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.