The Breakdown on Nano Coatings

Nano Coating, Sealants, Wax

The perfect shine is the Holy Grail of the automotive appearance industry. For over a century, professionals have sought a magical solution ― a bullish, long-lasting shine product that is quick and easy to apply and will repel dirt, environmental contaminants, and rain so the vehicle has the best protection on the market. Some even looked for a product that would uphold a new car shine without waxing, which builds up on your paint and makes it cloudy, or buffing, which, over time, threatens the clear coat. So how far have we come in the world of “coatings”?

What are Nano Coatings?

Essentially, nano technology in the detailing industry utilizes a 9th century Mesopotamian trick. A trick in which pottery-makers created a metallic nano glaze made from copper, silver salts, and oxides that created a glittering effect on pottery that up through the Renaissance, made it distinctive for its ancient, shimmering luster. The term “coating” is nothing more than a new term to identify these incredibly durable polymers. Because that’s all these nano coatings are, polymers.

A study shows that in 1995, “surface engineering”, the study of the surface of hard matter, was a $17 billion market in the UK with 50% of that, dedicated to coatings that protect automotive surfaces against wear and corrosion.

Known as “Surface Science”, products now allow the transfer of particles from one surface to the other so that the nano coating becomes inseparable from the car’s paint surface. Automotive coating manufacturers claim their formulas “bond” chemically and physically to the paint surface, however, their bond loosens over time! On the other hand, some of these nano coatings claim they never loosen their bond to the paint meaning that they need to be buffed off which involves taking off part of your clear coat with it.

But is the difference between “coatings” and poly sealants really in the technology?

What’s on the Market Now?

Some of these nano coatings on the market right now refer to themselves as glass, or ceramic coatings, perpetuating the idea that these coatings are more durable than a traditional polymer.

First, let’s look at these names from the most literal stand point. If we we’re to actually be coating the exterior of our cars with glass or ceramic, what would be the result through the basic functions of the body of the car? The body of the car flexes as it drives, as the heat and cold play their part on the chemistry of the metal (hot metal can bend more while cold metal is more stiff). If our cars were coated with glass and ceramics, two very rigid materials that lack the ability to be flexible, it wouldn’t take long for the coating to crack and break.

Second, it’s clearly just a metaphor to explain how durable of a protection you’re getting. There’s no denying, a durable and long lasting product is great! Just forewarning you though, many of these products are not a one stop shop! These 7 year warranty coatings are only valid if you can verify you’ve reapplied the product every year or two and washed the car once a month.

One of the big reasons these products work so effectively is the amount of prep required to apply the coating. After washing, claying, and buffing the car, you’re often required to wipe down the entire surface with some alcohol based cleaner. This intensive prep period is highly effective in removing all contaminants and oils from the surface to allow the coating to bond to the paint as best as it can.

What are the Benefits of one of these Coatings?

Many of these coatings require an authorized detailer to apply them for you. That means that they have experience in prepping the paint for application. This is a huge bonus for car lovers. Your paint may never look that good again because of how much work goes into preparing the car for one of these coatings.

Their durability, whether you adhere to their fine print guidelines or not, is impressive. They last a long time and protect your paint from naturally acidic contaminants, UV damage, and may even add a little cushion room in terms of light scratches.

These benefits are not much different than other poly sealants that have been on the market. They protect against the same things, however, their longevity may be slightly less considering they don’t require as much preparation for application.

What are Some Downsides?

When considering one of these coatings, the pros and cons for a consumer may be different than those of a specialized detailer.

Before you can even apply the coating, the surface has to be 100% free of surface blemishes, which applies to even brand new vehicles. A multi-stage paint correction involves washing the car, claying, buffing, and keeping it pristine while applying the coating. That last step is particularly difficult for anyone who isn’t working in a clean indoor facility.

Nearly all of these coatings use extremely harsh chemicals that when you open the bottle, smell like a nice sampling of jet fuel. After speaking with many detailers who specialize in applying many of these coatings, they mention how they need to take frequent breaks to refrain from going light-headed. These harsh chemicals contain high levels of VOC’s.

Furthermore, when you have a coating that is unlikely to lose it’s bond with the paint, when a paint correction is needed (and believe me, it will be), you lose the coating and all the money that went into it as well.

And lastly, they’re quite expensive. You’re talking about a potential four figure number to get a detailer to do all this work for you.

What are the Alternatives?

Personally, I like to stick to the 6-12 month coating regimens. Whether once or twice a year, I reapply my durable coating along with a complete in and out detail of my car. If it’s spring or summer, I’ll reapply a wax on top of my coating every other car wash (every month or two).

Then when it’s needed, I’ll do a paintwork correction. I prefer once every two years for a light colored car and maybe once a year for a dark or black car.

A light buff and shine is going to be needed regardless if you have a nano coating or not so going with a less aggressive and less expensive paint protection system is preferred.

Rather than a $400 coating system that then needs to be done by a professional, I’ll spend $50-$100 on a coating that’ll give me impressive protection as well.

The other alternative would be to get a clear bra on your car. Clear bras will protect your paint from chips and scratches that even those other coating can’t protect against. And as long as you’re applying a durable poly sealant to the clear bra, you’ll protect the clear bra (and paint) from fading or other damages from UV rays.

 

So feel free to make your decision and let us know what you think in the comments below!

 

  • Bob Stern

    I would like to start the discussion with my own scenario. I currently have a 2013 BMW with a dark blue finish. Previously, I had a 2003 Silver BMW that I successfully maintained and competed in many concurs. Lots of 1st place trophies. This current car shows every single scratch, the clear coat is so….soft. It is impossible to keep it looking as proper as I would like. I have already cleaned it and within one hour of sitting on a parking lot, found a new scratch in the clear coat. I am opting to go with a nano-coating (Ceramic Pro). I realize it will cost around $2000 for the surface preparation and top coating. My hope is that it will keep me from deciding to go very much deeper in debt and buying a silver color 2015 BMW. Any comments?

    • http://www.drbeasleys.com/ Dr. Beasley’s

      Bob,

      Thanks for sharing. The issue with modern cars is the softer and many times thinner clear coat. These issues are what’s driving the industry into these types of coatings.

      As always, the best way to prevent new imperfections in the paint is follow best practices with everyday maintenance and car wash techniques. A vast majority of scratches can be traced back to car washes.

      When deciding to invest in going with a coating like Ceramic Pro, be sure to shop well for the right installer. A good installer will ensure the hardness rating for the coating to protect from these types of scratches as well as maintain you as a customer if/when an issue reveals itself again.

      It is important to know that these coatings are not impenetrable. However, depending on the type of coating they can either take the brunt of impact by only scratching the coating or some even absorb the scratch and heal over itself to maintain a level surface.

      I hope this was helpful.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Will
      @drbeasleys

  • Bob Stern

    Will, I’ve been both trained as a concurs judge and won classes. The BMW 2011-2013 clear coat is considered by the Ceramic Pro installer to be the softest coat with only Tesla being softer. I asked a BMW North America rep about it, and, naturally, he gave me a weak answer. Were this car not dark, I would not be so wound up, but the simplest wind causes fine scratches to immediately show up. Around me (Baltimore) the only Ceramic Pro installer is either in Virginia or New Jersey. I’m very impressed with the Virginia team and they have the car now. I’ll update you all when I return from vacation and get the car back the end of February. He’s quoting lifetime repairs as necessary and a hardness rating of 9. He has not tried it yet, but they say that a heat gun can heal severe scratches that do not wipe off. If this works, all my “Griot’s” stuff goes to my grandson!

    • http://www.drbeasleys.com/ Dr. Beasley’s

      Bob,

      I look forward to keeping in touch with you as you continue on this road. It’s great to have long term data on these coatings as it only increases our knowledge of them.

      I hope the best for you and your car.

      Will
      @DrBeasleys:disqus
      will@drbeasleys.com