The Truth Behind Wild Coating Claimsby Zach McGovern
The detailing industry has changed rapidly over the past several years. One of the most notable changes is the popularity of nano coating products. Consumers are always interested in products that make their lives easier, and a coating can do just that. A paint coating will make vehicles easier to clean, keep them looking better for longer periods of time, and will reduce the time spent on maintenance as there is no need to use traditional waxes or sealants several times a year after a coating is applied. Best of all, these benefits can last for years rather than just weeks or months. Sounds great, right?
But wait, there’s more!
… or is there?
Due to the large market for coating products, there is a tremendous amount of competition among brands to sell their products and make a name for themselves in the industry. To complicate things even further, it seems like there are new companies flooding the market with even more products every day, and they all claim to be the best. Unfortunately, some companies and some detailers have resorted to unethical methods to help sell their products and/or services. These methods often involve “stretching the truth”, to put it lightly, in order to gain sales. What these businesses fail to realize is that while these false claims may end up resulting in more sales in the short term, they will ultimately have a negative effect on the entire coating industry in the long term, so let’s clear up some of the nonsense to help consumers and detailers better understand what coatings can actually do for them.
You’ll never have to wash your car again!
This should just sound fishy from the beginning, yet many consumers still fall for this claim and are forced to pay for it later when their car is dull, faded and covered water spots, bug splatter, bird bombs, etc.
As I mentioned before, nano coatings do provide a more durable layer of protection, and do not require as much maintenance as an uncoated vehicle, but this does not mean the car is maintenance free. Actually, many of the best coating features rely on the fact that the car is kept clean and is properly washed on a regular basis. We recommend our customers wash their vehicles at least twice a month, and more frequently if the vehicle is particularly dirty.
Hardness – What does it really mean?
Many companies like to dwell on the hardness rating, such as 9H. Some even include it in their product’s name to draw attention to it. What most of them are not advertising is what 9H actually means. The test used to determine the film hardness that is advertised for every coating I have seen to date is known as the “Pencil Hardness Test”. As I understand it, this test consists of a variety of standardized grading pencils that range from soft to hard depending on the composition of the pencil. Using a pencil, a line is made on the surface that is being tested, and if no scratch is visible, the test is repeated with a harder pencil until the surface is scratched. A coating with a hardness of 9H does not show a scratch with the hardest pencil.
This is far different than the MOHS Mineral Hardness scale in which minerals are rated on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is the softest and 10 is the hardest. In the past, I have seen detailers advertising products with a 9H MOHS hardness, however this is simply not feasible. If a coating had a mineral hardness of 9H, the only substance that would be able to scratch the surface would be one with a hardness of 10H or greater. For reference, a diamond, one of the hardest substances on earth, is rated at 10H. With that in mind, if a coating was truly 9H mineral hardness, it would not be possible to scratch the car with a key and you certainly would not be able to make swirl marks with a dirty towel (unless you’re smashing up diamonds and sprinkling them onto your towels).
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.
Never Polish Your Car Again!
Say goodbye to swirls and scratches! … I wish. You know what they say, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Unfortunately, this is another completely false claim that is being used to lure customers in. While paint coatings may theoretically provide some small amount of resistance to fine marring, they are certainly not scratch proof or swirl proof, and improper washing and drying will absolutely lead to swirls and scratches on a coated vehicle. We typically recommend having a coated vehicle polished and re-coated every 2-3 years or so to maintain the highest gloss and clarity. A well maintained vehicle should only require very light polishing, never true correction, regardless of what type of protection has been applied.
No need for clear bra, nano coatings resists rock chips!
Again, I wish! Paint coatings are far too thin to have any chance of holding up against an impact. On the other hand, if you’ve ever held a piece of clear bra, it is a pretty hefty layer of material. Clear bra and paint coatings serve entirely different roles in the paint protection market, and one cannot replace the other, but they do complement each other quite nicely.
Clear bra is the best choice for providing protection against flying debris and small impacts. Paint coatings provide protection from environmental contamination. We actually recommend applying a paint coating on top of a clear bra so you can experience the benefits of both worlds. A base layer for rock chip protection covered with a coating for added beauty and easier maintenance.
Hopefully it is easy to see that these types of claims are doing nothing but harming the detailing industry. Detailers trust manufacturers, and customers trust their detailers, to provide factual information about the products and services they offer. When false information is spread, it creates expectations which no product will ever live up to. If a customer has spent good money to have their vehicle corrected and coated with a miracle coating that ensures they never have to wash or polish their car again because it will remain spotless and scratch free, they are certain to be let down quickly. This single event may not seem important, but imagine 100 customers all left with a bad opinion of paint coatings because the product did not live up to the claims that were sold to them. These unhappy customers will share their bad experiences with friends, family, and some will take to the internet to post about it where thousands of other vehicle owners will read about it. Eventually those 100 unsatisfied people will turn into 100 times that, which ultimately benefits no one.
Whether it is a paint coating, paint correction, or even a tire shine – make sure you’re aware of the abilities of the products you use, and be honest and open when discussing the abilities of those products with your customers.
Great topic and article Zach! Very good information here if you are not familiar with coatings and are looking to have a professional coating applied to your vehicle.
Someone finally dispelling all the junk! IMO the companies that claim these things actually really don’t make the best coatings from what I’ve seen.
Thanks for reading, Wes.
Always! I enjoy keeping up with what you’re doing. Have a great Thanksgiving weekend man!
Thank you, you too!
A vehicle, is alive. Paint, plastic, trim, metals expand and contract with the temperature and weather. The hype of 3,4,5,6,7 lifetime coatings is not possible. Coatings help but are not the end all.
Hi Jason, that is very true… coatings are just one step of many when it comes to caring for your vehicle. Every vehicle will need to receive regular care, including polishing and recoating, to maintain optimal levels of clarity, gloss, and protection.
Zach, thank you for writing this article. I have been very skeptical of advertising claims and even detailer claims made on social media. You hit the nail on the head, in the end the people that will suffer most is the detailers. I wish you continued success and hope that many leading detailers come across this information.
Hi Chris – thanks for taking the time to read and comment! Glad you found the article to be helpful.
Zach, I found a very detailed article about pencil hardness test, it is on a “cerakote” website. if you aren’t familiar, “cerakote” is a ceramic coating popular in the firearms industry, the parent company also owns “Prismatic powders” a popular powder coat manufacturer. here is the link.
Hey Chris – thank you for sharing! That is great info… I’ve bookmarked it to share with others in the future for reference.
here is more information
Excellent article. Before one invests in a coating, read the fine print.
Very good point, and if you’re not doing it yourself, certainly find a detailer who is honest about what they are doing.
Very well written. ??
Thank you, Theodore!
Awesome article Zach.
Question about polishing a coated vehicle. So after polishing a coated vehicle, some coating is still left on the paint right? Are you topping it off with a sealant to protect what’s left of the coating? Or are you putting a second layer of the same coating? Thanks in advance.
Hi Derrick – There is no way of knowing if there is any coating remaining after polishing. This is the reason I never recommend polishing a coating for maintenance as there is just no way to know if it has been completely removed or just degraded. Most coatings claim to be about a micron or so thick, which is thin enough that even just a fine polish would likely remove it entirely, or at least almost entirely.
For our customers who have had their vehicle coated, but need the paint polished again, we always recommend reapplying a new coating. If they do not wish to do a coating, then we will do a sealant, but explain to them that it is most likely that they coating has been removed.
My name is Jim Deardorff. In 2010 I received a new nanocoating from Germany Permanon. At first I was skeptical of its performance claims but, since my target market was farm tractors and combines I deceived to give it a try. First, cleaning is critical to overall performance. We hand wash, clay bar all surfaces including windows then, apply two coats by spray. Finally wipe the total surface with a microfiber cloth. Manufacturer rates performance at one year but, 6 months is more realistic unless the car is parked in a garage. The biggest benefit for Permanon is the vehicle is easier to clean. Another advantage is the ability to monitor performance by a simple water break test. When the water beads up Permanon is still working when it stops reapplication is needed. Overall I very satisfied with the Permanon product
Hi Jim – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Permanon product. I have never used any of their products, but we do extensive, long term testing for all of the coatings we use here in our shop, and all of them have proved to provide hydrophobic properties that exceed the 1 year mark. With that being said, it is important to understand that water beading is not an indication of protection or if a coating is in tact or not. Water beading is a product of high surface tension, and the surface tension can be altered by many things over time. So, if water beading has diminished, a true paint coating is likely still present and providing a sacrificial barrier between the elements and the surface of the paint, but the surface tension was likely lowered by use of heavy cleaners or surface contamination. This is why many of us like to use coating toppers such as GTechniq C2 to enhance hydrophobic performance, and is also a great reason why good maintenance habits are so critical to the performance of the initial coating.
Really awesome information thank you for sharing! I love it.
Hi Juan – thanks for taking the time to read and comment!
It was nice to read a real and honest take on coatings, I have no problem with a company marketing a product but I do look for and only use products that provide realistic claims.
Thanks for commenting! Marketing should only include realistic, factual information… to me that is common business ethics, don’t ya think? Unfortunately there are always those who will stretch the truth a bit.
Zack, would this be considered wrong information to tell a customer—–“If the owner were to use a cheap mitt, beach towel, and sponge used on the wheels for the paint, it won’t take long to scratch up the coating. That’s the beauty of coatings, they take the abuse rather than the clear coat. it’s easier and cheaper to reapply the coating compared to adding more clear to a car.”
Says to me, the coating is scratched but not the paint.
Could you possibly add to the write up going over your procedures of Removing coatings to re-correct the paint. Such as MF cutting pads becoming embedded with coating particles that will marr the paint, unless you blow them out or use new ones each panel. How when you compound the coating, you never really know when its totally removed etc….. Basically the issues with coating after the fact for you as a professional. Its about time most detailers start seeing cars that were previously coated and they are stained or needing correction badly. Thanks in advance
Hi Andrew – that is correct, somewhat. Coatings are very thin. Most claim to be just 1-1.5 microns thick. Most scratches will be deeper than this, though light marring and light swirl marks may not. This means that light defects may reside just in the coating layer, and more common scratches may penetrate the coating and damage the actual clear coat. This is not all bad news though because since the coating provided additional thickness, even if a scratch had penetrated into the clear coat, it is not as deep as it would have been if there was no coating in the first place. This means that next time you correct the vehicle and reapply a new coating, you are removing less paint due to the added thickness of the coating on the surface, therefore preserving paint over time compared to an uncoated car.
As far as removing a coating, there is no way to know for sure if what you have done has truly removed the coating. We have corrected many vehicles that have had nanocoatings applied to them, and the correction process is no different than an uncoated vehicle… do your test spot, determine what needs to be done to remove the defects, and proceed with the process you determine.
With that being said, based on my conversations with several companies, most coating manufacturers will agree that as long as a vehicle has been properly cleaned, polished, and wiped with alcohol/solvent, then a new coating will have no trouble adhering to the surface.
Some cars only need light polishing prior to recoating to enhance gloss – this is what I do to my personal car every 2-3 years and consists of a good wash, clay & chemical decon, light polish with something like M205 on a white pad, alcohol wipe, and recoat. The process takes me just a few hours to do on my smaller car. Other cars may need a full blown correction if they have not maintained it properly and have considerable swirls and scratches in the paint.
Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions!
One of the best articles I have read. I’m a fan of coatings but I’m also aware of limitations. With more and more “coatings” coming out, I can’t imagine what new ways of marketing will follow.
Thanks again, very educational.
Hey Steve, thanks for reading and commenting.
Sorry…darn auto correct Zach
Absolutely great article, great info! Thank you for setting the record straight about these coatings claims that some are using to get sales! I agree with you about giving out bad info, claims to, for example,100 people and those 100 tell 100, and it keeps going down the line! I feel that the industry has come a long way in the past 10 years, mostly all for the positive. And, it’s because of people like you, that keeps this industry honest and continually evolving! Keep up the GREAT work you do, the GREAT articles you write! HAPPY THANKSGIVING BROTHER!!!
SORRY for the misspelling of your first name….ZACH ?
Hi Kevin – thanks for the great feedback! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!
Finally,someone with a brain in their head is speaking the truth .It is refreshing to have somebody other than myself in the business dispelling the myths about coatings.I tell my customers often if you have to add a layer of clear to the car why would the manufacturers bother to apply one at the factory.
Hi Rick – glad you enjoyed the article 🙂 Thanks for commenting.
Nice article but I’m a little confused. In a previous article you , if my memory is right, you were elated over 3 to 4 years of protection with HPC coatings. Now it appears as though you have dampened the flame. Can u please clear this up.
Hi Don – thanks for taking the time to comment. You’re correct, coatings like 22ple HPC and GTechniq Crystal Serum Light claim durability exceeding 3 years. I did not mention otherwise in this article. You will notice in the first paragraph of this article I mentioned ” Best of all, these benefits can last for years rather than just weeks or months.”
Later in the article I mentioned that we personally recommend that vehicles receive a light polish and recoat every 2-3 years, but that is due to the fact that daily driven vehicles will almost always benefit from a light polish once and a while to maintain the deepest gloss. This does not mean the coating has failed or is worn away after this time, it is just our recommendation on how to keep the vehicle looking its best. Of course if you feel your vehicle still looks perfect after this amount of time, there is no benefit to polishing, but in our experience this is rarely the case for most cars.
Let me know if I can help explain something better.
How often can or should I wax my car with one of these coatings. Is 5 or more times a year in the ball park?
Hi Allan – you should not wax your car at all with one of these coatings. It technically would not hurt anything if you did, but you will be covering up many of the beneficial and superior properties of the coating by applying a wax on top of it. If you would like to apply additional protection to the coating, I would recommend a silica based spray sealant such as CarPro Reload, 22ple VS1, or GTechniq C2 V3 as all of these have similar surface properties as the base coating. These can be applied as frequently or infrequently as you desire.