How Automotive Paint-Protection Film Can Protect Your Car

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Understanding what clear bra for cars can do for you

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How to Protect Your Car’s Paint

Paint-protection film applied to cars' paintwork goes by many names. It is essentially a urethane-based protective film applied to the paintwork and, as such, can be called rock-chip protection, clear bra/wrap/mask, invisible shield, or scratch-protection film. All these names refer to the same basic type of invisible plastic-like film. This clear bra for cars can be applied to paintwork to seal and protect it against casual, everyday wear and damage such as chips, scratches, and the effects of chemicals, acid rain, and bird droppings.

The advantages of urethane became apparent in the 70s when 3M developed a variation of the film that could be applied to the leading edges of helicopter rotor blades to protect them, often obviating the need to replace entire rotor blades. Urethane films would continue to be applied on jet fighters' noses, and eventually to protect the body panels and decals on NASCAR race cars in the 80s. Today, this protective film for cars is widely available to paintwork, too, the difference being that it is now even better and more advanced than its earlier versions, offering better protection than ever before.

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Reasons to Apply Invisible Car Bra to Your Car

There are many car-protection pros associated to having a protective film applied to your car's paintwork, with most of them following from the successful military application of the technology:

  • It keeps your car looking better for a longer time
  • It provides a barrier between the paint and external sources of damage
  • Self-healing properties allow it to regain its finish after minor damage
  • It prevents the paint from fading and oxidizing

Urethane Paint-Protection Film (PPF) Technology

Car paint-protective film is urethane- or polyurethane-based and most types consist of four distinct layers of clear-bra materials on top of each other:

  1. Release liner. The bottom layer, usually made of polyester, adheres directly to the paintwork.
  2. Adhesive. The flexible adhesive layer is typically made of acrylic, allowing it to flex and deform, so it will adhere to the complex shape of a car body.
  3. Urethane/polyurethane. The actual urethane (or polyurethane) layer is the thickest. It is lightweight, flexible, exhibits high impact and wear resistance, and returns to its original shape after being deformed.
  4. Clearcoat. The elastomeric polymers in the clearcoat give the film its ability to self-heal small scratches and its low surface energy means that gunk does not want to adhere to it.
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A Clear-Bra Installation Guide

Clear-bra installation is usually done by professionals, but a competent DIY job can be successful, too, if the instructions are meticulously followed. The basic 'how to install paint-protection film' steps are usually the same in either case:

  1. Cutting the film. First, the film has to be cut in the right shapes. Thankfully, nowadays you can order the right cutouts for your car, so you don't have to do this laborious part yourself.
  2. Paintwork preparation. The vehicle's paintwork must be meticulously cleaned. Any dirt, impurities, or wax may prevent the film from sticking.
  3. Placing the film. This is the difficult part and installers will often use soap and water to slide the layer around until it is perfectly positioned, before locking it in place.
  4. Anchoring. This is the 'locking in place' part, where a combination of rubbing alcohol and water - called the tack solution - is used to anchor the film in place.
  5. Finishing. During this step, there is limited time to finish the job and get rid of any air bubbles and liquid under the layer. Applying heat helps to ensure that the edges of the film properly adhere to the paint.

The Cons of PPF Car Treatment

There are not many downsides, but certain things can happen that are almost always a consequence of an inferior-quality product or an improper application process:

  • Peeling occurs when the film is poorly applied, or when there is excessive pressure-washer use.
  • Blistering is the result of bubbles trapped under the film, which is another consequence of poor application.
  • Yellowing is a common problem when an inferior-quality adhesive is exposed to UV radiation.
  • Cost is a natural consequence of modifying your car, and this is a particularly pricey paint-protection measure.

Remember, PPF is not a paint-correction treatment, only a protective film for the existing paint finish. It cannot and does not alter the color finish or depth, or mend existing damage. You will still need color correction and paint reparation before applying the film if it has faded. PPF products don't offer an exceptionally hydrophobic surface, which means water and debris might adhere to them more. Do your homework before choosing, because the performance of the product will depend on its quality.

Conclusions

How to protect car paint against the rigors of everyday wear and tear just became a lot easier. Considering how much time you spend reading countless car reviews and going on test drives before paying dearly for your new pride and joy, it only makes sense to preserve its dashing good looks for as long as possible. You can have this car-paint protector applied to the front nose cone ('bra') of your vehicle; the front bumper, hood, mirrors, and fenders; or the entire vehicle. It is only applied to the paintwork and not to unpainted plastic or rubber, such as a trunk spoiler.

High-quality PPF is now available to anybody at a reasonable price, so there's no excuse not to give your car's paintwork the protection it deserves. It is tougher and longer-lasting than other paint treatments and improves your car's resale value because it preserves the paintwork and guards against paint damage. Who knows, one day, future vehicles might have paint protection built in, but for now, we need to choose it ourselves if we want to prevent our cars from looking shabby after a few years on the road.

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FAQs

Will I be able to notice the PPF once it has been applied to my car’s paintwork?

The invisible car bra is completely transparent and mostly invisible unless you look very closely and find one of its edges. A well-applied film is not easy to spot.

How much UV can PPF car-protection film block?

A good-quality PPF can block out virtually all UV rays and prevent them from causing your paintwork to oxidize and fade.

Can a clear shield for cars self-heal from all scratches?

No, a deep enough scratch will leave a permanent mark on the film, but smaller scratches will self-heal. Either way, the majority of scratches won't reach the paintwork. For more information on how to remove scratches from a car, read our blog post on it here.

Can a PPF car wrap prevent small dents?

No, if an impact from a stone is severe enough, the metal will be dented and no film can protect against that.

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