Car Exterior Protection Tips
Ceramic coating is a process that costs more but has longer-term benefits for you and your car. The process essentially involves preparing the paint and coating it with a thin layer of ceramic, which hardens in about four days to form a hard surface on top of the car's clear coat. This layer not only protects and seals your paint, but it also has excellent water and dirt resistance properties.
Ceramic coating is usually performed to enhance the visual appeal of a car. A well-done job will make your car look like an ice sculpture. Ceramic coatings aren't resistant to scratches or hits with stone pellets, but they do offer real benefits apart from making the car look nice. For one, they make it easier for you to keep your car clean. The hydrophobic and oleophobic ceramic layer causes dirt particles to stick to water rather than your paint. So even a quick wash and dry is enough to get rid of dirt.
Some isopropyl alcohol on a microfiber towel is all you need to remove stains. Ceramic coatings can last for up to 4 years. They can be put over paint protective films, too. With a dual-layer, you get the benefits of that sheen and good shock absorption properties of the film.
Paint Protection Film
The best way to preserve the paint on a new car is to put on a paint protective film. It is a self-adhesive film that goes on the surface of your car like a clear vinyl. Paint protective films can last up to 5 years. They are more prone to micro scratches, but then there are the self-healing versions which can be restored with a hairdryer or heat gun.
Paint protective films are shiny and can be maintained with wax. How frequently you need to wax the film depends on the quality of the film you use. Unlike ceramic which might need sanding to be removed, paint films can easily be peeled off a car. They are meant to take the first hit before the paint, and effectively disperse the force over a large surface area. That's why they are the best option for preserving automotive paint. Some films are known for their tendency to become yellow. This and other issues can be overcome with a layer of ceramic on top of the coating.
Preparing the Paintwork
Both methods discussed above cost more and last longer than a coat of wax. However, unlike wax, which can be effective on a car with shallow scratches, ceramic and paint protection film can only be put on a perfect, scratch less, blemish-free surface. That's why we have to work hard to fix bad spots and clean and polish to perfection every bit of the paintwork, glass, and exterior trim bit. The rewards are many but the results can be disappointing if there are any imperfections in the surface finish of your car before either ceramic or film is put on.
First, it is important to find the bad spots. Our professionals, with their trained eye, will walk around the car, touching every panel and checking every spot on the car. All scratches are different. Clear coat scratches disappear when the surface is wet. Deeper scratches will not. The worst ones go down into the metal and will cause rust spots and paint bubbling. We isolate these areas with tape and get to work on them, stripping the sides of the scratch down, then applying primer, paint touch-up, or clear coat, or all of them. Then we match the surface finish to the surrounding paint, with high-grit sandpaper. Then some polish and some elbow grease, and you won't even notice the spot anymore.
Second, we wash the car to remove debris and grease. With some soapy water and a few clay bars, we dislodge all the little bits that get on the exterior of your car. This is another time-intensive, detail-oriented process. We might have to go through the entire paintwork many times until the clay bar runs clean.
Then comes the polishing bit. A good polish with micro-polishers and a power tool is necessary for this step. After every layer of polish, the car must be washed off with soap and inspected. We may have to do this a few times, focusing on problem areas and taking care not to remove too much clear coat.
The next step is degreasing. We do this with isopropyl alcohol, which is rubbed on the paint until the towel runs clean. This step aims to remove all the oil and wax and anything else that might still be left on the paint. We make sure the surface is chemically neutral this way, too. The alcohol dries off without leaving any residue.