In the last decade a new level of overall paint protection has emerged in the U.S. market. It has many names, Ceramic, Glass, Quartz, SiO2, Silicon Carbide, Nano Particle. Regardless of chemical composition, each of these “Coatings” accomplished a similar task, protect vehicle surfaces as long as possible. Low end offerings limit protection for 1 year, others extend to 7 years under warranty. As with any market there are many honest & dishonest manufacturers/resellers alike. Some companies conduct demos by setting alcohol ablaze on top of a hood in an attempt to present their product as fire, asteroid & lava proof. This trick, like many others is not special or exclusive but simply playing off the ignorance of the consumer.
Deceptive Marketing & Fraud
Before in-depth discussion, we must distinguish what coating are not. True coatings cannot be purchased as a package from car dealerships or budget car washes. If offered/sold, the business is often engaged in deception or fraud. For example, a new car buyer will often be coerced into purchasing a wax, sealant, coating or shield along with the new car for “just” a few dollars a month. In truth, many (but not all) dealerships exploit this lack of knowledge to simply sell a warranty on a wax/sealant at a 99% profit margin. Such warranties are rarely filed because the consumer does not have the knowledge of what a coating/sealant is, which only grows this industry-wide problem.
Benefits Over Conventional Methods
So what really is a coating? Despite many names coatings are usually comprised of Silicon Di-Oxide or Silicon Carbide. Each chemical base performs the same function, to enhance the appearance & ease of ownership of the vehicle. With a traditional wax or newer sealant, washing is effortless for a few months but quickly degrades from exposure to the elements. In contrast, coatings provide an extremely durable surface resistant against bird droppings, chemical etching, water spots, light scratches & minor chipping. Additionally, washing often remains effortless if carried out properly.
History Based Reason
Why do coatings exist? The world-wide trend over the past 50 years in every manufacturing industry has been [lower materials cost & maximize profit]. Therefore, paint thickness on every vehicle/craft grows thinner with each decade. For example take your average 50`s-60`s car may have come from the factory with 6-7 mils of total paint thickness. By the early 90`s & the introduction of early clear coats one could expect an overall thickness of 5 mils. Then with the turn of the 21`s century, robotics, inflation & material cost all combined for an expected thickness of 4 mils. Following the trend into the 2010`s with water based paints & ceramic clears (EPA regulations) manufacturers have now stretched the limits of profitability. The average new car today can have as little as 2-3 mils of paint thickness. THE THICKNESS OF A STICKY-NOTE!!!
Aside from the thickness aspect, the clear coat is the only barrier your vehicle has against UV rays. However, this built-in UV protection can only last so long. As a general characterization, at the 7 year mark your UV protection is 25% of the original. After this point, vehicles begin to show peeling, flaking, haziness & complete clear coat failure. Certain brand paints hold-up better than other but as an over-all trend, many Asian companies & certain US company models fail at this point if not regularly protected. These combining factors strengthen the case for the practical use and growing requirement for protective coatings
Particulars of Coatings
The final result of coating is highly (if not solely) dependent on the prep-work involved in compounding & polishing the surface prior to application. True coatings at this point do no fill in scratches or swirls. If a detailer were to apply a coating on a sub-par surface the swirls & scratches would be more pronounced & subject to removal only by compounding/polishing it off. This is the most important factor in the coating installation, prep work. If the installer does not have the adequate polishing equipment and skill, the end products is a disaster. However, this is the case with any type of labor-intensive service such as painting.
By nature of the polishing needed & materials cost coatings are not a budget service but one of value retention & overall driver satisfaction.