How Water Beads Can Kill Your Coating

Whether your coating creates harmful, static beads is a big part of how to choose a ceramic coating.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Beads Are Bad. Static water beads, that is. We know, they look cool, and they help you know how to choose a ceramic coating. But if beads aren’t rolling off your car, your coating will end up looking pretty terrible, which means you’ll need to have it buffed off and replaced—not cheap. But what is it that makes beads so harmful to your finish?

It comes down to several things: staining, etching, contamination and micro-marring. Let us explain: beads drying create water spots that stain and etch your coating. Acid rain, if allowed to sit in bead form, will etch your coating as well. Metal content in the rain will embed inside your finish, too. Plus, tons of beads lying around means more drying, and more drying means more towels and more chances for fine scratching (AKA micro-marring). So how exactly does all this happen? We’ll break it down here.

Beads today, water spots tomorrow

Water, when allowed to dry on a car’s paint, usually leaves a mark. That’s because much of the water your car encounters contains some level of mineral content, which gets left behind when the water evaporates. We get deeper into how this process works in our article on what causes water spots on cars, but simply put, that left-behind mineral content forms a residue that can end up doing some serious damage.

At first, water spot residue isn’t too hard to remove. A quick spray and wipe with Dr. Beasley’s The Final Finish should get the job done. But let it sit for a little longer? UV rays bake the residue into a stubborn stain. That means you’ll need an acidic cleaner and extra elbow grease to wipe it away, and that extra pressure will make micro-marring inevitable.

Enough micro-marring and your coating will start to look pretty awful. If you want your finish in better shape, you’ll need to buff the marring out, thinning the coating and leaving you with less protection or, in some cases, no protection at all. Think that’s bad? It gets worse.

Further UV radiation causes a chemical reaction that alkalizes the minerals to such a degree that they form a solution that eats through your coating, forming a concave mark. To get rid of that, you’ll need to clay bar and polish, which, as we mentioned above, could very well force you to recoat the vehicle. That’s a lot of money to spend, and it’s all because your coating couldn’t shed beads.

Acid rain + beads = etching

Acid rain sounds pretty bad, judging by name alone. It’s even worse when it forms into beads. Acid rain refers to rain water made acidic by sulpher dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from industrial activity. Scientists have noticed its corrosive effects for over five centuries now, and much like how it chews through statues, it can etch automotive surfaces, too.

Now, if your coating was making beads roll off, this wouldn’t be a huge deal—the acid rain wouldn’t have enough time to etch. But if your coating has beads just lying around, an overnight rainstorm could have you waking up to a smattering of etch marks. You’ll have to buff and recoat if you don’t want your finish looking like a golf ball.

Industrial fallout and beading

Those in the detailing community know that heavy metals like iron embed within your finish, creating corrosive compounds that eat through your paint. In this industrialized world, iron contamination is an inevitability, but water beading can make it worse. Much worse. See, rain water, in addition to mineral content, can also contain heavy metals from industrial activity.

If beads from rain water are given the chance to rest on your coating, you’ll have iron embedding itself within your finish pretty quickly. That can corrode the underlying layers of paint and mess with your coating’s ability to repel water—which is funny, since it was poor water repellency that caused it in the first place!

More beads, more drying, more scratching

Hold on a second—don’t beads make drying easier? Not if they’re resting on your paint! Let’s say you’re drying your car after a maintenance wash. You’re using towel after towel after towel trying to mop up the zillions of beads your coating formed after the rinse. With each towel you take to the paint, the more you’re abrading the coating. The more you abrade, the more you’ll scratch. After enough washes, you’ll end up with a coating so micro-marred, it’s game over. You’ll have to buff it off and recoat.

And yes, this is still the case even if you’re using microfiber towels. Even the most plush towel in the universe is still rubbing up against the surface, and that rubbing will inevitably scratch at some point. Same goes for touchless alternatives like leaf blowers—you’re still abrading, just with wind instead of cloth.

Choosing the right coating

If you’ve got a coating that’s not moving beads off your finish or sheeting water outright, all of the above can happen to you. Whether it’s etching from water spots or acid rain, iron deposits from water-carried industrial fallout, or towel-induced micro-marring from drying off heavy beading, your ceramic coating is going to take a beating. If you don’t want to find yourself buffing and recoating, get a ceramic coating with a low sliding angle that will get those beads away, like Dr. Beasley’s Nano-Resin Pro.

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