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December 18, 2023 4 min read

How To Remove Ceramic Coating From Your Vehicle

Ceramic coatings are among some of the best products for protecting your vehicle’s painted surface from dirt, road grime, dust, bird droppings, UV rays, acid rain, bugs, and many other harmful elements. While ceramic coatings offer long-lasting protection, they don’t last forever and will eventually break down and often require removal due to several reasons. However, the removal of ceramic coating can be a delicate process and should be done the right way to prevent damaging your vehicle’s paint or clearcoat. In some cases, it is best to leave ceramic coating removal to a professional detailer.

Why Remove a Ceramic Coating?

Ceramic coatings, many of the well-known and trusted brands, tend to last for at least a year or more in ideal conditions. However, there are many reasons that you would want to remove a ceramic coating, such as the most popular reasons below.

  • Eventually, after a year or more, some ceramic coatings may start to wear. While most ceramic coatings claim to last for many years, the reality is that they will eventually wear out and start to deteriorate, warranting you to completely remove them and start over.
  • Did you know ceramic coatings can get scratched? Just like your paint or clearcoat, ceramic coatings can become scratched or scuffed and leave an unsightly surface. In such cases, you may want to perform a removal process and then reapply your coating.
  • Often enough, there are cases where you may want to remove a bad ceramic coating due to poor application. In these cases, which are more common than you think, the surface may not have been properly prepped. That makes the paint or clearcoat under the ceramic coating retain unsightly water spots, swirl marks, minor scratches, or other blemishes that could have been corrected during a paint correction process. Remember, a ceramic coating is only as good as the preparation, which cannot be fixed unless you remove the ceramic coating and then perform a paint correction process before reapplication.
  • Lastly, you will want to remove ceramic coating if you are repairing bodywork from dings, dents, or when your vehicle needs repainting. Leaving ceramic coating on a surface that needs to be prepared for repairs of any kind is a bad idea. You will want to have a clean, “bare” surface to work with when performing any sort of bodywork to prevent unnecessary damage or poor application of paint or clearcoat.

Ceramic Coating Removal Preparation 

Preparing your vehicle for ceramic coating removal is essential as you’ll want to remove as many containments as possible that may reside on the surface of your ceramic coating. Doing such will help prevent unnecessary scratching or scuffing of your vehicle’s paint or clearcoat. You can simply prepare the surface by performing a thorough vehicle rinse and decontamination by washing the vehicle and performing a clay bar process. In some instances, simply performing this process will remove a deteriorated or worn ceramic coating.

Pro Tip: You may utilize TopCoat® Spritz® with a quality clay bar, and a TopCoat® MycroPro 18 - Ultra Professional Detail Microfiber Towel for the clay bar process.

How To Remove Ceramic Coating

Surprisingly, the above decontamination process is sometimes enough to remove a deteriorated or worn ceramic coating. However, if the ceramic coating is new or has not started to wear or deteriorate, you may be required to chemically remove the ceramic coating.

Chemically removing a ceramic coating can be a tricky process, and this is where we highly advise you to check with the manufacturer of your ceramic coating for a proper removal process, as many ceramic coatings require certain chemicals for safe removal. Moreover, your clearcoat and paint may be vulnerable to damage if the proper chemical is not used to strip and remove certain ceramic coatings.

Commonly, alkaline products like degreasers or tire cleaners will work to break down the bond of many ceramic coatings. However, again, we strongly recommend that you check with the manufacturer of your ceramic coating for a removal process before proceeding, in addition to asking if certain chemicals are safe for breaking down and removal of the ceramic coating. 

For a do-it-yourself (DIY) process, you may utilize common cleaning products like degreasers or even wheel cleaners. We must warn you that the use of such products on your paint is normally not recommended, as damage could occur depending on the type of ceramic coating that is present on your vehicle. Additionally, some degreaser and wheel cleaning products may be highly abrasive and contain rather harsh chemicals. Again, check with the manufacturer of those products.

You will want to perform tests in inconspicuous areas for removal of ceramic coating before applying a recommended chemical to the entire surface of your vehicle’s paint. Usually, a dilution of a degreaser or wheel cleaner product diluted 5:1 with water will do the trick, spraying the surface and then applying light pressure to the surface using a clean microfiber cloth. If you apply the mixture, make sure you do not leave it on the surface for long. Additionally, it is essential that you fully remove the applied mixture by pressure washing the surface, but DO NOT use high pressure or a narrow-angle nozzle.

Once you have performed the removal process, you may then test the area to see if the ceramic coating has been removed. One way of doing this is to spray water onto the surface to see if it beads or sheets off. If it beads up, you may still have a ceramic coating on the surface.

Polishing Off Ceramic Coatings May Be Necessary (usually done by a professional)

Professional detailers will commonly polish off a ceramic coating, which requires machine polishing. Usually, detailers will analyze the coating for high spots and abnormalities. They will attack those areas accordingly with either a wet-sanding process or polish using an appropriate compound and pad to basically “cut” the surface to remove a ceramic coating completely.

The polishing process should be left to professionals as damage to the paint may quickly occur if the proper polishing compound or wet sanding process is not used.

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