Is ceramic coating worth it? YES!
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We are now certified in both Ceramic Pro coating as well as Kavaca paint protection film (PPF, also known as “clear bra”).
You might recall in September 2021 we traveled from Killeen/Copperas Cove/Harker Heights, Texas area to San Diego, California to get certified at Ceramic Pro Carlsbad to install Kavaca PPF (paint protection film).
Our certification hanging up in our shop in Harker Heights
Common questions - Does Ceramic Pro coating protect against rock chips, scratches, etc?
One common question we receive at HHCC and frankly a common misconception that some ceramic coating companies advertise (that they shouldn’t), is that ceramic coatings prevent ALL scratches. Bottom line – they do not, but they do help protect, but in a specific way. Read on!
How does a Ceramic Pro ceramic coating protect against SOME scratches? We don’t believe in rehashing things that other people have stated eloquently already.
From detailedimage.com, “A ceramic coating will make the surface of the paint extremely slick and create high water contact angles. What this does is allow the dirt and debris on your paint to be less embedded in the paint, meaning it takes less effort to remove, thus less chance for that debris to damage the paint when removing. Also, less debris will stick to the paint overall, again reducing the chance for scratching.”
Something that you will hear us say when discussing ceramic coatings aftercare is that “every time you contact the paint you increase your chances of scratching it. So we want to avoid putting pressure on the paint (being during the drying or cleaning process, or anything else such as leaning against the paint.”
Having the coating is going to protect against scratches for these reasons. The coating itself is not going to actually provide much protection itself.
Coating layers are about one micron thick. For comparison, a clear coat is usually around 35-50 microns thick. The scratches we can remove are actually in the clearcoat, not the paint. Once a scratch penetrates the edge of the clear coat or into the paint or primer, we can no longer correct it without compromising the overall appearance. A micron, to provide perspective, is 3.937 × 10 ^-5 inches (0.00003937). So something that thin can’t really provide THAT much protection.
Some companies claim that they prevent rock chips and other outlandish claims. Here at Harker Heights Ceramic Coatings and Ceramic Pro, we prefer to under promise and over deliver.
Similarly, ceramic coatings cannot fully protect against bird droppings, sap, hard water spots, etc – especially for the first few weeks. Think of ceramic coating as making these things easy to clean and a slight protection, not something that prevents these issues from happening in the first place. You still need to maintain your Ceramic Pro coating – you can’t just put it on and forget about washing your vehicle.
For a lot of the benefits of our coating, see our benefits of ceramic coating blog post.
So, wait? What is paint protection film, and how does it compare to ceramic coatings?
Maybe you have never heard of PPF or paint protection film. But have you ever heard of a clear bra? Have you ever seen clear “tape” on your factory car on the rocker panels?
Clear bra has origins with the military dating back to the Vietnam War. Clear bra was used to protect sensitive military transports from debris and shrapnel. The military asked 3M to develop this material. Some people might even call clear bra helicopter tape. We have personally used this years ago on painted race car roll cages in areas where they may contact the top of the car or other spots.
While 3M developed the initial film, many companies now make various versions of the same product. We are certified installers of Kavaca by Ceramic Pro.
For a while, the automotive industry used those awful-looking leather bras for the front end of the vehicle, which trapped dirt underneath and abraded the paint. Somehow, these things are still available to this day.
So what are some of the benefits of PPF over ceramic coating?
This film can get scratched or hit with rocks (not all chips will be stopped, but many will), and miraculously will heal itself without even applying heat to it, like some older clear bra films. Self-healing does not the same hydrophobic properties that ceramic coating has.
This has less serious self-healing properties (but it still has some, and might be needed to be exposed to some sort of heat, be it hot water or sunlight). However, it has a permanent ceramic coating-like set of properties.
Both varieties come in a matte finish that can be used to make your vehicle have a matte instead of glossy look. Otherwise, expect it to be super glossy.
The PPF can also cover up scratches (see this video we posted) and generally does not require paint correction before applying (although it does require a great deal of preparation). Our PPF comes with an astonishing 12 year lifetime. Most people do not keep their vehicles longer than 3-5 years. Like our Ceramic Pro coatings, it will be registered with you vehicle identification number (VIN) on CarFax, which increases your vehicle resale value when a potential buyer sees that it was installed by a certified Kavaca installer.
What are some drawbacks of Paint Protection Film?
As we mentioned above, we prefer to under promise and over deliver, and provide all options (pro or con) for our clients. What are some drawbacks? First off, know that we 100% recommend PPF and have it on our own vehicles.
Just like with ceramic coatings, these are hand-installed, and subject to human error. Despite having all positive reviews and being very attentive to detail, it’s almost impossible to get a truly perfect installation of PPF. A good friend and mentor has said, “it’s paint protection film, not paint perfection film.” What he means by this is the industry’s increasing demands that clear bra/PPF be almost unnoticeable (seamless) and other factors.
Even with air filtration systems, super clean shops (if you have ever seen our shop in Harker Heights, you know what we mean by clean!), and great preparation (cleaning badges, crevices, seams) it’s possible to get the occasional small particle of dirt or air. Even with the best preparation. Most times these will be unnoticeable and we will not let a job leave with major issues.
Another drawback is simply that all surfaces cannot be fully wrapped seamlessly. Sometimes there will have to be a seam. On darker cars this is less noticeable but on lighter colored cars this can accumulate a little bit of dirt, making the seam more visible. It can be cleaned and maintained to minimize this effect, but it’s something to be aware of. We try to minimize all seams, but some areas will simply have to have them.
Cost. Paint protection film and tools are not cheap. Besides being expensive in itself, the plotter we use to print patterns is $7000 and the software used has a hefty monthly fee. So the pricing is not for everyone. There is also other costs associated – for example, on a Honda Accord, the word Accord are individual letters that need to be removed to install the film well and re-installed, but they can’t be accurately replaced. So an entire new kit must be ordered from the dealer if you wish to keep your emblems in some cases.
Why pick one over the other? Why not both?
Our most common option clients choose is partial PPF packages (the most common being full front end – hood, bumper, mirrors, front fenders) with ceramic on the whole vehicle.
If money is no object either the full car PPF with ceramic is the best option, whereas the one listed above is second best.
The benefit of PPF is it covers scratches, where paint correction is not “paint perfection” and cannot remove all scratches. And if you recall us talking about our mantra of touching the paint as little as possible the paint protection film helps that.
And of course Ceramic Pro Kavaca has the ceramic-infused PPF option so you can somewhat get the best of both worlds right out of the gate.
You can view all of our available packages here!