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What is Hydrophobic Coating?
Published by Mark Peter on November 06, 2019
By pure definition, it is a thin surface layer that repels water. It is made from superhydrophobic materials. Droplets hitting this kind of coating can fully rebound.1
But there’s certainly a bigger implication to that, especially for car enthusiasts…
And vehicle owners altogether, as in our days pretty much everyone can benefit from this sort of technology.
But what is it exactly? How does it work and how can you take advantage of it?
Today I want to bring to you a 50% scientific, 50% functional, and 200% you will want to get your car a hydrophobic coating for your car as soon as you’re done reading article.
So buckle your seatbelts and get ready for a physics-geek ride, provided by someone who hasn’t studied physics since high-school.
But don’t get me wrong, I know what I’m talking about…
I love studying by myself and I’ve been interested in this topic for years.
Needless to say, my car is currently coated and I couldn’t be happier about the results I have with it. It’s been years since I don’t have to wash my car as most people do.
Now, if you don’t know what exactly does hydrophobic coatings do to vehicles...I’ll try to explain in a couple of paragraphs what I’ve learned in several articles and dozens of YouTube videos over the past years:
First, hydrophobic coating’s main function is to protect your car’s paint coat and make it…
You guessed it right…
How does this make your paintwork any different?
And how will did this made me enjoy the laziest car wash, ever?
Well, having a surface that totally repels water makes it avoid pretty much everything that could stick to the vehicle.
Which in practical terms means you will just have to dust your car off with a microfiber towel every couple weeks. Yes, no more carwash.
But that’s not only it…
The hydrophobic coating also provides an extra layer of protection from:
- Chips and minor scratches.
- UV rays.
- Acid rain and bird droppings.
And last but not least, a gorgeous glossy shine.
Now, let’s get deeper into that...
So first of, let’s start from the basics, the composition:
What is Hydrophobic Coating Made Of?
Nature has a vast array of hydrophobic surfaces. If you haven’t seen videos of water sliding off certain plant leaves, you should. It’s super mesmerizing.
Hydrophobic car coating specifically is made of SiO2. Silicon dioxide, more widely known as silica or ceramic2.
So the scientists developed a system where they could suspend this silica and evenly spread it, so once it dries, a thin coat of clear ceramic remains.
This sort of technology is not really that old, I’d probably say it is the latest big discovery that marked a milestone in the car detailing industry.
The first industrial development of this technology occurred around 2007…
Which now that I say it makes me feel a little bit old, it’s been more than 10 years, but I might be overdramatizing.
I started growing interest in this technology since I first saw it online but at the time it was not available commercially.
This technology popularized but still very few workshops had it available, and it was VERY EXPENSIVE.
I never lost hopes, I knew that the more popular it became the cheaper it would be to manufacture, and eventually, it would be more affordable for a commoner like me.
And it happened!
Currently, there are plenty of options out there, including the DIY ones, which are awesome.
You don’t have to leave your home, it is pretty easy to apply and super affordable!
Speaking about DIY, make sure to buy products specifically for what you’re looking for.
Although the technology and “the main ingredient” (silica), are the same, the medium it comes in varies depending on the surface to apply.
It is not the same to get silica coating for your paintwork than hydrophobic coating for glass, so make sure to buy a specialized product, depending on the surface you’re applying it to.
Alright, now that we know what is ceramic coating made of, let’s talk about…
How Long Does Hydrophobic Coating Last?
That is a very tricky question.
And there is not really a standard answer to that. There are 2 main factors what intervene:
- The product
- The use you give to your vehicle
So if someone tells you, “this product will last for a year”, it might not be very accurate.
If you live in an area with constant hail or snow, sand exposure or even if your park outdoors and not indoors; it will impact the durability of your ceramic coating. Which is really not a bad thing, it’s just normal.
So take that into consideration and either check on the product you purchased or ask your professional detailer for a range and not a specific lapse.
Now, something very important to keep in mind is that ceramic coating doesn’t fade from one day to another, it gradually loses its effectivity.
As soon as you notice that water is not sliding off the surface as easy as it did, it might be time to reapply it. It’s really up to you if you decide to do it right away or wait a little longer while the coating is still good, but not AS good.
Now, if you want a rough estimate, it ranges from 6 months to up to 3 years.
Usually, professional detailer services tend to last longer where DIY products, as they are easier to apply, they last a little less (but even considering reapplication, it is still way more affordable).
Hydrophobic car coating comes either in a regular bottle or a spray.
Nothing special about the regular bottles, but I’ve received several questions about safety when it comes to sprays, so…
Is Hydrophobic Spray Toxic?
Hydrophobic car coating comes in a liquid state which evaporates, leaving the suspended particles of silica in the applied area, creating a crystalized polymeric layer over the applied surface.
Of course, sprays leave fumes whenever they’re spritzed, and you certainly won’t want those silica crystals forming inside your body.
Now, there are certainly no documented cases of disease caused by silica coating sprays, as most of the time it wouldn’t even accumulate to actually form crystals. Now, of course, there are certain measurements.
First, a security mask and goggles are a MUST.
Another measure that can be taken is spraying over the applicator and then applying it over the surfaces.
Besides safety, I’ve been asked a lot about hydrophobic coating in spray being splotchy, not applying evenly of forming droplets.
Well, part of the process of applying ceramic coating is buffing out the excess product to leave it even, regardless if you applied with a block applicator or you sprayed it. Another interesting fact is that the silica coating has self-leveling properties.
So nothing to worry about, either block applicators or sprays, the distribution will be even.
Of course, skepticism is normal.
Being able to apply a coating that reduces the need to clean your car, no water needed whenever you do have to wash, an added gloss, protection layer against scratches, UV protection, and way longer lasting than any wax or sealant…
Sounds crazy, right?
And also being able to acquire all this without spending an arm and a leg in the process is simply great.
Too good to be true.
So before hopping in and possibly compromising your car’s paint coat…
Does Hydrophobic Coating Work?
Here I won’t talk from a science perspective but from my personal experience.
I know you are here because you’re most likely a car enthusiast, but that’s really not what I am.
Yes, I love cars, but I wouldn’t say my level of commitment is enough to call myself an “enthusiast”. I started this journey having 2 main drivers:
Curiosity and laziness.
At first, I was hooked with all of those videos of people doing all sorts of weird tests on ceramic coated vehicles.
From throwing muddy water in the hood, scratches and even setting it on fire!
But then I started investigating about how those crazy experiments were actually functional to a car. And the first thing I found out was:
I wouldn’t have to wash my car anymore!
No more sponges, buckets and a couple of extra hours of sleep on my weekends. My dream come true.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like you won’t have to clean your car ever. The only difference here is that there won’t be any need to use water while washing the vehicle.
How do you clean the car, then?
You take a microfiber towel and buff away any dust that accumulated. Yeah, simple as that!
And even when cleaning is THAT SIMPLE, as dirt barely sticks to the surface I only have to clean the dust off once every two weeks or so.
So really, a win-win situation.
But hydrophobicity is only a part of the benefits of coating your car. Scratch protection is pretty major.
Now, if a tree falls and hits the hood of your car, I assure you there will be some sort of damage even if your car is coated.
Being said this, pebbles, twigs, bird droppings, insects and all of that kind of stuff will slowly mess up the clear coat of your car’s paintwork, will not be something you have to really worry about.
Hydrophobic car coating is usually as thin as a hair3 but the level of added protection against environmental threats is not to be ignored. It even acts as a sunscreen for your vehicle, protecting it from UV rays.
As much as I consider myself as someone who doesn’t give the looks big importance, appearance does matter if we are talking about my car.
Silica coated vehicles look like if they were freshly waxed, but waxes last for a couple of weeks while this coating can last from half a year up to 3 years.
And let’s not forget mentioning the price.
When this technology popularized, it was common to pay something between $1, 000 to $2, 000 USD to get your vehicle coated, but now with all of the DIY alternatives, you can achieve professional results for a fraction of the price.
Of course, you’re wondering; among those thousands of options out there, which one is my go-to...
Shine Armor’s Fortify Quick Coat.
Want to know more about it?