28 May 2021
LIQUID ARMOUR: Glass vs graphene vs ceramic coating — which is best?

In recent years, paint protection products — such as ceramic coating — have been the talk of the car care town, but are they really worth your time and money? Here’s a quick guide.

Any car owner will appreciate their four-wheeled pride and joy looking its best, and the biggest contributor to that is probably the paintwork, seeing as it literally covers the whole car. 

Unfortunately, many factors inherent in car ownership and usage conspire against that, especially in our hot climate. UV rays, rain, bird poo, dirt, and even the effects of washing, all eat away at the paint’s finish, leaving it dull and faded over time.

So how does one prevent that? A polish and wax has long been the established wisdom for protecting your paint, but a new method has come to market recently claiming superior results: car coatings.

Wax vs coatings: the practical difference

Glass, ceramic, and more recently, graphene coatings — these are the main varieties of a new generation of paint protection products. Unlike wax, which mixed with solvents and oils to make it suitable for its intended application, these coatings are silica-based liquid polymers, hence the glass or ceramic part of their names.

At their core, wax and coatings do the same job, forming an impregnable layer on top of your paint to shield it from the elements, while also leaving it with a deep glossy shine that’ll make your paint look like new again. Additionally, both are water-repellant, which basically makes it harder for grime to accumulate on your car. 

Where waxes and coatings differ is primarily in their longevity. An application of wax merely sits on top of your paint’s surface, which usually lasts no more than a few months. Coatings on the other hand, chemically bond with your paintwork after a drying and curing period, leaving a hard, semi-permanent layer that can last up to a year or more for a DIY product, or as much as two to five years for a professionally-done job.

As a result, getting your car coated is generally more expensive. Not only because of the base cost of the product, but also the amount of prep work involved (i.e. labour costs) before applying the actual coating — especially if done by a professional detailer. 

Due to a coating’s durability, any scratches, imperfections, or foreign contaminants in the paint will get sealed in until it wears off. So if you want your car looking spick and span, a thorough cleaning and paint correction process would usually need to be carried out first. Combine that with a coating’s need to be properly cured in a controlled environment — the entire process can take a few days from start to finish — and it’s easy to see how labour fees can add to the expense of a professional coating service.

Coating your car with benefits

In return for your extra dollars, there are a number of advantages to a coating.

First is that durability; not only does a coating last longer, its hardness also gives it a certain amount of resistance against light impact damage.

Additionally, coatings also give some protection against UV rays, which means your paint is less likely to oxidise and fade over time.

Finally, coatings are even more hydrophobic than wax, which not only means water will slide right off and have less opportunity to develop into ugly water spots, but it also makes it harder for dust, bugs and grime to find purchase. Quite often, a quick rinse with a hose is all it takes to make a coated car look clean again.

Glass vs Ceramic vs Graphene: which to choose?

Here is where things get a bit tricky. By and large all three are very similar, and quite often it’s more of a branding or marketing difference rather than anything technical.

This is especially so in the case of glass and ceramic coatings, with online sources presenting conflicting info about the two, particularly with regards to their relative costs. But what is generally agreed upon is that glass coatings tend to be a bit harder, a bit thicker, and a bit simpler to apply, although its chemical composition might leave it more susceptible to acidity and alkalinity in the environment, such as from bird droppings, acid rain, or even some car shampoos.

Compared to that, ceramic coatings are usually a lot smoother and hydrophobic, giving a shinier “wet” look while also being more difficult for dirt to adhere to, thus making your car easier to wash. On the flipside, the curing process means ceramic coatings will take longer to install, although it’ll last longer too.

Image credit: Youtube / Engineering Explained

The newest kid on the block is graphene, or more specifically, coatings infused with graphene, which is the name for an atom-thick sheet of carbon arranged in a honeycomb pattern, and apparently the hardest substance known to man.

Being new to the market, the jury’s still out on graphene, but it’s claimed to be even more durable, hydrophobic, and heat resistant than ceramic coating, but is also more expensive. Unlike when glass/ceramic coating debuted though, graphene coatings aren’t revolutionary, offering at best incremental improvements in certain attributes for an incremental cost increase, but still being fundamentally the same product. Therefore, it might be better to wait a while until more real-world user feedback appears. Either way though, a little coating goes a long way to helping your car look its best.

Want to give your car that lustre and protection it deserves? AutoApp is partnered with reputable car detailing shops that offer a range of car grooming options to suit various budgets, including coatings. Check it out now, and enjoy a waiver of our Collection & Delivery service charge (worth S$68) if you’re new to AutoApp!