Paint Protection Film has been gaining significant prominence recently. The thickest layer of defence is a polymer or polyurethane film that is incredibly strong despite being quite thin. In addition to keeping your vehicle’s clear coat safe against chemicals, UV rays, acid rain, and road debris, it can save you hundreds of dollars in autobody repair if the paint is damaged by road debris.
The internet is a wealth of knowledge regarding paint protection film. Some of it is true, while other parts are complete, grade A BS. If you look up the ceramic coating, you’ll find similar false information. Let’s investigate the reality behind paint protection film.
Does it actually offer scratch protection? Can PPF really cure itself? In this article, we will dispel the myths, rumours, and outright misleading facts that are out there about paint protection films.
What Is Paint Protection Film?
It’s vital to go into the history of paint protection film to properly understand its potential. PPF, like many contemporary innovations, was created to address a specific issue. During the Vietnam War, the United States Department of Defense experienced issues with shrapnel, trees, and other debris damaging the rotor blades on several of their helicopters.
The engineers at 3M were charged with developing a protective layer that was both thin and sturdy. The remedy was known as helicopter tape or a custom urethane film made for function rather than aesthetics.
The PPF of today is a far cry from the 3M helicopter tape. It is a translucent, colourable, and even custom-textured thermoplastic urethane that can be used to enhance glossy or matte paint jobs. It is a transparent paint protection film that can be bought in various grades and thicknesses and is applied by skilled experts with accuracy and precision.
In fact, modern paint protection film offers several advantages, such as:
- Resistant to pollutants and acidic corrosion (like bug guts and bird droppings)
- Defends a painted surface against mineral deposits, acid rain, and gentle and hard water stains
- Reduces UV-induced oxidation of factory paint
- Impedes the impact of small rocks, gravel, tree branches, and other sharp items on painted surfaces.
- If a protective coating is scratched or hit, it will eventually heal.
- Lasts for up to 10+ years
The Science Of Paint Protection Film!
Let’s go technical now. The majority of vehicle paint protection films share a similar basic foundation. It is divided into four distinct layers:
- Clearcoat: The clearcoat is the PPF’s top layer and has a thickness of 0.5 mils (0.0132mm). Additionally, it aids in the bonding of ceramic coatings like super ceramic matte coating over PPF. Some self-healing PPFs have an elastomeric polymer coating on top that aids in keeping the material’s original shape after stretching or application.
- Polyurethane: Polyurethane makes up the majority of PPF. This is 6.0 mils thick and gives the paint protection film strength and depth (0.152mm).
- Acrylic Adhesive: The acrylic adhesive is the layer below. It is slightly thinner, 1.6 mils thick (or 0.040mm). This provides the strength of the adhesion.
- Polyester Release Liner: The polyester release liner serves as the PPF’s base layer. It has a thickness of around 3.0 mils, or 0.076mm. The substance that creates the binding to the vehicle surface is exposed once removed.
What Kinds Of Paint Protection Films Are There?
There are several coatings for cars available nowadays. And one of them is paint protective film. The 3M Corporation is credited with founding PPF. Its primary use, as previously mentioned, was to tint helicopter rotor blades to prevent damage from being done when spinning at lightning speed. Car fans have access to more than a dozen various brands, models, and types nowadays.
The issue with PPF is that the brand isn’t usually connected to the substance or its unique qualities. This is one of the PPF misconceptions or falsehoods that might mislead automobile owners. Some are used as complete coverings, while others are used as partial hoods. Some can back up their product with a 10-year warranty, while others only offer limited warranties.
Let’s offer some clarification here.
Let’s Talk About Clear Bra
The clear bra brand is arguably the most well-known “name” in the paint protection films industry. Similar to naming a soda drink a “Coke” or sealable plastic bags a “Zip-Lock,” this phrase serves two purposes. The brand name Clear Bra refers to a particular kind of shielding film. But it’s also a specific brand.
It is put on the car’s front end, covering the front bumper, the paint, the grille, the headlights, the splitter, and even the front part of the hood and front fenders. The application’s location is referred to as the “bra.”
Back in the supposed good old days, it was typical for auto enthusiasts to cover the front of the car with leather or a durable vinyl-based material to achieve the same result: to protect the vehicle paint.
What Distinguishes PPF and Vinyl From One Another?
Another misunderstanding is the distinction between vinyl, commonly known as a vinyl wrap, and paint protection film, or PPF.
PPF is essentially a heavier, thicker, and more durable material. Stain resistance, defence against stone chips, minor scratches, bug spray, swirl marks, and other paint damage are all features of this coating.
Vinyl is thicker, heavier, and frequently coloured. Graphics may also be used to embellish it. Here is a real-world illustration. The above picture is of a car with a damn impressive vinyl wrap. It is a branded vinyl applied over a particular vehicle’s factory paint. It resembles a “sticker,” but it also shields the paint below from damage.
Can PPF Self-Heal?
To be very clear, not all paint protection film products have self-healing capabilities. Elastomeric polymers are what make up the ones with this quality. What does this mean, then?
The word “elastomer” itself, however, is an adjective that characterises the properties or behaviour of elastomeric materials. Cross-linked polymers with a loose bond are called elastomers. When the cause of the damage is eliminated, this synthetic or natural rubber might revert to its original state.
When a high-quality paint protection film is made of this substance, applying heat (either naturally from the sun or artificially with a heat gun) will fix scratches or even minor tears brought on by a rock impact. The phrase “self-healing” is somewhat misleading if the PPF is healed using this technique because it necessitates an external physical intervention.
The success or failure of a PPF depends on proper preparation, installation, and aftercare, just like it does with any other paint protection solution. Although each manufacturer’s installation procedure is distinct, the process generally involves the following steps:
Step 1 – Preparation for the Installation of Paint Protection Film
A PPF must be glued to a surface to provide protection. This is only made possible when that surface is spotless, damage-free, and debris-free. However, because a paint protection layer is transparent, the paint’s state or surface below significantly impacts how brilliant the final product will be. Along with this, also perform the below procedures before the application.
- A decontaminating car wash
- Paint correction
- Final Wipe Panel Wipe Down
Step 2 – Cutting The Material In Advance
There are two different ways to apply the PPF. A plotter or other device that pre-cuts the material into smaller, precisely sized parts, such as fender or door edges, is used by most professional PPF installers.
This saves money for the client and the installer, reduces waste, and, of course, conserves resources. Additionally, it is essential to speed up PPF installation and improve fit in narrow areas like door jambs, headlamps, and grilles.
The second technique employs bulk film. Basically, it’s utilised when an installer doesn’t have a plotter; nonetheless, it usually results in excess material being used, more time being required, and a less precise or accurate installation.
These issues can be reduced when employed by a skilled installer. Some are so outstanding that they can manually cut to suit spoilers, side mirrors, the hood, deck lid, and rocker panels, among other things.
Step 3 – Fitting
The installer will pre-fit the automobile protection film to verify correctness. The market for paint protection film is flooded with numerous manufacturers and installation methods, such as a clear bra that simply covers the front of the car. The painstaking and precise technique of attaching the transparent bra to the painting ensures that the material will fit each piece and link or merge with one another with minimal gaps.
While this does extend the overall procedure’ duration a little, it will ultimately protect the paintwork and other portions of the car from rock chips and minor scratches, which can be quickly repaired with self-healing PPF.
Step 4 – Spraying The Fitting Solution
A fitting solution is an activator that enables the transparent bra or PPF to adhere to the surface. Spraying this substance over the painted surface and on top of the PPF activates the adhesive, which essentially functions as glue and binds firmly to the surface.
Once more, each brand of PPF has suggested properties for the appropriate solution, some of which can range from pure water to chemically-activated chemicals. This aids in its adhesion to a car’s paintwork, which helps to block UV radiation, oxidation, corrosion, and, eventually, the growth of rust.
Step 5 – The Final Fit and Application
The magic happens at this point. The skilled PPF installer will precisely fit the PPF by gliding it. It involves fitting, spraying, moving, squeezing bubbles, and other steps. The installer will use a squeegee to smooth down any wrinkles or bubbles in the PPF once it is in its precise position. The PPF clear bra offers great sealant or surface protection on the automobile’s exterior once it has bonded to the paint surface, especially against a scratch, bird dropping, or rock chip.
Step 6 – Drying
Drying is the last step in installing a transparent bra or PPF. There are several ways to do this, either by employing a particular drying method or over time. Most professional PPFs are heat-activated by being placed in a heat chamber or using a heat gun. A very tight fit is produced by restricting the material and, in essence, activating the “glue.”
What Is The Lifespan Of Paint Protection Film?
The predicted lifespan of a professionally prepared and applied paint protection film is five to ten years. But, like with any other paint protection method, several factors can affect how long the PPF lasts. Like, as prep work, application and several other environmental factors.
The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Paint Protection Film
We’re here to present facts, not smoke and mirrors. And it’s still true that not everyone should use paint protection film. Although it’s a terrific way to lessen scuffing, rock chips, and other surface damage, there are certain advantages and disadvantages to consider too.
Advantages Of Paint Protection Film
- The strongest substance to prevent paint damage and rock chipping
- Amazing self-healing abilities
- prevents swirl, marring, or scratching of the paint
- The most durable paint protection product available, lasting up to 10 years or longer when paired with a high-quality nano-coating.
- Improved engineering and technology compared to earlier generations: no yellowing and increased hydrophobicity.
Disadvantages Of Paint Protection Film
- Do your study to get the best product or brand for your application because not all products or brands are created equal.
- Some PPFs provide the best paint protection film qualities by immediately repairing scratches. The majority, however, are “self-healing” and need some heat or manual repair methods to get the surface scratches out.
- A paint protection film is a high-quality transparent film that should only be applied by professionals. While DIY clear bra products exist, the results cannot compare to those of PPF of the highest calibre.
- PPF is expensive; there is no way to sugarcoat this. It represents a financial investment in the calibre and condition of your car. Working with a PPF-certified dealership or approved detailer is always recommended.
Benefits of Applying Ceramic Coating on PPF
There are several advantages to using a nano-ceramic coating on top of paint protection film.
Increased Depth and Shine: When a nano-ceramic coating dries, it becomes a thin layer of glass that is just as robust as quartz, increasing depth and shine. This enhances the paint’s brilliance beneath the PPF, increasing the depth of the paint below, whether it has a gloss or matte finish.
Enhances Hydrophobic Properties: “hydrophobic” refers to a surface’s capacity to repel water. In addition to creating optically cool water shedding and beading, it also lessens the likelihood that dust, pollen, and other impurities will stick. If you hate pigeons, for instance, and one of them leaves a deuce on your car, a ceramic-coated PPF makes it easy to clean up the mess.
Increased Lifespan: By applying ceramic coating on top of paint protection film, the coating becomes more durable and resilient while retaining the PPF’s ability to heal itself.
Our Final Verdict On PPF
There are as many distinct paint protection film products available on the market as there are different grades of car wax, ceramic coatings, and paint sealants. Consider the following if you’re thinking about investing in a top-notch PPF.
Complete Due Diligence: Before making any significant purchases, make sure you’ve done your research on the item you’re considering. This is especially true for individuals who apply paint protective film.
Does the PPF Deliver What It Promises: As a sector, the PPF is less subject to tricks and marketing buzzwords. To make sure PPF performs what the manufacturer says, it’s crucial to confirm through third-party reviews and research into the technology employed in it.
Instant Healing PPF: The capacity of paint protection film to repair itself after minor damage or scratches is arguably its strongest feature. Make sure your PPF is an instant healing one. If you have to take your vehicle to the installer every time you get a small scratch, this will increase your overall expense and add time.