So we have finally reached the last part of this saga. Today we will cover Paint Protection Film and close this article with our final thoughts on everything we have learned here. For those that just arrived here - this is a 4 part article that covers all the ways to effectively protect the paintwork on your car. So far we have talked about Carnauba Wax, also known as Car Wax, then we covered Polymer Sealants, after which we've learned all the essentials about Ceramic Coatings and here we are, finally, with the last part.
What is Paint Protection Film?
Paint Protection Film, also sometimes referred to as 'Clear Bra' or PPF is a thermoplastic polyurethane in form of a nylon wrap that you put on top of the paint of your car.
Fancy words right there, but what it really means is that you are able to mold the shape of the nylon when the heat is applied to it directly via a heat gun for example. And the 'polyurethane' part stands for a polymer made of organic units joined by carbamate links, also known as urethane links.
Now if you want to know what carbamate or urethane is, then you'd have to go dive deep into the web or get a chemistry degree. We certainly don't and we have no clue what it is, and thus we will not try preaching about it. We do, however, know what the material is used for, how you use it, and all its nice features and downsides.
It is usually 4 or 8 millimeters thick depending on the product price. It comes in various finishes, the most common is gloss, followed by satin or even matte should you choose to go for that. If you go for the gloss option it is practically invisible.
It is also important to note that Paint Protection Film is not the same as vinyl.
The idea of the film, its primary purpose is to cover your car and preserve it as it currently is for the foreseeable future. If you are using quality car wrap and you take care of the car you can expect the film to last the lifetime of the protected vehicle.
That being said you obviously want to prepare the surface of the car for the job beforehand because if you do decide to wrap it and you haven't corrected any defects on your car's paint - it will be visible. And after that there won't be anything you can do about that except remove the wrap and retrace your steps, basically throwing away a huge sum of cash through the window. So make sure you do your research well, before deciding to protect your vehicle with a car wrap.
If, you go for the satin or matte finish the paint chips or swirls and scratches on your paint won't be visible that much, or at all, but since you are paying a lot to wrap your car already, you might as well go that extra step and do that first.
If you bought a brand new car and have an extra 5000$ to 10000$ lying around and want to preserve the car as it is now before it gets any damage to its paint, then we suggest you take it to your local professional and get your car wrapped.
Now you might be saying something like "But Ceramic Coat Expert, aren't you all for Ceramic Coatings and stuff? Why trying to promote an alternative to the product you are promoting?". Well, that is simple. If you want to be an expert in a certain area, then you have to know your competition. You have to know your strengths and your weaknesses. And simply put - Paint Protection Film is better at protecting your car's paint than Ceramic Coating is. That being said - we still suggest Ceramic Coating and we will cover why in the final thoughts at the end of this article.
You remember how we said that Ceramic Coating varies in cost depending on if you are doing the job yourself or you have a professional do it for you - and then we said that with some research, perhaps even some training and proper preparation you can confidently coat your car with Ceramics? Well... Forget that when it comes to Paint Protection Film.
We do not care who you are, or how much research you have done on this topic - there is no way that you can do a good job covering your car with car wrap alone or without proper training and experience.
This is most certainly at least a two-man job, or even more, and all people involved have to be experienced or you are accepting the risk of messing up the job at any point potentially wasting hours of intense labor and ruining the wrap making it useless and having to use the new wrap to try and fix the mistake.
If you want to use Paint Protection Film on your car, then research your area and go to the professional that has the best reputation. They will do the job properly, using top-quality materials because they won't risk ruining their reputation by doing a terrible job.
Some of them are cutting corners by using less expensive materials, doing the job with less manpower, or even solo ( we have seen some... ) or by jumping steps to make the job faster ultimately doing a great job for the untrained eye, but potentially leaving you with visible wrap corners that will accumulate dust and dirt over time and will have a blackish line that will look horrible and will be visible from space or will start yellowing over time leaving your car in a dull, hazy cover that you paid thousands of dollars for.
Or even it not being tucked inside all the panels and it starting to peel off over time on the edges. We have seen it all. So be extremely careful who you pay and who trusts your car.
With the negatives out of the way - if done correctly, the paint protection film is the best thing you can go for if you have unlimited funds. It will absorb the most damage, most scratches, and all the swirl marks you would get from bad car washes, and will even protect your car, to some degree, from rock chips. Of course, if you are driving down the highway like a maniac and a rock hits your car, usually in the front part of the hood, there is very little you can do to stop that projectile from piercing that wrap or the paint on your car. Paint Protection Film usually has self-healing properties. Now that is not achieved by some wizardry and is not false propaganda to make you buy that product. It actually works. The way it functions is if the wrap gets damaged and you apply heat to the damaged area, the polymer structure will 'melt' into its original position.
Kind of how you would stretch a wrinkled piece of nylon and by applying heat to it it would straighten up as if new. So by using a heat gun, a hairdryer, or sometimes even while standing in the sun, most damage that the wrap suffered will 'regenerate' so to speak. Now that usually only works if the wrap hasn't suffered deep damage but we have seen products that recovered from even that.
As long as the paint underneath wasn't damaged, if you are using quality PPF you are covered from all the damage that we mentioned above, it is highly resistant to the elements and will last you a long long time. Chemicals, bird droppings, tree pollen, and such, while highly resistant, will still get damaged if left untreated, the same as your car's paint would. So make sure you still wash your car regularly if it gets dirty. So, how should you treat your car if it was wrapped with PPF? Same as you would if it had none. You would just have that extra top sacrificial layer that will deal with those bullies that your car's paint normally couldn't. For all products, we will give a short and clear summary listing all their features and grading them from F ( bad ) to A ( great ) compared to their competition. So to summarize, here are some notes about Paint Protection Film:
will last you about 5-10 years ... A
major resistance to the elements ... A
high resistance to damage ... B
premium product, very expensive ... F
not suited for DIY projects or solo endeavors... E
high resistance to chemicals & degreasers ... A
Average grade: C After all this praise and all those massive benefits it provides, it only got a mediocre grade of C. Now that would be due to two key components of the product - its price and its price. When you think of how much paint protection film installation costs at a professional shop, you might think that buying the product online and installing it yourself might seem like an attractive idea.
Well, we have said that it is almost impossible for a novice to install car wrap on their own. You might say something like 'Well, I'll just get one or two of my friends and have them help me." Unfortunately, it is not that simple, otherwise, all those shops would quickly go out of business.
You see, when you go and search online, you can even find sites where you would enter the make and the model of your car and they would send you premade, precut Protection Film specifically for your car.
They won't, of course, tell you how difficult it is to actually do it. Waxing, using Sealants, or even coating your car with Ceramics might be considered children's play compared to film installation. This one truly requires proper experience, finesse, stamina, precision, and a bunch of tools, that go along with the installation process, that you have to buy separately. Even using those tools takes practice. How difficult is it to install Paint Protection Film onto your car?
Well, take it like this - imagine an empty canvas in front of you. You've got your paintbrush, and your acrylics on the side ready to paint. You see the perfect scenery in front of the empty white canvas. You see it clearly in your mind and you bring the paintbrush closer to the canvas to transfer that thought onto the canvas, imprinting that clear picture from your mind.
Well, usually if you aren't skilled with a painting brush, you will end up with a grotesque 'modern art' depiction of whatever you've earlier imagined instead. That is how the PPF installation will probably go for you if you give it a go without experience and without being intimately familiar with the process. Only practice and time will change that.
But if you are willing to go through all of that, to cover such a distance, you might as well think of opening up a shop yourself instead. So if that thought made you chuckle inside, and you still want to go with the PPF, stick to the professionals.
Our final thoughts on How to protect the paint on your car
Having covered all the ways we currently use to protect the paint on our vehicles we still stand firm in the thought that Ceramic Coating is the best of the lot. Why? Because you get the best bang for your buck with it.
While Car Waxes and even better Polymer Sealants help protect your paint and are easy and even fun to do on a Sunday afternoon while cleaning your mechanical friend, no one said that Ceramic Coating would be any less fun, or any less difficult. Just more intimidating for the reason that you will pay more for the Coating and you will most likely be afraid more to mess up.
Or even the thought that you would do a messy job and potentially ruin the paintwork of your car might cross your mind. You won't.
In our experience, if you botch the job when working with Ceramic Coating, usually mistakes that happen are either bad coverage where you would miss some parts of your vehicle, or even forgetting to coat as per instructions. Or perhaps you would get a flakey, or hazy finish when buffing too little or buffing too late. Perhaps even buffing too early or applying too little coating could happen.
All those things can be easily and inexpensively corrected. One 50ml bottle ( as they usually come in ) of the Ceramic Coating of your choosing will allow you coverage of a full, standard-size vehicle two times as suggested. Meaning even if you mess up an area on the first go, you can still correct it on your second run. That way, the job will not be perfect, but you will have more experience once you go for another run at a later date.
Working with Paint Protection Film, or PPF as they like to call it will most likely not go as planned unless you have some serious previous experience installing it onto a car of a similar structure.
As you might imagine, covering a Corvette Z1 or covering a Jeep Wrangler in Car Wrap would be two completely different jobs altogether. So your experience working with one might not transfer well when worthing with the other. And, realistically you will end up having to pay a professional to install it onto your car and paying thousands of dollars for it. And again realistically - not everyone can afford that, or even want to pay such amounts for it, no matter the benefits.
Because of all those reasons - we choose Ceramic Coating as it will give you so much for what you end up paying for it and it will last you a very long time. And we definitely recommend you do the same! Go through the site and learn more on how to cover your car's paint with Ceramic Coating properly. You will also find many frequently asked questions or FAQs on Ceramic Coating or you might even go through our Reviews on all the different brands of Ceramic Coatings that are lurking around on the market so you can choose the right one for yourself and your needs.