Cerakote offers affordable heat management, wear resistance and cosmetic improvements for exhausts systems, and more
SINGAPORE – Ceramic coatings are an established technology and have been on the market for some time. Motoring enthusiasts will know that ceramic coatings are usually applied to exhaust and engine components to improve heat management, but traditional ceramic coatings require high-temperature curing and highly-specialised equipment and training for application.
All of that spells for quite an expense, which is why it’s still not commonly seen in aftermarket applications, but US-company Cerakote has a different spin on things with its high-temp coating. While it offers ‘traditional’ high-temp cured coatings, many of its regular colours don’t require oven-curing, which reduces the time and cost required.
Catalyser box of a Ferrari 360 Modena after Cerakote treatment
Local company Chroma Forge is the authorised Cerakote applicator for Singapore, and it aims to bring ceramic coatings to a more mainstream, accessible level. And while the main application for ceramic coatings is for exhaust parts such as manifolds and pipes, Cerakote’s flexible range of coatings (it also does firearms, clearcoats and anodised finishes) means the folks at Chroma Forge can coat just about anything from motorcycle and car parts to accessories such as watches and sunglass frames – it’s recently announced a collaboration with another Singapore company, Nuke Optics, to offer customised eyewear for example.
Since it began operations in 2015, Chroma Forge has already carried out more than a few projects ranging from motorcycle exhaust headers to projects for classic and performance cars, ranging from original Nissan GT-Rs to a Ferrari Modena 360, according to the company’s Chief Applicator, Kang Wei Jie.
A few samples of the very wide palette of colors offered by the company
But to focus on things with engines once again, does the stuff work, and why would you want to put a ceramic coat on your hot parts? Cerakote says its coatings offer ahem, manifold, benefits including better exhaust gas and heat management, wear and corrosion resistance, and last but not least, the ability to choose the colour of the coating: Cerakote claims a very wide palette of colours, so while most will stick with primary, darker colours (flat black, titanium, burnt bronze) more esoteric choices are available such as a Britten V1000-esque blue.
It also reduces friction, so internal parts such as cam followers or pistons can also be coated in the stuff – Cerakote’s website has numerous tests for all these applications if you wish to read deeper.
In a nutshell, there are gains to be had performance wise, but they will be very small in terms of horsepower. What ceramic coatings should do is help get exhaust gases/heat out quicker (extract it, which is why manifolds or headers are also called extractors) rather than it radiating out onto the other parts of the vehicle.
Cerakote also claims lowered exhaust gas temperatures by as much as 30 to 50 percent, which is generally beneficial for most engines in terms of running efficiency and preventing knock or thermal-related damage. Those who have a tuned engine or turbochargers stand to benefit even more from ceramic coatings: you can even have the turbos themselves coated too, and even the interior of exhausts themselves.
Obviously most people won’t go that far, and neither would we -but what about real-life for a near-stock machine? We put the coating to a real-life test with an MV Agusta Brutale 1090 motorcycle with the key aims of reducing heat and improving the look and condition of the pipes.
Brutale 1090 headers before sandblasting and Cerakote application
Brutale headers after application and installed back on the bike. Matte metallic bronze finish looks lovely
Like many high-powered naked bikes, heat is an issue when you’re not going at highway speeds – in this case the catalzyer box tends to pool heat around the rider’s feet. Not liking the look of the original OE exhaust system in stainless steel – it’s gained the usual pitting and dirt spots from use – we opted to coat the entire exhaust system in Cerakote’s C-148 Burnt Bronze which has a nice matte, metallic finish.
The quoted specs for the bronze are pretty impressive, with Cerakote claiming that it will withstand high heat (more than 900-1000 degrees Celsius) without discolouring. Most engines will never hit more than 600 degrees (above that metal will glow) unless they’re about to explode.
It also claims a scratch hardness of 8H – did you know standard scratch resistance for films and coatings or paint is measured with pencils? I sure as hell didn’t. It ranges from 3B (crayon-like) to 9H, so Cerakote C is rated as second on the hardness scale, a little less tough than polyurethane finishes. Typical powder coatings have a hardness rating of H to 4H.
Brutale 1090’s cam cover before treatment…
Post-sandblasting and Cerakote red being applied
Installed on bike. Original paint covered casting imperfections on the cam cover, which shows up since Cerakote is a much thinner layer
It also is rated to survive 326 hours in salt spray (five percent concentration) in corrosive environment tests, though this is less of a concern in Singapore where we just put up with lots of water (without salt) in general, but motorcyclists who dislike pitted headers will surely see it as a bonus.
Coating requires the parts be brought to Chroma Forge, and the process around a week depending on availability of colours and the scope of the job, which includes preparation (degreasing, sandblasting) and coating/curing. Cost for motorcycles range from $150 for a single-cylinder engine manifold, to $350 for an inline-four, while our full-system job which Chroma Forge says it larger than usual (header, cat, endcan) cost $590. Internal pipe coating (‘Insulkote’) starts from $100. For automobiles, the cost ranges from $500 for a four-cylinder boxer engine’s headers to $900 for the V8 headers of a Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale.
Standard stainless steel finish of the OEM exhaust from the MV
After Cerakote bronze application. Subtle metallic finish is hard to capture in photos
The coating surely did help the bike run a little less hot and that’s already worth something- riders of Italian machines who’ve been burnt by their bikes from radiant heat will understand. On the bike’s graphical temperature readout (alas no metrics on the Italian stallion) it runs one ‘bar’ cooler in general. Around town, the heat generated by the cat becomes merely uncomfortable, compared to before where my booted feet felt more like steamed dumplings after a commute. Other users we spoke to say they felt the engine was quicker to rev, but we couldn’t honestly say as much since the exhaust removal coincided with an oil change and throttle body balance for the Brutale.
Coating the exhaust system also avoided a pet peeve of mine : dirty headers and pipes. Exhaust parts often get road grime stuck and even worse, baked on to the finish like leftover cheese on a baking tray, but the Cerakote finishing made cleaning the pipes and endcans much easier.
After two months of use, the pipes look just like they did when they were newly finished. Another plus is that rusting and pitting is prevented by the coating, which is something that mummy-like exhaust wraps can’t avoid and in fact may promote since they lock in moisture.
After Cerakote with the entire exhaust system coated
The heat management was actually a small bonus – I personally enjoyed the freedom of being able to choose a different appearance for the exhaust system without paying thousands for an aftermarket exhaust, none of which are legal for the MV here anyway. The final plus of Cerakote is that the film is thin enough that embossed approval or part numbers can still be seen.
So if you’re looking to spruce up your machine, make it run a little cooler and possibly smoother, Cerakote offers a relatively cost effective, eye-catching alternative to aftermarket full systems for performance, and can be sprayed on almost anything you could wish.