Paint protection film is a more extreme form of protecting the paintwork of your vehicle. Unlike chemical protectants, a PPF can protect against stone chips, small objects and even some very chemical liquids.
What is a paint protection film
A paint protection film is a very thin type of foil that is applied on top of a surface. It can be compared with a wrap, but this wrap is transparent and designed to protect the layer underneath with less emphasis on the cosmetic quality. Regardless of the later, most current paint protection films are virtually invisible and change very little (or nothing) about the cosmetic appearance of the vehicle. The PPF is made from a type of plastic that has a certain amount of elasticity, this allows it to be curved, stretched and bend around corners and bends. Perfectly suitable for the body panels of a vehicle. The layer itself has a thickness of between 0.1 and 0.5 mm in general. This is about 10 times as thick as a chemical protectant such as wax or ceramic coatings. Although the hardness of a PPF is much lower then that of a ceramic coating, due to its thickness and elasticity, it can withstand more impact then most other forms of protection. This means it can cope prevent stone chips, small object impacting with the surface and even surface damage from certain chemicals. Because it can be removed with reasonable ease, it is easier and cheaper to replace then doing a respray.
Why use a paint protection film
A paint protection film is generally used to protect a panel that is likely to suffer from surface damage. Such as the front of the car, which is most likely to be the first place where stones will causes damage. Also debris thrown up in the air by the vehicle in front of you, will most likely tough the front of the car first. The PPF can make a big difference in the damage this causes. When the PPF is worn, it can be removed and replaced with new film, while still keeping the paintwork underneath perfectly safe.
Paint protection films can also be waxed, treated with sealants or ceramic coatings, but these product are likely to behave and perform slightly different due to the difference between paintwork and plastic film.
Different forms of protection films
There are a few different types of paint protection film, the visual difference is small, it is mostly down to the chemical make-up of the material, the thickness and the brand behind the product. The most known ones are:
- Clear bra
- Clear wrap
Although there is a difference between the products made by these brands, the visual or noticeable difference is very small. One might be more elastic while another is slightly thicker. One could also have a slightly better resistance to UV fading while another adheres better to the surface underneath. To be able to compare these products best, it would be wise to ask around on several different platforms (fora, social media, friends etc) for their experiences with a certain brand. In many cases it is possible to visit an approved installer to see and feel how the product is like before you make the decision.
How to install a paint protection film
There will be a slight difference between some products. Certain brands advise to use a catalyst, which is a specially formulated liquid that activates a type of glue in the film. Making it adhere better to the paintwork underneath. Others only require to be made wet. There are a few that can be applied dry, but this is not recommended by most installers.
The description below is not complete, and does not suit all PPF’s. You still need to ask your supplier how to apply their product, or pay an approved installer to do it for you. However, the list below will give you a rough idea of how the process goes:
- Wash, clean, clay and polish the surface that will be covered to perfection (the film will not hide any imperfections)
- Spray the surface with water and spread out the film over the surface. Carefully tape the ends to hold it in place (do not remove the backing), make sure the backing of the film is on the downside, touching the paintwork
- Cut the sheet of film to size, leave a few mm of film over the edge. Basically cut the film a little bit larger then the panel
- Wipe down the panel with a lint-free towel. And imperfections, particles, dust between the film and the paintwork will stay there until the film is removed!
- When dry, blow off the panel with compressed air
- Spray your hands with the catalyst solution
- Spray the surface liberally with the catalyst solution
- Remove the backing of the film
- Apply the film over the surface
- Use the squeegee to press out any excess liquid from underneath the PPF
- Slowly and gently rub the film onto the surface
- When needed, use a hair dryer or paint dryer (caution because of extreme heat) to make the film more easy to work with around corners
- When done, wipe the film dry with a lint-free microfiber cloth
Downside of a paint protection film
Although PPF’s have proven their worth in the past by protecting surfaces against impacts that would otherwise result in surface damage, there are a few downsides from using a PPF.
- Wax, sealant and ceramic coatings will perform differently because they where not designed to adhere with plastic
- Although it will protect against severe impacts such as stone chips, the film itself can still get damaged and look worn. Removing the film and re-applying a new layer can be costly
- The edge between an area that is covered by the film, and an uncovered area can become visible over time because dirt can get caught in the height difference at the edge
- Some films can discolor over time due to UV damage and oxidation
- As with a wrap, from very close up, it might be visible where the film is applied
- Installing is time consuming and expensive. However, if it will safe you from having to do a full respray, it could turn out to be cheaper in the long run
- Only a quality PPF will give you the performance you need, and those are more expensive then cheap fakes
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