One detailing job I have been keen to do for a long time is to apply a ceramic coating on my car. Due to the current situation that we are all facing at the moment, I suddenly found myself with a lot of time on my hands. (As I’m sure most of my readers can relate to!)
As the world is going into lockdown, more and more people are tackling big jobs they had planned for their car, and I was no different.
With any semi-permanent car coating, the preparation of the car’s paintwork before the application is key, so I knew I needed a few days to get my car to a standard I was happy with before using a ceramic coating.
For the last year or so I have been using many different “ceramic” spray sealants and waxes to protect my car while I waited for the perfect opportunity to do a “true” ceramic coating application.
For any of my readers who are interested in doing the same to their car, below are the steps that I followed to complete the process.
Choosing The Right Ceramic Coating
The first step before touching the car was to choose the right ceramic coating for the job. I had an idea of some coatings that I would like to use, but I had some reservations when choosing due to a few factors.
- I have never applied a ”true” ceramic coating product to a vehicle and I have read that some applications can be tricky unless you have a certain level of experience with them.
- I had no indoor area to work with. I don’t have a garage and needed to be able to apply the coating outdoors in the elements. Some coating products can be very temperamental when it comes to swings in temperature, which could end in disaster.
- I live in a rainy climate and since the car was being stored outdoors, I couldn’t guarantee that it wouldn’t rain over the next couple of days. Some coating products require the car to stay dry for at least 48 hours+ to cure properly. If the car gets wet in that time you could end up with some real trouble with water spots hardening into the coating.
After some careful consideration, I ended up buying CQuartz Lite as my coating of choice
According to Carpro themselves
“CQuartz Lite was designed for those that aren’t ready to take the plunge into the industry-leading strength of professional strength coatings but wish to enjoy some of the many benefits that only CQuartz coatings offer. CQuartz Lite bridges the gap between the less effective traditional sealant technology and CQuartz Ceramic coatings.
CQuartz Lite is a great option for professional detailers as an entry-level coating or for the enthusiast who wants to try their first ceramic coating. This product only requires about a 4 hour drying time, so it is perfect for someone looking to install a coating on their driveway and does not have access to a sheltered area”
This sounded exactly like what I needed given the circumstances. Carpro is one of the leaders in the coating industry, so I know I couldn’t go wrong with this product. If I had an indoor space to work from I would have opted for Carpro UK 3.0 but after asking some professionals in the know, they advised me against it and to go with “lite”.
Carpro Lite is based on UK 3.0 formula and contains a hefty 45% SiO2/TiO2 content, so I knew it would be a quality product.
Once my coating arrived and the weather forecast looked good for the next few days, it was time to get down to business.
Below Are the Steps I completed during the installation.
How to Apply Ceramic Coating To Your Car
Step 1 – Decontamination of the Paintwork
One of the most (if not the most ) important aspects of installing Ceramic Coating is prepping the paintwork. Preparing a car for Ceramic Coating involves full decontamination of the paintwork. This is carried out to ensure there are no impurities on the paintwork which will prevent a proper bond between the coating and the surface of the paint.
To begin the decontamination process I snow-foamed my car using Carpro Snow Soap. This is product is not mandatory, but as I was snow foaming my vehicle regardless I decided to use snow soap because I had some handy. Snow soap is a snow foam that can remove iron contaminates and fallout at high concentrations.
I decided to use the remainder of the product that I had leftover to get a headstart on the iron removal before the clay bar process.
I let this soak on the car for about 5 minutes before rinsing it off and giving the car a quick handwash before moving on to the clay bar step.
Step 2 – Use a Clay Bar On the Paint
The next step in the process is to use a Clay Bar on the car’s paint. If you are not familiar with what “claying” a car means, you can check out one of my detailed posts on it here.
The main purpose of claying is to remove any of the embedded contaminants in the paintwork which will not be removed by washing alone. As I mentioned above, your paintwork must be completely free from imperfections before using a ceramic coating, otherwise, the coating will not bond properly.
If you have not clayed your car in the past, chances are that you will need to complete this step. As a simple test, run your hand gently over your cars paintwork. Does it feel rough and grabby to the touch? Or does it feel as smooth as glass?
If it doesn’t feel completely smooth to the touch, you will need to clay the car before moving on to the next step.
In this application, I used some Angelwax Medium Clay bar to remove any embedded contaminants from the paintwork.
I worked my way around the car’s paintwork using the clay ensuring it was well lubricated at all times.
Before I started, I was sure my car was in pretty good condition when it came to embedded particles but I was wrong. I was completely surprised at the amount the clay bar was removing as worked my way around the car.
This just goes to show how important this step is, as there was a lot of hidden contamination that I couldn’t see or feel, which would have affected my coating application.
During this second wash, I gave the wheels a good cleaning using some Bilt Hamber Auto Wheel.
The car was now cleaned and decontaminated and ready for the next step of the process!
Step 3 – Remove Imperfections/Swirls in the Paintwork
Before you apply any sort of semi-permanent coating to your car, it is important to have your cars paintwork in the best condition possible. Although this step may not be required in all cases ( for example a brand new vehicle that does not have any major swirls or scratches), I would still recommend using a machine polisher on a car before applying a coating.
Depending on the condition of the paintwork you may get away with using a 1 step machine polish to prep the car for coating.
In my case, I decided to carry out a 2 stage polish on my car.
- Compounding/Correction Step
- Polishing and Refining Step
Although my paintwork probably didn’t require a 2 stage polish, I had a lot of time on my hands and decided to do the best job possible before applying the coating. The products I chose for this were a tried and tested combo of Meguiars M105 Compound and Meguiars M205 Polish. I paired this with some Microfibre cutting/polishing pads, also from Meguiars.
As this is a guide on how to apply a coating, I won’t go into detail about the polishing step as there is too much information around this topic and it would take over the entire post. If you want to learn more about how to polish your car you can check out my guide here.
This polishing step was 100% worth the effort and my paintwork looked simply amazing afterwords. Just what you want before applying a coating! Although my car may have appeared in good condition in the before pics, in direct sunlight many imperfections became visible that I wanted to correct.
Here are some after shots of a few panels before I moved on to the next step.
The paint was now polished to perfection – so what next?
Step 4 – Use a Panel Wipe Product to Remove Any Product Residue
Panel wipe is a specific product that is designed to remove polish residue to prepare the surface for protection ( in this case a Ceramic Coating ). After polishing a car there is usually some oily residue left on the paintwork that can look like haze or holograms.
This oily residue will not only look bad on the paint, but it will stop a proper bond between the ceramic coating and the car surface.
Here is an example of what some of this looked like on my car.
The product I chose to use during this step was Gyeon Quartz Prep
To use a panel wipe you just simply mist the product onto the car’s paintwork and then use a microfiber cloth to remove the oily residue. Luckily this Gyeon product made short work of anything left on the paint!
The panel wipe made a huge improvement in the overall look of the car when it was complete. To be honest I was very happy with how it looked and I struggled to think how much improvement could be made after the coating was applied.
Here is how it looked prepped and ready to be ceramic coated.
Step 5 – Apply The Ceramic Coating
Now you are ready to start the step you have been waiting for! Let’s get to applying the coating.
Even though this product by Carpro is designed to be able to be used outdoors if it is a sunny or warm day I would always recommend that you wait until the temperatures cool down a bit and are stable before you attempt to use any coating product. ( And obviously, check the weather forecast to make sure no rain is due anytime soon! )
Big swings in temperature can make even the easiest products hard to work with, and you don’t want to test this with something like a Ceramic coating.
The Carpro lite Kit Includes everything you need to perform the install at home. This includes two applicator mitts and a microfiber cloth.
To start coating your vehicle all you need to do is apply roughly 10-12 drops of Carpro Lite to the applicator mitt and spread evenly over a small section of the car. ( Carpro recommend 24×24” / 60cm x 60cm with complete coverage and an even layer)
Some ceramic coatings need to be applied using a “crosshatch” pattern, but with Carpro Lite it is perfectly fine to apply in broad strokes once you ensure even coverage on the panel.
Unlike some other ceramic coatings on the market, Carpro lite does not require any “flash time’, so once you have applied an even layer to a small section of the car, you should immediately take your microfiber cloth and remove any excess/flatten any high spots and buff gently like you would a typical wax or sealant.
Once you have finished a panel or section of the car it is just a matter of moving to the next panel and repeating the same steps. One important point to note is that you should not get tempted to apply the coating to a large area at once, as it starts to get difficult to see your progress.
You should work in small sections at a time and if possible use a light source (Torch on a mobile phone would do! ) for checking “High spots”
When applying a ceramic paint coating if you do not remove 100% of the excess coating, what is left is referred to as a high spot. While technically the coating material is higher than the rest of the underlying coating and the paint itself, in all practicality what a high spot means is too much leftover product or excess coating. I experienced this when I was working on one section of the car and it was not easy to fix. I ended up having to get my machine polisher to remove the coating from that section!
Trust me it is important to work on small sections at a time and check for even coverage before moving on.
After about 45 minutes to an hour, I was finished coating the car. I must say I could see a difference straight away in the appearance of the car and there was a definite “Wet Look” and shine on the paintwork.
Once you are finished coating the car you should leave cure for about 1 hour before applying a second coat. Although a second coat is not completely necessary, it can make sure you get any spots you may have missed.
It will also add even more gloss to the appearance of the paintwork.
Once you have finished the application it is important to make sure to leave the paint to dry for 4 hours before getting wet. Any water drops during the first 48 hour period should be removed before drying to prevent water spots. Luckily we had a few dry days here in Ireland (for a change) and I didn’t have to worry about the car getting wet.
However, if you feel there is a risk of rain within 48 hours, you can follow up with a coat of CarPro Reload on top of the coating. This should help prevent any water spots from drying on the car in case of rain.
After that, the only step left is to sit back and admire your work!
I must say I was nervous before attempting the coating, as it was my first time working with a “true” ceramic product. Thanks to CarPro Lite I found the whole process quite straightforward and I would be confident in saying that anyone of any experience could pick up and try this coating.
Although the durability of Carpro Lite is less than some of the other coatings on the market, it provided the flexibility for me to be able to work outdoors and use a beginner-friendly product to gain some experience.
After this, I would feel confident working with a longer-lasting coating ( once I have some indoor area to work ), as typically longer-lasting coatings have a much longer curing time.
I am initially very impressed with this DIY coating and will be following up with a full review soon once I have lived with the coating for a few months and see how it performs in the long term.
Beginners Tips For Applying Ceramic Coating At Home
- If you are working outside make sure you don’t attempt to apply the coating in direct sunlight. These products are not designed to be applied in high temperatures and can make the product difficult to work with and you may not get the result you are looking for.
- Check the weather forecast for the following day or two and make sure you feel that you can keep the car dry until the coating cures properly.
- Work in SMALL sections on the paintwork. A little goes a long way with a ceramic coating so don’t be tempted to overuse the product and try to apply it to big sections of the car at a time.
- Have a light source with you or look at the car from different angles, this will help you to identify any high spots or uneven coverage of coating.
- Be patient and don’t rush the process.
My overall experience was positive and I am more than happy with the result that I was able to achieve at home on the driveway. I have been quoted some ridiculous prices by professional installers in the past, so it was nice to be able to take this job on myself and learn some new things in the process.
The steps I mentioned above took me roughly 15 hours to complete spread out over a couple of days. Although it was hard work, it was 100% worth the effort.
I would encourage anyone curious about giving ceramic coating a try, to dip their toe in the water with some of the easier to work with ceramic coatings. In case you missed it, I have listed some of them in a previous post here Best Ceramic Coatings for Beginners 2020
If you have any questions about the process, please feel free to leave a comment, or ask me directly over on the DriveDetailed Forum.
I would be glad to help!
Until Next time,
About the Author – Darren O Hara
Darren is the founder of the DriveDetailed blog and is a keen detailing enthusiast living in the rainy south of Ireland. When he is not cleaning his car he is always researching ways he can improve his techniques and enjoys testing out new products.
Darren currently drives an Audi TTRS and is a big fan of performance cars.
You can follow Darren on Instagram @darrenoharacork