As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” The simple truth is that any ceramic coating, whether it’s a professional nano-ceramic coating or a DIY boost spray, will amplify the condition of the paint underneath. Paint correction is required to optimize automotive paint’s depth, shine, and gloss. Professional detailers and DIY enthusiasts will use a Surface Prep Spray to ensure the coating properly bonds before ceramic coating installations.
Like all detailing supplies, some are OK and will “WORK” – and others that are optimal. This is a chronic problem, especially when determining the best products to use for a specific task.
So – let’s explain what a surface prep spray is – what its primary job is – and what product currently on the market is formulated to clean better, is easier to use, and will save you time during your ceramic coating prep work.
Let’s get started.
What is the Difference Between a Surface Prep and Panel Wipe?
A surface prep spray – or panel wipe, is essentially the same. They are wiped on the surface with a microfiber towel – or you can spray it on the car and wipe it off. Both products are typically isopropyl alcohol infused with heavy solvents. They are designed to remove oils, residue, and other contaminants from a surface. This leaves a clear coat, windows, wheels, and other materials you wish to coat surgically clean.
Now, some products are of higher quality than others. And when it comes to surface prep sprays or panel wipes, it breaks down into a blend of ingredients. Most products advertised as panel wipes are straight isopropyl alcohol blended with water. While IPA does a great job of diluting oils and grease, the higher concentration typically leaves streaks.
On the other hand, a surface prep spray will contain surfactants and solvents that work with IPA to break down oils and grease and will not leave a residue. It simply cleans better – and leaves the surface completely debris-free.
Why is Using a Surface Prep Spray Important Before Installing Coatings?
It’s time for a bit of a lesson on how ceramic coatings work. There are two types of coatings:
- Mechanical Bond: The sprayable version is the most common DIY type of coating. This is essentially a blend of ‘ceramic’ ingredients – that can range from Teflon to Silicone – or version/variants of Silica. These ingredients are blended with cleaning agents or tiny percentages of solvents. When sprayed on the surface and buffed off, it physically sticks on top of the substrate or material. This is known as providing a mechanical bond.
- Chemical Bond: The other ceramic coating uses nanotechnology and carrier solvents to penetrate the microscopic imperfections found on all porous materials. As it’s bonding, electrons in the chemical and the surface are shared – and bond together. This creates a chemical or electrical bond – meaning the two are fused.
With each type of coating, the successful adhesion occurs ONLY if the surface below is completely free of any toxins or debris. This includes those tiny imperfections that are penetrated by nanocoatings. If there is debris on the surface, the coating will not bond as well as it should. The result – is premature wear and tear, reduced protection, and a coating that will fail sooner than it should.
When you use a high-quality surface prep spray, you’ll have the ability to remove those oils and grease that seep into the minor cracks on all materials. This gives the coating the best chance of bonding to the material, hardening as it should (without contamination), and providing an ultra-flat and hydrophobic surface.
What’s the Best Surface Prep Spray for Coatings?
Now we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty of the article. We explained above what makes a good surface prep spray. It can’t simply be isopropyl alcohol. It needs to include cleaning agents that will break down contaminants and some solvents that will allow the materials to be removed with ease – without leaving a residue.
One of the best products is Americana Global’s surface prep spray. It’s a product recommended by Ceramic Pro Americas – as the one that each installer should use before applying any of their coatings. It’s a product that works on glass, clear coatings, PPF and vinyl, and matte finishes.