What is a Ceramic Coating? (Benefits, Drawbacks, Cost, etc.)

If you’re looking for the best protection for your car then you’ve probably heard the term “ceramic coating” being thrown around. But what actually is a ceramic coating? What are the benefits? Are there any drawbacks?

In this complete guide I’ll address all the questions you might have about coatings and how to decide if they’re the best option for your vehicle.

What is a Ceramic Coating?

Ceramic coatings are chemical polymers which when applied to a vehicle, harden to form an extremely durable layer of protection which lasts several years. Ceramic coatings can be applied to most surfaces including the paint, glass, wheels, plastic trim, and leather.

In most ceramic coatings on the market, the active ingredient is silicon dioxide (SiO2), and most premium-grade coatings contain at least 80% of this compound. They usually come in small glass bottles which have about 30-50 mL of the coating inside.

The first ceramic coatings were developed in the ’50s and used in the aerospace industry, but they weren’t used in the automotive industry until the 2000’s and have only become really popular over the last decade.

Benefits of a Ceramic Coating

Ceramic coatings offer numerous benefits including:






In a practical sense, applying a ceramic coating to a vehicle helps keep it cleaner for longer, makes the wash process easier, and ensures the paintwork continues to look glossy and fresh for several years without polishing.

Let’s go through some of these key characteristics in a bit more detail.


Ceramic coatings are capable of lasting up to 8-years, but the majority of coatings on the market last for 3-years. They offer a huge advantage compared to traditional waxes and sealants which are generally only capable of lasting between 3-5 months. This means that you don’t need to apply them very often at all and the surfaces stay protected for a very long time.

Water and Dirt Repellency

Ceramic coatings help to keep a car cleaner for longer between washes, and make the vehicle easier to actually clean. This is because they are very hydrophobic and slick, which means dirt and traffic film doesn’t stick as stubbornly to the surfaces. It’s important to note though that the vehicle will still need washing frequently in order to keep the coating performing to its maximum capability.

Chemical Resistance

Ceramic coatings are also very chemically resistant. This might not sound like a very practical advantage, but your car is actually exposed to a wide range of chemicals on a daily basis including bird poo, mineral deposits (water spots). road salt, and oil/ fuel from the traffic film that splashes up on the vehicle when driving in inclement weather.

Enhanced Gloss

A properly applied ceramic coating will achieve an ultra-glossy finish which is sure to turn heads. In order to prepare the surface for coating, the paintwork is machine polished which removes scratches and swirl marks in the clear coat and refines it to a mirror finish. The coating itself will also bump up the gloss leaving the ultimate finish.

Wash Marring Resistance

Ceramic coatings are typically 2-3 times harder than conventional clear coat paint. This means they provide some level of scratch and marring resistance but keep in mind that ceramic coatings are certainly not scratch-proof or stone-chip proof. They do however provide some resistance against marring that can occur during the wash process, although it is still important to use proper wash techniques as I’ll talk through later.

It’s also important to note that not all coatings are made equally. Ceramic coatings come in varying degrees of hardness and are rated on a scale. This hardness scale refers to the hardness of pencil which is capable of scratching it when held at a 45 degree angle. The scale goes from H (softest) to 9H. For example, a 9H coating is harder than a 3H coating. There are also some coatings which are described as “10H” which simply means that they are not scratched by the 9H pencil.

How are Ceramic Coatings Applied?

Ceramic coatings themselves are not too tricky to apply (depending on the exact coating), however there is a time-consuming and labour-intensive preparation process which is critical to the success of the application. It is vital that the paintwork is properly prepared before using a coating. Otherwise, it won’t last very long at all and can be a real mess visually.

Here are the stages involved in the coating preparation process:

  • Thorough pre-wash and hand-wash using a dedicated car shampoo
  • Chemical decontamination to remove tar and iron fallout deposits
  • Physical decontamination using a clay bar to remove any remaining contaminants
  • Machine polishing to remove clear coat scratches and swirls and prep the surface
  • Panel wipe solution to remove oils and residues from the previous step

Here are the steps involved in the application of a ceramic coating:

  • Apply several drops (8-10) of the coating to the applicator pad
  • Spread the coating on a small section of the panel in a cross-hatch pattern
  • Wait the recommended time (usually from 10 seconds to 2 minutes but is dependent on the coating)
  • Level the coating using straight-line motions and light pressure with one microfiber towel
  • Use a second microfiber towel to remove the remaining residue in circular motions
  • Use a final microfiber towel to lightly buff the area and adjacent panels/ sections to prevent any high spots
  • Wait the recommended cure time before exposing the car to the elements (usually between 4-24 hours but does depend on the coating itself)

Ceramic coatings also usually need to be applied in more specific conditions compared to waxes and sealants. It does vary between manufacturers, but generally it is between 10°C-25°C (50°F-77°F) and in less than 70% humidity. They can be applied outdoors, but you do need to be conscious of the environmental conditions to ensure the application process is a success.

For more information on the ceramic coating application process, please read this guide.

Which Surfaces Can Ceramic Coating be Used On?

Ceramic coatings are typically applied to the paintwork on a vehicle but can also be applied to other exterior and interior surfaces including:

  • Paintwork
  • Glass
  • Alloys
  • Painted callipers
  • Exhaust
  • Metal trim
  • Black plastic trim
  • Headlights
  • Leather
  • Interior plastics

Different ceramic coatings are generally used for various surfaces to ensure the best performance. For example, the properties of a glass coating are slightly different to the properties of an interior trim coating. This is generally why most manufacturers offer different ceramic coatings for different applications.

How are Ceramic Coatings Maintained?

Although ceramic coatings help to keep the car cleaner between washes, it still needs to be cleaned frequently in order to make sure the coating continues to perform to its maximum capability. Ideally, a ceramic coated car should be washed every couple of weeks if it is a high-mileage car and stored outside. If the car is driven less frequently and stored in a garage then you can get away with washing it less often, but it shouldn’t be less frequent than monthly.

The basic maintenance wash process on a ceramic coated car is nice and straight-forward and should only take about 1-2 hours to perform. However, there are several considerations you need to make to ensure the coating does not become damaged during the wash process:

  • Never take a ceramic coated car to an automatic car wash or cheap roadside hand-washing station. This will cause the coating to become scratched and aggressive chemicals will degrade the coating.
  • Always pre-wash the vehicle before making contact with a wash mitt. This can be with a citrus pre-wash spray or snow foam.
  • Use a pH neutral, pure shampoo to wash the coating. Do not used wax-infused or gloss-enhancing shampoos, or any household products which will damage or clog the coating.
  • Use microfiber mitts to wash the car, and never use sponges or brushes.
  • Use separate tools and brushes to clean the paintwork and the wheels to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Don’t scrub at the paintwork with your wash mitt. Use plenty of lubrication and wipe gently to avoid scratches.
  • Don’t wash the car in direct sunlight because the water and chemicals will dry on the surface very quickly.
  • Use a microfiber towel to gently dry the car. Never water blades (squeegees), chamois leather or bath towels.

Ceramic coatings can get “clogged” over time which masks the hydrophobic and slick properties. In order to unclog the coating, a liquid decontamination process should be performed roughly every 5000 miles or 4-6 months. This involves using tar remover, iron fallout remover and an acidic shampoo to tackle mineral deposits which can clog the coating. Do not use a clay bar or polish a ceramic coated car as this will abrade it.

Here are some key rules to keep in mind when washing and maintaining a ceramic coated car. If you are looking for more detail, please read this article.

How Long Do Ceramic Coatings Last?

Ceramic coatings last for 3 years on average but can last for 1-8 years. The durability of the coating depends on the type of coating itself, how it was applied and how it is cared for.

  • The grade of the coating affects the durability, which is affected by how much silicon dioxide is in the formulation.
  • It is also essential to prepare the surface properly before coating it as otherwise the coating will not bond.
  • Caring for the ceramic coating properly is also essential to ensure it performs properly for its intended lifespan.

Here is a link to an article with more information on the durability of ceramic coatings.

How Much Does a Ceramic Coating Cost?

The average cost to get a car ceramic coated applied in the UK is between £500-£900. This includes preparation and application service, and the cost of the coating itself. There is some variation in price depending on the following:

  • The level of machine polishing performed before the application of the coating
  • The type of coating used and the lifespan
  • The size of the vehicle

If you are in the Cheshire area, please visit my ceramic coating package page for a complete guide to my prices.

Are there any Drawbacks to Ceramic Coatings?

Despite the excellent protection they offer, there are some downsides to ceramic coating a vehicle:

  • They are not scratch-proof
  • The application process is labour intensive, time-consuming and complex
  • They are more expensive than waxes and sealants
  • They require frequent maintenance to maintain maximum performance
  • They have a tendency for water spotting

What are the Most Popular Ceramic Coatings?

There are many excellent ceramic coatings from reputable manufacturers in the detailing industry. Some popular ceramic coating brands include:

  • CarPro
  • Carbon Collective
  • Gtechniq
  • Gyeon
  • Pyramid Car Care
  • Diamond ProTech
  • P&S
  • Nanolex
  • Artdeshine
  • Zirconite
  • Fenylab
  • Infinity Wax
  • Performance PPL

Auto Care HQ offers coatings from Pyramid Car Care, Garage Therapy, Infinity Wax, Diamond ProTech and Performance PPL.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a ceramic coating and wax/ sealant?

Ceramic coatings are significantly more durable and offer a higher level of protection compared to waxes and sealants due to their hardness. Ceramic coatings last for several years, whereas waxes and sealants only last for a few months. They are however much easier to apply. Please read this comparison between ceramic coatings, waxes and sealants for more information.

Do ceramic coatings cover or remove scratches?

Ceramic coatings do not prevent scratches in a car’s paintwork and they do not protect the car against rock chips. However, they do provide a small level of protection against swirl marks and marring which can be inflicted when washing the car. Please visit this article for more information.

What is the difference between a ceramic coating and PPF?

PPF provides much more resistance to stone chips and scratches compared to a ceramic coating. PPF typically lasts between 7-10 years whereas ceramic coatings last between 3-5 years on average. Ceramic coatings are cheaper and easier to install and are more chemically resistant than PPF. Please visit this comparison article for more information.

How do you remove a ceramic coating?

Ceramic coatings need to be removed by machine polishing and in some cases sanding, depending on how far into the lifespan it is.

Do I need to be a professional to apply a ceramic coating?

You do not need to be a professional detailer to apply a coating. However, if you do not have previous experience decontaminating, machine polishing and coating a vehicle then it is strongly recommended that you choose a professional detailer to install the protection. The process takes 1-2 days to complete, requires a lot of specialist equipment/ chemicals, and is complicated meaning it’s risky to attempt the application if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.

Is a ceramic coating worth it?

Ceramic coatings are worth it if you care about the appearance of your vehicle, want it to be easier to clean, and would like to maintain a high gloss finish. They last significantly longer than waxes and sealants and offer much better protection.


To book your car in for a valeting or detailing service get in touch today by either calling, emailing or completing the contact form and Heather will be in touch shortly

07894 074109
8:30-6:00 Mon-Sat


Heather is a professional car detailer & valeter based in Cheshire and the owner of Auto Care HQ. A familiar face in the car detailing community, she has written over 200 car detailing guides on autocarehq.com and has produced over 165 videos on the Auto Care HQ YouTube channel.

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