COATINGS | THE PENCIL TEST
For those that aren't as conversant with respect to ceramic/polymer and glass coatings, there's an expansive market with many manufacturers touting their formula as superlative. As a professional detailing technician, I always look at coatings objectively because my job is to gather empirical evidence showcasing the efficacy and the overall resiliency of one product over another.
Before I forge ahead into the frontier of coatings, it's important to briefly discuss the science and the framework that encapsulates this unique category of automotive detailing. First and foremost, there is a systematic process by which one can determine the hardness of any given coating and this is known as the "pencil test".
As we all know, pencils come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but while many of them look seemingly the same, there are some key areas that differentiate one from another. One, pencils have their own levels of hardness, blackness, and fineness (H, B, and F). Below you will find a chart that will illustrate this concept.
Okay, so what does this have to do with the coating world? The higher the hardness (H), the more resilient and robust the coating will become. Further, you can clearly see the levels of graphite start to become lighter as you move from category B to H. Everything aside, 9H is considered the upper-echelon of thickness, while still producing the highest levels of clarity and resiliency to scratching. Please take note of the term "resiliency". I need to make it explicitly clear that coatings still have the susceptibility to scratching if not properly maintained. It is for this reason alone that I impress upon my clients that any vehicle that receives a coating will need proper maintenance.
Due to the overwhelming exposure of coatings in the marketplace, there seems to be a pretense with respect to what a product and formula will deliver. In addition to what you see illustrated above, coatings have their own unique set of characteristics. Some manufacturers will outweigh the percentages of shine and gloss against other features such as hydrophobicity (water repelling/beading), self-cleaning agents (ease of washing and/or cleaning), and an overall thickness. So what conclusion can we draw from this information? If you stockpile these elements together, you'll find that this will serve as a guide for understanding how the coating world works in its most rudimentary form.
So the real questions is, which coating is best? The short answer is that the term "best" is highly subjective to the vehicle owner. Because every individual has their own set of preferences and tastes with respect to unique technologies, the term "best" is never really quantified. However, this topic is highly debatable because one might argue that one coating provides a formula that's perfectly balanced in all areas of its chemical makeup, thus making it superior to any other manufacturer. At Blackstone Detail, I make it my business to fulfill three criteria. One, is the overall thickness and level of protection it provides. Second, is the hydrophobic and water repellent properties when driving in inclement weather. Last but not least, I look for the overall depths of gloss. When fusing these criteria together, you're guaranteed to receive a quality product.
Above all else, there's a common misconception among those that have a coating installed. Unfortunately, there's a lot of hype that circulates throughout the detailing world, where self-appointed gurus will claim that their coating reigns supreme and is a cure-all formula. Among the hype is a complete fabrication of how much protection is being delivered. Coatings are still susceptible to damage if not properly cared for. In other words, if I took a knife and dragged it across your newly installed coating, you'll still be left with heavy scratches. So, with that in mind, please understand that while coatings are still a worthwhile investment, coatings are classified as highly scratch-resistant, not scratch-proof. Of course, scratch resistance will vary depending on the manufacturer. Of course, I only subscribe to a very small handful of manufacturers that deliver exceptional results in every category of protection (chemical resistance, UVA/UVB rays, scratch resistance, hydrophobic properties, etc.)