Ceramic Coating Primer - RV Enthusiast Magazine

Ceramic Coating Primer

by | Mar 15, 2023 | Pro Tip, RVEXPERT

The application of a ceramic coating is very different than wax. First you must wear gloves, then apply a few drops of the coating on a special applicator. The applicator pad is wiped back and forth, then up and down over a 2- or 3-foot square and allowed to flash. A clean microfiber towel is then used to level the product on the surface.
Applied correctly, a ceramic coating can keep your RV’s finish looking like new for years
When looking on the shelf at a retail shop, you’ll probably see many detailing products using the word “ceramic” on everything from car wash soap to spray detailers. When a professional detailer uses the term “ceramic coating” or “ceramic paint coating,” that is not the same thing as a soap or spray-on detailing product with the word ceramic on the label. A true ceramic paint coating is a rather lengthy (and very expensive) process that requires several preparation steps to the entire vehicle to ensure it is ready for coating.

The ceramic coating is a chemical that is applied to the paint (and other surfaces) that helps protect it from damage and keep it looking great while repelling dirt and water for far longer than traditional automotive waxes and sealants. A small bottle of ceramic detailer large enough to coat one car will cost between $40-$100, not counting all the preparation chemicals and toppers that go on afterwards. The total product cost of protecting a car with a professional-grade coating can easily cost $200-$300 — and a large RV will be several times that. Remember, that is product cost only; you still need to pay for the labor if you don’t attempt it yourself.

Is it worth it? In my experience, yes. I believe that paint coatings are perhaps the most important product development in the industry in more than 20 years. I use ceramic paint coatings on every vehicle in my garage, including the motorhome, and typically they last a minimum of two years. However, I have seen them last up to five years, depending on exposure level and maintenance.

The process starts with a decontamination wash, the iron and/or mineral deposit removal, and the prepping of the entire painted surface with a clay bar. The entire painted surface must then be paint-corrected (polished) to remove scratches, swirls and micro marring. This can take one, two or sometimes even three entire polishing steps with a powered buffer to leave the paint glossy and free of surface defects. Finally, the last step before application of the paint coating is an IPA (isopropyl alcohol) wipe-down to remove any traces or oil or fillers left from the previous work. Only then is the paint clean and smooth and ready to accept the ceramic coating.

Depending on the brand and type of paint coating used, it may require as little as one layer to as many as three layers of ceramic coating to achieve the desired results. Each layer is hand-applied with special application tools and pads and then allowed to slightly “flash” before wiping down (leveling) with a clean microfiber towel. Once a microfiber towel has been used to wipe off a ceramic coating it should never touch paint again as the coating residue dries in the fibers and can lead to scratches. (This entire process is, as you might have surmised, a very strict regimen and not usually attempted by do-it-yourselfers at home without considerable experience.)

Leveling the ceramic coating after it cures is tricky and if not done correctly can lead to the forming of streaks or “high spots.” After the coating has cured, the only way to remove a high spot is to mechanically polish the paint again with a polishing media — the coating is that hard and durable. Most coating companies also suggest the use of a topping spray after the coating is applied to protect it during the curing process. Typically, the paint needs to cure from 1-7 days where it is not exposed to water or wash soaps, etc., after the coating is applied. In some cases, IR (infrared) lights are used to accelerate the curing process.

With all the added cost and complexity of the application, you may be wondering why to even bother with a ceramic coating. The benefits are many, but most noticeable as an owner is the ease of keeping a coated RV clean and looking great. Because of the incredible hydrophobicity — the finish’s little or no affinity for water — after coating, the paint is presenting a surface resistant to water and dirt. The water stands up on the surface of a coated surface in a way that has to be seen to be appreciated. This surface makes the paint much easier to wash, dry and to clean, as well.

A coated RV also looks much better because the gloss is so deep. It is also more resistant to UV damage and oxidation than the protection afforded by traditional wax or sealants.

One thing that ceramic coatings can’t prevent, however, is water spotting. If hard water gets on the surface and allowed to dry, the minerals in that water will be left on the surface. However, it will make removing those deposits a lot easier. Understand, too, that although a coated RV is resistant to many things, it is not a hard, impervious shell that prevents scratches or nicks from rocks and road debris. It still needs to be washed properly without the use of harsh scrub brushes on the surface. After a paint coating is applied, it is important to follow the suggestions of the coating manufacturer for washing and maintenance to ensure the coating lasts as long as possible. If you use the wrong products it can lead to “clogging” the coating and reducing the benefits.

As noted earlier, the process of coating a large motorhome is expensive even if you do it yourself. Expect to spend several thousand dollars to have it done by a professional (and manufacturer accredited) installer. There are many brands of coatings, and each has its own network of installers across the country. Popular brands include Optimum (optimumcarcare.com), CarPro (carpro-us.com), Gyeon (gyeonusa.com), GTechniq (gtechniq.com), Adams Polishes (adamspolishes.com) and our current favorite, Artdeshine (artdeshine.com). Know, too, that in addition to having a network of qualified installers, each of these companies also usually offers a complete lineup of products for those willing to take on the task themselves.

parts from the Artdeshine Nano Graphene and CarPro ceramic coating systems sit on a counter
Shown here are two popular ceramic coating systems. The Artdeshine Nano Graphene system on the left is a professional-grade product only available through licensed detailers. The CarPro system on the right is a good product that is available to consumers but doesn’t include a warranty.
parts from Griot’s Garage G8 & G9 Orbital 2-Step Ceramic Kit on display
Griot’s Garage just introduced its “G8 & G9 Orbital 2-Step Ceramic Kit” that includes its Correcting Cream and Ceramic 3-in-1 Wax, along with its G9 random orbital polisher and a smaller G8 for tighter, hard-to-reach places; a 25-foot quick-connect power cord allows for fast switching between tools.
two ceramic polishing products from Adams Polishes alongside cloth wipes
Adams Polishes markets an array of ceramic products for the do-it-yourselfer, including some spray-on kits.
On our motorhome we had the Artdeshine Nano Graphene Coating applied — which is a true professional-grade coating with a multi-year warranty when applied by certified installers — and topped with the Artdeshine Graphene Detailer Sealant. This is a true one-coat ceramic coating, and after application the surface was incredibly slick and hydrophobic. The water beading is insane compared to a regular wax job — and it lasts for years.
close view of the beaded water on the surface of an RV with a ceramic coated paint job
The water beading of a ceramic coated paint job is just amazing. Plus, it lasts for years.

In addition to paint coatings, there are specific ceramic coatings for other parts of a vehicle such as glass, plastic trim, rubber, leather and more. In general, the glass and trim products tend to be the most beneficial to RV owners. We have used many of them and found they do last significantly longer than their traditional counterparts.

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