How long do ceramic coatings really last?

How long do ceramic coatings really last?
Feb
18
2022

We have been wondering about this for as long as ceramic coatings have been around, and think it's time to answer this question honestly.

I'm not going to lie, saying ceramic paint protection lasts 5-years is a bit of a nonsense. It's also a bit of a nonsense to say a wax lasts 6-months, but there is a little more accuracy in this statement.

We recently had a conversation with one of the suppliers of our ceramic coating products, and he said that he doesn't like this business of saying a coating lasts 1-year, or 10-years, because the life of a product depends on how much use it gets. If you coat a classic car, keep it in an air-conditioned garage and only drive it twice a year when the weather's nice, it is obviously going to last far longer than a car that's doing a lot of motorway miles, in all weather, going between building sites where there's dust and muck.

I knew this, but my concern with this method of classifying coatings is somewhat different. There are many misconceptions about ceramic coatings, and one of which is that the date we put on them, the length of guarantee, is somehow like a sell-by date. They imagine that if they buy a 5-year coating, it will be 100% for all that time and then at five years and one day, it will suddenly stop working!

It's not like that at all.

A tangent

Before I provide you with an analogy that tells you what ceramic coatings are like, let me first tell you what they aren't like. And they aren't at all like waxes.

True car waxes, of the kind your grandad used to put on his Hillman Hunter back in the olden days, are a blend of soft wax like bee's wax, and hard wax like carnauba, and oils. Waxes that are blended to be harder, tend to last longer, those blended to be softer, tend to be more shiny, those with more oils tend to be wet-look and don't last very long at all. 

You are aware that oils are liquid, and when wax melts it becomes liquid, and so these products are essentially wet, and so they will dry out and burn off in the sun. They will probably leave a little residue, but when they are gone, they are gone.  Done.

An Analogy

The new generation of permanent coatings such as ceramic, diamond and graphene aren't like this at all. It's more like painting your kitchen with easy-clean paint. How long will it last? It will last decades, if you paint your walls pink, you could come back in 100 years, and they will still be pink. But that doesn't mean it will still look like new. It probably won't be "easy clean" for more than a couple of years, and the paint might be wearing thin in that place you wipe down often over by the chip fryer. You will have some scratches, some scuffs, and some discolouration above the cooker.

How long you need before you have to give it a fresh lick of paint will probably depend on how frequently you cook and what you cook, (and how many kids and pets you have). 

When a ceramic or graphene coating is on your car, it is there for good. It may wear a little thin and not repel water and dirt like it did when it was fresh, but it's not gone.

Ceramic Coating Guarantees

When a manufacturer guarantees their product, for example, for 5-years, they are figuring that the coating is tough enough to last the typical user, comfortably for 5-years. They will also assume that the typical user is going to subject their car to some degree of punishment. They will also factor in that some users will subject their cars to a lot of 'weathering', doing high mileage in all conditions, and perhaps not taking care of their car as well as they should.

If that's you, then your coating should last you the 5-years they guarantee. If you know you really work your car hard, and you are planning on keeping it for 5 years, then maybe you should consider a 10-year coating.

The good news about ceramic coatings

As you can probably now see, the longevity of your coating will vary greatly depending on how much punishment it gets. So if we say a ceramic coating is a 5-year, we mean that under reasonably harsh conditions it will last 5-years. 

But if you take care of your car, there is no real reason why it shouldn't last you far longer. And we have very good reason to believe this!

Before the latest generation of coatings, we had acrylic and polymer coatings, which were typically guaranteed for 3-5 years. We saw an awful lot of cars with these coatings, which were far older and still looking good.

As an example, we once had in a Honda which had been treated at the dealership with a 5-year coating. After 17 years, it was still in pretty good condition. We aren't going to tell you that it looked like it had just been done. But it was in good-nick, something we could work with, and so after 17 years we polished it up and gave it a new 5-year coating and made it look like a new car.

We have seen countless examples where the polymer coatings were still doing the job two or three times longer than the manufacturer's guarantee.

We have faith in ceramic coatings

Ceramic coatings are even better than polymer, so we have every reason that we will see similar results in the years ahead. This is one of the reasons why we offer our own guarantees on ceramic, graphene and diamond coatings. 

(It's only a small part of the reason. The reality is, we know that nobody bothers to actually register their coating with the manufacturer, and even if they did and there was a problem, the car would have to come back to us anyway. We already have your car on our system, and we are a firm believer in transferable guarantees, so it makes sense for us to be the guarantor. We never get any trouble anyway, it's no bother.)

Even better news about ceramic coatings

Going back to the kitchen analogy, once it starts to look tatty, you can give it another lick of paint. You have a good base, you don't need to rub it all down and prime it, you can just give it a thin wash, and it will look as good as new.

It's much the same with ceramic coatings. We have amazing, mega-shiny top-up products that are very affordable, and so for a fraction of the price that you originally paid to get your car coated, you have your car freshened up.  You can use these to extend the life of your coating. Potentially, you could make a 3-year coating last for 20 years, but that would depend on you getting a top-up regularly and looking after your car in-between. If you are likely to keep your car for 20 years, we's recommend a more durable coating from the beginning.

Likewise, if you think your car is likely to receive excessive punishment, a 10-year coating indicates that it's more durable than a 3-year. 

In summary

The number we put on a coating doesn't tell you how long it lasts, it's just how long we will guarantee it for. The longer we are willing to guarantee it is an indicator of how durable we think it is. It isn't a best-before date. Your coating can potentially last for decades with minimal maintenance and the occasional top-up. 

Danny Argent

by
technical writer and customer education.

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