Initial Impressions: Gtechniq Crystal Serum Light (CSL)by Zach McGovern
I always enjoy using and testing new paint coatings, and the latest and greatest from Gtechniq certainly caught my attention.
Crystal Serum Light (CSL) is the newest paint coating from Gtechniq that is available to all consumers, not just professional installers. Crystal Serum Light shares many of the same features that are packed into the professional grade Crystal Serum, but CSL was formulated to be easier to use at the cost of sacrificing some durability. Gtechniq estimates an impressive 3-5 year lifespan for Crystal Serum Light, which is more than several other industry leading coatings. This product is also said to greatly exceed the performance of the Gtechniq C1 Crystal Lacquer coating that has been on the market for quite some time.
Application was very straight forward. Just add a small amount of product onto the supplied applicator pad and spread a thin, even layer onto your working area. I found it best to split panels into sections, working in relatively small areas (i.e. half of a door or a quarter of a hood). Once you have spread the product onto a section, immediately wipe it away using light pressure and a clean microfiber towel. Reapply product to your applicator as needed, and repeat this process of spreading the coating, then removing the residue until the entire car has been covered. Remember to flip to a clean portion of your towel regularly, and change towels when needed. Inspect your results as you work to ensure you are completely removing the coating residue as it will be very difficult to remove if left to cure. I find it best to inspect for coating residue with bright, but diffuse ambient light. Spot lights/ swirl inspection lights are not the proper tool in this case. If you have a shady area, or are working on a cloudy day, move the vehicle outside to inspect it for any high spots that need to be taken care of right away. More detailed instructions are available here.
Before application, remember to thoroughly clean and decontaminate the paint. If there are defects in the paint, be sure to do a proper paint correction to produce a swirl free finish. Then remove any residual oils with an IPA mixture or Gtechniq Panel Wipe. Always work on a cool, clean, dry vehicle and never in direct sunlight when using the coating.
The end result was an incredibly glossy vehicle. CSL noticeably darkened the paint on this Range Rover, and I was extremely impressed with how slick the vehicle was after applying the coating. Typically, silica based coatings are not known for being slick to the touch, but this is definitely the slickest feeling coating that I have ever used. In fact, when we were taking the photo that was used in the beginning of this article, the bottle wanted to slide right off the hood even though the panel is almost flat.
My initial impressions of any coating are always based on of a few key points: Price, Ease of use, and Gloss. This coating is competitively priced relative to other consumer coatings, so that is great to see. I was very pleased with the ease of application, and the final appearance of this coating was excellent. Durability is obviously not something I can comment on at this point, but I hope to apply this product to various test panels/vehicles for long term testing so I can evaluate the durability and compare it to other products on the market. If the coating can live up to the 3+ year durability claims, then this is one great product!
I have used it once and agree with it being the slickest thing in market, unlike any other coating.
I worked in extreme conditions (85-90F temp and 60% humidity ) and in car porch (roof and two sides covered, two open) and found it did spread very far for me and I had to do small sections and finished an Audi A4 barely in 30ml. How much quantity did it take for you to do the RR?
I meant to say it *didnt* spread very far for me.
We used maybe 10-15 mL to do the RR working indoors at 70F. I have found that the coating spreads very easily. A 50 mL bottle will do 4-6 cars for us depending on the size of the vehicle. I use the CarPro applicators now, and find they spread the product much better… in fact I use this applicator with every coating for that reason. I simply use the supplied pipette to apply a line of product to the applicator and then spread that over a 2×2 section or so, wipe off the residue, then proceed to the next area.
I do you maintain the car after using it?
Will a car wash take the shine off?
Need answers before taking the plunge on my BMW
Hi Jake – Have you used any nano coatings before? The gloss, water/dirt resistance, and other beneficial properties last for a very long time with proper care. They will not simply go away from washing. I have Crystal Serum Light on the hood of my personal car and various panels on my wife’s car for testing, and so far the coating is performing extremely well after many months.
If you are new to nano coatings, check out this article: https://www.detailedimage.com/Ask-a-Pro/paint-coatings-why-you-should-give-them-a-shot/
Having coated all 3 of our mostly daily driven cars last Spring and a few others (using a variety of coatings) since then my bottom line is this:
Use coatings on everything you can (paint, tires, wheels, trim, glass) if you’re looking for consistent good looks and relatively low maintenance.
Since jumping into coatings, the maintenance going forward is monumentally easier, quicker, uses less products and leaves less of a mess to clean up (towels, wash mitts and so forth) and most importantly leaves the cars looking *so* much better. Previously getting caught in the rain meant a washing but now rain just sheets off the car when driving, usually leaving things looking exceptionally clean, save for the back end/bumper which is then easily cleaned. No longer any need for wheel cleaning chems, tire dressings, trim dressings or quick detailers. There are coating friendly booster products to give a little refresh every month or two but aside from that, a quality auto wash is the main thing used.
The only downside is if you enjoy washing/waxing your vehicles, as many people do. Once you coat things pretty much the occasional quick wash is all that’s needed.
My take anyway and some of the other cars i’ve done receive very little attention and still look good.
It doesn’t provide good sheeting and beading properties if we believe detailers who have used it. So need top up with something else.
Hi Saul – this is completely false. I have had CSL on the hood of my car for 3 months and the roof of my wife’s car for over 5 months. My car is maintained very well, but my wife’s has only been washed twice in the 5 months since applying CSL onto the hood. I actually just washed it 2 days ago… CSL still beaded water very, very well despite being neglected since being applied to her roof. On my car, when driving through the rain, my hood repels water like crazy. This coating is in fact very hydrophobic.
Hi Saul – For reference, here are a couple of photos from my personal vehicle that has Crystal Serum Light applied to it for many months. It has not been topped with EXO or anything else. In my opinion, it is quite hydrophobic.
Hope that helps.
If it doesn’t provide good sheeting properties, in my opinion you are doing something wrong.
As new user I tried this on my company car to judge how well it worked – 8 months down the line the water is still scared off it! I didn’t really believe it would work that well – but now doing all my cars with it.
But as always – careful preparation makes all the difference.
Even gtechniq recomends top up with exo
Hi Saul – EXO may be applied, if you desire, however it is certainly not a requirement or necessary.
As I mentioned, Crystal Serum Light is very hydrophobic on its own. EXO may be more hydrophobic, but CSL is certainly no slouch. As far as the GTechniq recommendation, according to the USA Rep, he advised me to not top CSL with EXO. His reasoning is that CSL is a considerably slicker and harder surface, once cured, so topping with EXO leaves a surface with less mar resistance and with less slickness. Water beading really has no major benefit, so having a slightly more “beady” product isn’t nearly as valuable to me as a product that has a higher surface hardness. So again, EXO is only optional. CSL provides outstanding performance all by itself and is produced as a stand alone protection without the need to top it.
I encourage you to try this product for yourself and form your own opinions. I’m sure you will be impressed.
Thanks Zach for sharing your experience with the forum. Always look forward to learning from you and the other pros who post here at DI. My question is how to apply these coating on a white car? I used CQUK on a black car and easy to see any spots missed. But for a white car I’m still using wax as no worries if I missed a spot. Thanks
Hi – you apply the product the same way to any vehicle. It is certainly more difficult to see if you are applying evenly or if you have high spots on light colored cars, but you just need to pay attention to what you’re doing and there are no issues. Apply with cross hatch pattern to ensure even coverage (do 2 coats if you’re overly concerned about missing a spot), and when removing residue, always wipe further than you applied so you are certain you have wiped away all residue.
Hi Zach, if i have newly installed xpel on the car and looking to apply CSL, would going over xpel with panel wipe or IPA be ok?
Hi – I would consult with your xpel installer, or with xpel directly. I have never heard of any rules which state you must wait a certain period before coating over PPF, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check with an expert just to be safe. I assume you’re fine to go ahead and wipe with IPA and coat it.
Great article as always Zach. I’m always impressed with how well you write these articles. They are very easy to understand and make it simple to follow the steps.
I send your articles in a link to my customers all the time when they are considering a coating vs traditional protection. So, the time you spend putting these together, greatly helps me and my business.
I just wanted to give you a personal thank you for all that you do. You are a true professional.
Keep up the great work.
Hi Zach – thanks for the excellent feedback. Happy you find the articles to be a useful resource!
Question—– How hard is this product to remove when ready to do a paint correction lets say a year later after swirls or marring gets inputted into the paint?
Hi Andrew – the paint correction process post-coating is no different. Think of a nano coating as an additional, very thin clear coat. Swirls, scratches, marring, and other superficial defects will begin at the coating layer, and if they are deeper than the thickness of the coating, they will penetrate into the clear coat and beyond. In order to remove the defects from the coating & paint, proceed with the same process you would on an uncoated vehicle.
Hi Zach; I’m 74 years old and just coated a ’16 Subaru Crostek, It was quite easy but you can tell where you have missed by running your hand over the finish. The missed spots are not slippery.
Great to hear, Mel! Yes, it is important to be very mindful of how you are applying the coating to be sure you do not miss places, but CSL makes it easy to find spots that have been missed for the exact reason you mentioned… they are not slick! It’s awesome how slick CSL is, and compared to an uncoated panel there is a major difference!
This looks intriguing to me… and I am thinking about getting CSL for my own vehicles. My daily driver and my wife’s Edge are already done with a sealant (Griot’s) and topped with Collinite 845, as is my Mustang.
The Mustang is my “baby”, and I enter her in car shows and have won numerous trophies with it. She is swirl free and gets washed with ONR.
I want to do the Mustang (Tungsten Gray) with CSL, but the car has multiple layers of Collinite 845 on her. What would you suggest to totally strip the old protectant layers off of her?
Hi Ron – The only way I feel comfortable knowing that wax or sealant has been completely removed from a vehicle is to do a light polish.
I would begin by doing a thorough wash with a heavy concentration of the car shampoo of your choice (one without added protection), then make sure the surface is free of any bonded contaminants by using appropriate chemicals and clay bar as needed, then doing a light machine polish with something like M205 on a finishing pad. Afterwards, wipe thoroughly with GTechniq Panel Wipe or a diluted isopropyl alcohol solution to ensure any oils/polish residue has been removed. Then apply your coating. Let me know if you have any other questions!
Hi I have CQUK on my cars can I use it if I IPA or use something to strip it off or? Very interested in a product easy to use on my fleet?
I have CQUK on my cars, can I use this after stripping with ?? IPA or how should I do it. Want to use something easy to apply on my fleet?
Hi Larry – No, IPA will not strip a coating. In fact, it will not have any effect on it at all. In order to remove the CQuartz UK coating, you should thoroughly clean and decontaminate your vehicle. Next, you will need to machine polish the vehicle with at least a polishing pad and fine polish to help remove or at least degrade the coating. An abrasive (compound and/or polish) is necessary to remove these coatings, and will also level any surface defects that may have been introduced to the surface since applying CQUK.
So to summarize:
– Machine Polish
– Clean surface with IPA or Panel Wipe
– Install GTechniq Crystal Serum Light
Thank you Zach I love the CQUK and have put two coats on but I have some scratches now (a year+) and wondered if this would be better and easier? I apply carnuba over the CQUK and the car is beautiful but am so particular, I hate scratches.
Might this be a good place to utilize the new Carpro Essence Plus?
I was going to suggest the new CarPro Essence +. This is a brand new product, just announced at SEMA 2016, so I have not used it yet. This is a non abrasive product and the purpose of it is to repair and rejuvenate coatings by filling in light swirls and scratches and creating a very hydrophobic surface. Simply apply Essence Plus with a CarPro Gloss Pad.
If you wish to recoat it, then you could proceed with the cleaning, decon, polishing, and recoating process that I mentioned earlier.
WOW thanks much will give it a look and most likely a try. Thanks you for the quick reply you are great.
How do you maintain the applicator after you have used the serum?
Throw it away and use a new one the next time would be my recommendation. No coating applicator should ever be reused in my opinion.
In fact, I prefer to use the CarPro applicator block and suede for this very reason. The block is reusable, and it is cheap and easy to use a new 4×4″ suede each time.
Is the csl a ceramic coating? I bought it and tired to put on the coating a paper towel for a test. After it dry for 12hrs, the towel didnt turn hard at all. I did the same test with carpro cquk before, the towel became very hard after 2hours. Are they actually total different types of coating?
Hi Adrian – yes, it is a Silica (SiO2) based coating. You will find that the hardening of the applicator is definitely not something that happens with all coatings. Products like CQuartz, CQuartz UK, all 22ple Products, and GTechniq products are all silica based… yet most of them will have little effect on the applicator. This is due to the variances found in the unique and complex chemical mixtures found in each of the coatings. They all contain silica, but also contain many other ingredients as well.
My advice is do not pay much attention to the applicator hardening or not hardening… it is not an indication of how the product is going to perform on the vehicle.
Another example of this is Optimum Gloss Coat, which is Silicon Carbide based (SiC). Pure silicon carbide is one of the hardest substances on earth, yet the applicator does not harden after applying Gloss Coat.
Thank you so much for your detail explanation. I feel more clear now 🙂
So when folks speak of Quartz coatings (CQuartz), [Nano-]Ceramic coatings (McKees, Wolfgang Uber), Glass coatings (Kamikaze, Modesta), etc. they’re all pretty much variations/formulations of the same ‘theme’, that being SiO2 based products?
Have used Kamikaze Miyabi Coat & ISM Coat, McKees Paint Coating and Wolfgang Uber Ceramic coatings and these are all based in the SiO2 ‘family’ of coatings, correct? Are there any other long-term coatings outside of that SiO2 family?
If the CSL performs as you suspect, I’m intrigued by the relatively low cost (about 4 vehicles for 50ml/$109) for such a durable item. Always enjoy polishing/doing coatings on friends vehicles for fun and since I don’t charge ’em anything, low-cost, high performing coatings are of great interest to me.
Thanks for the info!
All of these products fall into the “nano coating” category…
Glass Coatings = Silicon Dioxide based (SiO2). SiO2 is found in nature as quartz, which is a major constituent of sand, and sand is main component in glass.
Many coatings have SiO2 in them, however as I mentioned before, the chemical makeup contains far more than just SiO2. This proprietary blend is what makes the products unique to one another.
I have not used Kamikaze, McKees, or Wolfgang Coatings and honestly do not know much about their makeup.
Optimum Opti-Coat is SiC based, and therefore not considered a glass coating.
I would encourage you to give CSL a try. It has been a strong performer in my personal testing that is still ongoing.
Makes sense to me…thanks.
Dear Zack – Firstly I appreciate all of your articles – very well presented and informative.
RE CSL – what is the cure time – I live in Oregon and we’re having a wet winter. I would have to work in a two sided car port, so I will have exposure to moisture/high humidity during application/curing, but I’m most concerned about driving after application – i.e., getting caught in a rain storm. Since this is my only car I find it hard to wait 12 hours like some sealants require (JetSeal for instance). Optimum says that Gloss Coat only needs 1 hour to cure. How soon before CSL be driven in (potentially) wet conditions. Also, your comment that Gloss Coat is SiC based – would it make the surface “harder” than CSL? Is it really a moot point given the thinness of the layer applied? I recently purchased Gloss Coat but have not applied – any comments on the comparison of Gloss Coat vs CSL? Thanks for your help.
Hi Richard – thanks for reading! I am honestly not sure what the specific cure time is for CSL, but I will see if I can find out and let you know. We keep vehicles for a min. of 12 hours after coating before releasing them to their owners. If the weather is poor, I try to keep them for 24 hours just to be safe. We use this same precaution for all coatings as they are typically much more vulnerable to water spotting and other damage within the first week, and especially within the first several hours.
In my article The Truth Behind Crazy Coating Claims, I discuss my thoughts on some of the coating hardness claims. I had said “Once a coating is applied, it can be scratched and swirled just the same as bare paint, so do not read too far into the hardness claims that are listed with any particular coating. In my opinion, they are nothing more than marketing hype.” I do believe that although the coatings may be harder than bare paint, they will not provide significant resistance to damage from washing & drying, so extreme care is always required regardless of if a vehicle is coated or not.
I actually have a test that I recently started on one of our personal vehicles where one door has CSL and the adjacent door has Gloss Coat. I look forward to seeing how they compare in real world, midwest winter conditions. Initial impressions are that CSL noticeably darkens the paint more than Gloss Coat and CSL is also far slicker immediately after application. This particular test is just a month old, and the car has only had 1 wash in that time, so we shall see how they hold up to a rather poor maintenance routine.
Let me know if you have any other questions!
How’s the testing going between Gloss coat and csl. Coil car pro essence primer be used with csl requiring no ipa wipe down? I know it works with Gloss coat I have tested it
Nothing interesting to report so far.
Essence works fine with CSL when used properly. I polished half of my hood with essence (no eraser wipe afterwards) and the other half with M205 followed by Eraser, then coated the entire hood with CSL. Both sides are performing equally after many months, as I expected.
Zach, I’m thinking about getting into coatings, & I’m eyeing CSL. You mentioned throwing the applicator away. What about the microfiber towels? Can they be reused? I’ve read some articles where it’s advised to purchase new, inexpensive microfibers for coatings, use them once, & throw them away.
Hi Mike – in my experience, the microfiber towels can be reused. To be on the safe side, we toss ours into a bucket of water with some APC immediately after use and then wash the towels properly afterwards. On particularly delicate paint, it is not a bad idea to grab some brand new towels. Let me know if you’ve got any other questions.
I’m leaning toward coating my wife’s white Ford Explorer with CSL and have a couple questions.
First, the vehicle is just a month old and just to get something on the paint, I applied two coats of Wolfgang Deep Gloss Liquid Seal. I have a decent supply of Menzerna SF4500. Would that be appropriate for a final polish to remove the Wolfgang? If not, what would be your recommendation?
Second, you’ve said not to top this product with Exo or anything else, but I’m the type of guy who likes to top with something every few washes–I find the process to be relaxing and therapeutic. I’ve got an inventory of Ultima waterless wash plus, Carpro Reload, Four Star Spray Wax.and probably a couple others. Would any of these be okay to top with or is there another product you would recommend? As I said, I’ll likely not be able to help myself and will want to spritz something over the coating from time to time. Thanks very much.
Can spritz with Liquid Crystal c2v3 as an occasional booster if you like.
Hi Steve – SF4500 should be OK for removing your sealant, but be very sure you do a very thorough wipe down (or 2) with panel wipe, or isopropyl alcohol prior to coating. SF4500 is quite oily, and therefore requires extra effort during the solvent wipe to ensure all oils have been removed. I personally find M205 to be easier to work with as it is easier for me to wipe away. Just personal preference though.
I completely understand the urge to top your car… trust me, I do it too 🙂 After every wash I use some sort of quick detail spray or spray wax during my drying process, and from time to time I will apply a spray sealant/coating topper like C2, Reload, VS1, etc. There are no issues with doing this. Have fun!
What about using a sealant like Blackfire to top CSL? Will it bond to a cured coat of CSL without damaging it?
While it’s a pretty safe bet the Blackfire sealant won’t run off the car into a puddle on the ground it won’t likely bind as well as it would to bare, prepped paint.
More importantly, topping the coating will mask the beneficial properties of the underlying coating, in this case the CSL (heading, sheeting, hydrophobic/self-cleaning behavior.
Best bet would be to use a synergistic SiO2 product to top/boost the coating properties, something like Gtechniq Liquid Crystal C2V3.
Sealants do not “bond” to the surface in the same way that a nanocoating does… however that was not your question. A traditional sealant, like BlackFire Wet Diamond, can be applied on top of a nano coating. It may not last as long, but it certainly will not hurt anything.
I personally would not recommend applying a traditional wax or sealant on top of a nano coating for the following reasons. Nanocoatings are perhaps the best category of paint protection in terms of resisting dirt and contamination. If you apply another product on top of the coating that does not have the same level of performance in these areas, you will effectively “cover up” the performance of the coating. The outermost layer of product determines what you will experience. I.E. if you apply a wax on top of a coating, the water repellency and self cleaning abilities that you experience will be that of the wax and not the coating.
This is why there are special silica based coating toppers that have very very similar properties to an actual coating, except with considerably less durability and considerably easier application. For this reason, I personally only recommend using a coating topper to add protection on top of your nano coating… of course a regular quick detail type product is also fine to use as needed as well if you wish.
I’ve enjoyed all your reviews and have been happy after purchasing and using the products. I recently applied CSL to a used Cayman I bought and the first time it did not come out perfect – just OK. I tried again after polishing off the previous coat and this time also used Essence as part of the prep. It came out perfect this time. I believe wiping with an MF cloth and then wiping again with another MF cloth trying to cover a much larger area to catch all residue did the trick. Also this time instead of using a full 30ml bottle I was able to use only half a bottle. Using a foam block and suede cloth helped a lot. I do have a question: Is it possible to use the remaining CSL to coat my wheels? Any temp issues? Thanks Zack!
Hi Michael – glad you got the application process figured out. It is quite easy to work with, but it does take some practice to get it dialed in.
You can absolutely use it on your wheels.
You’re a great source of information. I appreciate your help.
Hi Zach- Any updates on your own “test” vehicles with CSL? I’ve been trialing it on two vehicles that usually stay outside in our harsh Colorado weather. So far, I’ve been impressed with CSL on my Nissan Titan and Versa hatchback, but our winter storms are just getting started. So far, the durability has been good, but I’m wondering how your personal vehicles are doing?
Hi David – I recently traded in my car that had several ongoing product tests on it… the good news is that CSL was still behaving like new. No complaints, no issues.
Some more good news, I now have another car that is in need of some work and some product testing 🙂 I am planning to do a multi-part video series going through the detail on my new (used) car.
Can CSL be used on black plastic trim and plastic tail-lights? Or is it better to use something different?
Sure – CSL will not harm black trim, and should darken the trim slightly. If you want maximum enhancement, try a trim coating like GTechniq C4
I thought I’d share my experiences. I’ve coated 5 family and close friends vehicles. I’m retired and take my time decontaminating, clay baring, 2 or 3 step polishing, 2 alcohol wipe downs so after days to get here it’s nice to have a product like CSL that lasts years, not weeks or months. After a year and a half and seeing an Ohio salt laden winter the vehicles all look great. I do take care washing my vehicles using a foam gun, boars hair brush and drying with a master blaster plus occasionally using C2V3 to act as a sacrificial lamb layer and boost the gloss to see if I can extend the life of the coating before having to bust my behind doing all over again. I’ve also found C4 Trim Restorer to be a better product on trim and C1 Glass Smart to work better on glass than CSL alone. It’s not marketing hype like I thought. The GTechniq product are great when you live in Northern cities that salt their roads in the winter where other products don’t last. It also nice in the summer the cars really do stay cleaner a lot longer. That’s my 2 cents worth.
Hi Roger – thank you for taking the time to share your experience!
Will a 30ml bottle be enough to cover a 2017 4runner with 2 coat of CSL?
It is possible, depending on how familiar you are with the appliction. Newer users tend to apply coatings a bit heavier. To be on the safe side I would purchase a larger bottle. You can use any extra on wheels if you’d like.
I just purchased a new Colorado ZR2 and it has a matte center section on the hood. My question is, can I coat this section with CSL+EXO?
Ronnie – in my experience you should have no issues coating the matte section with your choice of coating(s).
I have bought the CSL and Exo and planning to coat it on my car. But when I tried to wipe a small area on my car surface with Panel wipe, the surface became sticky and like vicious scratches. I guessed it may due to the wax because I did not polish the surface before. Later I removed this vicious scrates by polishing. But when I looked at the panel wipe data sheet that it is a mixture of isopropanol and best for use is to dilute it in 1:1 with water. My question is 1) should the car be polished before using the panel wipe? Otherwise the wax on car surface become white opaque. 2) Should the panel wipe be diluted in 1:1 water before use? 3) Is the diluted panel wipe is also good for erase the polish residue? Thank you
Is Gtechniq’s EXO v4 compatible over 22ple’s HPC ceramic coating? I have both in stock and would like to use them together but I am not 100% sure they would not cause a problem in tandem. I understand the standard safe answer to this question is to stay with the recommended products of the manufacturer. But isn’t siO2 ceramic coating basically the same as are top coats.
Peter – EXO is not as durable as HPC, but will sheet water better. EXO is designed to be used more as a topper to other coatings, but can also be used as a stand-alone option if desired. If you wanted to use the HPC, EXO would be great to put over the top. For coating toppers (i.e. CarPro Reload, 22ple VS1, Gtechniq C2V3, etc.) these are formulated with sio2 just like coatings, just at a much lower concentration for easier spray on, wipe off application.