Single stage paints have been used on vehicles for decades. Often found on vintage, classic, and older cars, single stage paints provide a durable, glossy finish in one layer. While simple compared to modern basecoat-clearcoat systems, properly caring for and protecting single stage paint comes with unique considerations.
Applying a ceramic coating is one popular way to enhance the appearance and durability of both factory and aftermarket single stage paint jobs. When done correctly, ceramic coatings bond exceptionally well to all types of automotive paints, including more delicate single stage finishes.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about ceramic coating single stage paints. From proper paint prep to coating care and longevity, we’ll provide tips to help you ceramic coat single stage paints like a professional detailer.
Can You Ceramic Coat Single Stage Paint?
The short answer is yes – ceramic coatings are fully compatible with and provide great benefits to single stage automotive paints.
As we noted above, ceramic coatings form a protective layer that bonds to the clearcoat or pigmented paint underneath. Since single stage paints lack a clear topcoat, the coating bonds directly to the color paint layer.
Ceramic coatings are designed for automotive surfaces and work exceptionally well on all paint types – single stage acrylic lacquer, single stage enamel, urethane, and synthetic enamels included.
So whether you have a factory single stage paint job or a fresh repaint on your classic ride, ceramic coatings can certainly be applied. They provide the same durability, protection, and gloss boosting effects as they would on modern clearcoated paints.
However, there are some important considerations to keep in mind when coating vintage single stage paints, which we’ll cover next.
Prepping Single Stage Paint for Coating
Proper surface prep is critical for any ceramic coating application. But extra care must be taken when coating delicate single stage finishes.
The main reason is that single stage paint layers are notably thinner than modern basecoat-clearcoat systems. Without a thick clearcoat to sand and polish, the color paint is more vulnerable to instilling defects or burning through with aggressive polishing.
Here are some best practices for prepping single stage paint for coating:
Inspect Paint Condition
Carefully assess the condition of the existing paint before moving forward. Look for signs of oxidation, fading, cracks, or other damage that should be addressed before coating.
The prep stages below should remove light defects for older, original paint. But extensive paint correction may require touch up or re-spraying sections first.
Wash and Decontaminate
Give the paint a thorough wash with a pure soap and water, then clay bar to remove bonded surface contaminants.
This helps promote better bonding by stripping away dirt, tar, old wax or sealants, and other debris that could cause coating failure down the road.
Avoid Harsh Compounding
Lightly polish by hand or with a low-powered dual action polisher using a fine finishing polish only. Harsh cutting compounds can damage thin single stage paint.
Ideally, polish just enough to provide a smooth bonding surface while removing minor swirls or oxidation. Limit passes and work in small sections to prevent burning through paint.
alternative approach for delicate paint:
Consider skipping polishing entirely and simply use a light cleaner glaze by hand to prep more delicate or worn single stage paint for coating. This provides light cleaning without removing paint thickness.
Alternative products for delicate paint:
- CarPro Essence Hand Polish
- Menzerna 3-in-1 Polish
- Meguiar’s M07 Show Car Glaze
Fill Minor Scratches
For thin paints, filling scratches with polish or a dedicated paint cleaner is preferred over trying to fully remove them and risking burn-through. Consider products like:
- CarPro Denim Paint Cleaner
- Meguiar’s M205 Finishing Polish
Avoid Paint Edges
Use extra caution when working on paint edges and vertical panels where paint is thinnest. Avoid over-polishing these areas.
Prep Trim Pieces
Use alcohol or paint prep spray to clean and degrease exterior trim and plastic pieces before coating. Avoid coating rubber or textured trim.
By taking extra care during the paint preparation stages, you help ensure a perfectly smooth finish for your ceramic coating to bond to. Avoiding overly aggressive polishing maintains the integrity of the delicate single stage paint thickness.
Applying Ceramic Coating to Single Stage Paint
Once properly prepped, the application process for coating single stage paints is the same as modern clearcoat finishes. Here is the general process:
1. Panel Wipe Down
Give the freshly prepped paint one final wipe down using an isopropyl alcohol (IPA) solution or panel prep spray like CarPro Eraser. This removes any polish oils or filling agents.
2. Apply Coating
Carefully apply the ceramic coating according to manufacturer instructions, ensuring full coverage across all painted panels. Avoid applying too thick of a coating layer.
3. Layer and Cure
For optimum protection, apply 2-3 thin layers of the ceramic coating, allowing 10-15 minutes between coats to cure partially.
Then allow the coating to fully cure for the specified period, typically 12-24 hours. Avoid getting wet during this curing timeframe.
4. Post Cure Prep
Once fully cured, give the coated paint a light buff with a microfiber to remove any high spots in the coating. Then apply a spray ceramic coating topper for added gloss and protection.
And just like that, you can enjoy the slick, glossy protection of a professionally ceramic coated paint finish – even on your prized classic single stage paint job.
Choosing the Best Ceramic Coating for Single Stage Paint
While all reputable ceramic coatings work great on single stage paints when applied correctly, some professional-grade options are specially formulated for extra flexibility and bonding on delicate, vintage finishes.
Gtechniq Crystal Serum Light
Gtechniq’s flagship ceramic coating designed for soft, porous paints on classics and exotics. Highly flexible, with outstanding chemical resistance.
A newer polymer formula made specifically for coating paints that are thinner, softer, or more prone to cracking like single stages. Provides excellent protection tailored for delicate finishes.
Feynlab Ceramic Coating
Touted as one of the most flexible and breathable pro-grade ceramic coatings available. The elastic formula cushions against paint expansion and contraction.
Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Spray Coating
A consumer-friendly ceramic coating option that is safe for all paint types, including worn single stage finishes. Easy to apply by hand for DIY enthusiasts.
Any of those options are great choices specifically for coating over single stage paints. But again, nearly any reputable ceramic coating will bond well to properly prepped single stage paints and provide long-lasting protection.
Durability and Longevity of Coated Single Stage Paint
Just how long can you expect a ceramic coated single stage paint job to last? With proper preparation and application, longevity can reach:
Most professional detailers report pro-grade ceramic coatings lasting 2-5 years on well-maintained single stage paints. Just like basecoat-clearcoat systems, proper surface prep is key for maximizing durability.
However, single stage paints may show signs of deterioration sooner as the thinner paint layer wears or oxidizes over time. So the coating life may outlast the paint condition in some cases.
DIY-applied consumer ceramic coatings often provide protection for 1-2 years on single stage paint when following all preparation and application best practices.
On paint that is already worn, delicate or degraded, ceramic coatings may only provide 6-12 months of protection before paint condition dictates
Maintaining and Caring for Coated Single Stage Paint
Once your single stage paint is ceramic coated, a little regular maintenance goes a long way in keeping the finish looking its best. Here are some tips for caring for coated single stage paint:
Hand Wash Regularly
Use a pure shampoo and water to gently wash away dirt, grime, and contaminants that can bond to the coating’s surface. Avoid abrasive mitts or pads.
Wash in the shade and rinse thoroughly to prevent water spotting.
Top Up Hydrophobic Properties
Over time, the ceramic coating’s water beading effect will weaken as the surface becomes contaminated.
Recharge hydrophobicity every 3-6 months using a ceramic detailer or spray coating topper like CarPro Reload or Gtechniq C2v3.
Avoid Harsh Cleaners or Polishes
Aggressive compounds or polishes can cut through thin single stage paint, so avoid using these on coated surfaces. Mild paint cleaners are okay for spot cleaning.
Inspect for Paint Damage
Closely look for any signs of new damage like chips, scratches, cracks, or etching in the single stage paint underneath the coating. Address immediately to prevent spreading.
Remove Surface Bonded Contaminants
Clay bar the paint 1-2 times yearly to remove bonded contaminants that can dull the coating gloss or lead to etching or other damage over time.
Reapply Coating if Needed
If coating durability wanes after 2-3 years, you can safely reapply a fresh layer of ceramic coating over the existing one after proper wash and prep. No need to remove previous coating layers.
Consider Paint Correction
If the original single stage paint shows signs of wear like extensive fading or oxidation, consider paint correction and reconditioning before reapplying the ceramic coating.
Risks and Considerations for Coated Single Stage Paint
While ceramic coatings provide tremendous benefits, there are a few risks and considerations to note regarding coated single stage paint:
- Ceramic coatings bond permanently to paint. So fully remove any existing coatings if unsatisfied before reapplying a new one.
- Avoid using harsh wash mitts, abrasive polishes, or aggressive compounds which could scratch or burn through the thin paint layer.
- Improper coating prep or application can lead to bonding issues or premature failure down the road.
- Coatings can’t stop or repair existing paint damage or deterioration – only protect against further wear. Address paint issues first.
- Darker single stage paints are more prone to showing swirls if the coating’s sacrificial properties wear down over time.
- DIY ceramic coatings from retail stores offer convenience but may not match the performance of professional-grade options.
Maintaining the Coating on Exterior Trim Pieces
Along with protecting your paintwork, it’s important to maintain coated exterior trim pieces like plastic and rubber properly. Here’s how:
- Use alcohol or interior quick detailer to clean coated trim and plastic parts safely
- Avoid using harsh cleaners or dressings containing petroleum distillates which can break down coatings
- Reapply trim coating every 6-12 months or when water beading effect starts to wane
- Watch for fading or damage on trim pieces as UV rays will still impact the underlying plastic
- Matte or textured exterior plastics prone to shining when coated should be avoided or lightly coated
With some simple maintenance and care, your ceramic coated trim pieces will look as good as the day they were applied!
Frequently Asked Questions about Ceramic Coating Single Stage Paint
To wrap up, let’s review answers to some common FAQs about ceramic coating single stage paint:
How long after painting should I wait to ceramic coat?
Ideally, allow fresh single stage paint to cure for at least 30 days before applying a ceramic coating. This ensures the paint has fully hardened so the coating can properly bond.
Can I coat over faded or oxidized single stage paint?
Yes, but address any seriously degraded areas first. Heavy oxidation or faded areas will continue worsening even if coated. Lightly oxidized single stage paint can be prepped and coated effectively.
Do I need to remove old wax or sealant before ceramic coating?
Yes, you must fully strip existing layers of wax, sealant, or other paint protection products. The coating will not adhere properly otherwise.
Can I apply a ceramic coating over single stage lacquer or enamel paint?
Yes, ceramic coatings are fully compatible with and greatly benefit all types of single stage automotive paints – lacquers, enamels, and urethanes included.