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What to Know About Wrapping Ceramic-Coated Vehicles

Ceramic coatings have become more and more popular in the past few years. They provide a wide range of benefits: semi-permanent protection against dirt and water, UV protection, enhanced appearance, and low maintenance. In simple terms, a ceramic coating repels dirt and chemicals by creating a very, very low surface energy layer.

If you go to any ceramic coating manufacturer website or YouTube, you will see videos of water just sliding off a car. It’s very impressive, but it comes with a hitch.

protection against dirt and chemicals
In simple terms, a ceramic coating repels dirt and chemicals by creating a very, very low surface energy layer.

If a ceramic coating is applied over a wrap, great. If a ceramic coating was applied to the paint before the wrap is installed, not great. In fact, it’s really bad, as the same low surface energy that repels water and chemicals will also keep the wrap from sticking to the vehicle.

Yet, this doesn’t mean that wrapping a vehicle with ceramic coating is impossible. It means you need to take some extra and specific steps during the prep phase.

YelloQuickStick
YelloQuickStick from Yellotools

First off, it’s critical to find out if the paint has a ceramic coating. This is actually quite easy to do. One way is to ask the client if a ceramic coating was applied to the car. If they don’t know (perhaps they bought the car second hand or it’s a lease), then right after cleaning the vehicle with a degreaser (like 70% IPA), use an energy surface pen like the YelloQuickStick from Yellotools.

In just a couple of seconds, you can see if the surface energy is high or low. If it’s high (the line isn’t beading), this means no ceramic coating, and you can go right into the wrapping process. If it’s low (the line is beading), then there is a good chance there is a ceramic coating.

If there is a ceramic coating, it will have to be mechanically removed. This sounds aggressive, but it’s pretty straightforward. Using a citrus-based cleaner (my personal favorite is Citrus All-Purpose Cleaner from Gtechniq) and a clay bar towel (The Rag Company makes the best one), go over the entire vehicle surface.

This combination will break down the ceramic coating so the parts that lower the surface energy are dramatically reduced. Keep in mind that this process should be super thorough as missing one spot will mean it still has super low surface energy. If this spot is on an edge or in a recessed area, the wrap will lift, leading to a costly redo.

After this step, be sure to degrease the entire surface of the vehicle and do another test with the YelloQuickStick on several areas of the vehicle, particularly the rocker panel, edges, and under the bumpers. If you get solid lines all around, then it’s time to wrap it up. Once wrapped, upselling a ceramic coating is a great way to increase profits while making happy clients—a win-win.

Justin Pate

Justin Pate is a graphic installer/instructor with over 18 years of experience working both in the U.S. and Europe. Justin teaches workshops across the world most notably for Avery Dennison and Mutoh in North America. In 2014, he launched The Wrap Institute (www.wrapinstitute.com). Currently, The Wrap Institute is comprised of hundreds of HD streaming videos that cover all aspects of graphic installations. For more information on Justin check out @justinpatewrapper on Instagram.

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