Considering Ceramic?

By Mel Villalon

Now that we can say we are in the same family, is ceramic something to consider as an added service? Ceramic window film has ushered in an unprecedented earnings potential for dealers while creating greater perceived value and adding comfort to the consumer experience. You already have the ceramic lingo down as a window tinter, along with your heat box display that delivers that one-two punch—heck, why not give it a shot?

Not So Fast

But the record stops playing and the DJ stops spinning. Slow down there—they are not the same thing in how they operate and serve their purpose. First, I’ll give you my definition—from a window film professional perspective. From my earliest days in window film, we had simple dyed and metalized polyester films. These metalized films were too shiny, challenging to form, and generally not designed or intended for automotive use. The metal was deposited onto the film by way of vapor coating.

Sputter coating originated in the early ‘90s and ushered in the era of metalized films with various levels of reflectance while maintaining far better heat rejection and color stability than any dyed polyester products of the day. We now had our good, and better, for the automotive sector. Sputter-coated titanium films became our best. Hybrid metalized and dyed films fought to be on top as well. Profits and performance went up, along with the devaluation of the word “titanium” as a way of signifying a product’s superiority.

Origin Story

The term “ceramic” is the new term that defines what’s good. Here’s how it came to be in the window film world. With the increase in modern vehicle technology, a new problem arose through radio frequency interference, conductivity with defrost lines, and diversified antenna leads incorporated with defrost lines.

Underlying GPS, navigation antennas, keyless entry, infrared-based systems, tire sensors and cell phone signals were all susceptible to blocked or reduced signal strength through metalized film on the windows.

Ceramic window film became the answer and also the question. Is the ceramic in window film a thing or a process? Follow my column, and we’ll get back to this at a later date.

As for applied ceramic coatings, the chemistry side is much more complex. Ceramic coatings bond to the surface on a molecular level known as cross-linking. Once properly prepped and applied, abrasion is the method needed for removal. Words like hydrophobic, beading, surface tension, inorganic, sio2, silica, 9h mohs and 9h pencil scale will become part of your vocabulary. Trust me on this, and get to know these because there is a plethora of professional-grade and DIY consumer-grade ceramic stuff out there. Combine this with some YouTube-graduate expertise because you will face consumers with solid attempts to become an expert on what you do.

Expert Testimony

We hurt ourselves as an industry every time we leave misinformation unchallenged or uncorrected. It’s even worse if we misinform our customer base. We must understand what ceramic coatings can and cannot do, and we must manage customer expectations. I decided to reach out to my experienced colleagues to discover the top three things you should know about ceramic coatings as an applicator and how you should educate a consumer.

Tony Kiger of Eye of the Kiger in Orlando, Fla:

“Customers should know what to expect as in performance, maintenance and relative life expectancy.

As an installer—they should know what we are offering, how to apply and what could happen if improperly applied.”

Dann Williams, president of Business Development at Owner’s Pride in Omaha, Neb., and host of the Owner’s Pride Podcast:

“Ceramic coatings changed the landscape of the detailing industry. Some companies mislead customers by not explaining what ceramic coatings do and by selling non-compliant warranties. That is a whole topic of its own. The backbone of ceramic is a repeating chain of (-Si-O-Si-O-Si-). This is where you get the ceramic, silicone dioxide, glass coating and other marketing terms. These repeating chains can vary in length and what type of additional substituents are grafted on to the backbone. This is the reason there are so many different ceramic coatings on the market. The simplest analogy is spaghetti sauce. They all have tomato as an ingredient, but what else is added to make it special and taste slightly different from the next one? The Si-C bond does not happen until the reaction starts on the surface.”

Burns Mulhearn, president of Geoshield Window Films:

“I think it is important to note that customers should not look at warranty to determine how long a coating will last. Just because a coating has a seven warranty does not mean it will last seven years. There are too many factors to take into account, including the original condition of paint, preparation, installation, maintenance, storage, use and environment.”

Bernice Berry, owner/operator of Pure Luxury Tint and Detailing Services in Chandler, Ariz:

“Only hand wash, no brush car washes or it voids your warranty. It reduces wash/maintenance every month. ”

I’ll add that many coatings’ warranties are only valid if the coating is periodically reapplied. Of course, it will last for 20 years if you’re reapplying every year. Hang in there—we’ll learn together along the way.

Mel Villalon is the general manager of Paradise Tinting Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.

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