You are probably here because you have decided to Ceramic Coat your car or are at least interested in doing so!
Suppose you decided to go to a professional to Ceramic Coat your car. In that case, you can skip this article since this will cover all the tools you would need or would be using if you were Ceramic Coating your vehicle at home DIY style!
We will write this article for you to understand what needs to be done from start to finish and what tools we are using for those tasks. Suppose there are multiple options to perform the same job, for instance, a budget option or a more professional option. In that case, we will also list them so you can pick what works best for you.
A little about us
We are a Car Detailing Company focusing on Ceramic Coatings, and we have been in business for years now. We will share what we feel works and why based on our experiences with multiple items or tools that we've tried over the years and settled on after tons of testing.
Ok, let us not drag this on. Let's jump into it instead and see where we need to start.
How to ceramic coat a car in 8 easy steps:
perform paint correction if needed
fully wash the car
clay bar the car
leveling paint touch-up if done earlier
compound and polish
ceramic coat the car
wait 24 hours at least for the product to harden
Let's go through each section separately and see what they are all about and how you can maximize your efficiency and results by listing the tools we use daily.
If you want to learn a little bit more about the whole preparation process at any point, you can click here as well.
Also, you can check out this article to see how to apply Ceramic Coating onto your car in full detail.
Perform Paint Touch-Up If Needed
Tools used in this step:
eye protection glasses
the correct color for the car ( explained below )
2k clear coat (described below )
ear cleaning cotton buds ( a few are enough )
small painting brush
Always use gloves when detailing cars. Always make sure to use breathing protection when working with fresh car paint. And Always use eye protection when sanding.
When you think of paint correction when working with cars, you are probably imagining a hand polishing machine. Still, paint correction actually means that if there is visible damage on your car's paintwork and that it will be removed by neither compounding nor polishing it, you will need to fix the damage by performing paint correction before the buffing step. That process is commonly referred to as Paint Touch-Up.
For instance, if there is rock chip damage on the hood ( where you usually find that type of damage ), the damage often goes all the way to the metal panel of the car. Also often accompanied by corrosion, and rust in most cases. Or if there are deep scratches beyond the clear coat and paint layer, revealing the primer or, again, the metal panel underneath. There are all kinds of scenarios where the paint has been damaged so much that no matter how much effort you put into detailing it, the damage will still be visible.
So what do we do then?
First, give the car a good wash with car shampoo so you can clearly see what condition the paint is currently in.
If you see a scratch or chip in the paint and are unsure whether buffing it will fix the issue, you can use water to test it. Once the damaged area is covered in water and is not visible anymore, the damage can be fixed by buffing it. If the damage is still visible even when watered, that means the damage is too deep to correct with compound or polish.
If you find it challenging to identify all the damage that needs to be repaired, consider machine polishing before making the picture clearer. If there are many small chips, it is not a bad idea to draw a small circle around them with a marker to keep track of all the spots that need to be addressed.
We need to buy a small amount of paint with the correct color code for the vehicle in question and a small amount of 2K clear coat from the local Color Store.
You will usually go there with the car or a small panel that has been cleaned ( e.g., fuel cap ). They will use a color reader tool to check for the paint's exact tone and use the color code that you can find in the driver's door's inner side to get a precise color mixture to match the car's existing paint.
Sometimes you will see a white car and think that you can just buy white color paint and fill the damaged area, but would soon find out that the shade is very different once it dries. Always use the method above to be sure, no matter how much you think you can pick the same color - sooner or later, you will have a mismatch, and the results are not pretty.
Keep in mind that you can skip this step entirely if there is no such damage to your car.
Once you have acquired the correct paint for the car you are working on, you will need to clean and degrease the area you are working on. If there is corrosion, remove that first by scraping all the corrosion off until you have just the metal. If you are unable to scrape it off, then use a rust converter to be safe. After it has been cleaned, use 2000 grit sandpaper wrapped around a sponge and basically the weight of your hand to flatten the damaged area's pointy and jagged edges.
If you, for any reason, are not able to get a hold of 2000 grit, then 1500 or 2500 grit will work just fine. Keep in mind that the lower the grit number means the sandpaper is more aggressive, and you will need to be more careful when working with it.
Do not be afraid to cut the sandpaper into strips to avoid sanding areas that do not need addressing.
As for the technique used, use short back and forth strokes vertically and horizontally around the damaged area. Avoid using circular motions.
Make sure to spray the area with water and the sandpaper with some water to prevent dust from going all over the car and reduce heat buildup caused by friction - that type of sanding is called 'Wet Sanding.'
When done, wipe the area you've worked on with a microfiber towel. The sanded spot will be hazy. That is normal.
After that, use an ear cleaner cotton bud stick to apply some paint thinner onto the area. This will ensure the area is clean, and the paint thinner will serve as a bonding agent for the upcoming paint. Let it air dry for 30ish seconds, and then use a small brush to apply the paint onto the area by slowly dabbing the paint into the damage.
Make sure the damaged area is not visible. The cavity will be filled with clear coat. When the color has surface dried a bit, apply some clear coat on top of the paint. Ensure the damaged area has been completely filled and, to be safe, leave a bit more on top of the spot you are working on. Like a bit of a hill. Because once it dries, you will sand and buff the area to perfection.
Give it at least 48 hours to dry up before you continue with further steps to ensure the paint and clearcoat have cured enough to not come off when performing the following steps.
Sometimes Color Shops will mix the paint with the clearcoat, meaning you will have to apply and fill the area with two coats. Perform as described above to ensure the highest quality result.
When working in the car detailing business, it is always essential to have two things - a pressure washer and a machine polishing machine. Those two cut the time you have to perform labor by so much that we couldn't imagine not having them. We have been using Karcher Pressure Washers for years now, and we fully stand behind their products. The Karcher K5 does the job so well. It is straightforward to use and has been very reliable. Latex gloves are also a must when detailing a car.
The Mr. Pink pH-neutral Car Shampoo from Chemical Guys has been our number one choice for a while now, and we are happy with how it performs.
All the other tools that we use in this step you can usually buy at most Color Shops. Some might not have such high grades of sandpaper. If you cannot acquire it there, just get a set like this to have around when you need it.
Eye and breathing protection is an excellent idea to have. Some people like to live dangerously, but if you plan to do this long-term, it is definitely a good investment! You can get these in Color Shops as well or in any hardware store.
Fully Wash The Car
Tools used in this step:
3 standard-sized buckets ( 3-5 gallons )
grit guard ( that can fit one of the buckets )
microfiber towel ( always good to have a dozen )
microfiber drying towel ( best to have 2-3 at least )
If a correction has been performed, you need to wait until the new clearcoat completely dries up. We suggest waiting at least 48 hours before sanding and buffing the corrected areas. But clearcoat cures up to 2 weeks if there is time, you best wait the entire duration, but we realize you cannot afford to wait that long in the professional world.
That is why you need to perform paint correction beforehand because of the long waiting time.
Ok, so you have a car with no hard damage in the paintwork, and we are ready to give it a proper wash.
Before you start, you want to put on your latex gloves. All the dirt, sweat, salt, and oil on your hands will leave marks on the paint. You want to avoid that.
Now take your pressure washer and rinse the whole car making sure everything has been covered, from the top all the way to the inner wheel arches, to start loosening all the dirt that may be on the car.
After that, you want to attach the snow foam cannon addon onto the pressure washer filled with some pH-neutral car shampoo and cover the whole car with the foam. You want to let all the dirt and grime soak into the soap. Let the foam do all the work. As it slides down the car, it will pull most of the grime from the car's surface.
In case you do not own a pressure washer, you can use a water hose with a spay mode addon to achieve similar results. There are foam gun addons that can be connected to the hose. They are much weaker, but you will still achieve outstanding results, even though it is slower and a bit more tedious.
Now you want to take 2 buckets, and wash the inside to make sure they have no dirt inside them. Place the grit guard in one of them and fill it with water - this bucket will be your 'Rinse' bucket. Then take the second bucket and fill it with water and pH-neutral car shampoo diluted as per the product's instructions depending on the size of the bucket you are using.
Ok! Now what you want to do is take your foam cannon and reapply the snow foam over the whole car again. Once done, take your microfiber washing mitt and start working the vehicle from top to bottom, moving the glove in straight lines to prevent any additional swirls from forming.
As you wash the car and collect dirt, all that dirt will act as grit and introduce scratches. Straight lines are less visible and are easier to work with.
Rinse often, and do not be afraid to replace the dirty water inside the rinse bucket ( even though the grit guard will prevent you from collecting any heavy dirt with your washing mitt ).
The bottom of a car is always the dirtiest part of the vehicle, so pay close attention to those parts. The best practice is to use the 3rd bucket for the bottom of the car and the wheels. But using this method, you can get away with using the 3rd bucket for the wheels only.
While the car is still soapy, you want to use the detailing brush to go in all the tight places on the vehicle, window edges, tight spots, and areas you wouldn't be able to fully clean with the wash mitt to agitate all of the dirt and let the soap pull it down from the car.
Once you are satisfied, use the pressure washer to rinse the whole car with water from top to bottom, pushing all of the soap and dirt that managed to survive from the vehicle.
Time to clean the wheels!
Wheels need special attention because of brake dust. All those tiny iron particles are embedded into the clear coat. They will rust over time, making them almost impossible to remove without using machine polishing. To avoid that, you can use an iron-removing chemical or a brake cleaner. Both do the same thing.
Spray it all over your wheels and all over the bottom of the car. You will see all the iron particles react with the chemical and become purple-colored. That means the chemical is working as intended. Let it work its magic as per the instruction on the product. After that, you can use your 3rd bucket to rinse off the mitt often. All those particles are tough and rigid and will definitely leave scratches as you drag them along.
That is why you do not want to rinse it off in the regular rinse bucket to avoid carrying them by accident during rinses onto the car's paintwork.
Use your washing mitt and add some shampoo to the sprayed areas. Wash them thoroughly. Use the detailing brush to make sure all 4 wheels have been cleaned properly.
After the brushing and cleaning, rinse the car with the pressure washer again.
Once cleaned, you want to dry the car off. You do not want the water drying on the paint's surface because that will leave water spots. Use the microfiber drying towel to collect all the water from the car, and use regular microfiber towels to get into the tight sports.
Bonus hint: It is a great idea to use an air compressor to push out water from all the tight spots where it might be hiding.
We've mentioned the Karcher K5 Pressure Washer in the previous step. Still, we just might again since it is really so important. Without a pressure washer, it is challenging to be efficient in this type of business. If you do not have one, you really are spending so much time and energy that you could be pointing elsewhere. Karcher has been providing that service for us over the years. We've used multiple models and have been delighted with each and every one of them.
A foam cannon addon that you attach to the pressure washer to shoot car shampoo in the form of thick foam onto the car is also a fantastic feature if you have one. The one we use is made for all Karcher pressure washers, but you can get away with most. Just make sure it fits. Coverage with this one is impressive. We can cover a mid-sized car in under half a minute. Touchless foam cleaning does wonder when working with luxury cars because it minimizes the risk of scratching the paint. Even if you perform a touch wash, it lubricates the whole vehicle so well, softening all the dirt and dragging most just by sheer gravity.
Also, be sure to use some good quality pH Neutral Car Shampoo to compliment the pressure washer and foam cannon nicely.
Make sure to have at least 3 buckets and a grit guard. The VIKING Bucket Grit Trap we are using fits all standard-sized 3-5 gallon buckets and performs amazingly. We have been pleased with it.
If you are thoroughly washing your car, you will need some sort of Iron Remover for the wheels and the lower sections of the vehicle. You can get one in most stores.
Equip yourself with a few Detailing Brushes of different sizes until you figure out which one works best for you. It is always good to have a set nearby. They allow you to clean the car much more effectively and clean hard-to-reach places that would usually be skipped using traditional methods.
Make sure you are stocked with microfiber towels. They are the foundation of the detailing business, and also have at least 2 microfiber washing mitts and a few microfiber drying towels. The drying towels are usually specially made thick microfiber towels that absorb water much better.
Claybar The Car
Tools used in this step:
spray bottle with water
washing and drying the car when finished
The car may look clean, but it can be even cleaner! If you close your eyes and go over the paint with your hand, you will feel that some paint parts feel rougher than others. That is because there are still particles embedded into the car's clear coat that is usually hard to get rid of just by washing.
Take the clay bar, flatten it using your fingers, lay it flat on your palm, and spray some water onto the area you will be working on and on the clay bar as well. You do not want to use circular motions but instead move the clay bar back ad forth in straight lines, as explained before when using the washing mitt. Do that until you can feel the area is smooth to the touch. If the area is tacky or grippy, it will still have some contaminants in it. You will even be able to hear if the area has impurities or not.
Make sure you lubricate the area you are working in often. If the side of the clay bar you are working with is too dirty, fold it in half, flatten it again, and continue working until the whole car has been clay bared.
Once you have clayed the whole car, you want to snow foam the entire vehicle again, give it the 2 bucket method treatment again to remove all the dirt that you might have loosened up by claying, and once you have soaped the whole car using the wash mitt rinse it with the pressure washer. And make sure it has been dried.
You might ask yourself then - why not do the clay baring before the washing to save time. Well, the reason is that the clay bar itself is a type of abrasive. It will also collect dirt like crazy. Working with it, along with all the heat from the friction created, you would scratch up and burn the clearcoat like crazy. Not to mention, you would fly through the clay bars as they quickly get too dirty to work with. Just stick to the proven methods to maximize your results and be economical with the tools used.
We get our clay bars in bulk. The amount we use is a bit more than usual since many vehicles go through our shop. If you plan on doing this as a hobby or just for personal use, then 2-3 clay bars should last you a lifetime. By the time you use up one, you will get a feel for how much one would linger for you and your habits, and then you can adjust accordingly.
A spray bottle you can get almost at any store. Get a specific spray bottle, or just reuse an empty one you have lying around the house.
Leveling Paint (If Touch-Up Was Done Earlier)
Tools used in this step:
eye protection glasses
If you have not done any paint correction on this vehicle prior to this step then you can skip this step completely.
Always use gloves when detailing cars. Always use breathing protection when working with fresh car paint. And Always use eye protection when sanding.
You will notice that there are not many tools needed beyond what you already have. So the addition is 3000 grit sandpaper. You will be using small straps from the sandpaper, so it will serve you for a long time. It is a good investment and a handy thing to have around any car enthusiast.
As for the lower grades of sandpaper, it would be ideal for you to have 1500, 2000, and 2500 as well. You might get away by not having 1500, but then it will be a longer sanding process, or you might skip 2000. Still, then you are risking having too deep scratches for the machine polisher to buff out.
You need to cut the sandpaper in straps the width of the area that you will be sanding. So not too small and not too big either. Wrap the strap around a sponge. A harder sponge or a softer sanding block is perfect because they are sturdy enough to exert equal pressure. They are also soft enough to adjust to the panel you are working on.
Use plenty of water with a spray bottle preferably or just splash some water on the area that is currently being sanded. When wet sanding, water helps lower the temperature that is generated due to friction to prevent you from burning through the clear coat. The water will also help catch all the dust particles.
Use the same technique when you were sanding away the jagged edges from the damage when preparing the damaged spots before painting and clear coating.
The result you want to achieve is that the new paint is leveled with the old paint. The haziness is common.
You do not want to sand too much, obviously, but you do not want to sand too little either because the spot will show then. To be perfect and blend with the paint as if there was no damage in the first place, you need to find that sweet middle.
Even if you mess it up, you can go back and do more sanding until it is perfect.
Once you are done with this, you will need to compound and polish the areas to eliminate that haziness and bring out that mirror shine. To degrease the places you've worked on, use some isopropyl alcohol and a microfiber towel, and let us jump to the next step!
Super hint: Using a micro machine polishing machine that can attach different sandpaper grades will get you superior results and much faster than working the area by hand. The reason behind that is that machine polishers are consistent and continuous, as opposed to you doing the work manually with different pressure, speeds, direction of movement, etc.
Nothing too crazy to cover here. Most tools that you will use up until this step have already been covered. The specific item would be very high-grade sandpaper. You might find those in a hardware store, but those usually have just the rough low-grade ones used in construction and woodworking. We want some high-grade sandpaper to almost polish the paintwork. You can commonly find them in stores that specialize in colors.
Other items used in this step you can get there as well.
If you have trouble finding suitable grades of sandpaper, you can get them here. Also, disposable gloves are critical to a perfect detailing job. Make sure you have them ready at all times.
Microfiber towels, no surprises here, are a must-have when working on cars in the Automotive Detailing Industry.
Compound And Polish
Tools used in this step:
This step is the most important one and requires probably the most time and energy to prepare a car for paint protection. This step will determine whether the vehicle will look like a show car or have swirls, micro scratches, and faded paint all over the place resulting in a worn and tired look.
Using a machine polisher or polishing by hand is an art on its own, so we won't go into great detail but will instead point out what the whole process looks like and utilize it to excellent results.
First, you want to tape off all the rubber and plastic trim edges on the car using masking tape. You do not want to polish those to not damage them or leave them with a dull, hazy finish.
Polishing a car basically removes the clear coat until it is leveled so light can reflect from it perfectly. If you are not sure whether there is not enough clear coat to work with, you can take a paint depth measurer.
Pick one panel of the car ( e.g., the hood of the car ). Divide it into workable sections. If you cannot do it mentally, use masking tape to separate the hood into 4 sections.
You want to keep your working areas manageable. First, you want to use the automotive compound as it is more aggressive. The compound will eliminate all the significant imperfections. Simultaneously, the much more delicate car polish will bring that mirror shine out of the paint.
Apply 4 - 5 pea-sized drops onto the buffing compounding pad. Dab the pad all over the area you will be working on to spread it around. Using the lowest setting, you want to go over the area you are working on with medium speed using a criss-cross pattern. This way, you want to ensure complete coverage of the working area and will avoid splatter by hitting it with too much spin from the get-go. When done, increase the speed of the machine polisher and start buffing the area as described above.
Use both hands to guide the machine where you want it to go. Do not press on it. Let the machine do all the work for you. The weight of your hands is enough. Also, you want the buffing pad flat on the paint, not under an awkward angle.
You want to avoid using the high setting unless experienced. Also, avoid staying in one place. You want the machine polisher to be moving the whole time to avoid building up too much heat due to friction. That would result in the buffer burning through the clear coat of the paint. And that would not be good!
Once most of the compound has been used up, stop the polisher, take a clean and dry microfiber towel and buff the area by hand. The paint should already look AMAZING. In case you still see swirls of some deeper scratches, you might repeat the process.
You can use either compound the whole car and then polish the whole vehicle. Or, you could compound, and polish right after, section by section. It doesn't really matter which way you do it. It is up to your personal preference. If new, try both to see which method suits you the best.
After compound comes the automotive polish! You apply it the same way as you would with the compound. You work with it the same way as well. After you buff off the polish with a fresh microfiber towel, the paint should have a mirror shine.
When using a machine polisher, it is always a good idea to know what you are working with to not burn through the whole clearcoat. The Allsun Paint Thickness Gauge serves us just fine. There are others out there on the market that you might grab instead if you wish.
Sunlight is the best tool to see all the imperfections the paint might have. Since sunlight is not available all the time, we highly suggest you get a Portable Working LED Light so you can get a closer look at the paint to know what it looks like. Do not be fooled by thinking you can rely on the lights from your garage or natural daylight that might be coming from your window. You will see all the imperfections you thought weren't there once you get a close look at the paint using the portable light. It also highly depends on the color of the vehicle you are currently working on. Some colors show imperfections more than others ( ( i.e., black shows imperfection more easily than white ).
The Dewalt Random Orbit Cordless Polisher is the weapon of choice for us to remove imperfections and bring out the shine in the paintwork of a car. The Cordless part saved us lots of headaches that we didn't even notice before we started using it! Having the polisher cordless makes the job so much simpler. Random Orbit or Dual Action Polishing Machines ( two names for the same thing ) are much better than the traditional rotating buffers. It is harder to burn through the clear coat using those. They also weigh less in most cases, and the only thing you need to do is to guide the machine where you want it to go. It will do everything else for you!
When detailing a car, always have Masking Tape around to protect all surfaces you do not want to affect when working with a machine. When working by hand, you have a bit more precision, perhaps, but then you are using a device to do that job for you then. We highly suggest masking off any rubber trims or sharp edges to avoid damaging the clear coat.
When detailing, you will first need a compounding paste, and to finish the job, you will need a polishing paste. We have been using this set from Chemical Guys for the last few months, and we are thrilled with the results. If the paint condition is terrible, we always go with Mother's Aluminum Polish instead of other compounds. This one has proved itself repeatedly at how good it erases any imperfections in the paint. It being a cream instead of a liquid also helps with reducing splatter. Truly a fantastic product!
Do not forget the buffing pads that you attach to the polishing machine. We use these 5.5-inch pads from Chemical Guys. Even though we mostly use the orange pad for compound and the green pad for polish as a finishing step, the other ones come in handy depending on the paint condition. It all depends on what you plan on doing with the car. You can get any pads really as long as they fit the machine polisher in size and they have been tested to good results. We feel that these foam pads with the hexagonal pattern have brought the best results than many others we have tried over the years.
Tools used in this step:
The car is looking fantastic right now, but it is currently covered with oils and grease from the buffing solutions. Before you can apply any type of paint protection, you need to remove those so the method used can bond with the paint properly. Ceramic Coating is no exception to this rule. For the Ceramic Coat to connect correctly with the car's paint, there can be no grease of any kind on the car's paint.
Put on your gloves if you haven't and get to work. Spray the alcohol onto the paint and buff it off with a microfiber towel straight away. Do this to the whole car.
Once you have completed this part, your can is ready for the Ceramic Coating of your choice!
Rubbing Alcohol, you can usually find in hardware stores. Yet, Isopropyl Alcohol you might not find in stores depending on where you live. Some countries might have them listed as restricted items. So if you have trouble finding them, try getting them online from Amazon or eBay, but again, you have to check first whether it is legal to get them that way.
Because of that, Rubbing Alcohol might be the safer way to go. They are unique because they degrease, clean, and evaporate quickly, leaving no water sports or smears.
Ceramic Coat The Car
Tools used in this step:
If you want to learn how to Ceramic Coat your car, you can click this link to learn all there is about it.
If you are not sure which Ceramic Coating to use, you can check our Top List of Ceramic Coatings that we have reviewed and go from there.
Wait 24 Hours At Least For The Ceramic Coating To Harden
Tools used in this step:
The curing time of Ceramic Coating is usually around 7 days. All of that varies depending on the climate of the area where you live and the product used. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions to achieve the best results.
We suggest you do not go for any heavy and fast driving during those 7 days and refrain from washing the car.
However, if you want to use the car, we suggest you wait at least 24 hours for the Ceramic Coating's surface to harden enough for it not to get damaged.
Congratulations! You are now done and have successfully finished Ceramic Coating your car!
- If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org -