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Paint Protection Film 101

 
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Old 06-13-2019, 02:31 AM
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Paint Protection Film 101

Paint Protection Film 101: PPF

Not all paint protection film (from here on PPF) is the same quality or the same glossy level. Not all installers produce the same quality work. Price is absolutely not indicative of the quality of work whether it’s the lowest price or the highest. Nor do the level of vehicles dictate quality work whether luxury, exotic, rare, or more mainstream daily driven type vehicles. Now that you know that there is nothing to help you with your choice of type of film, installer, or price we will discuss below how to help narrow down your decision so you can have a great film, good price, and quality install.

PPF installation is VERY time consuming, very intricate, and costly. The material is not cheap and a speck of dust, hair, silvering (film that stretched too much and the glue stretched) means that piece has to be replaced. Pricing will be discussed further below; however, between experience and materials the installer costs are fairly significant.

As posted below I am adding this section-----Dealers ALWAYS rush the jobs. They sell the car today and want the car done and back tomorrow. It is best to lay the film and leave the edges to dry then tack the edges down. Also the film needs to sit indoors for at least a day to two to settle and any areas corrected that need be. Dealers and customers have no clue to what it takes to do this right so they need to be educated correctly and that should help to resolve that issue. However, dealers don't care. They want the car in the customers hands as fast as possible so it counts as a sold car and the customer can't back out. Hence the rush.

All of the PPF made today is polyurethane based. I believe 3M was the inventor of PPF originally many years ago. While there were several brands to choose from all had issues of the glue yellowing over time, which created a bad stigma for the films. This is not the case in today’s glue applications. They do not yellow over time anymore. PPF is NOT a vinyl film. Vinyl film is about 2mils thick, does almost nothing to protect your finish and is intended only for short term applications. They are a nightmare to remove after too many years. Most PPF films manufactured today are 8 mils thick and are intended to be installed for protection of your painted finish. However several manufacturers are now making fashion PPF. The main brands which most have heard of are XPEL, S-TEK, Suntek, 3M Pro, and Clear Guard Nano. All are mainstream top of the line brands. While you will not go wrong in using any of them, some are better than others. 3M Pro PPF is manufactured by 3M as is the glue and top coat to the film. XPEL, S-TEK, and Suntek have the same polyurethane film all made by the same manufacturer. However, each company uses their own proprietary glues and the most important part is the top coat. They each have their own way to apply the top coat to their films. S-TEK is the only manufacturer to ally their top-coat as a liquid which produces the clearest and glossiest film on the market. Most clients do not know anything about the film the installers use, they just know the name and that is typically XPEL Ultimate. At the end of the day the film that is as invisible as possible, has the glossiest and smoothest finish is the winner. Most shops, especially the ones that sell XPEL, don’t really care if another product is better because most manufacturers will only allow the installer to sell one companies product. Due to name recognition XPEL wins. (disclosure, it is not a bad product by any means, just has the most name recognition) At the end of the day, S-TEK is the glossiest and clearest film on the market. Its very noticeable and on a black vehicle you can really not even see it at all. That is an accomplishment.

S-TEK manufacturers fashion PPF films and I think XPEL has one or two also. All of S-TEK films are the same thickness and materials just variances on how they look. This opens up a whole lot of options for buyers. Why buy a matte vehicle that can never have scratches taken out of it and then PPF it in matte film to protect, when you could buy a normal paint and install a matte film, matte black or satin films. Roofs of vehicles usually are done in vinyl film but now they can be done in ppf gloss black films. Same for front lips, rockers, etc…. Its finally becoming an art to what can be done while at the same time protecting your vehicle.

Installation: There are several ways to install PPF on a vehicle. There is bulk forming the PPF to the panel and then cut and roll the edges, using Pre-Cut by a plotter to programmed sizes which allow the film to be 1/8thof an inch from all edges, and finally a hybrid of using Pre-Cut but adding .35in or so to all sides in order to roll the edges. Some vehicles must have panels bulk formed and cut because there are no programs available for that particular car or in the new cases of hoods or bonnets beind too large for the current 60” wide films. (Suntek now has a 72” film and the other manufacturers will have theirs out within the year).

The absolutely largest issue for installing film is cutting the film which is using a razor blade knife on your vehicles paint. The film is 8 mils thick, and what the installer tries to do is to score the film about 4 mils deep in which it will then pull along the strip nice an neat. Imagine how many cuts you would have to do to become competent in cutting on a vehicles paint. ALL installers have to learn. One way to avoid this is to do pre-cut material that stops 1/8thof an inch from the edge. This is not a bad way at all to install film and it actually will prevent lifting or peeling up much better; however, you will see edges in areas. But in each city within the installers group they all will know an installer in their area that is being used by a shop that has a history of cutting up a vehicle. (not all shops have specific installers, typically there are mobile installers who work with a detail shop to do the installs) When I mean cutting up, I mean they cut the film and have cut into the paint in a lot of areas. McLarens, Lambos, Astons, Ferraris etc…. have all been cut up during installs. This is actually a very huge issue that continues to happen in the industry. While this is absolutely unacceptable the owner will NEVER KNOW until the film is removed and then you will see the cuts. Nothing can be done about it then and that is usually after the second or third owner.

PPF bubbles, lift lines, and water under the film are common occurrences with every install. Lift lines are where a section has been laid then has to be lifted to remove an air bubble, speck of dust etc…. Sometimes they are bad enough to where the whole panel or hood has to be replaced. Water bubbles will evaporate over several days after the install when the film gets hot in the sun. They are no issue whatsoever. Air bubbles happen and the only way to remove is to suck the air out with a needle. So expect these things to possibly happen, but if they do now you will know the fix to them and/or why they happened.

Wrapping edges is and has always been an art to the film. Even a properly wrapped edge can lift or peel due to the myriad of radiuses the film has to stick too. Ultimate installs will require headlamps, taillights, side lamps and other small items to be removed so that the best install possible can be done. However, imagine on your exotic how many extra hours of work that would be so there is a large cost to have that done. Most installers do not do that type of work and will actually talk you out of it. Speaking directly to installers business practices its just like most other businesses out there. The installer wants the work so will speak to the customer is whatever way is needed to ensure that the 2 days next week that are empty is now filled with the customers car. Now I am not saying installers will flat out lie or cheat. What I mean is that where a customer may say I want full complete wrapped edges with emblems and fixtures removed but the installer does not do that type of work, the installer will tell the customer that the work can be done without removal. While that is slightly true, its not completely the same. The point is to lock down the work. Personally I am fine with wrapping certain edges such as the hood, but not wrapping areas such as the fenders on lets say an Aston. The fenders are so thin at the edge, I would rather put the film 1/8thof an inch from the edge so I get the best adherence. Its all vehicle determined.

Pricing is all over the place. This is due to dealership pricing at the point of sale, experienced installers, new installers looking for work, or just shops trying to sell work at a smaller profit but the quality is much lower. Interesting about all the pricing none of it dictates for the most part of how well the quality will be. I have heard of brand new McLaren 720’s being cut up, Ferrari Speciale’s being cut up, Astons edges peeling or edges showing where they should’nt. This is exactly what you get for sure when you price shop and go for the most inexpensive installer trying to undercut the industry. It’s a shame, but happens daily. I am quite sure some members on here have had some of these issues with their cars. So I hope this helps others not to make the same mistake. IMHO depending on the vehicle and what actual PPF work is done and what film is used a very rough estimate of 2.5k for a front end and anywhere from 8-12k for a full vehicle is reasonable for a great quality job. If someone tells you 4-5k for a full vehicle, then most likely with work will be very sub-par and you may have issues with the film.

Most installers DO NOT have a clean room to where the film is installed. Now it doesnt have to be perfect, but out in a shop, especially in a dealership, is the absolute wrong place to apply film. Any dealer or shop doing this will have dust specks in their films. This does happen more often than not. Dealers want the installer to come there and install in a bay in the shop rather than drive or ship the vehicle to the installer. Mobile installers cater to this all the time and only raise notice if customers start complaining. But working clean is the utmost importance when working with clear film.

Dealerships are all about getting PPF work done at the cheapest price possible while at the same time doubling or tripling the price charged to the customer. While this is good for financing this is horrible for the customer. Most dealers only sell either front ends or full car jobs. Well what about doing just a front end, rockers, and behind the rear wheels. That would be most beneficial to the customer, but the dealerships don’t even know or offer that solution. So the dealer makes their money, but the customer gets less than what they should have. There are some dealers that are so greedy they refuse to pay reputable installers to do their PPF work and have decided to send their employee to a school for 3 days to learn to install film then do the work in-house. Yes that is done at a few dealers. Can you imagine learning installs and cutting film on Ferrari’s? So beware of what you decide. My suggestion is to talk with some installers, figure out what suits your best need, then pay out of pocket to an installer for the work. Get waaaaaay more bang for your buck and if they are reputable they will be around to fix any edges that lift or issues in the future.

Longevity of the films realistically is around 5-7 years depending driving conditions and/or car washes which should not be done. Warranties are typically from 8-10 yrs now but the self-healing properties will diminish over time. Its just natural. The companies are all in a race to provide the longest warranty to the original owner. Well, how many of these cars will actually still be owned in 10 yrs. Very few, so warranties are not really a thought.

Ceramic Coatings are highly recommended for application on top of the films. All films have their own hydrophobic coatings on them. But they don’t last forever. Many many installers suggest and try to talk people out of applying a ceramic coating on top of the film and say its not needed. Number one reason why is that the installer is mobile, or has no experience with installing a coating, and doesn’t want to wait to get paid. This happens more often than not. So again we are dealing with someone looking out for their best business interests rather than the customers or vehicles best interest. A quality ceramic coating will enhance the gloss of the film, actually protect the film for years to come, and help to protect the abilities of the film for longer than it would be without the coating. So in other words you are spending money to protect the multiple thousand dollar investment of the film install. A lot cheaper method than replacing film when a hood could cost a couple hundred just to remove the film then more money to replace.

For those people getting front end PPF work done, it is highly recommended to get a paint correction before the install. If you don’t, the front end will look swirl free and the rest of the vehicle will have scratches and swirls all over it. Most PPF installer again do not sell this work due to no experience in doing it, but they then would have to wait till that work is done before the PPF could start. They don’t want to wait so they don’t sell or recommend.

For coatings, ppf, and paint corrections, unless its one shop doing all the work, you will have each installer recommend less or actually talk you out of the other work, just so they can get theirs. Beware and now you are informed if you read this.

I hope this helps any one who reads this with getting their vehicle done with the options they choose to get done. I see firsthand crappy rushed jobs, cheap jobs and while the owner doesn’t know any better that doesn’t make it right. But again, with some of those sub-par jobs the owner chose to go with the cheapest cost so some of the blame is on them.

More to come if this needs to be updated over time. Please ask any questions and I will try to help if possible. I tried to stay away from specific products I would recommend in fairness to the other really good brands that are available.
 

Last edited by SheriffDep; 06-13-2019 at 10:42 PM.
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Old 06-13-2019, 09:15 AM
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Great info as usual.

If I can add one comment about dealership installers: the installers are often rushed as the dealer has other cars in a queue as the client wants their new car today. The issue I have is the dealership service center is not the cleanest environment (often dusty), plus sometimes installers only take the film they need for the car(s). So if make a mistake with installing the film, have no immediate backup plan another new piece of film.

I recommend having it done at the installer's shop. After installation let it sit for a day or so and inspect for any error or bubble.
 
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Old 06-13-2019, 09:49 AM
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I'd like to get the OEM few piece small of film replaced on my Rapide.
 
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Old 06-13-2019, 11:44 AM
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nice thanks
 
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Old 06-13-2019, 10:45 PM
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Originally Posted by mto View Post
Great info as usual.

If I can add one comment about dealership installers: the installers are often rushed as the dealer has other cars in a queue as the client wants their new car today. The issue I have is the dealership service center is not the cleanest environment (often dusty), plus sometimes installers only take the film they need for the car(s). So if make a mistake with installing the film, have no immediate backup plan another new piece of film.

I recommend having it done at the installer's shop. After installation let it sit for a day or so and inspect for any error or bubble.

Thanks, I updated the above. I forgot all this in my writings. Working clean is absolutely important.

PS----for those members who want to install the small pieces on Vantages or DB9's it can be done without issue by you. They are flat areas and once prepped the squeegeeing is simple and you won't have issues. But if you want to attempt corners, or stretching film, or wrapping edges, either have multiple pieces to work with so when you make a mistake you can use a second piece, or go to a professional.
 
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Old 06-14-2019, 01:52 AM
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Sherriff

thanks for all the info - always interesting reading your tech info

I want to remove the existing rear quarter panel PPF and replace - what is the best method to remove it - hairdryer to warm it then slowly peel off or is there another trick?

thanks

Graeme
 
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Old 06-14-2019, 02:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Graze View Post
Sherriff

thanks for all the info - always interesting reading your tech info

I want to remove the existing rear quarter panel PPF and replace - what is the best method to remove it - hairdryer to warm it then slowly peel off or is there another trick?

thanks

Graeme
Yep, heating it up will absolutely help release it. Also-------PULL TOWARDS you. Start at a corner, and then pull away from what you are removing at about a 45 degree angle or less. It will pop up going away from you. Heat that area. If any glue remains use tar remover, adhesive remover to get that residue off. If it comes cleanly then use a 70/30 water alcohol mixture to prep the area. Might need a light polish in the area to blend it with the surrounding areas.
 
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Old 06-14-2019, 06:53 AM
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Ppf

Great info, thanks
 
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Old 06-14-2019, 11:06 AM
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More great info Sheriff, thanks.

Regards,
 
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Old 06-15-2019, 03:18 PM
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Thanks Sheriff. Not trying to hijack the thread but I have a couple of questions.

First, my GTS has vinyl stripes down the boot and bonnet and GTS decals on the lower 1/3 (similar to the GT decals) which are flat fnish. I assume the PPF will make these appear glossy after installation.

Second, when the PPF needs to be removed in the future, will the glue potentially damage the decals?

The vinyl decals were installed by the original selling AM dealer so I have no info on what they are or who made them. Protecting them is high on my list.

Thanks,

Randy
 
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Old 06-17-2019, 06:02 AM
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Originally Posted by RandyV View Post
Thanks Sheriff. Not trying to hijack the thread but I have a couple of questions.

First, my GTS has vinyl stripes down the boot and bonnet and GTS decals on the lower 1/3 (similar to the GT decals) which are flat fnish. I assume the PPF will make these appear glossy after installation.

Second, when the PPF needs to be removed in the future, will the glue potentially damage the decals?

The vinyl decals were installed by the original selling AM dealer so I have no info on what they are or who made them. Protecting them is high on my list.

Thanks,

Randy

Protecting them when applying PPF LOL------remove them first. First talk with a Vinyl graphics design shop, if not very local, then thru email with pictures. But one close by. Then have them measure and record what you have.

Then have them make a set, get the Film done, then put the graphics back on top. That is the proper way to do it. If not, then you run the risk of A. bubbles and the vinyl areas sticking up due to its not the same level as the paint and B. when the PPF is removed it is quite likely to remove some Vinyl areas or pull edges of it. Most of all if the glues don't come off clean, then its messed up anyway. So proper is to remove them and redo which is not hard and not all that expensive.

1. I would PPF the front end of the vehicle, mirrors, side skirts, and in front of and behind the rear wheels. I would not do the whole car. How many rock chips do you get on the rear hatch, or rear bumper, or on top of the hips????? Most likely Zero. So why spend 8-10k and do the whole car.

You should paint correct and have the paint as glossy and flawless as possible before you cover it for 5-7 years. Then Ceramic Coat the paint and PPF to make it last longer and look better for the long run.

Hope that helps
 
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Old 06-17-2019, 06:16 AM
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I found the quote about dealership PPF accurate on my first few coverings from Morries Aston Martin - simply awful and embarrassing - that is until they built a dust-free dedicated shop with trained staff specific to the work, now I would not hesitate. Dealers cannot do this half way - it's either all or use an outside shop.
 
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Old 06-17-2019, 11:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Prefurbia View Post
I found the quote about dealership PPF accurate on my first few coverings from Morries Aston Martin - simply awful and embarrassing - that is until they built a dust-free dedicated shop with trained staff specific to the work, now I would not hesitate. Dealers cannot do this half way - it's either all or use an outside shop.

Absolutely correct!!! Except ALOT of installers dont have let say clean rooms to install in and it all comes down to experience and expertise. Gambling IMHO except somehow researching which companies are good. Esoteric in Ohio gets lets say 40% of thier cars shipped from out of state for thier instals. Once a reputation is put out there for perfection, then for most owners of 200k plus cars a couple grand in shipping expenses is well worth knowing your car is going to be absolutely perfect.

Too many buyers have bad experiences without even knowing it. They also shop by price alone thinking the work is the same. Which by far it is not.
 
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Old 06-18-2019, 02:30 PM
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Thank you for the great write up. I have had most of my cars covered with PPF/Clear bras for the last 10+ years. Usually I covered the front end, mirrors, and rear bumper. Earlier this year, I traded in my V8VS for a DB11. The dealer already had the front end and the rear fender bulges covered. Unfortunately, they used the non-self healing 3M product. Shortly after I took delivery, I noticed some scratches in the film as well as some scratches in the unprotected areas, especially around the door handles. I decided to have everything redone. I did research, made several calls and found a great shop about 40 minutes from my house. I had all of the old PPF removed, the paint corrected, the entire car covered with PPF, and ceramic coated.

The car looks awesome. Most of the car was covered with XPEL Ultimate. The hood was covered with Suntek since currently it is the only film available that can cover the wide hood of the DB11 in a single piece. Your cost estimates are right on point.

With regard to the ceramic coating, it does provide some benefits, but please be aware that there is a difference in slickness when applied on PPF vs paint (it is less slick on PPF).

 
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Old 06-18-2019, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by wem View Post
Thank you for the great write up. I have had most of my cars covered with PPF/Clear bras for the last 10+ years. Usually I covered the front end, mirrors, and rear bumper. Earlier this year, I traded in my V8VS for a DB11. The dealer already had the front end and the rear fender bulges covered. Unfortunately, they used the non-self healing 3M product. Shortly after I took delivery, I noticed some scratches in the film as well as some scratches in the unprotected areas, especially around the door handles. I decided to have everything redone. I did research, made several calls and found a great shop about 40 minutes from my house. I had all of the old PPF removed, the paint corrected, the entire car covered with PPF, and ceramic coated.

The car looks awesome. Most of the car was covered with XPEL Ultimate. The hood was covered with Suntek since currently it is the only film available that can cover the wide hood of the DB11 in a single piece. Your cost estimates are right on point.

With regard to the ceramic coating, it does provide some benefits, but please be aware that there is a difference in slickness when applied on PPF vs paint (it is less slick on PPF).

Ceramic Coatings----I have never really felt that the coatings are slick by any means. Its its topped by a product then the slickness changes. I dont gauge anything by slickness but by glossiness and protection. I want maximum gloss that lasts years ie.....my choices hands down are 22ple and Kamikaze coatings. Tried most all of them and they are by far the glossiest and easiest to apply.

Surprised anyone uses anything other (3M products) than the 3M PRO ppf. If an installer is really really good you can stretch the 5" pieces to fit the Aston hoods. But, it can take two or three tries with separate pieces. But its one piece. Good for you to get it paint corrected before the new installation. SO many people do not do this. I dont understand why, but they dont usually want to spend the extra money. Sad IMHO.
 

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