Graphene vs. Ceramic Coatings: Which is Better?

Graphene vs. Ceramic Coatings: Which is Better?

Over the last few years ceramic coatings and sprays have dominated the detailing scene as the highest level of protection. It wasn't long ago that ceramic-infused coatings, waxes, sealants, and spray coatings were premium add-ons at dealerships and detailing shops. Today they're widely used and in just about every DIY detailer’s garage. There are hundreds of products on the market from nearly every major car care brand. Many work as advertised, others may leave you disappointed and end up collecting dust on the shelf.

Since 2018 GloveBox has been helping clear the air on what works and what doesn’t, and we have included several SiO2 products in our monthly boxes (most recently Ethos Ceramic Wax PRO in the August 2020 DELUXE box).

So do ceramic coatings work? Absolutely.

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. 

Are Ceramic Coatings Expensive?

Ceramic coatings are all over the board when it comes to pricing. A true professional-grade ceramic product will yield the best results but can cost well over $100 per bottle and is typically only sold to certified professionals. DIY versions from Adam's Polishes and CarPro start around $60. There are also several spray ceramic coatings on the market like Turtle Wax Hybrid Ceramic Spray coating, Lithium Ceramic Slam, Adam's ceramic spray coating, and many more that are less expensive and suited for just about anyone. 

How Long Do Ceramic Coatings Last?

Ceramic coatings are extremely durable and can last anywhere from a few months to several years. Professional-grade ceramic coatings claim to last up to 5-7 years. This is truly remarkable considering many of us grew up applying paste wax that began to lose its hydrophobic properties after just 30 days, and provided nowhere near the same level of protection. While true ceramic coatings are extremely durable, they are not for everyone or every budget. Many spray ceramic coatings and sealants like The Last Coat TLC2 (Highlighted in our January 2020 GloveBox) can offer 6 months to a year of protection and be applied in your driveway for as little as $10 a coat. Spray ceramic coatings don't last nearly as long, but they're easy to apply and can last up to 6 months before needing to install another coat. This cost effectiveness and moderate durability make them a good option for DIY'ers and weekend warriors on a budget.

What is a Graphene Coating?

Graphene coatings are the latest technological advancement to hit the automotive detailing market. If you're on social media regularly then you've definitely seen a sharp increase in ads promoting graphene products. This carbon-based nanomaterial isn’t exactly new, a couple British professors discovered it way back in 2004 and went on to win the Nobel Prize in 2010 for their research. Fast forward to today, and graphene is growing in popularity in many detailing circles as major brands like Adam’s Polishes and Ethos Car Care have released graphene products that claim up to 10 years of protection. But the jury is still out; some professional detailers and YouTube personalities like Pan The Organizer are not convinced, citing the lack of conclusive data proving its superiority to ceramic and also the lack of adoption from other major car care brands. 

What are the Benefits & Strengths of Graphene Coatings? 

There are many benefits of graphene in automotive applications and relative strengths compared to ceramic coatings. Here are a few:

  • High water contact angle (more beading)
  • Anti-static (✌️dust)
  • Highly flexible (less susceptible to cracking or chipping)
  • Ease of application (so easy a…)
  • Unsurpassed durability (5-10 years!)

 

The slickness factor of graphene is extremely high making it comparable to some of the best coatings and sealants on the market. If you’re a fan of that water beading effect then you’ll love graphene. 

Some of the relative advantages over ceramic coatings are: 

  • Less prone to water spotting
  • Easier application process
  • Reduction in heat absorption on treated surfaces
  • Longer durability

How Much Do Graphene Coatings Cost?

As with ceramic coatings the cost of graphene coatings varies. Today’s graphene products appear to compete at a price point similar to comparable ceramic coatings, and can be found for as low as $79 from Adam's Polishes for a 60ml bottle and $99 from Ethos Car Care for a 30ml bottle. We consider this pretty affordable for a product that doesn’t require additional training or certifications and can provide multiple years of protection. A professional graphene coating is currently the best level of protection and will achieve a 9H grade on the Mohs Hardness Scale (Fun fact: diamonds are the only known mineral to score a 10H). Spray graphene coatings hitting the market won't grade at a 9H, but they can still be a good choice for DIYers and provide a big upgrade over SiO2 ceramic spray coatings. The new spray graphene coatings are estimated to last over a year and run about $32 and up. This is comparable to many of the leading ceramic spray coatings despite being (arguably) a better product for the reasons listed above. As with spray ceramic spray coatings, a single bottle of graphene spray coating can treat multiple vehicles so you get a lot for your money. For the professional detailers out there, graphene provides a great up-sell opportunity with clients looking for the “latest and greatest” coating and it won't take you any extra time to install.

How do You Prep for Graphene Coatings?

As with ceramic coatings and almost any other sealant on the market, it is crucial to properly prep the vehicle's surface before installation. Here's are the steps we recommend prior to installing a graphene coating: 

  • proper wash with the two bucket method
  • a clay bar paint decontamination
  • a chemical decontamination
  • at least a single-stage paint correction
  • clean the panel with paint prep

 

Don't have time for all that? At the very least use a high-quality car wash and then clay bar the entire vehicle to remove imperfections before using a graphene coating or graphene spray coating. You should never put a sealant, coating, or wax on top of contaminants or old coatings. Once a graphene (or ceramic) coating is applied it will be there for a long time and so will any imperfections underneath. So take the time and do the prep work before you apply a coating for optimal results. 

 

Are Graphene Coatings the Best Thing on the Market?

We are excited to see the rise of graphene in both the professional and DIY detailing worlds, and believe it might just be the next big thing. However we also want to be patient and not get caught up in the hype before doing our own testing and side-by-side comparisons. As always, we'll take you along for the ride and share our thoughts and suggestions as we dive deeper into what is sure to be a growing list of graphene products hitting the market. Early indications look promising and who knows, perhaps in the near future you’ll be seeing the first graphene product in one of our monthly subscriptions boxes


5 comments

  • Pure Octane Garage

    Great and informative article. Thank you.

  • KF

    Interesting but still quite early methinks

  • KF

    Lotsa stuff out there lately, some recently released ‘Graphene Coatings’ are sparking discussion, sometimes a bit contentious, sometimes optimistic, sometimes pessimistic but unusually entertaining. Plenty of folks saying it’s nonsense and taking it to task based upon wording (Graphene Coating, Graphene-Infused Coating, Graphene Ceramic Coating, etc.) and the suspect ability to currently actually produce a true GRAPHENE COATING.

    I wasn’t around when coatings came around, touting such nonsense as “Diamond-Infused 10h Hardness” and similar “9H hardness, over twice as hard as your clearcoat” claims (the latter while being technically correct, in reality proves to pretty close to functionally irrelevant…”This really soft pillow is harder than that really soft pillow”) so dunno if the backlash was similar but it’s quite interesting nonetheless.

    I dunno, ain’t no scientist but it is all currently quite intriguing to me. I had SPS Graphene on my daily from May 2019 thru August 2020 (16k miles), was a very good coating overall…strong in some areas, a bit weaker than ceramics in others and in the end, I’m back to ceramic…personal preference

    Frankly, whether or not it says graphene on the label is of no matter to me, the coating in the bottle either works for me and my specific needs or it doesn’t. The SPS was a great coating overall, especially if you like slickness and high water contact angle entertainment. Didn’t meet my needs in the end but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad product at all, rather that it’s just not a great product FOR ME. Time will tell with graphene, I guess.

    Feynlab Blog Post: Coating Chemistries, and Differentiating Marketing Terms from Actual Chemistry: https://www.feynlab.com/coating-chemistries-and-differentiating-marketing-terms-from-actual-chemistry/

    Rag Company Q & A w/ Gtechniq; 46 minutes in the topic of Graphene comes up: ASK Us About Detailing & Cars w/ GTECHNIQ! | Q&A Thursday #81 | August 6th, 2020: https://youtu.be/XjyLge_H22c?t=2701

    A little bit from Alfred Yow, the mind behind the Art d’ Shine/SPS coatings. Kinda clarifies the role of the Reduced Graphene Oxide component in the coatings. From a Facebook post regarding graphene coatings. Seems like a bit of a ‘helper’ to the PDMS portion of the formulation:

    " To add on some answers to the article on Graphene,
    The polymer used in Artdeshine’s product, PDMS has very low thermal conductivity, absorbing less heat when exposed. And if heat has been absorbed, the better dissipation and thermal conductivity ability of reduced Graphene Oxide (rGO) will help to negate. What we do not want is all that heat absorbed to be trapped. To say it simply, this is a case of using rGO to reduce the insulation (keeping heat) properties of PDMS.

    Artdeshine has never touted using flames in any of our tests or marketing materials. This serves no purpose to demonstrate any capability of our coatings. We are not making fire-proof/retardant materials. And again, we are not touting thermal insulation as a beneficial property, we are trying to negate insulation.

    Water repellent capabilities do not come from the use of rGO and can be seen in our marketing materials and information. A very high polymer (PDMS) content is used to achieve the better water-repellent effects. The polymer has been functionalized to provide much better water repellent capabilities."

    I think it’s gonna take some time to figure all of this out re: graphene. Migliore, SPS/Art d’ Shine, Ethos, Glassparancy, Adam’s, TAC Systems and a few more have released products w graphene as part of their formulations but perhaps more telling are those mfg’s who haven’t; CarPro, Gyeon, Feynlab, Optimum and Gtechniq, some of whom have openly questioned the value of graphene given it’s manufacturing limitations at this time. 🤔

    The primary ‘optimistic benefit’ of graphene as it’s currently marketed is the potential reduction in water spotting due to it’s ability to reduce surface temps; occasional mentions of graphene’s toughness is tossed about but that seems to be a secondary point. Any visible performance benefits such as slickness, water behavior and similar are (as Albert Yow explains it) not due to graphene at all so, well…I dunno 😄

    Will be fun to watch but not convinced that it’s really any kind of ‘revolution’ given my personal experience with it. I guess that could change in future…or not.

    What I get from all of this is:

    1. Current technology does not allow for any fundamentally significant level of Graphene to be incorporated into a coating.

    2. Any real or perceived benefits of a graphene coating have very little (if anything) to do with any trace amount of graphene in it.

    3. The functional foundation of any graphene coating is basically the same as a ceramic, likely Siloxane/Polysiloxane/Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) or Polysilazanes.

    So if we bake a ‘Graphene Coating Cake’ the cake batter itself is the same as if we baked a ‘Ceramic Coating Cake’ and the graphene in the cake is not significant enough to even be considered the frosting on the cake but rather merely the handful of ‘sprinkles’ on top of the frosting on top of the cake. Maybe.

    I kinda view it as using a ceramic coating that for some reason has an extra word on the label, and merely taking up space on that label is likely the greatest visible contribution ‘graphene’ makes to the overall satisfaction.

  • GloveBox

    Keith – If your car already has ceramic coating then use a ceramic booster or ceramic wash to help prolong the life of your coating. I would not use a graphene spray with your ceramic coating until there is more evidence that these chemical compounds work well together.

    You do not have to go through the same prep processes as you did before you applied your ceramic coating when you use a ceramic enhancer/booster/wash.

  • Keith

    If car already has a ceramic coating, is there any value in applying a graphene spray on top and if so, would same prep be required (as that was done for the ceramic, would clay bar, etc damage that ceramic?)

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