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DIY Ceramic coating - don't waste money with a pro

eleven24

Member
Jun 20, 2021
292
1,246
Doylestown, PA
Living in the Northeast where we get harsh winter and hot summers, I've always had to be on top of our vehicles. Especially when from November through March there really isn't much opportunity to even wash the car because of the weather, even though road salt turns every vehicle gray. Currently, my wife and I have a BMW X5 and a Ford Raptor which I applied Adams Ceramic coating to both of them 18-24 months ago. Both are still repelling water/dirt like the day I coated them, which is surprising surprising because the Raptor is always outside and the BMW is garage kept.

Anyway, this is what my process is to ceramic coat a car. Hopefully, it's of value to someone who may have never ventured down the detailing road. This will be the process I use immediately after taking delivery of my Model Y.
(Note: none of the links are affiliate links and clicking any of them doesn't benefit me in any way. Just providing a means to quickly look at products I use)

Wash Decontamination. Spray car using foam cannon with strip wash. Use microfiber cleaning sponge & bucket to then wash car down. Rinse car
* This step will remove any polish/wax that the dealer may have put on the car. I use Adams Strip wash

Chemical Decontamination. Spray Iron remover on car. With gloves on, use small microfiber towel to spread evenly on paint. Let it sit a few minutes, then rinse.
* This step will remove any iron from the factory and/or transporting vehicle to you. Especially if it ships via train. Warning: The iron remover smells REALLY bad. I use CarPro IronX or Adams Iron Remover

Hand Decontamination. Using lubricant spray and either a clay bar or synthetic pad, spray lubricant on car and run clay/pad across paint until there are no particles being picked up. You'll know when you feel them. Just use a lot of lubricant and do small sections at a time & do every surface including paint, glass and plastics. Rinse car well when done. If you have some dried up lubricant on car, quick wash it before rinsing.
* I've used Griot's Clay bar & Speed Shine in the past, but recently switched to Nanoskin AutoScrub sponge and Nanoskin Glide

Dry car. Sounds simple, but make sure the car is dry before next step. In the past I've used a leaf blower, but if you do MAKE SURE if it's one that also vacuums up leaves that there are no pieces left in it or you'll be sandblasting the car.

Polish car. For this step, you really do need a polisher. A great entry level polisher is the Griots G9 polisher $129. Couple that with Adams Polish and an Adams White pad and you will really notice the difference in the paint. If your paint has a lot of swirls/scratches in it, start with Adams Compound first, and then move to polish. The great part about Adams polishing products is the color of the polish is the same color pad you need to use.

Apply sealant. There are many prosumer sealants out there, and almost all will offer a 4-7 year ceramic protection on your car. When the Tesla comes in, I'll use Adams Graphene coating $90. Note: You want the BOTTLE of coating, not a spray! Big difference!! One bottle can do two cars. I'll likely also do the wheels with this as well. Follow the directions on the bottle of whichever sealant you use and be sure to remove the product in the timeframe it indicates. Just do small areas of the car at a time, wait for it to dry/flash and then remove it.

All together, if you had absolutely none of the products mentioned above, it would cost about $300-400 which includes buying a polisher. Considering you could do two cars for a few hundred $$$, it's a big savings. Even if you never used the polisher again.

EDIT: Ironically, after browsing obsessed garage, I came across Matt's video where he's detailing a new Tesla. Almost identical to what I just posted above. CHeck it out
Matt at Obsessed Garage's process.
 

LionelHutz

Member
Jan 12, 2019
236
229
CA
Good write up, but should include one more step: It is essential that you use a surface cleaner between the polish and ceramic/sealant step. The polish leaves oils on the paint that will mess with the LSP's ability to bond and can dramatically reduce the life of the LSP. There are lots of pre-bottled solutions, but isopropyl alcohol diluted with distilled water works just fine as well.
 

ucsdsig

Member
Sep 10, 2016
296
238
Los Angeles
Great info. I was interested in doing a DIY ceramic coat install. But the PPF group buy I participated in included ceramic coating for only an additional $200.
 

eleven24

Member
Jun 20, 2021
292
1,246
Doylestown, PA
Good write up, but should include one more step: It is essential that you use a surface cleaner between the polish and ceramic/sealant step. The polish leaves oils on the paint that will mess with the LSP's ability to bond and can dramatically reduce the life of the LSP. There are lots of pre-bottled solutions, but isopropyl alcohol diluted with distilled water works just fine as well.
Ahh yes, I forgot to add that, but certainly do it. More so because the kit I used from Adams had Surface Prep included, which was part of the instructions. I was afraid I was going down the immense rabbit hole of detailing already though.
 

eleven24

Member
Jun 20, 2021
292
1,246
Doylestown, PA
Great info. I was interested in doing a DIY ceramic coat install. But the PPF group buy I participated in included ceramic coating for only an additional $200.
That's great, but make sure the ceramic coat they threw in wasn't the spray on variety. They're good, but are a ceramic (SiO2) infused spray and only last for 4-6 months in most cases.
 

thesmokingman

Member
Jun 21, 2021
282
180
Socal
I am doing ceramic at this moment at home. It's going pretty good all things considered. I broke it up into multiple days. One for wash and clay. Second for buffing and correction. This took a crap ton of time as I discovered a lot of flaws on a brand new car. I'm currently taking a break from ceramic, only roof and windshield left.

It's hot as hell outside, even in the garage. I'm really wishing that I didn't tell the wife I'd do it at this point. If I had to do it all over again I'd gladly pay the wrap shop to do it now knowing what a pain in the ass this is.
 

eleven24

Member
Jun 20, 2021
292
1,246
Doylestown, PA
Thank you for the helpful post. How long does it take to complete the entire process as described in your post?
Strip wash. 10 min
Iron remove spray. 20 min
Clay Bar. 30 min
Polish. 60 min
Prep & apply coating. 60-90 min.

Could be anywhere from 3-4 hours for the above. Of course, there's also the tires, inside of car & then cleaning everything up and putting it all away. Not to mention taking a break here or there. I'd count on 5-6 hours.
 
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LionelHutz

Member
Jan 12, 2019
236
229
CA
Strip wash. 10 min
Iron remove spray. 20 min
Clay Bar. 30 min
Polish. 60 min
Prep & apply coating. 60-90 min.

Could be anywhere from 3-4 hours for the above. Of course, there's also the tires, inside of car & then cleaning everything up and putting it all away. Not to mention taking a break here or there. I'd count on 5-6 hours.

Multiply every category other than the coating by 2-4x, in my experience.
 
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loanchau2k

Member
Nov 25, 2020
145
70
Fremont, CA
If your car is new, few weeks old, don't need to polish, imo. Also, when I tried decontamination on my Model Y, 3 weeks old from the factory, did not find anything to be removed, so you might not need this either. But definitely, you don't need to polish, don't waste your time on this with a new car. I used AvalonKing coating, it took me about 6hrs from start to finish (prep the car and coating the car). Also, I like to mention, any consumer coating will last you only 2 years max, whereas if you do professionally, it will last 5 years.
Yes, you save money. But if you can find a cheap professional, you might want to consider it. My co-worker had his car for $450, guaranty it will last 5 years, had I known someone did it for $450, I would not spend 6hrs to do it myself :)
The process is easy, it just takes a lot of time to do it. I would say anyone can do it if you have patience. Remember, the most important part it's buffing, you need to wait for 2 to 10 mins depending on your room tempature. If it's summer, usually 2 mins, then you need to wax if the towel. The best way it's to wait for ceramic the change it's color like the rainbow, then you need to wax/clean up with towel. I have weak eyes, so I did the timing.
Is worth it? Definitely big YES. Either you DYI or professionally is a must-have to me. Your car will shine, it will skid all water, also very easy to wash your car.
 
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loanchau2k

Member
Nov 25, 2020
145
70
Fremont, CA
Strip wash. 10 min
Iron remove spray. 20 min
Clay Bar. 30 min
Polish. 60 min
Prep & apply coating. 60-90 min.

Could be anywhere from 3-4 hours for the above. Of course, there's also the tires, inside of car & then cleaning everything up and putting it all away. Not to mention taking a break here or there. I'd count on 5-6 hours.
Ohh man, you are superman. I don't think regular people can do this fast. Regular people should add at least 2 more hours :). I skipped the polishing part, which takes a lot of time, it still took me a little bit over 6hrs. Including polishing, it's hard to do it with 4hrs, imo. Polishing takes a lot of time. I would say if you do polishing, it might take 8 hrs for regular people
 

pt19713

Member
Feb 5, 2020
987
1,269
Delaware
I am doing ceramic at this moment at home. It's going pretty good all things considered. I broke it up into multiple days. One for wash and clay. Second for buffing and correction. This took a crap ton of time as I discovered a lot of flaws on a brand new car. I'm currently taking a break from ceramic, only roof and windshield left.

It's hot as hell outside, even in the garage. I'm really wishing that I didn't tell the wife I'd do it at this point. If I had to do it all over again I'd gladly pay the wrap shop to do it now knowing what a pain in the ass this is.
This is usually how I do it. Wash and clay on a Friday night, Saturday morning do the paint correction and the rest of the process. I'm not 21 any longer and breaking it into smaller chunks of work is easier on the body.
 
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thesmokingman

Member
Jun 21, 2021
282
180
Socal
Strip wash. 10 min
Iron remove spray. 20 min
Clay Bar. 30 min
Polish. 60 min
Prep & apply coating. 60-90 min.

Could be anywhere from 3-4 hours for the above. Of course, there's also the tires, inside of car & then cleaning everything up and putting it all away. Not to mention taking a break here or there. I'd count on 5-6 hours.
I call BS or you live in an alternate reality from everyone else. In reality this is an 8 hour job on the low end and a couple days on the high end. All our cars have imperfections even brand new ones. I found a ton on my 170mi MYP. Hell the spoiler is already coming off. Cutting and polish could take 4-5 hours on its own depending on what you find and how much you're willing to fix in other words one's attention to detail. I'm not going to go thru this and half ass the cutting and polishing. And there were paint defects that I had to just bite my lip and move on because they were under the clear coat and there's nothing you can do about it anyways.

And then on top of all this you have to let the car cure for at least 24 hours. If one ventures into older car forums you'll read that some shops will cure a car from anywhere from 2 to 7 days in the extreme. If you go to ceramic pro's website which is the THE actual name brand product maker, all the others are cheap knock-offs, they state that it can take up to 3 weeks to cure depending on your envvironment. I got the wife to agree to not drive the car for a couple days. Hope there's no flash rains or I'm screwed. Reality is much different from best practices.

Also, once yall are done do not use car washes anymore, as they use aggressive ph soaps that will break down your coating.
 

thesmokingman

Member
Jun 21, 2021
282
180
Socal
This is usually how I do it. Wash and clay on a Friday night, Saturday morning do the paint correction and the rest of the process. I'm not 21 any longer and breaking it into smaller chunks of work is easier on the body.
Yeap. This job made me feel old. All the damn hand buffing during application is tiresome. In videos the guy buffs for like 2 seconds and the product is done. In reality that is just not true.

I also pressure washed the garage to remove all the dust and dirt that accumulated. And then had to wait for that to dry which is another day but I didn't count that towards the job length, just pre pre prep.
 
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AlexHung

Member
Mar 13, 2021
303
284
Santa Cruz, CA
So if I assume this will take about 12 hours to do. Factor in my (or yours) hourly rate, equipment cost (not everyone already has all the kits), opportunity cost, etc. the quotes from local detailing shops don't sound too bad now. 😂
 
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omarsultan

Active Member
Supporting Member
Jun 22, 2013
4,069
14,759
Northern California
Good framework for doing this--a couple of other suggestions:
  • As noted earlier, you need to strip the paint after polishing
  • On a new car, I would polish selectively, where you see issues, and not automatically polish the whole car
  • Emphasize applying the coating in small sections--no more than a panel--also use one of those paint correction lights to check for areas that you missed or high spots that you should knock down before its done flashing
 

Needsdecaf

Active Member
Dec 16, 2018
1,277
1,825
The Woodlands, TX
Strip wash. 10 min
Iron remove spray. 20 min
Clay Bar. 30 min
Polish. 60 min
Prep & apply coating. 60-90 min.

Could be anywhere from 3-4 hours for the above. Of course, there's also the tires, inside of car & then cleaning everything up and putting it all away. Not to mention taking a break here or there. I'd count on 5-6 hours.

If you're polishing in 60 minutes, that's where you're missing out on pro level. There's no way, NONE, that you're getting the same level of paint correction in 60 minutes as a pro would be. Can you get 70-80% of the way there? Maybe. And is that still pretty good? Yes. But after that, each 5% takes exponentially longer.

Coatings are marketed as expensive because detailers can. But that's not what really drives the price, or should be considered the hard part. The coating is easy! Well, pro-level coatings can be tricky, as they can flash quickly before you level them and will require polishing to remove. However if you're using a DIY level coating, they aren't all that hard to install. There is also a difference between a pro-level coating in terms of length of protection as well. Is it worth it? Maybe not. You're into diminishing returns at that point.

But yeah, you do tend to get what you pay for from a pro.
 

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