Ceramic Coating Maintenance: How To Prolong Your Coating

BMW F10 M5

A ceramic coating is the best way to protect and give your car’s paint the perfect shine. For years, I used car wax because I liked the look of it until I was introduced to the best ceramic coating for cars and immediately made the switch. If you’ve never experienced having your car coated, I’d highly suggest you do it yourself or hire a professional detailer to do it for you; you won’t have any regrets. 

Something I don’t think I’ve ever really touched on in great detail is ceramic coating maintenance. It sounds like a difficult thing to do, but I can assure you it’s super easy. You want to maintain your coating during the life of the coating if you want it to perform longer. In many cases, I’ve seen ceramic coatings last up to 5-years, whereas with wax, you’re looking at nine months top.   

Basics of Ceramic Coating Maintenance

Ceramic coating maintenance is a fairly straightforward process. Check out how your ceramic coating performs when washing your car or when it gets wet. Does the coating look like the performance has decreased its ability to bead and sheet water off the vehicle? If so, it’s time for a decontamination wash. You’ll want to do this process sparingly, at most every four months (depending on your driving conditions), but most people can do it every 6-8 months on most daily-driven vehicles.

The number of times you’ll have to do this decon process will increase depending on how far you drive and how much time your car spends on the road. On the highway, your vehicle will be exposed to more harsh chemicals (oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid) than it would on most state roads. These chemicals will inevitably end up on your car, and they will “try to eat” away at the protection on the vehicle. This is exactly why you have a ceramic coating. It will be much more impervious to hazards relating to the use of your car and prevent damage to your finish as a result of these contaminants. However, these chemicals will build up on the coating over time, reducing its performance. 

We counteract these decreases by performing a decon wash or a “reset wash.” 

My Decontamination (Reset Wash) Process

This process is pretty simple. When washing your car, you’ll do a normal OG wash; simply switch your car wash soap with decontamination soap. This will give you that little bit of extra bite to get all the junk off of the coating.

  1. Put 5 ounces (150 mL) of decon soap into your foam cannon.
  2. Foam your vehicle like usual. I suggest letting the soap dwell for about 5 minutes in this application. Remember to keep your car out of direct sunlight during the entire wash process. You can rinse the whole car down using deionized water and re-foam the car for some extra bite. However, this isn’t necessary.
  3. Use 2-3 ounces of decon soap in your wash bucket. Now you can perform your wash like usual.
  4. Rinse your car thoroughly with deionized water to help clean and leave less residue. During the rinsing process, you’ll be able to see if this was effective. 90% of the time, this will be more than sufficient. If it’s not, now you can dry the car and move on to the iron remover.

Iron Removal on a Coating

For most, this is something you’d do once a year. I usually just put a date in my calendar for when the coating is due for iron removal and make sure I do it on that date or sometime around that date. If your coating isn’t showing normal beading and sheeting after a proper rinse, your car probably has some built-up iron contamination from brakes and roads. If you determine your vehicle will need iron remover, here’s how I do it:

  1. Spray a liberal amount of iron remover using a spray bottle or a pump sprayer.
  2. Let the iron remover dwell for 2-5 minutes. You should see some “bleeding here” or purplish-red spots and drips from the paint. Do not allow the iron remover to dry on the surface fully.
  3. Rinse the vehicle conscientiously with deionized water. If the car is still running flat or not beading or sheeting as much, rinse for another couple of minutes to ensure the surface is bare. If there is still an issue, dry the car one more time. Now, you can use a paint prep to see if the coating is dead.

Remember, the durability of your coating if you’re using CSL and EXO will be about five years. This lifespan is true if you do regular maintenance washes. 

Using Paint Prep For A Coating Reset

This step will be the same whether or not you need to recoat the car or if you simply need to finish the coating reset procedure before performance returns. Here’s how you go about that:

  • Spray a liberal amount of paint prep on one panel at a time. Spray a little paint prep into the microfiber towel, and wipe down that panel. Depending on whether the panel is dry after the wipe, you can follow with a second towel to finish drying. Perform this process on all coated surfaces that are not performing properly or will be re-coated.

I recommend a stronger paint prep (Gtechniq Panel Wipe) if you intend to re-coat the car. However, do not spray panel wipe directly on the surface, only into the towel. Panel Wipe is some aggressive stuff, so you’ll want to stay on the safe side here.

If you do not intend to re-coat the car during this process, you have a choice to make here. You can 1) re-rinse the car one more time to check for water behavior improvement, or 2) let it go until the next wash or rainstorm to check again. 

For my cars, at this point, I would just go through the coating removal process and re-apply. There is a lot of time and money invested into coating a car. So, if you don’t want to jump right into recoating your vehicle, wait for one more wash cycle.