Pro Tips

Pro Tips

Installing a Consumer-Grade Ceramic Coating. Part 2

Step 6. Polishing
Now that you have the whole vehicle iron decontaminated, washed, clayed and prepped, and dried, it’s time to polish. If your vehicle is brand new, or the vehicle’s paint is already in pristine shape you may choose to skip this step. Or maybe you only have some light scratching or swirling in isolated areas on the vehicle, you may choose to polish only those areas. If your vehicle is over a year old, and lives outside, then a polish is recommended, especially if it’s a darker color. Make sure to inspect your paint thoroughly. The claying process can leave some marring behind, especially if your vehicle has softer paint.

Viewing your vehicle out in the direct sunlight is usually the most effective way to see any imperfections like scratches and swirls. Remember that polishing the vehicle’s paint will not promote better adhesion or durability for your ceramic coating. This step is for aesthetic purposes only! It will improve, or perfect, the look of your vehicle’s painted surfaces, (even glass surfaces if you choose) and then the ceramic coating will lock in that perfection. Whatever condition your paint is in when the coating is applied, that’s how it will stay unless you remove the coating all together.

If you don’t have one already, get yourself a Dual-Action Random-Orbit Polisher. I recommend Maxshine’s M15 Pro and M312 combo kit if you’re a beginner. The M15 has a 5” backing plate, and will be helpful over larger areas, and the M312 has a 3” backing plate, which will be helpful in those narrower areas. For pads and polishing liquids, I love Rupes’ Yellow Foam pads to fit your machine backing plate sizes, and their yellow DA Fine Polish to go with them. This pad and liquid combo is designed to work together and is great on any paint that has light defects. It finishes out even softer dark color paint very nicely! Before you polish, be sure to mask off any black plastic trim that adjoins the paintwork, some 2” blue painters tape should do fine. For this phase, I also recommend using a wheeled shop cart that you can keep you machines, liquids, pads and towels with you while you work. Remember to change to a new pad after about 2 sections and clean your pad with a semi-stiff brush after about 2-3 polishing cycles. After each cycle, buff off the used polish from the surface using a High Quality Microfiber Coating Removal Towel, I like the Rag Company’s Pearl Edgeless. Now just work your way around the vehicle. I recommend starting on the hood to get your bearings, then work your way from top to bottom. Take your time, you definitely don’t want to rush this step!

Step 7. Coating Prep
Now that your vehicle is polished to the extent you deem necessary, and you have removed ALL used polish from the surface, you also want to make sure any polishing dust is also removed. Polishing dust comes from the polish that dries out on the surface, and on the pad itself, and flies off as dust. The Rupes Yellow Fine polish is pretty good at limiting dust in my opinion. So to remove the dust, you have 3 options. You could just wipe it off, but this is difficult and often ineffective in any nooks and crannies the dust has gotten into. Second you could do another presoak and rinse of the vehicle. This will also help remove any polishing oils from the surface, and wash away all that pesky polishing dust. But you’ll have to redry the vehicle with a towel AND forced air to get any remaining water out of those nooks and crannies so it doesn’t drip while you’re coating the vehicle. Third, you could use only forced air. This is the cleanest and most efficient method in my opinion.

Next to actually prep the paint and plastic for the ceramic coating, you need to make sure the surfaces are virgin pure and clean! I use Carpro’s Eraser panel prep. Use a High-Quality Microfiber Buff Towel like the Rag Company’s Eagle Edgeless. Fold into quarters, and spray some eraser onto the towel, and methodically wipe down the entire vehicle, or at least the areas you intend to coat with your ceramic coating. Remember to switch to a clean towel face after every section or two, and don’t use too much product, as that can lead to surface residue.

Step 8: Ceramic Coating
Now the instructions for this step depend somewhat on the ceramic coating you choose. But, here are some guiding principles to use during the process.

  • Safety first! You always want to wear gloves, and if you’re working in a closed environment, you should probably wear a charcoal filter mask as well.
  • Read the coating’s instructions carefully and several times so you are very familiar with them.
  • Follow those instructions carefully, especially until you get comfortable with the product, only then should you deviate from the instructions if you are able too.
  • As the instructions most likely will recommend, go through the coating process in a small test area, in an inconspicuous location. I recommend the rear quarter panel, at the very bottom of the panel. This will give you a starting point, and in an area that won’t be as hard to fix if you mess up.
  • Change applicator cloths or applicators after about every 2 sections, or at least flip the cloth or applicator over to a clean side. This will ensure the surface stays clean during the process.
  • Typically, consumer ceramic coatings give a “flash time”, or the amount of time between actually putting the product onto the surface, to the time you buff off the excess residue. Word to the wise, use this recommended time at first, and stick to it, but honestly, you most likely will be able to expand that time without any negative consequences. If you’re working in the sun, the flash time will be reduced considerably. If you’re working on a darker color in the sun though, I seriously recommend moving inside, or into the shade.
  • When buffing, or removing the product once the coating has flashed, I typically like to use a low nap coating removal towel, like the Rag Company’s Pearl Edgeless towel. Then follow up for a second buff with a fluffy nap buffing towel like the Rag Company’s Eagle Edgeless towel. Remember to flip to a fresh side of the towel after about a section or two, or if you notice the towel is just smearing the product, instead of picking it up.
  • After each 2×2, or 3×3 area is coated and buffed (whatever the manufacturer recommends, or whatever you feel you can push that size to safely), remember to overlap with your next area by a couple of inches or so. This ensures you don’t have any uncoated spots.

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