Nanoceramics: Think of It as Five-Year Car Wax

Paid article presented by Robertson Racing.

 

You know that wax that you have been rubbing all over your car for years? It’s soft, squishy and doesn’t stick around for long. 

But a modern alternative exists: nanoceramics. If applied correctly, we’re talking about years of protection. 

Paint Is More Than Just Paint

But first, let’s take a closer look at that finish.

The average car’s finish covers about 150 square feet. Now imagine that space constantly bombarded with sand, tar, rocks, animal carcasses and discarded burrito wrappers while also subject to sun, rain, snow and whatever else.

That’s right, the largest and most visible part of your car is also its most vulnerable. The painted surface of your car–the “skin,” if you will–spends its entire life being blasted by all sorts of elements.

Literally zero percent of that is good for your car’s finish.

Your car’s paint does more than make it look pretty, as it’s a system of coatings that cover the vehicle’s bare metal and plastic surfaces.

Keeping That Paint Happy and Healthy

Ideally, that finish is smooth and shiny. At a microscopic level, however, it’s full of crags, pores and various surfaces that reflect light in every which direction.

If those imperfections can be removed, the reflection becomes more focused. And that focused light creates more shine and gloss.

This smoothness can be accomplished in a couple ways. First, we can alter the paint and clearcoat itself.

Wet-sanding and polishing can smooth out those microscopic imperfections, but by necessity these processes also remove material from the surface.

Also, the same relative softness that allows the surface to be polished in the first place means it’s vulnerable to scratches from environmental hazards.

Typically, we’ll use some sort of wax–either natural or synthetic–to preserve that shine and provide some degree of environmental protection.

While the term wax comprises a wide range of actual products, car “wax” is typically a smooth liquid or paste that fills those tiny imperfections found in the painted surface. End result: additional shine and some extra UV protection while also helping the surface shed water and the small abrasives carried with it.

But notice we didn’t say that wax provides any physical protection.

That’s because wax is also quite soft. The same property that makes it shiny and easy to apply also makes it quite ineffective at providing any sort of actual physical protection for the paint.

The other catch with most traditional waxes and coatings is that much of the chemical compound that comes out of the bottle and goes on the finish is nonpermanent or otherwise volatile.

Alcohols and petroleum distillates are frequently used as application carriers, designed to allow smooth transfer of the “wax” to the surface before flashing off and leaving the coating behind. And many of the waxes themselves use silicone as a binder to keep them chemically and molecularly stable.

Now, neither of these factors is necessarily good or bad, but they do introduce complications that must be taken into account when understanding a car’s long-term care needs.

For example, the silicone that’s frequently used as a binder for the shine agents is extremely sensitive to UV exposure and extreme changes in pH. More EV exposure plus water and moisture that’s highly alkaline can accelerate the breakdown of that silicone binder.

In extreme conditions, this process can take place over just a few weeks. Even in the best conditions, silicone-based waxes rarely persist beyond a few months.

If Only a Super Wax Existed

Wish that a wax protected for more than a few months? That’s where ceramics come in. Nanoceramics, to be precise.

Now, these days, “nano” technology is quite the buzzword, whether we’re talking about Tony Stark’s latest suit of armor or something used to keep our car’s paint protected.

And when talking about nanoceramics, we’re specifically referring to the extremely tiny, hard particles–usually suspended in a carrier fluid for application purposes–that create a protective layer for the car’s paint.

The best way to think of ceramic coatings is to envision them as a “super wax.” Like wax, the ceramic material is sometimes applied to the surface in a carrier fluid that flashes off, leaving behind tiny particles that fill the microscopic imperfections in the paint.

But unlike wax, which is soft and therefore very temporary and provides no physical protection, nanoceramic coatings are extremely hard–technically harder than glass. As a result, they provide a great deal more physical protection and durability than conventional waxes.

The result is a crystal-clear protective layer that remains flexible, chemical-resistant, UV-resistant and scratch-resistant. This finish can even be polished without becoming cloudy, a common issue among silicone-based ceramics.

Now, don’t go thinking that you’ve added armor plating to your car. This layer of ceramic coating is microscopically thin. It’s not going to stop a bullet, but it is going to provide far more abrasion resistance than conventional coatings. It’s also going to stick around for a long, long time–years if properly applied and maintained.

It’s All About the Prep Work

But there are some catches. While nanoceramic coatings provide exceptional hardness, UV resistance and hydrophobicity–that’s the ability to shed water–its microscopic particle size won’t hide scratches or blemishes in existing paintwork. While these finishes provide some additional shine, the tiny particle size means that most of the final gloss will be provided by the existing paint.

And that should answer your next question about using nanoceramics to protect your finish: The most important factor in getting a good finish will be the paint itself.

You are essentially sealing whatever paint is on the car, so cleaning away any contaminants and polishing the finish to your satisfaction is the most important part of the process.

Ultimately, that is where the cost of using ceramic coatings will lie: paint prep and whatever your detailer charges for that service. While the fluid itself is not exactly inexpensive, when amortized over the life of the coating, the physical cost is very reasonable.

Prepping the paint and applying the actual ceramic product to an average new car with good paint will take a competent detailer several hours: figure four to eight hours for a premium car with good factory paint to 40 or more hours for an older car or something with a less than stellar finish.

A typical pre-ceramic process will involve a complete paint decontamination, which includes a cleaning with a good iron remover. (You’d be shocked to find out just how much metallic dust is on your car’s finish; should that metallic dust get locked in with a ceramic coating, it can wreak havoc on the underlying paint.)

After the iron removal, the finish is washed. Then it’s cleaned of any tar or adhesives and cleaned with a clay bar.

From there, you can work on the paint at a finer level, removing defects and polishing until you’re ready to apply the ceramic coating.

Price for this? Much of that answer is going to really depend on the detailer’s labor rate–figure at least two days of prep work plus the application of the product–plus the condition of the car itself.

But now amortize that cost over the years that the nanoceramic finish will deliver–like, up to five years, possibly.

Five years? Maybe. Read on.

A Super, Super Wax

Not all nanoceramic coatings are created equal. Some are more super than others.

While most use carrier agents that flash off in order to leave behind that ceramic coating, others apply the ceramic matrix directly to the finish without need for a carrier agent.

One of the ones that’s free of a carrier agent comes from Robertson Racing. It’s called NCP Hard 9H and is produced by Nano Ceramic Protect.

The big advantage here: Increased dimensional stability due to the lack of evaporation or flashing compounds.

During normal use, Robertson Racing says that NCP Hard 9H will protect for up to five years–assuming normal regular care, of course.

Any negatives? This technology requires a little more knowledge and skill from the professional applying it, so it’s not a DIY install. But, remember, what goes on the finish, stays on the finish.

About That Nano Ceramic Care

So how do you make the most of your coating and extend its life as long as possible?

Really, the best care for your new coating is to keep it clean, and the good news is these finishes actually help in that regard. The hardness and water-repellent tendencies of the nanoceramic surface make car washes easier, and easier car washes mean less scrubbing, which means longer-lasting nanoceramic protection, which means easier car washes–you see where we’re going with this.

Ultimately, though, road grime is an abrasive, and even the hardest finishes can eventually be affected by it. The same can be said for harsh car wash brushes or road hazards.

A wash with a quality car shampoo and regular use of a good quick-detailing spray can do wonders to make the ceramic coating last and keep it looking its best.

Makers of nanoceramic coatings usually offer their own maintenance products as well. For the NCP Hard 9H, for example, Robertson Racing offers NCP Soft. It uses similar ceramic materials technology to the NCP Hard application, but it comes in a more user-friendly compound that does not need to be professionally installed. It’s also billed as the ultimate maintenance for the NCP Hard surface coating as it provides even more shine, protection and hydrophobicity.

Wax on, Wax Off

For years, we have waxed our cars. It’s been a regular ritual, with the emphasis on ritual. But now a higher-tech alternative exists–one that can deliver years of protection.

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