How to Install Ceramic Coating on a Car (Yes, Even At Home)!
Want to Jump Around?
How to Install Ceramic Coating: Introduction
On my most recent post: Professional Grade vs Consumer Grade Ceramic Coating, I discussed how advances in the DIY Ceramic Coating market have made installation more user friendly. I know it still may feel weird or you are waiting for “the sale” with this post as Kings Valet installs Professional Grade Ceramic Coating. I make a mention of our service offerings at the end. It is less than 10% of this entire post. Kings Valet has a goal of being at the forefront of ALL things Ceramic Coating related. We believe in education and relationships over the bottom line. This is the genuine purpose behind this post.
Below you will find a step-by-step guide that walks you from setting up your initial wash all the way through installation of ceramic coating. It is broken down into 4 primary sections:
- How to Wash and Decontaminate a Car for Ceramic Coating Installation
- How to Apply a Polish to a Car for Ceramic Coating Installation
- How to Panel Prep a Car for Ceramic Coating Installation
- How to Install Ceramic Coating on Car Paint
This is a VERY long post as we have tried to provide as much detail as possible. Even with its length, I can promise I will probably miss something. If you have any questions at all, text me (George) at Kings Valet at 574.777.0033. I would love to help! Again, you’ve got this!
How to Wash and Decontaminate a Car for Ceramic Coating Installation
Supplies Needed to Wash and Decontaminate Your Vehicle:
Wash Supplies: 2 Buckets, 2 Grit Guards, 1+ Microfiber Wash Mitts, Car Wash Soap, Large Microfiber Towel, Foam Cannon (not required, but suggested), Tire Brush, Rim Douche
Decontamination Supplies: 2-4 High GSM Microfiber Towels, Iron-Decon Spray, Clay Mitt, A Quick Detailer or Clay Lube
Supplies Used at Ceramic Coatings by Kings Valet: Autofiber Dreadnaught XL Drying Towel (Here), Autofiber Wash Mitt (Here), Undrdog Car Soap (Here), Mr Everything Microfiber Towels (Here), Grit Guard (Here) , 3D BDX (Here), Autofiber Clay Mitt (Here), 3D 503 Spray (Here)
Step-by-Step Guide for How to Wash and Decontaminate Your Car
For this Hand-Wash and Decontamination walk through I am assuming normal dirt and debris, not fresh off a mudding trip.
- Park the vehicle in the shade or in a garage.
- Grab your two 5 gallon buckets, grit guards, soap and wash mitts. Fill one bucket with just water and grit guard (rinse bucket), the other with soap, wash mitts and grit guard.
- A) If using Foam Cannon – Now is the time to suds up! (Follow your selected soap’s dilution instructions) B) If you are NOT using a foam cannon, rinse your vehicle top to bottom.
- Use a wash mitt to apply soap and scrub (top to bottom).
- Every couple panels rinse your wash mitt in the rinse bucket, then saturate in the soap bucket again.
- Rinse vehicle top to bottom
- Spray the vehicle (paint and rims) with your preferred Iron-Decontamination Spray. This Spray will turn purple / dark-red as it breaks down iron. (Follow Directions on the bottle for proper application process and soak time)
- Repeat Steps 3-5
- Douche rims and scrub tires at this point – We suggest dumping and resetting your buckets after this step.
- Rinse vehicle top to bottom
- Dry vehicle with your Dread Naught towel
- Spray Clay Lube / Quick Detailer onto one panel at a time (liberally)
- Rub Clay Towel over the panel that has been sprayed with lubricant. If it starts to dry – add more spray.
- Repeat Steps 10 and 11 until the entire vehicle has been “clay barred”. Paint should feel smooth when this step is complete.
- Repeat Steps 3-6 (Yes, 3 Total washes and rinses)
- Dry vehicle one final time
- Kings Valet suggests using a 50/50 mix of distilled water and Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) with a microfiber towel for cleaning glass. LESS is more when cleaning glass.
- Miss a spot? The above IPA mix is GREAT for touch-ups.
*Pro Tip – This is also the proper preparation for application of a wax or sealer.*
Yes 18+ steps for a simple wash and decontamination before installation of Ceramic Coating may seem like a lot – but prep is EVERYTHING. I will say this over and over throughout the guide. Proper prep can help a 2 Year Ceramic Coating Last 3 or more; poor prep can make a 3 year ceramic coating last only 1. Ceramic Coatings last because of their chemical bond with the clear coat. If you have a bunch of iron on the surface, leftover wax and fingerprints as you lay your coating – well, it will not last. It will bond to these contaminants and “fall off” or “wear out” when the containment does.
You ready to move on? I promise polishing a vehicle’s paint prior to ceramic coating installation is not as tedious. Still requires patience and persistence – but I will say it again… You’ve got this!
How to Apply a Polish to a Car for Ceramic Coating Installation
Not sure if polish is enough? Grab a very bright and small beamed LED flashlight. Pull your vehicle into the garage and shine the flashlight at the hood. If you see rings around the light or it looks “wavy” – you likely need a deeper level of paint correction. If you see nothing or very very faint lines polish should be enough. The tighter the beam of light, the easier it is to see defects. Want to really check your paint, Scangrip is the Industry Leader in Paint Inspection tools. We use ScanGrip SunMatch 4 (Here) at Ceramic Coatings by Kings Valet.
While Polishing is not “required”, let’s just say I “strongly suggest” not skipping this step. Polish will add additional shine and help the Ceramic Coating to bond better in the application step. Let’s dive in!
Supplies Needed for Polishing a Car Before Ceramic Coating
2-4 High GSM Microfiber Towels, Finishing Polish, DA Buffer, Black Foam Finishing Pad, Auto Painters Tape
Here I mention a DA Buffer. This stands for Dual Action – named this way because the buffer head oscillates on two different loops at the same time. It is the most beginner friendly buffer. A great entry level buffer (at an entry level price) would be from Griots Garage, Model is G9. They offer a lifetime warranty on their buffers with no questions asked. You drop it – they will replace it. It is handy to have around if you want to polish your vehicles every couple years.
Supplies Used at Ceramic Coatings by Kings Valet: Mr Everything Microfiber Towels (Here), 3D 502 AAT (Here), Rupes 21 Mach III (Here), Lake Country Foam Black Foam Pads (Here), Automotive Painters Tape (Here)
Step-by-Step guide for Polishing a Car Prior to Ceramic Coating Installation
- Prior to starting this polish the vehicle should be washed, decontaminated and dried.
- Take your auto painters tape and tape off all trim and badges – same as you would taping off a baseboard before you paint a wall. You will also need to tape off any matte sections. DO NOT POLISH MATTE. It will turn glossy instantly and there is no going back.
- Take your black foam pad and buffer – align the pad so it is centered on your DA
- Prime your pad – meaning apply polish liberally to the pad and gently rub in to moisten most of the surface.
- Apply 4-6 pea size drops to the surface of the pad (image below)
- Set your speed to 4 (speaking specifically to the G9) and pull the trigger with the buffer on the vehicle.
- Most detailers work about a 3’x3′ section at a time. With polish you can stretch this a little bit. Arm speed should be moderate. Moderate to light pressure from buffer to vehicle. Again, polish is NOT designed to remove scratches – you will be waiting your time “pressing hard” to get marks out.
- Use Your High GSM Microfiber to buff polish off. This doesn’t have to be perfect, but you should get 90% off. (You have a panel prep step coming up that will remove anything you missed)
- Repeat steps 5-8 until vehicle is complete.
- Peel your tape off and get ready for Panel Prep! You are almost there.
From the Wash to Actual Coating Installation; every step is all designed to be done out of the sun. Never polish in the sun as you risk it drying / baking on your clear coat. This isn’t a huge problem with polish, but if you did elect to attempt paint correction – compound baking is very bad. After completing paint correction get it out there in the sun and see how great you did! The next step (Panel Prep for Ceramic Coating) is the easiest – so you’ll get to enjoy a break.
How to Panel Prep a Car for Ceramic Coating Installation
Step-by-Step Guide for Panel Prepping a Car Prior to Ceramic Coating Installation
- Put on your gloves. The reason for gloves is not any danger in the prep chemicals, but rather the purpose of this prep step is to remove oil / grease from the surfaces receiving your Ceramic Coating. Setting a hand down (without gloves) on a panel you just cleaned… well, it would get tiresome having to redo your work.
- Spray one panel at a time with your preferred panel prep.
- Quarter a High GSM Microfiber and wipe off the panel prep solution.
- Look at the panel from a couple different angles to ensure you don’t see fingerprints, polish or any other oils on the surface.
- Repeat Steps 2-4 until vehicle is completed
- I then suggest doing one final wipe of the entire vehicle with a separate brand new microfiber. No prep spray needed – just a very gentle dry “insurance” wipe.
Pro Tip – You can use a 50/50 Mix of Distilled Water and Isopropyl Alcohol (90%+) in a spray bottle to save a couple dollars over “prep” spray
I told you panel prep is the easiest step and now you are approaching the finish line. Grab a bottle of water and snack prior to installing your Ceramic Coating to get your brain functioning on all cylinders.
How to Install a Ceramic Coating (You Made it!)
Any times I mention are specific to the Kings Valet brand of Ceramic Coating (no, it is not available for purchase). There are many consumer brands available and I will not give any suggestions on one over another as we do not have experience with any of them. The one tip I can give you is that true ceramic coatings come in small bottles. Anything bottle over 60 ml OR it being offered as a spray – is junk. Great things come in small packages in this case. An example: Professional grade coatings typically come 30 ml bottles (maybe 50 or 60) and are available in only a drip top – no sprays.
Supplies for Installing Ceramic Coating:
8-10 High GSM Microfiber Towels, Disposable Gloves, Your Preferred Coating, Applicator Block (Optional), Applicator Pad / Cloth
Step-by-Step Guide for Installation of Ceramic Coating
- Park your vehicle in your garage (if possible). This will allow you to control contaminants in the air.
- Put on a pair of disposable gloves
- Drip a few drops on your pad / block to prime it. You don’t need it damp, by you do want full coverage.
- Apply Ceramic Coating to a single panel. I suggest starting with just a painted mirror case to learn your coatings “flash time.”
- After your ceramic coating has flashed; grab 2 microfibers that are folded in quarters. First towel does the heavy buffing, second towel is an insurance wipe to ensure coating is level.
- Repeat the process on a single panel at a time around the vehicle.
- When entire vehicle is completed I suggest grabbing a fresh microfiber and going around the vehicle once or twice more looking for rainbowing or dark spots (high spots).
A Few Notes:
I suggest that you swap towels every couple of panels. Especially the buffing towel will be noticeable when you need to switch out. The towel will be come tackier and will not “buff” off coating as easily once it is filled with Ceramic Coating. These towels should go in the trash once swapped. Ceramic coating is made to reject water, oil etc. This means they will no longer be effective at holding chemicals for cleaning or drying a surface.
Flash time depends on temp and humidity. With our brand it only about 30 seconds. I suggested the mirror first as it is a very small panel if you need to fix a mistake. When a coating “flashes”; it will look like rainbow. It is better to take breaks when needed versus rushing the process. Again, it is not overly complicated, but I had an old boss teach me the acronym R.A.C.E. a few years back. It means: Rushing Always Causes Errors. You have invested countless hours getting to this place in the process. There is no need rush this portion.
If an error happens; like waiting to long to buff of a coating or missing a spot – it is okay! I will cover repairs further down in this guide. If caught quickly it is very easily repairable because the coating won’t be fully cured. Even after some time repairs can still be made – typically a professional would be needed at this point.
Suppose this was a little too much for me and I want a Ceramic Coating Installed by Kings Valet…
You would want to know the cost and inclusions up front right? At Kings Valet we believe in FULL transparency. Prices are posted all over our website – you can also get an exact number and book in just a couple questions on our Book Now Page. To save you some navigating, a 5 Year Ceramic Coating from Kings Valet will start at $1,000 and a Lifetime Ceramic Coating starts at $1,450. Both of these packages include a Full Exterior Detail, Buffer-applied polish, Decontamination Wash and Application of selected coating to your paint. “Starting at” – real transparent right? The upper end of these two new car coating packages would be $1,250 and $1,750 respectively, for something like an F250 or a Chevy Tahoe.
What about Warranties and Maintenance on my Ceramic Coating?
- Don’t Set Your Hood On Fire
- No Aggressive Wash Methods
- See Kings Valet Every Spring for an Annual Inspection
The only big difference in the two warranties is that the Lifetime Ceramic Coating INCLUDES the annual inspection at no cost. For the 5-Year Ceramic Coating; it is $150 for the Annual Inspection. Annual Inspections Include a full exterior detail and application of a ceramic topper. With the Lifetime Ceramic Coating you also get FREE Maintenance 4x a year. This is valued at $600+ annually; all included at no cost to you.
Why Kings Valet for Your Next Ceramic Coating?
As mentioned prior – we offer an experience like no other. Beyond the Peace of Mind Guarantee; our business is based on philanthropic ideals. Kings Valet donates 10% of EVERY dollar in sales to local causes. These charities include: Center for the Homeless, Cultivate Food Rescue and A Healing Hope (among others). Kings Valet’s Mission Statement is: Instilling confidence – one coating at a time. This is a two prong mission. First “prong” is likely obvious; your coating makes you feel more confident in the longevity of that showroom new look lasting for years. The other “prong” being our donations allow those who are homeless, children who are neglected / lost or those born with incurable diseases to get the help they need to land on their feet as best as possible. This allows a restoration of confidence to them through our work on your vehicle.