How to Apply a Ceramic Coating to Your Car

It's one of the most talked-about detailing products. Here's how to do it right.

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So you want to apply a ceramic coating to your car’s exterior? You’ve come to the right place. The Drive’s crack How-To department is here to help protect your enamel. That is, your car's paint, not your teeth; we aren’t dentists. 

Protecting the paint is the easiest way to keep a car looking new and maintain its value for when the time comes to upgrade. Ceramic coatings have become one of the hottest paint-protecting products in the cleaning-and-detailing universe. Until recently, these coatings were only for professionals, but new products have made applying nanoceramics a go-to project for weekend car warriors as well. Doing it right is crucial; these products must be applied correctly, or you'll end up with a streaky mess.

The bottom line is, your paint needs protecting. Here’s how to apply a ceramic coating the right way to keep it looking factory fresh.

Basics

Estimated Time Needed: 4 hours

Skill Level: Beginner

Vehicle System: Exterior

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Safety

Working on your car can be messy, especially when you’re cleaning the surfaces you’ve never bothered to clean before—hello, bug-splattered headlights and grille—so here’s what you’ll need to keep your jeans, shirt, and self spotless.

  • Nitrile gloves to protect your hands.
  • Long-sleeve shirt to protect your arms.
  • A mask or ventilator to prevent inhaling harmful fumes, and for looking like Bane.
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Everything You’ll Need

We’re not psychic, nor are we snooping through your toolbox or garage, so here’s what you’ll need to get the job done. 

Tool List

Parts List 

  • Polish and Wax
  • Ceramic coating kit

You’ll also need a flat surface, such as a garage floor, driveway, parking garage, or street parking. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not violating any codes when using the street because we ain’t getting your car out of the impound yard.

For this job, you’ll need a well-ventilated, enclosed, or shaded area to protect the car from the elements while the ceramic coating cures.

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Arranging Your Workspace

Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You won't need a blowtorch for this job. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)

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Here’s How To Apply A Ceramic Coating to Your Car

Let’s do this! 

Washy, Washy!

  1. Wash your car with soap and water, using the two-bucket method
  2. Make sure all imperfections are removed, or the coating won’t stick.
  3. Dry the car by hand and let it sit in an enclosed or shady spot. 
  4. Note: The car's exterior’s temperature should be around 50-70 degrees F or the coating won't apply correctly.

Applying the Ceramic Coat

  1. Using the ceramic coat kit’s applicator cloth and sponge, wrap the sponge with the cloth, as directed.
  2. Dab the applicator cloth with the ceramic coating compound, as directed.
  3. Working in small areas, apply the compound, switching the cloth every few minutes (so the product doesn’t harden and damage your car’s paint) and dab with more compound.
  4. Once you’re done applying on one section, let sit for 1-5 minutes to set.
  5. As the coating evaporates, the surface will take on a shimmering "oil-slick" effect, aka "flashing." 
  6. Wipe the area with a microfiber towel.
  7. Continue in small areas until the entire car is covered.
  8. Let the product cure for 24 hours in a covered area, without moving the car.
  9. You’re done, congrats!

Tips From a Pro

For this job, we turned to Avalon King for advice on how to get the best results.

  • When you apply a clay bar, it breaks up hard contaminants and penetrates deep into those hard to reach, microscopic peaks and valleys found in the paint clear coating. That’s actually the purpose of this, important step. For a nano-coating to bond to the clear coat surface, it needs to fill those microscopic ‘holes’ or imperfections that are found on clear coats."
  • "When that area is completely clean and free of trapped debris, the coating will create a perfectly flat layer on top of the clear coat, establishing a solid ‘shield’ of protection for the entire paint surface."
  • "Before you apply a ceramic coating, you’ll want to ‘fix’ any damage to paint or the clear coat. This is often completed through paint correction."

Life Hacks

Since you may not have access to the right tools, or have a friend you can bum a wrench off of, we also compiled a list of our best hacks to make your life easier and drain your pocket less.

  • Get a bigger sponge and microfiber cloth to apply the coating to larger areas quickly and efficiently.

Featured Products

Color N Drive Car Ceramic Coating Kit

Meguiar's G19220 Ultimate Polish

Mothers CMX Ceramic Spray Coating

Got a question? Got a pro tip? Send us a note:guidesandgear@thedrive.com