Pro Tips

Pro Tips

Installing a Consumer-Grade Ceramic Coating. Part 1

Hey everyone, today we’re gonna talk about the process, and some tips and tricks in order to successfully install a consumer grade ceramic coating. A consumer grade ceramic coating is one that any consumer can purchase, and you do not need to be certified to purchase it, or have a certified installer install it. Consumer grade coatings tend to be less durable than commercial grade coatings. Just as a note before we get started, consumer grade ceramic coatings are pretty simple to install, so if you’re gonna mess it up, you kinda have to do so on purpose!

To get started, here’s what you’ll need:

  • High pH Car Shampoo (Bilt Hamber Touch-Less)
  • High Quality Microfiber Towels (Rag Company Creature Edgeless)
  • High Quality Microfiber Drying Towels (Rag Company The Gauntlet)
  • High Quality Microfiber Coating Removal Towels (Rag Company Pearl Edgeless)
  • High Quality Microfiber Coating Buff Towels (Rag Company Eagle Edgeless)
  • High Quality Microfiber Applicator Block (Rag Company Pearl Applicator Sponge)
  • Low Quality Shop Towels (Towels of your choice, just make sure they’re clean/new)
  • Foam Cannon and Clean Bucket (MJJC Foam Cannon Pro 2, MTM PF22)
  • Pressure Washer (Any decent electric pressure washer will do)
  • Detailing Brushes (Detail Factory)
  • Wheel & Tire Brushes (Nanoskin Wheel Brush (any stiff bristle brush will do for tires))
  • Wheel & Tire Cleaner (Adam’s Wheel & Tire Cleaner)
  • Optimum No Rinse
  • Detailing Clay (Rag Company Ultra Clay Bar)
  • Bug & Tar Remover (Citrol 266)
  • Iron Remover (Adam’s Iron Remover)
  • Panel Prep (Carpro Eraser)
  • Isopropyl Alcohol 70%
  • Distilled Water (Depending on how hard your tap water is)
  • Small Measuring Cup
  • 2” Blue Painters Tape
  • Dual Action Polisher (If you need to get rid of light scratches and swirls (Machine M15 Pro – (For beginners))
  • Polishing Pads and Liquids (Rupes Yellow Foam 5” Polishing Pads, Rupes Yellow Fine Polish)
  • Ceramic Coating (Product of your choice)

Ok, if you have everything above, you’re in good shape!

To start, get your wheels and tires cleaned first. You can be as thorough as you like, but I recommend cleaning your tires at least twice, and cleaning not only the face of the wheel, but the inner barrel as well. Use the nanoskin wheel brush on the face, some wheel barrel brushes of your choice to clean the inner barrel, and the stiff bristle brush to clean the tire. Make sure to rinse the wheel and tire thoroughly.

Next, you’re going to clean and prepare the rest of the vehicle. Your prep work is your most important step and should not be taken lightly. The better you prep the vehicle, the better and longer lasting, your coating should perform and last! [Ideally you want to work in the shade, or in a car wash garage/wash bay. But, if you have to work in the sun, I will mix in tips moving forward that can help you work in the sun successfully.

Step 1. Rinse
The first step is to give the entire vehicle a thorough rinse with your pressure washer. If the vehicle has heavy traffic film buildup, you may consider pretreating the side and rear panels with a good APC first. I recommend Meguiar’s Citrus Power Cleaner Plus diluted about 3:1. Let that dwell for a few minutes and then proceed to rinse the vehicle thoroughly.

Step 2. Pre-Soak
Allow the vehicle to air dry for a few minutes. While you’re waiting, wipe down the glass with a low grade shop towel to avoid water spots on the glass. (A low grade towel will not scratch glass.) Also, while you’re letting the vehicle air dry, prep your foam cannon. To do this, mix about 5.5oz Bilt Hamber Touchless Shampoo in the foam cannon reservoir and fill the rest with water up to the 1000ml mark. (Or follow the dilution instruction of the shampoo that you choose.) After 10 minutes of vehicle dry time, cover the entire vehicle’s paintwork with the iron remover; be careful around glass and plastic trim, especially if you’re working in the sun. Let the iron remover dwell for 3-5 minutes. Instead of rinsing the iron remover off, just foam the vehicle! The foam will strip the iron remover and the dirt from the paint on all surfaces in one shot. Be liberal with the foam. After you’ve foamed the whole vehicle, if you have more in your reservoir, foam it again! Let the foam dwell for a few minutes then thoroughly rinse the vehicle. Once the vehicle is rinsed, again wipe down the glass with a clean shop towel to avoid any water spotting. If you’re working in the sun, wiping down the glass after every rinse down is essential!

Step 3. Bug & Tar
Now that the pre-soak has removed a large portion of the dirt and grime, it’s time to tackle the stuff that is too stubborn for a pre-soak, and should come off before the contact wash (bug guts and tar deposits). This also includes Artillery Mold- those annoying little black dots that land on your vehicle. Citrol 266 citrus degreaser is an awesome tool to remove all of the above, and it won’t damage your black plastic trim. Be thorough in this step, take your time. You definitely don’t want any bugs or tar remaining when you eventually polish or especially coat your vehicle!

Step 4. Wash Prep
Next, it’s time to contact wash and clay the vehicle. In a clean bucket, I prefer a 2 gallon bucket, fill with 1-1.5 gallons of clean tap water. If you have really hard water where you live, you may want to use distilled water. Next, mix in the recommended amount of Optimum No Rinse rinseless car wash solution. You can also use your choice of rinse less wash. Be sure to use rinse less wash here, and NOT waterless wash! Mix the solution and water together thoroughly. Then fold two Creature Edgeless microfiber towels from the Rag Company (or another microfiber towel of the same GSM quality) into quarters, and insert into bucket to soak. Also insert the small measuring cup and Ultra Clay Sponge into the bucket.

If you’re working in the sun, and your tap water isn’t excessively hard, no need to worry about water spots. The rinseless wash solution will soften the water, making water spots less likely. Now grab your microfiber drying towel and a spray bottle of Isopropyl Alcohol and water, mixed 40/60 respectively, and have them at the ready. I recommend having a step stool or detailing cart to carry or push around the car with you, especially if you have a larger vehicle. I usually just keep my drying towel draped over the top of my ladder.

Step 5. Contact Wash
Time to wash, clay, prep and dry! We’re going to do one section at a time, and I’ll be using a medium size vehicle as an example. (A midsize sedan or SUV.) You will need to adjust the section size for your vehicle based on the make and model.

So the concept here is simple; wash, clay, and prep/dry one section at a time. I always start with the roof and front/rear windshields first, splitting it into two sections: the driver’s side and the passenger side.

So take a towel out of your bucket, don’t wring it out, make sure it’s folded into quarters, and in a methodical pattern wash half of the roof first, then wash half of the front and rear windshield with the same side of your towel. Then hang the towel on the side of your bucket with the used side down. That way you always know that the good clean side is always up. DO NOT put the towel back into the solution! Take your clay sponge that you have soaking, you can wring it out a little, and clay the area you just washed until the surface feels nice and smooth. The clay sponge can go back into the solution. Then grab your bottle of water and Isopropyl Alcohol mixture and spray a handful or trigger-pulls around the washed and clayed section. Finally, grab your microfiber drying towel and dry down the section. That section is done, and ready for polishing! Next move to the other side of the vehicle, and do the other half of the roof and front/rear windshields. Just flip your towel over to a clean side, and then use the small measuring cup in the solution bucket to pour more solution over the towel. Make your way around the whole vehicle, section by section. An example of what I usually consider a section in addition to what I’ve explained already, would be the hood, the front grille and bumper, a fender, a whole door (do the glass last), etc…

*Make sure to check out the videos that go along with this blog. They contain many of the same tips and techniques.