Coatings vs. PPF

By Mike Burke

I have always viewed ceramic coatings as wax on steroids. But it’s not that at all—it’s a silica-based product, so it’s technically glass. Even so, it provides the benefits of wax and does an even better job. It prevents bird droppings, bugs, and tree sap from sticking to your paint and makes washing and removing water spots easier. Plus, the coating bonds to the paint at a molecular level, so it’s considered semi-permanent. Ceramic coatings can last several years; if you want to remove them, it requires abrasives.


Companies spread the myths that these coatings could be an alternative to paint protection film (PPF) to justify astronomical prices. They were hyped as a true protective coating, multiple times the hardness of a clear coat, which would protect against chips and scratches. While these coatings are much harder than a standard clear coat, in reality they are still much too thin to offer real protection against impact.

Ceramic coatings protect against damage caused when foreign substances bond to paint. They also provide UV protection. In contrast, PPF is an actual physical barrier that protects against physical impacts like rocks and prevents damage by absorbing and dissipating that impact force.

It’s better to look at—and sell—them as complementary products. Putting a UV-blocking coating on top of PPF makes the film last longer and keeps it from yellowing as easily, a problem found on white cars.

A coating can also assist by keeping dirt out of crevices and from sticking to the film’s edges. Its hydrophobic properties make PPF much easier to clean, just like they do with paint. If you apply a ceramic coating over the product, it makes the color even deeper and richer. And the coating is so thin that it doesn’t interfere with a film’s self-healing properties.

Coatings are now available for the interior and have similar benefits. A ceramic coated dash repels dust, and coated leather or upholstery resists staining from clothing dyes (seen a white leather seat after an encounter with new blue jeans?) and spills.

Coatings used to over-promise and under-deliver, were overpriced, and didn’t live up to the hype. But with increased competition, prices have dropped considerably, and marketing has become more honest and realistic.

Mike Burke has been in the window film industry for 33 years. His company, Sun Stoppers, has more than 63 locations in 19 states and offers residential and commercial tint and decorative film services as well as automotive tint, paint protection, and ceramic coatings. If you have a question for Mike to tackle in a future column, email him at

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