There was a time when I was very vocal about my apprehensions regarding ceramic coatings for cars. Up until I discovered it, I only wanted to use car wax on my paint, and at the time, for a good reason, at least I thought. Using a wax over a coating was the best option for me because I didn’t think anything existed in the car detailing world that would give me a glossy look like car wax would, plus how easy it was to install it.
So, after trying multiple coatings (Kamikaze ISM, CARPRO CQUARTZ UK, Dr. Beasley's Nano Resin Pro), I decided to go on this quest to find out what coating would give me the wax-like look I wanted and also had an easy installation process. And boy, did I find it.
My pro buddies kept telling me to try Gtechniq’s Crystal Serum Light, and when I did, I instantly knew this was the best ceramic coating for cars. This product is what you’d categorize as a prosumer product. Gtechniq offers a professional version of this product called Crystal Serum Light Ultra that’s designed for accredited detailers. Both products are amazing, but we’re using the non-ultra version in our application.
What Makes This Coating Great?
I don’t know what magic the guys over at Gtechniq are putting in this stuff, but it freaking works. Some key features you’ll hear me and many other detailers/prosumers talk about with this ceramic coating is:
- It’s chemical resistant. Now, don’t take that as you can break basic car washing techniques and detail your vehicle any kind of way. You can still introduce swirls to your car’s paint by using a car wash mitt with debris on it, washing in circular motions, or going through an automatic car wash. So, be mindful of these things when you’re cleaning. The science in this coating is that it hardens on your paint once it cures, helping to reduce the changes of inducing marring and swirl marks. Having a coating like CSL protects your paint from acidic contaminants like acidic rain, bugs, and bird droppings. These added components makes it a winner in my book.
- Gloss finish. I’ve said this before, but I didn’t know of any ceramic paint coating that gave me the nice wax look and finish I grew to love when I used to use Collinite 845, which is still the best car wax. Switching over to Crystal Serum Light, I noticed how much longer the shine on my paint lasted with my cars. Keep in mind I would have to reapply wax every 8 to 9 months to maintain that glossy look. You’ll find that you don’t have to re-coat your vehicle(s) for two to three years with CSL (Crystal Serum Light), but I usually do paint correction on my cars every 18-months to refresh the look, so I’ll apply a fresh coating more often than the average person. Note: How often you reinstall this coating depends on your external conditions (weather, etc.) and if your car(s) is garage kept.
- Durability. If you take care of your car the way I do, you can get up to 5-years of longevity with this coating. Keep in mind though the five year durability is when you top CSL with EXO.
I was sold on this stuff after my first time using it on my friend’s Audi R8. I did a complete paint correction series with his car and was blown away by how the CSL looked and felt - super slick surface. I’m telling you, if you want to dial in your car’s paint and experience what I’ve been experiencing for years, you want to have CSL in your detailing arsenal.
Protection for the Protection
CSL (Crystal Serum Light) can be a standalone coating for your car’s paint. As mentioned before, the formulation inside it was made to withstand some of the harshest contaminants. We obsessed people have decided to take it up a notch and add in some protection for the protection or a sacrificial layer for the ceramic coating. What I’m referring to is a hydrophobic coating called EXOv4. The term “hydrophobic” simply means to repel water.
This is one of the most discussed topics in car detailing when it comes to protecting your car’s paint. We’ve all wooed over the beading we see on the car’s surface after it rains. I get it, and it certainly does serve a purpose.
What’s great about EXO is it adds another barrier of defense against wash chemicals and road salt. I live in Florida, so road salt is not an issue for me, but applying this product on top of CSL definitely can’t hurt those who live in wintery conditions.
Some other benefits of using EXO with CSL is:
- It makes CSL more hydrophobic. I’m not sure if there is such a thing as not being hydrophobic enough, but I can certainly tell you water beads like crazy having the two additional layers of EXO applied to my car’s paint - I’ll go further into detail later on about how I install both products.
- It gives a warmer glow than other coatings with a wax-like look and finish. The best way for me to explain this is that your car’s paint will have more of an even look. Rather than being super shiny, this combination enhances the factory paint instead of making it look artificial. This is the primary reason why I loved car waxes so much. I wanted a more natural look, and CSL + EXO delivers precisely what I want.
This whole protection for the protection may sound like a bunch of nonsense, but in my time using both of these products, it undoubtedly works. Add in some drying aid when you’re doing your maintenance car detailing, and you have yourself a well-protected, water-repelling car.
I’ve mentioned this before and I think I made some detailers upset, but oh well. Any person with a tiny bit of sense can install this stuff. Provided you have the right tools (which I’ll share with you below) and time, you can coat your own car.
Let me preface this entire process by saying you better have polished your car before proceeding to coat it. If you don’t, you will not get the results I’ve spoken about, nor is it OG approved. I’ve done a ton of videos on our YouTube channel where I am showing the world how to paint correct before coating. You can check out my entire paint correction process when I did my Tesla Model 3.
Here are my steps to applying CSL:
- Wipe your car down with isopropyl alcohol. This solution we’re using to remove polishing oils from the paint correcting procedure. If you need a more aggressive polishing oil removal, you can use Gtechniq’s Panel Wipe. You’d use something like this for more aggressive compounds. In this step, I’m using what I call our coating removal microfiber towels. I’d suggest having maybe 8-10 of these for this entire process.
- Prime your microfiber applicator on an applicator block. You don't need to use a ton of product—just a few drops per 2' x 2' section.
- Apply CSL in a crosshatch pattern. I'd do about two sections, then wipe off one, do another, wipe off the previous, and repeat. Keep in mind this stuff is not layerable like EXO; one coat is all you’ll need.
- Let it cure. Gtechniq suggests that you let this stuff cure for at least 2-hours, I’d say three or preferably overnight if you can. The longer curing time allows for maximum bonding to the paint.
As you can see, installing a ceramic coating isn’t hard at all. You’d follow the same steps for EXOv4. The only difference is EXO is layerable, meaning you can add multiple layers on top of it, and it’ll bond to itself, unlike CSL. I always do two layers of EXO on top of Crystal Serum Light (CSL). I’ve found this to be more than sufficient for ultimate paint protection.
If you have leftover product, which you probably will unless you’re coating a bigger vehicle like an SUV or doing multiple cars, you want to store both the CSL and EXO in a cool, dry place. You also want to use it within 3-months of opening. Once these products begin to crystalize, they are no longer any good.
Forgive me for being a sounding board for these products, but they are amazing. There’s no other product on the market that delivers like CSL and EXO. If you want some serious slickness, water-beading, a warm glow on your car’s paint, and multiple years of protection, you can’t go wrong with this stuff.