Is ceramic coating worth it? What's the point in it?
With the correct preparation and a quality ceramic, having a coating is definitely a sensible solution for preserving your vehicles paintwork. Ceramic can provide a barrier against winter salt, temperature cycles, bird etching sunlight and many other nasties, however, I would like to share with you my predominant reason for ceramic coating. A true ceramic layer can actually prevent wash marring/swirls. It's the typical washing and loving of one's car that leads to aging. As swirls become and more and more abundant they catch the light to create an unpleasant reflection. It is almost unbelievable how easy it is to impair a vehicle's finish, often it has to be seen to be believed. You might think you are so gentle when washing your car, and you might not notice you've done any damage when the car is wet and the sun isn't out, however, cars are being tortured every day by their loving owners every day. With a true ceramic coating, you stand a chance of maintaining that new car look.
The above being said, i'd also like to point out that ceramic coatings are often over hyped and please don't expect an inch thick layer of glass to be protecting your paintwork.
At the end of the day, a properly applied ceramic coating offers you the best possible defence.
Does my coating protect against stone chips?
The protection against stone chips is absolutely negligible, the only real way to defend against this is (ppf)paint protection film or stop driving so aggresively :-)
How do I look after my coating?
So your coating is estimated to last 2-3 years, you will still need to wash your car and also decontaminate periodically to remove, sap, tar, iron fall out and environmental fallout. There is no harm in adding a quick detailer to your process or even the odd wax to sit on top of the coating, at this point you are in the realms of protecting your ceramic coating.
When should i come back?
There's no right or wrong answer here and there is a whole host of variables. How often/hard is the car used, how safe is your wash process etc etc. A coating of our Ballistic can last 2-4 years or more. The coating will be on there doing it's thing, however, there is still the likelihood that you will pick up some fine scratches here and there with people touching the car, walking past car etc etc and it largely comes down to how much it bothers you.
When we have cars come back to visit, the most important thing is for me is typically there are zero/little swirl marks, thanks to the coating, as mentioned before, that's what will quickly make the finish look ugly. Customers usually come back for a clean slate every 1-2 years, however, we've had client's come back after 3 and their car still looks incredible.
The dealership has offered me a life time coating, is that the same thing?
This is a completely different service to what we offer. The dealership will usually offer some kind of lifetime shine for your car. There are a few problems here. First of all, there is no machine prep done, and the prep that is done often makes the car look worse under the light than if they'd left it alone. The box of goodies is typically worth less than a tenner and can be found on ebay. The coatings on offer need to be very user friendly so if it is a ceramic, you;ll find it's a very low ceramic content. Our Ballistic coating in the wrong hands could take days to reverse if applied by an amateur.
NB I can't talk for all dealerships, I mean mainstream new car dealerships where margin is everything and they just bang them through. I'm seeing more and more prestige independent dealerships with real detailing options.
What is the best condition for you to receive a car in.
Less is always more. We prefer to see a car with the sticks still on it, covered in road grime the lot. It's better we safely remove all that for you. It would need to be seen to be believed, the condition we see brand new cars in, utterly shocking, however, I'm not complaining as it keeps us in business. I'm not completely knocking the dealerships. We have all grown more discerning over the years. 20 years ago we didn't know what a swirl was and detailing was just the American word for valeting. It's a big ask for your new car to roll off the production line and not be bothered in someway. You buy a new car and expect it to be brand new, however, here are some typical findings that you wouldn't want to ahead and trap in with a ceramic. preparation is vital....
1. car has brush marks all over it
2. sensitive areas like gloss black pillars are very swirly
3. random fine scratches, bird poo etching
4. holograms where scratches or etching removal has been attempted by rotary polisher.
5. adhesive residue from protective vinyl/transport wax has been aggresively removed leading to marring
6. car has marring where strapping has made an impression
7. trade plates have flapped around the boot area or bonnet
8. car has sat near a railway for months and is covered in fallout/transporters kick up iron as welll
9. blurry paint, we see it more and more, cars have a distinct lack of clarity and reflectivity.