Ceramic coating gone wrong: what’s the worst that could happen?

Ceramic coating is a super-hot topic in car detailing these days. And it is for good reason. If done properly, ceramic coating can give your car’s paint a long-lasting layer of protection and keep your car looking shiny for a long time. However, a ceramic coating application done wrong can really screw up your car’s finish. But how bad? And what can be done to fix it? Let’s take a look at some examples of ceramic coating gone wrong.

Before we get into examples of ceramic coating gone wrong, let’s spend some time learning why it can go wrong. 

What is ceramic coating?

Ceramic coating is applied directly to your car’s paint. It’s a lot like car wax on steroids.

It provides a hard, crystal-clear layer of protection to your car’s exterior surface. If you want to read an in-depth overview of ceramic coating, check out this article I wrote.

Unlike traditional wax, ceramic coating is more permanent. And when something is more permanent, there’s a greater likelihood of situations of ceramic coating gone wrong.

The very reason why ceramic coating is so good is the same reason why it’s so bad if it’s not done right!

There’s two main things that can go wrong with ceramic coating:

  1. Improper application
  2. Improper prep work
Photo of Karate Kid doing wax on, wax off with Mr Miyagi
Photo courtesy of Colombia Pictures

Improper Ceramic Coating Application

I’ve been comparing ceramic coating to wax. Applying ceramic coating isn’t done in the same “wax on, wax off” manner as wax, Daniel-san.

Application processes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. But for the most part, ceramic coating generally has to be applied like this….

It needs to be applied in a proper temperature and humidity. And it has to be applied in small areas (i.e. you can’t do your hood all at once). Once applied, it has to cure for a few minutes, and then be promptly removed as the material starts to get tacky. If you wait too long, the ceramic coating will harden and leave what’s known as high spots.  

The term high spots is a little deceiving. To me, it sounds a lot like there will be elevated dry mounds of product all over your car. When I first heard the term, I envisioned someone drizzling Krazy Glue over a car and letting it dry.  

It’s not like that.

High spots look a lot like dried wax residue.

We’ve all done it…. You spend hours waxing your car. It looks amazing. Then a few days later, you’re filling up at the gas station and you’re looking at your car from a different angle when suddenly, you notice a spot you missed.

Not a big deal! I always just wipe it off with my sleeve like a helicopter mom wiping boogers off her kid’s nose.

I know, I, know…. Blasphemy! I should be wiping off that wax residue with a pristine microfiber cloth. 

Cut me a break, I’m past the honeymoon stage with my car.

Can high spots be removed?

If you see a residue spot (high spot) after a ceramic coating, it’s not going to come off. 

You can try rubbing it off with your pristine microfiber cloth.

It won’t go away.

You can try licking your finger and rubbing the spot.

It won’t go away.

Ceramic coating is semi-permanent. So you’re kind of screwed. 

What do ceramic coating high spots look like?

Let’s take a look at some pictures of high spots from ceramic coatings gone wrong.

Here’s a great shot from Hansen Detailing. Rio was approached by an individual who botched up a ceramic coating job on his Maserati. Notice the area below the door handle. You can also see streaks to the immediate right of the door handle.

Photo courtesy of Hansen Detailing

I know… it looks like these streaks can be easily wiped off like wax residue.

Believe me. They won’t. They are there to stay.

In this example, Rio was able to fix the damage and restore this client’s paint with a lot of skilled work. Click here to read the whole story and see more pictures.

Here’s a pick from the Adams forum. This guy did a ceramic coating on his friend’s car and screwed up. Bad. 

Photo courtesy of adamsforums.com

The right side looks pretty good. The left side, not-so-much. The guy posted the image in the forum seeking help on how to fix it.

And now for my “favorite” example of a ceramic coating gone wrong…

This guy applied two coats of ceramic coating to his BMW M2 and didn’t wipe it off either time.

Clearly he didn’t read the application instructions (a critical part of applying ANY ceramic coating!!).

The result?  He absolutely destroyed the paint job.

You can see the damage he did in this video. 

Note: you only need to watch the first 3 minutes of the video. The rest of the video is  nonsense… the guy goes to buy hot dogs (really) and films himself driving in the rain. 

Time for a quick rant about this video. Skip the next paragraph if you don’t want to listen to me whine.

The BMW M2 is on my personal list of dream cars. I got to drive an M2 on a race track and fell head-over-heels in love with it. To see such a magnificent automobile treated like trash makes me want to scream! 

And then what he says about it…. 

“I can take polish and a rag…. And probably get it off…. But I don’t want to put that much work into it” 


He goes on to say…

“It’s a pretty nice car and people probably look at it and think it looks shitty, but whatever.”


I can’t even think about this anymore. It’s like the pretty girl from high school who was dating the guy who treats her like shit. Time to digress….

Let’s talk about the other way that a ceramic coating can go wrong.

Improper prep work before ceramic coating

One of the key things that needs to be done before applying a ceramic coating is a full paint correction.

In a nutshell, paint correction includes a proper wash, paint decontamination with a clay bar, and a polish to make your paint surface as perfect as possible. 

Here’s a side-by-side comparison that shows a surface that’s had paint correction on one half and no correction on the other half…

So why is this important?

Remember, ceramic coating is a crystal-clear layer of protection that goes on top of your car’s paint.

If it’s applied to a car surface that looks like Hell, you’re going to be preserving a surface that looks like Hell!

So it’s very important to make sure your paint is as perfect as it can be before you immortalize it under a ceramic coating. 

What about professionally-applied ceramic coating gone wrong?

Applying ceramic is not an easy DIY project. It takes a lot of skill and patience to do it correctly. And the stakes are pretty high. One wrong move and you’ll have a semi-permanent blemish on your car’s paint.

Because of this, many people turned to trained professionals to perform the job.

But ceramic coating is so difficult to apply that even trained professionals can mess up. 

Check out this picture from Mike Phillips from Auto Geek Online. It’s very subtle, but the high spot is the area that looks pearlescent.

Photo courtesy of autogeekonline.net

Mike is a seasoned veteran in the auto detailing business and even he made a mistake. 

It just goes to show you how difficult it is to work with ceramic coating. 

Granted, this is a relatively tiny mistake on a flawless ceramic coating job. And Mike was able to fix it with ease. (To see more pictures and learn how Mike fixed the high spot, click here.)

The point here is that if a very experienced car detailer can overlook a spot when applying ceramic coating, chances are the novice weekend warrior is going to overlook a lot more.

Why is this important? 

Because you need to know that the slightest mistake can cause unsightly damage that can be very expensive to fix.

Can a ceramic coating gone wrong be fixed?

Absolutely. But it’s not always all that easy to fix.

Our friend with the M2 in the YouTube video is going to have to use a power polisher and the correct abrasive product to remove all those high spots. 

If you messed up your ceramic coating job so bad that it needs to be power polished, it’s probably safe to assume that you don’t have the skill set to polish a car!

If not done properly, using a power polisher can remove your car’s paint. And I don’t think I have to say it, but fixing a spot where you removed paint is even MORE difficult.

So if you’ve botched a ceramic coating job, do yourself (and your car!) a favor and hire a professional repair it for you. Just know that the job will be costly. To learn about how to remove ceramic coating, check out this article I wrote.


A ceramic coating is a pretty easy thing to screw up. Make sure you apply it carefully and follow manufacturer’s instructions. Because if you don’t, you’ll have some semi-permanent blemishes on your car that could be very expensive to remove.

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