image of a car roof with water droplets

How to Remove Ceramic Coating: It’s Not Easy

Before I get into explaining how to remove ceramic coating from your car, it’s more important for us to discuss why you want to remove the ceramic coating in the first place.

Why do you want to remove ceramic coating?

There’s really only two reasons why you should want to learn how to remove ceramic coating from your car. You either:

  1. Screwed up applying it; or 
  2. Want to remove an old coat before applying a new one. 

Let’s discuss these reasons in depth.

Reason #1: You screwed up

The most popular reason a ceramic coating needs to be removed is because you (or someone else) screwed up applying it. 

Ceramic coating is tricky to apply. And if you don’t do it right, you’ll have high spots and hazy marks all over your car that won’t come off no matter how hard you try to remove them. 

Photo showing ceramic coating gone wrong on a Maserati door.
See the hazy marks on the door? Those are high spots. Picture courtesy of Hansen Detailing

I wrote an entire article on ceramic coating gone wrong. Check it out to understand how and why a ceramic coating (if applied incorrectly) can actually end up damaging your car’s finish.

If you’re the victim of a ceramic coating gone wrong, you don’t necessarily need to remove the entire coat. It really depends on how bad the high spots are.

For example, if your high spots are only on one fender and the rest of the car looks good, you can just remove the coating from said fender and re-apply it.

But if the whole car is covered with high spots, you’ll likely want to remove the ceramic coating off the entire car and try again. Maybe this time hire a professional to do the job. Just sayin’.

Reason #2: You want to remove old ceramic coating before applying a new coat

There’s a popular belief out there that says you need to remove an existing ceramic coating before applying a new one.

It’s not true.

Let’s talk about why so many people believe this and then I’ll explain why it’s a false belief.

Your detail shop says you need to do it

If you take your car to your local detail shop, there’s a good chance they will tell you that the old coating needs to be removed before applying a new one.

There is some truth (and value) in taking this step before applying a new layer of ceramic coating.  Here’s why….

Part of the overall ceramic coating process is making sure your paint is in its best-possible condition before you apply the coating. Your car’s finish is thoroughly cleaned, decontaminated with a clay bar, and polished to remove small scratches from your car. 

Picture showing paint correction before and after
Left side is before paint correction, right side has paint correction.

This process is called paint correction. It’s common practice to do a paint correction on a car before applying ceramic coating. Here’s why:

Ceramic coating is a crystal-clear layer of protection that lies on top of  your car’s finish. So it makes sense to get your finish to look its best before preserving it under the ceramic coating. 

Consider the alternative: If your car’s finish looks like hell and you cover it in ceramic coating, you’ll basically be preserving unsightly scratches.

Removing your old ceramic coating is basically part of a paint correction job.

A good detailing shop is committed to making your car look great. And by doing a full paint correction (and ceramic coating removal) before applying a new layer of ceramic coating they are going to make your car look it’s best (and make you happy!)

Let’s take a look at another reason why you might want to remove your old ceramic coating before applying a new coat:

The internet says you need to remove old ceramic coating

There’s many websites that state you must remove ceramic coating before applying a new coat.  Believe me, I know! I visited many of these websites while researching this article.

I call BS on most of these sites. If you examine the sites a little deeper, you’ll learn that they’re not necessarily experts

However, if you look hard enough, you’ll find some reputable sources of information online. Here’s an example of a good source that speaks the truth about removing an old layer of ceramic coating before applying a new one.

Todd Cooperider is a detailing expert. He’s the founder of Esoteric Fine Auto Finishing – a detailing shop that is among the finest in the country. Owners of six-figure super cars trust Esoteric to detail their prized rides. If that’s not proof that Todd is an expert in the field, I don’t know what is! 

In this video, Todd says there’s no need to remove an old ceramic coating before applying a new one…

I don’t know about you, but given Todd’s trust and experience in the industry, I’m going to believe what he has to say about detailing cars.

Here’s the bottom line: 

  • You don’t have to remove the old coat because your new coat can’t bond to the old coat. This is a myth. Your new ceramic coating will bond to your old coat. 
  • The main reason you may want to remove an old coat is to do it as part of the paint correction process (you would do this because your old coat is scratched up and you want to make your finish perfect before covering it in a new coat).
  • If you’re OK with the way your car’s finish looks, don’t bother removing your old coat and doing paint correction before applying a new coat. You’ll save yourself some time and money.

Enough lecturing! Just tell me how to remove ceramic coating

Now that we’ve gotten some of the misconceptions out of the way, let’s talk about how to remove ceramic coating.

The best way for you to remove ceramic coating from your car is by following the instructions of the manufacturer of the ceramic coating product you are trying to remove. Go to their website or call their customer service lines and find out what they recommend. 

But what if you don’t remember who made the ceramic coating you applied? 

You can use a power polisher.

How to remove ceramic coating with a polisher

I wish I could give you step-by-step instructions on how to do this. But it’s a difficult topic to address because the method you use depends on your specific situation… How old is the ceramic coating? How bad are the high spots? What kind of polisher do you have?

Without knowing the specifics, it’s hard to give instructions on what to do.

The safest thing to do is hire an experienced professional detailer who knows how to properly use a polisher.

If you’re a DIY’er and you’re experienced using a polisher, I’m sure you can do a little research and figure out how to properly remove the coating.

But if you’re a rookie and you’re trying to fix a problem you created in the first place by applying a DIY ceramic coating unsuccessfully… BE VERY CAREFUL! If not used properly, a polisher can remove paint. I’m not throwing shade…. But you did screw up once already… and if you screw up with a polisher, you’ll make you problem worse!

Conclusion

Removing ceramic coating isn’t something that needs to be done if you are applying a new layer of ceramic coating to your car. 

But if you do need to remove your ceramic coating, it’s not an easy thing to do. You should consider hiring an experienced professional to do it for you.

If you want to do it yourself, contact your coating manufacturer to learn the best way to do it. 

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