Anyone who loves to take care of their vehicle has by now heard of ceramic coatings. Over the past 5-6 years ceramic coatings have evolved from products that could only be purchased (and installed) by professional detail shops to a multitude of products that can easily be applied by the DIY'er. There are now spray on ceramics, ceramic waxes, and of course the traditional 2-3 year ceramic coatings specifically designed for enthusiasts. Almost every major brand now has some form of ceramic in their line-up & ceramic based products now go beyond just paint protection. There are DIY ceramic products specifically for glass, rims & trim. There are now even ceramic based detail sprays available.
Do Ceramic Coatings work?
The simple answer is yes. The silicon dioxide (SiO2) compound found in ceramic coatings provides significantly better protection than traditional waxes and sealants. It does this through nanotechnology that allows the product to bond to your paint, wheels, glass, and trim at a molecular level. This fills in microscopic pits and grooves in your paint leaving a hydrophobic surface that is so smooth that it actually feels “slick” to the touch. One of the main benefits in choosing a ceramic product is their proven track record in providing a high gloss. hydrophobic protection.
How Expensive are Ceramic Coatings?
One of the main benefits of ceramic is the low cost. To get about 6 months of ceramic protection in a ceramic wax costs less than $20.00 worth of product. For a 2 year ceramic coating most brands are under $100.00 for the average sized vehicle.
What is Graphene?
Graphene is the name for an atom-thick honeycomb sheet of carbon atoms. ”Harder than diamond yet more elastic than rubber; tougher than steel yet lighter than aluminum”. Apparently, Graphene is the strongest known material known to man. It almost sounds too good to be true, and some sort of miracle material. In simple terms, graphene can be described as a single layer of graphite. Graphite before converted to graphene is a soft, flexible, extremely heat resistant mineral. What this means in the automotive world is that because of graphene's honeycomb structure and chemical nature it allows for increased slickness, depth, durability and does not retain heat. Graphene has a very high water contact angle and lower sliding angle.
How Expensive is Graphene?
Generally speaking graphene is more expensive than ceramic. However for the DYI'er there are graphene products available under $100.00 so the cost difference is not dramatic.
Benefits of Graphene
Because of the properties of Graphene noted above there are several benefits graphene offers over ceramic...
High water contact angle (more beading)
Anti-static (resists dust buildup)
Highly flexible (less susceptible to cracking or chipping)
Easy to apply
Less prone to water spotting
Reduction in heat absorption
Keep in mind that the differences between ceramic & graphene in the detailing enthusiast's world may be relatively minor to the "naked eye" and really not be a noticeable difference. For example a graphene coating may provide slightly more water beading than a ceramic, but the difference may not be so great that it is a factor in your decision on what type of coating you purchase. As well, although graphene does provide a higher etching (scratch) resistance than ceramic, if you are applying a 6 month to 1 year durability DYI type coating the etching resistance in a graphene coating of that thickness will not be anything near what you would get in a 7 year coating so again may not be a factor worth considering when making your decision. The one area where it appears that graphene does have a distinct advantage over ceramic is when it comes to reduced water spotting.
The Bottom Line
If you are looking for a 5-10 year plus coating, whether it be a ceramic or graphene solution, most manufacturers still only offer these coatings through authorized installers. The thicker the coating (more durable) it is, the trickier the application becomes. As well, the longer lasting a coating is the more critical the paint preparation process becomes. If durability and optimum scratch resistance are your goals you are probably best to seek out a qualified professional for either type of coating.
If you are seeking out a coating that you will apply yourself (3 months to 2 year durability) the following is a general breakdown of the factors that might influence your purchasing decision..
Although there is no reason to think there are any downsides to graphene, ceramic coatings have been around for quite some time now and have proven track record whereas graphene is a much newer product. For some professionals the "jury is still out" regarding the long term benefits of graphene.
There is lot more brand selection and options available in the ceramic world. However there are still many options for graphene as well (graphene detail sprays, waxes etc.)
This is an area where graphene seems to have a distinct advantage over ceramic.
Slight advantage to graphene
Reality is either type of coating will provide good chemical resistance
For the DIY designed coating neither type require any special skill
How a coating looks on your paint is pretty relative. The look or shine a coating gives your vehicle depends a lot on the colour, type of paint etc. However it does seem that ceramic may have a bit of an advantage when it comes to that "candy gloss" look
Below is a comparison between ceramic and graphene in some of the key areas. Keep in mind this will vary from brand to brand and coating thickness eg. a 5 year ceramic coating will protect your paint from scratches better than a 1 year graphene coating. This is just an overall general comparison of the benefits of each.
Chemical Resistance - 100%
Etching Reduction - 100%
Sleekness/Smoothness - 100%
Gloss/Reflectivity - 80%
Abrasion Resistance - 90%
Chemical Resistance - 100%
Etching Reduction - 50%
Sleekness/Smoothness - 70%
Gloss/Reflectivity - 100%
Abrasion Resistance - 100%