maintenance. While a coated vehicle requires lesser maintenance, you still need to continue with routine washes.
Many people also prefer waxing their cars after the coating to prolong its life. While we can’t comment on how much wax extends the ceramic coat’s life, it keeps your car feeling nice and smooth.
Why Should You Do a DIY Ceramic Coating Project?
A DIY ceramic coating job is fairly simple unless you have to do paint correction or remove scratches and swirls. You can easily do a ceramic coating yourself for a new car while saving a fair bit of money that a professional would charge.
It is also a great skill to have for someone who loves their cars, and you can get the exact finish you want if you aren’t comfortable leaving your car at the workshop for a few days.
The downside is that the risk of contamination is high unless you are doing the coating indoors in a well-lit garage. Since not everyone has access to one, it might not be feasible for you to coat your car at home.
Is Ceramic Coating Worth It?
Ceramic coating is totally worth it. Those of you who want a nice glossy finish that makes your car stand out should consider a ceramic coating.
Other than the aesthetic benefits, a ceramic coat allows for easier maintenance. Bird droppings are easier to clean and won’t stain your car, and you don’t have to worry about water droplet stains.
Many companies claim that you will never need to detail your car as long as it is ceramic coated. However, these claims are marketing gimmicks. While you will need to wash your car and wax it to maintain it, there are fewer chances of damaging the paint.
Worried about your car paint fading away? A ceramic coating ensures that you can be worry-free. Its UV protectant nature keeps your paint new and your car shiny.
If you want to protect your car from corrosion, a ceramic coating is the way to go. Paint is not as durable as you might think and can sustain damage from water, chemicals, acids, and heat. A ceramic coat can help reduce the wear on your car’s paint by protecting it from the elements.
Can You Ceramic Your Own Car If It’s Old?
Whether you opt for a professional or DIY ceramic coating, you may not always want to do it to an older car. Older cars are likely to have more exposure to the sun. If you didn’t follow a proper maintenance schedule for your paint, you might see spots on your car where the color has faded.
An older car is likely to have more swirls too, which means you will need paint correction. Compounding requires stripping off a thin layer of paint, and it isn’t always feasible for an older car. If you see signs of fading paint, the process might damage the rest of the paint.
However, if you have a well-maintained older car, a DIY ceramic coating is worth it. Professionals may charge an excess of $1,000 for the job. However, you can achieve similar results at home at a fraction of the price.
Why Do Professionals Charge So Much?
Quite a few people wonder why professional ceramic coating costs as much as it does. Well, there are a few good reasons for that.
First of all, the results last for up to 5 years. Since you won’t go back to the company for another coating during that time, they charge higher margins.
Another reason is the expertise required. There are fewer chances of something going wrong when a technician coats your car, especially during paint correction. They also have special equipment they invest in to make the process more thorough.
Finally, companies use industrial-grade coating as compared to the consumer-grade products you can buy in a store. Professional ceramic coating products last longer and have a better finish than regular ones.
Time For A DIY Ceramic Coating
Now that you have all the information you need to start your DIY ceramic coating project, it’s time to make your car shine. We want to mention again that you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions printed on the label.