As humans we all have something in common, we protect what we love. This includes family, friends, pets, and for some (like myself) our cars. Do you feel the same way about your vehicle? In this article, we are going to dive deep into the wonderful world of paint protection, specifically the products that are applied by automotive dealerships. There’s a lot of controversy over whether or not ceramic coatings are just snake oil. Can something applied on your paint actually help protect against scratches? Or can it make it easier to clean from water spots (hydrophobic), fingerprints and road grime (oleophobic)?
If applied properly there are products that can put a durable layer of clear protection on the paint. They can go as far as protecting against chemical and UV damage, corrosion and oxidation, and create an oleophobic and hydrophobic layer.
Paint Protection: Not all paint protection is a “ceramic coat”, but all “ceramic coats” are a form of paint protection.
Ceramic Coat: This silica-based liquid polymer is applied by hand and cures to form a protective layer that, when properly maintained, can be effective for several years.*
Do-It-Yourself or Outsource It?
Now let’s say you already have a car that is a few years old with scratches and you want to protect your investment. So you ask yourself, “ Do I take matters into my own hands or do I seek a professional service?
Do-It-Yourself, is there any effective solution that won’t take your entire weekend? You will start by finding a product. This process will most likely begin with a shopping trip to the local big-box store or perhaps an online excursion to Amazon or other similar sites. Be prepared to be overwhelmed with hundreds of sprays to choose from! All will claim to be effective. Note that most of those claims are not 100% true. After reading many reviews, you find one that seems good and you can apply it with the skills and tools that you possess. The process for most is a spray-on coating usually involving washing the car and then applying the product. Understand, most of these products are only going to last a week or two. If you stumble upon a ceramic coat that’s affordable, again without proper maintenance these will only last so long.
What if you are a seasoned weekend detailing warrior and you want to take it to the next level with a pro-grade product. Keep in mind that there will be a lot more work involved in that process. You have to make sure your car is scratch-free, fully waxed, all imperfections removed, and finally complete the long process of actually applying the pro-grade coating. Keep in mind even for a seasoned professional detailer this process can take a whole day.
Your final option is to hire a trained professional, preferably one that has a great reputation. These guys with great reputations are generally the ones that have tested out multiple products, usually on their own vehicles, and can tell you why the product they are using is the best. They also know what’s best on the market at the time because they keep up to date on all the latest products and methods. Pricing will be more expensive, but you will receive the benefit of not having to do a full wash, wax, and buff out any impurities and imperfections. Some professionals may even offer a warranty for labor and the ceramic coating on your vehicle.
What it comes down to is this:
If you are looking for a better quality finish with a longer and better protection coating, it is going to cost more. Most people are going to have to pay a professional to do the work for them.
If price is more of a concern and you are willing to Do-It-Yourself, there are products online and at your local big-box stores that will do the job. Just recognize that you will have to reapply these on a regular basis to maintain the benefits.
What if you decide to purchase a new vehicle from a dealership? During the process of signing all the paperwork, they will often ask if you want a maintenance plan and tire protection service. It’s at this point you may also be offered a paint protection plan, which will likely involve a little pitch about a surface protectant they sell. Before you quickly dismiss this option as a pointless dealer upsell, consider the benefit of having your vehicle protected from the moment you drive off the dealership’s lot. Some dealerships have a professional detailer on hand, and they are often equipped to get the job done in a timely manner.
So should you automatically go with the paint protection option when buying a new car? Before you do, you need to find out what product they’re using. There are some products offered that are very high grade, even being used in the aerospace industry. Other products are no better than what you would buy on Amazon or a big box store. These would need to be reapplied regularly by you, the customer. Another item to consider is warranty. Some dealer programs will only protect and cover the paint if it gets scratched or pitted. Other dealerships can extend this warranty to glass protection and replacement, interior fabric or leather protection and replacement, and many other benefits. (Always ask questions and read the fine print.) You may even inquire about purchasing paint protection and warranty after you’ve bought the vehicle. It doesn’t hurt to ask and the worst answer you get is no.
Personally, I have tried quite a few different products. Everything from big box store spray bottles to professional installation and even dealership treatment products. I’m not a huge fan of the spray treatments, but there are some out there that will keep your vehicle clean for a short period of time. I loved the professional install that a detailer applied on my vehicle. The product I went with was INSPIRATION CERAMIC COATING from Double Black, Renny Doyle Collection by P&S. However, it was a long process and cost a lot of money. It would be wise to invest your time and money in an option like this. Since then I have done a lot more research on coatings/protections and had dealership professionals apply a product called Ultimar to my wife’s vehicle. I am extremely happy with the results. As a matter of fact, in my next blog series, I will be touching more on this wonderful product Ultimar.
I have also seen the dealer process of treatments for coating/paint protection. Some of them work very well. There are definitely advantages if applied correctly. One practical advantage is that it makes it a lot easier to clean the exterior of your vehicle. If you do end up getting one that has a warranty, it can definitely give peace of mind in knowing that you are protecting the investment that you have put into your vehicle.