Why is Infrared (IR) Curing better for your Ceramic Coatings?
Updated: Apr 15, 2022
If you follow any high-end detailing shops on social media, you’ve likely seen images of vehicles or their parts with infrared (IR) lamps aimed in their direction. These lamps are popping up in shops around the world, and they’re making coatings harder and stronger, offering more protection for customers’ vehicles. But why, and how do they do this?
To understand the value of IR curing, we first need to understand what makes up ceramic coatings, and why they need to cure at all. Coatings available for both consumer and professional use generally consist of proprietary mixtures of silica dioxide, titanium dioxide, and various carrier solvents. Much like auto paint or clear coats, these solvents are what dissipates during the curing process, also known as off-gassing. They leave behind the extremely hard ceramic surface consisting of SiO2 and TiO2that guards your paint and other surfaces against damage.
Using IR lamps to cure coatings allows these solvents to dissipate much more quickly and more completely. This process allows them to reach full hardness much faster, meaning our customers don’t need to wait days to pick up their car, or risk ruining their coating in the Chicago elements. Ceramic coatings are generally marketed using the MOHS scale of hardness, often as high as 9H or 10H. While these numbers are an impressive selling point, many coatings require IR curing to reach these levels of hardness, a curing process that could take weeks or months if left to be completed in normal, everyday environments.
While many brands advertise that their coatings don’t require IR curing, and many coatings will properly bond and function well without this process, IR lamp curing improves coating performance dramatically. Most coatings require that users refrain from washing the vehicle after a coating is installed for nearly a week. This is intended to allow the coating to cure naturally and avoid exposure to the chemicals used in a proper washing process. However, when your vehicle leaves our shop, it is often exposed to harsh elements and environments that are out of our control – bird droppings, road film, de-icing agents, and more – many more aggressive than the chemicals used when washing your car.
Non-IR cured ceramic coatings typically reach up to 50% of their potential, depending on the solids to solvents ratio. In our experience, regularly washed, daily driven vehicles with an IR cured ceramic coating more often receive 5 years of protection from a 5-year rated coating, compared to 2-3 years when the coatings are allowed to cure naturally.
So, what’s the takeaway?
Does your ceramic coating need to be infrared cured? Not necessarily. However, if you want the most out of your coating – the best protection and longevity – IR curing is essential. Before you purchase a coating from anyone, ask the right questions to make sure you're receiving the highest-level of service. We aim to provide our clients with the absolute best, and we go a step beyond the norm to make that a reality.
Questions about ceramic coatings, IR curing, or anything auto detailing? Don’t hesitate to reach out:
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