PPF vs. Ceramic Coating: Which Is Best for Your Car?

If you're looking for excellent protection for your new car's paintwork, look no further than ceramic paint or paint protection film. Improved over the years, these two products use the best technology available to provide a layer of protection that is hard to match. Although the two have some things in common, there are also differences. To provide the facts to help you make an informed decision, let's take a moment to compare ceramic coatings and paint protection films (aka PPF).

What is Ceramic Coating?

In the automotive sector, ceramic coatings are liquid polymers used to provide microscopic layers of paint protection. It is made of silica and other special ingredients that are applied directly to the varnish. When applied, it penetrates tiny imperfections in the clear coat, creating a flat finish.

Also known as nano-ceramic coating or car paint nano-coating. "Nano" describes the size of the molecules that make up the coating. The particles are 80 to 100 nanometers in size and can only be seen under a powerful microscope. For reference, one inch is equal to 25 million nanometers.

Due to the tiny size of the coating particles, it seals any imperfections in the clear coat, making it resistant to chemicals, UV rays, bird droppings, scratches, extreme heat, and is a great anti-graffiti product.

What is paint protection film – PPF?

What started as a protective layer for helicopter blades during the Vietnam War has grown into a scientific and amazing solution for car paint protection. PPF or Paint Protection Film is a thermoplastic polyurethane film applied to paint. It is usually clear to show the freshly polished paint underneath. Owners can purchase products in different colors if desired.

PPF is highly resistant to corrosion or acid based contaminants such as bird droppings, pesticides and road grime. It's also made from a flexible, elastic polymer material that allows it to retain its natural shape while in use.

It can also repair itself if minor scratches occur. It is applied by a professional detailer or installer and has very good self-healing properties.

Protection From Harsh Elements

The main source of paint damage is UV rays, or ultra-violet light. Excessive heat, acid rain, and even smog contain irritating pollutants that can slowly erode clear paint coatings if left unprotected. This is the task of paint protection films and nano-ceramic coatings.

The ceramic coating is cured on the surface of the clear coating of the entire car to form a very strong glass protective layer that blocks ultraviolet rays, acid rain, smog, ice and snow from adhering to the paint surface. PPF does the same job, but the material is much softer.

Prevent fading

When the clear coat is damaged, the paint on the car starts to fade. The main sources are UV rays, chemicals and acids. PPF is made of a durable material (thermoplastic polyurethane) that resists these harmful contaminants and can maintain its integrity for up to 10 years.

Likewise, ceramic car paint protective layers consist of SiO2 or silicon dioxide. SiO2 is an inorganic metal oxide with a diameter of less than 100 nanometers. As it hardens and wears away from the surface after application, it forms a layer of crystals on the surface.

The higher the SiO2 content, the harder and more durable. Most of the best DIY ceramic paints are around 70% SiO2 - crème de la crème over 80% but below 90% because really high SiO2 paints are very difficult to apply.

Paint looking fresh and clean

Before applying PPF or nanocoating, it is recommended to polish the paint and apply a clear coat over the underlying factory paint. This helps create an amazing shine. Because the coating cures like glass, it enhances the brilliance of the base coat over freshly polished paint. PPF also helps keep harmful substances out, keeping paint looking clean and fresh for years.

What is the difference between ceramic coating and PPF?

While these two paint protection products share many similarities, there are some key areas in which they differ significantly.

Material difference

For starters, the material is night and day. Ceramic coatings are liquid products, while PPF is a polymer or vinyl based material. Ceramic paint is created by applying the liquid formula to an applicator sponge, spreading it over the painted surface, waiting for it to dry, and then buffing it.

PPF is installed by laying vinyl over the surface, smoothing out any air bubbles and bumps, then using a hot air blower to help the paint adhere. Besides materials and installation techniques, there are other differences between the two products.

Offers different levels of protection

The ceramic coating actually smooths out the paint, making it easier to clean the car. These coats also give the paint a very glossy look, create a hydrophobic surface and are completely transparent.

Wash your vehicle every two weeks using the double bucket cleaning method for a high quality nano coating. You don't have to apply anything over ceramic coating to improve paint protection or improve gloss and water resistance capabilities.

PPF protects your vehicle from damage caused by small debris such as pebbles, dust, and other debris blown up by traffic and wind. Remember - PPF will not make your car bulletproof, but if small rocks or sticks hit your car, they are unlikely to penetrate the PPF material.

Also, if a small rock or other debris hits the PPF, it may cause minor scarring. The coolest thing about this material is that it can heal itself. Just apply some hot air to the affected areas and they will blend together.

Which one is best for your car?

Deciding whether to install ceramic coating or PPF really comes down to two factors - your budget and your needs. If you're looking to improve the shine of your paintwork and reduce the need to wash your vehicle weekly, then ceramic-coated parts are best for you.

If you frequently drive on country roads or highways and want to protect your paint from stone chips and other road debris that can penetrate ceramic coatings, PPF is your best choice.

In terms of cost - PPF is far from the most expensive paint protectant. It is always installed by a professional, and in most cases, it can run up to $5,000 for the entire vehicle.

Ceramic coating can be done by yourself (requires some upfront work). You can do a DIY ceramic coating installation for about $600 (including materials needed for prep and ongoing car care).

Advantages of Applying Ceramic Coatings on PPF

So you want the best of both worlds? Consider using both—but in a strategic way. Most PPF car owners only apply this material to the front bumper or grille area, fenders, hood and mirrors.

This is done to protect highly exposed areas from falling rocks and other minor debris. They then apply ceramic coatings or other paint protection products to other exposed areas of the vehicle.

However, if you're looking for the ultimate layer of protection, consider a DIY ceramic coat as a topcoat for PPF. The ceramic coating adheres to the PPF. With extra effort, you can mitigate some of the disadvantages of pure PPF protection.

Enhanced self-cleaning

You'll spend less time cleaning or washing your car as dirt and debris have a harder time adhering to the PPF and ceramic coating. This helps to improve the car care of PPF materials and improve the cleanliness of vehicles.

As you can see, choosing a ceramic coating or PPF to protect your vehicle's finish is a smart idea. If cost is your primary concern, you should probably opt for ceramic coating. However, if you're looking for ultimate protection, consider both.

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