How To Apply a Car Paint Coating
Protect your vehicle’s paint for YEARS with a paint coating
The last couple years have seen a lot of advancements made in surface care technology. Almost every car care manufacturer has introduced or will be introducing a permanent or semi permanent paint coating. Paint coatings provide far greater protection than a conventional car wax or paint sealant, making them an excellent alternative to those who don’t want to regularly apply a car wax or paint sealant.
The Paint Coating Advantage
While a conventional car wax or paint sealant wears off after a couple months, a paint coating forms a much stronger, harder bond that can withstand the elements to a much greater degree. Paint coatings, especially Pinnacle Black Label Diamond Paint Coating, BLACKFIRE Crystal Coat, McKee's 37 Paint Coating, Optimum Gloss-Coat and GTechniq EXO are resistant to alkaline cleaners, road salt, degreasers and other harsh chemicals that can find their way onto your vehicle’s delicate finish.
Paint coatings offer a significant advantage over a conventional car wax or paint sealant in the way that they keep your paint noticeably cleaner in between regular washes. Paint coatings create a greater amount of surface tension and produce what is known as a sheeting effect. Sheeting water off the surface reduces the chance of water spots from occurring.
Unlike a car wax, which gives the paint a "warm" glow, coatings produce a highly reflective, glassy finish. Photo courtesy of Marc in Arizona. BMW M5 coated with Wolfgang Uber Ceramic Coating
Most paint coatings are formulated using some type of resin, nano-glass or quartz technology. McKee's 37 Paint Coating is comprised of nano-glass ceramic particles and state-of-the-art cross-linking polymers. As soon as these nano-glass ceramic particles make contact with your paint, they begin to fill in light swirls, pits, and pores to make the surface perfectly smooth, preventing dirt, water, oil and anything else from adhering. What does this mean for you? Cleaner paint!
Optimum Gloss-Coat is a polymer coating system. This enables Optimum Gloss-Coat to provide semi-permanent paint protection. Unless it is physically abraded off the surface, Optimum Gloss-Coat cannot be removed in a two year period. This is a great option for those that want to “set it and forget it.” Optimum Gloss-Coat is limited to paint, so if you're looking to coat ALL exterior surfaces (paint, glass, wheels, chrome, plastic) then seriously consider Wolfgang Uber Ceramic Coating. Like Optimum Gloss-Coat, Wolfgang Uber Ceramic Coating is packaged in a syringe for easy application. Wolfgang Uber Ceramic Coating lasts up to 3 years and it's so easy to apply that anyone can do it!
Can you apply a wax over top a paint coating? That depends on the coating. Most coating manufacturers state that a wax or sealant will not adhere to their coatin, while McKee's 37 specifically states that you can apply a carnauba wax or sealant on top of their coating. If your goal is to create mile-deep reflections before going to a car show, a coating that is compatible with a wax or sealant is the best choice for your application.
Paint coatings need to be applied to surfaces that are free of above and below surface contaminants. Like a car wax or paint sealant, if the surface isn’t properly prepped, the paint coating won’t properly adhere, yielding less-than-desirable results. With a little bit of knowledge and the right products, prepping your vehicle’s paint for a coating is easier than you think.
First and foremost, you’ll need to remove above surface contaminants. Above surface contaminants can consist of rail dust, bugs, industrial fallout, airborne pollution, and paint overspray. You have a couple options to remove above-surface contaminants. Here are the most popular:
McKee's 37 Iron Remover changes colors from clear to red as it dissolves corrosive iron particles
The first option is detailing clay. Detailing clay is an engineered resin compound used to remove contaminants from the surface of your car’s paint, glass, fiberglass and metal. Detailing clay can be natural or synthetic, though most manufacturers utilize synthetic clays. Detailing clay contains an abrasive that removes contaminants as the bar is rubbed across the surface. The clay itself is tacky so the contaminants stick to the bar instead of being grinded into the finish, potentially inducing scratches or marring.
The only downside to detailing clay is that it does not remove iron contamination, which is present in virtually every vehicle ever manufactured. Iron contamination is caused by brake dust, living next to a railroad track, railcar transportation (how most cars are transported from factory to dealership), etc. An example of an iron remover is McKee's 37 Xtreme Iron Remover. This intense chemical cleaner is safe for ALL exterior surfaces. Spray it directly onto the paint BEFORE you wash it and wait for it to bleed red. This color changing effect let's you know the product is dissolving iron particles! By removing corrosive iron particles that are embedded in the paint, you're creating a smooth surface for the coating to adhere to. Follow with a clay bar to remove ABOVE surface contaminants.
One of the most popular clay bars is McKee's 37 Universal Detailing Clay. This clay bar glides along the surface of your paint and grabs anything that protrudes from the surface. The particle sticks to the clay and is therefore removed from your vehicle. The surface being clayed should always be wet with clay lubricant to prevent loose debris from scratching the vehicle. McKee's 37 Universal Detailing Clay is a whopping 4 ounces, making it an excellent value.
The next option is a Nanoskin Autoscrub Towel. Manufactured with an advanced rubber polymer coating on one side, the Nanoskin Autoscrub Towel makes achieving smooth, contaminant-free paint easier than ever. Remove paint over spray, bugs, tar, rail dust and industrial fall out with virtually no effort.
The Nanoskin Autoscrub Towel is incredibly easy to use. Simply fold it in half (or into fours) and, using an approved lubricant like Nanoskin GLIDE, simply mist the surface and gently rub the towel back and forth and then side to side. Within seconds the paint will be silky-smooth and ready for polishing.
The polishing step is just as critical as the claying step. Polishing your paint with an abrasive polish or compound removes swirls, scratches, water spots, and below surface contaminants, creating a perfectly smooth, high-gloss finish. Using an abrasive polish, like Wolfgang Total Swirl Remover or Menzerna Super Intensive Polish, is only necessary if your goal is to create a flawless finish.
McKee's 37 Coating Prep Polish enhances gloss and prepares painted finishes for application of a paint coating. This product eliminates the need for an IPA (Isopropyl Alcohol) wipe down. This product polishes paint without leaving any waxes, oils, silicones or fillers on the surface.
Keep in mind that some paint coatings, like Optimum Gloss-Coat and CarPro CQuartz, require the finish to be swirl and scratch free. If you choose either of these two products, be sure to check out our Dual Action Orbital Polishing Guide for tips and tricks on proper paint polishing techniques. Creating a flawless, swirl-free finish is a must if you plan on using either of these two products.
If you do use an abrasive polish or compound, be sure to chemically strip the paint with a product like BLACKFIRE Crystal Coat Paint Prep or CarPro Eraser. Polishes and compounds contain oils and fillers that will prevent a coating from properly bonding to the surface. This is why it is so important to chemically strip cthe surface before applying the paint coating. BLACKFIRE's spray-on, wipe-off coating prep spray is especially easy to use - you'll appreciate that after spending all day polishing your car.
You can avoid using chemical paint strippers if the last polish you use is McKee's 37 Coating Prep Polish. This unique polish is wax, oil, and silicone free. It doesn’t leave anything on the surface that will prevent a coating from properly bonding. It can be applied by hand or machine. It’s also a great option for vehicle’s that don’t have any swirls or scratches to begin with. McKee's 37 Coating Prep Polish is non-abrasive.
Applying a Paint Coating
Once you’ve clayed and polished the vehicle, it’s time to apply the paint coating. Paint coatings are available in syringes (Optimum Gloss-Coat), small glass bottles (GTechniq EXO), conventional cylindrical bottles with sprayers (McKee's 37 Paint Coating), and traditional bottles with flip caps (BLACKFIRE). Spray-on paint coatings are the easiest to apply.
McKee's 37 Paint Coating is one of the more popular paint coatings thanks to its ease of application, excellent durability (up to 2 years!) and extremely high-gloss shine. Best of all, it can be applied by car care enthusiasts of all skill levels. McKee's 37 Paint Coating is forgiving in its application, making it the ideal choice for those just getting introduced to the world of paint coatings.
If easy maintenance is your goal, look no further than BLACKFIRE Crystal Coat Paint Coating. Once you apply Crystal Coat, all you have to do is wash your car with a quality shampoo, like BLACKFIRE Wet Diamond Conditioning Shampoo. Crystal Coat is also the most resistant to alkaline detergents, making it the perfect choice for those located in northern climates where snow, ice and road salt attack your vehicle's delicate finish. While not as easy to apply as McKee's 37 Paint Coating or Optimum Gloss-Coat, BLACKFIRE Crystal Coat is definitely worth the extra effort because it protects your vehicle's paint the best.
Buying a paint coating in a kit is the best option, especially if you're new to coatings. The McKee's 37 Paint, Wheel and Glass Coating Kit contains all the necessary components to ensure proper application of each surface-specific coating.
Optimum takes a unique approach with their paint coating, Gloss-Coat. This product is packed in a 10 cc and 20 ccs syringe, very similar to what you would find in a hospital. Packaging Gloss-Coat in a syringe is necessary because the coating will begin to harden as soon as it is exposed to oxygen. Gloss-Coat is very easy to apply, but you must apply it with care because you only receive enough product for one vehicle (10 cc).
Once a paint coating has been applied, the vehicle should be kept in a cool, dry environment for at least a couple hours. You want to avoid moisture, rain and humidity. It’s best to keep the vehicle parked in a garage or, if it’s not too humid outside, let it sit in the sun. The sun will accelerate the curing time.
Paint coatings need to be properly maintained, just like a car wax or paint sealant. Always make sure to hand wash the vehicle using a quality, pH-balanced soap, like Optimum Car Wash. You can amp up the shine and slickness of your coating by using detail spray, like Pinnacle Crystal Mist or Optimum Instant Detailer & Gloss Enhancer.
Pinnacle offers several products in their Black Label Collection that were designed specifically for maintaining a coated finish. Black Label Diamond Coating Shampoo, Black Label Diamond Coating Detailer, and Black Label Diamond Coating Booster all enhance and rejuvenate the look, feel, and performance of all coatings. These coating-specific maintenance products work better than traditional shampoos and detail sprays designed for waxes and sealants. The Black Label Diamond Coating Maintenance Kit includes them all!
2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 detailed by Mike Phillips using Pinnacle Black Label coatings.
Use Black Label Diamond Coating Booster to maintain the glassy shine and slick finish created by Black Label Diamond Paint or Surface Coating.