It’s time to unravel the pros and cons of ceramic car products. They are shrouded in mystique, with big claims being made about the revolutionary protection of ceramic coating.
What is ceramic coating and how does it work?
Products that give a ceramic coating are liquid silicon dioxide (SiO2) polymers (long chains of molecules), also known as silica and found in nature as quartz. When applied to a car’s surface, the liquid bonds to it extremely firmly, which adds a durable layer of protection. You can think of a ceramic coating as an upstaged alternative to car wax.
When applied, a ceramic coating will give lasting protection (months, sometimes years) against punishing UV, acidic substances such as bird poo, and light scratches such as those caused by metal zips on jackets. A ceramic coating will also add considerable water repellency to paint, and dirt or mud will not stick to it quite so readily.
Ceramic coating is not a silver bullet
Or a bullet-proof vest, for that matter. As stated, a ceramic coating is like wax. It is an effective protectant. However, it won’t protect against stone chips, significant scratches, or eliminate the need for washing your car.
If you want protection against stone chips and the like, a paint protection film is what you need. As for washing your car, dirt will still accumulate over time. A ceramic coating will mean less frequent cleaning, but it won’t eliminate it.
Not all ceramic products are the same
Indeed, as you will see below there is quite a range. Ceramic products for cars vary from spot detailers to strong lacquers. It depends on what you want and how much you care about maintaining your car’s appearance. If you like tidy but aren’t fastidious about it, ceramic car shampoo or detailer will suit you. If you are scrupulous about your car’s appearance and want hardier paint protection, you should consider some of the more serious options.
Naturally, the dedicated ceramic lacquers will be more effective and long-lasting than the sprays and shampoos. Take this into account when you consider which is right for you.
The best ceramic coating products for cars:
Gtechniq C1 Crystal Lacquer
The Gtechniq coating is thicker than its rivals and lasts longer too; up to five years, Gtechniq claims. Yet, it is very simple to apply: add several drops of C1 to an application pad and apply one panel at a time, then buff. The only slight inconvenience is that you need to leave your car indoors for 12 hours, in order for the coating to cure fully.
Pure Definition Crystal Opt-Shield Ceramic Coating (30 or 50ml)
This coating from Pure Definition if very similar to the Gtechniq coating, albeit offering around three years' worth of protection and slightly better value. Panel by panel application is required here too.
Other ceramic products
There are many car care products around that incorporate ceramic technology. Such products do not contain as much SiO2 as the proper ceramic coatings and therefore are not as effective. What they tend to offer is convenience - quick sprays, and 2-in-1 options.
We know that products such as these are very attractive to most of us because they are considered a quick-fix alternative to a more hardcore product. As such, we have included our recommended range of these. But you must be aware they do not achieve the same result as the ceramic coatings above.
Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Wash & Wax
Ceramic car shampoo
Mixed in with car shampoo, this stuff gets applied when you wash your car as normal and leaves behind a little added ceramic protection. Add a couple of capfuls to half a bucket of water and apply the shampoo to a rinsed car as you would normally. Rinse it off once you're done and dry with a microfibre towel. In the same way that some shampoos have incorporated wax for added protection, so does this.
26JPN Crystal Coat
Best ceramic spray coating
We've tested this Crystal Coat and found it to be more than acceptable for a spray. Obviously, it'll never be as effective as a proper coating, but if applied in the correct conditions it can last for nine months. Simply spray onto the desired areas and buff immediately for great and simple protection.
Meguiar's Hybrid Ceramic Liquid Car Wax
Liquid ceramic wax
Liquid wax is the easiest way to protect your car and this hybrid ceramic offering from Meguair's is excellent. A blend of synthetic wax and silicon-dioxide, it'll form a protective layer and give your car a nice shine too. It's water activated too so you'll need to wash the residue off at the end but the results are excellent.
Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic 3-in-1 Detailer
Spray-on ceramic detailer
People not quite so hardcore about car cleaning will find this handy. It can be used on glass and wheels, as well as paintwork. Spray it on to a clean panel and wipe it. You can use it on dirty surfaces, but we suggest applying it to clean surfaces for better efficiency. Best for use between washes.
Which ceramic coating product is right for you?
Think about how seriously you take car cleaning. Don't kid yourself and go for the serious stuff if you know you can't be bothered applying it. Go for a detailer, spray wax or shampoo.
For those of you who are willing to put in the effort, ceramic products are certainly worth trying out if you have only used wax so far. If you already have an arsenal of car shampoo and polish, consider the Autoglym, Sonax, or Gtechniq ceramic coating to add as a finishing layer.