One of the numerous maintenance costs you are likely to incur as a car owner relates to your car’s paint coating.
Your vehicle is likely to suffer damage from scratches while driving or being hit by small flying rocks.
Is there a solution to this? Over the years, car owners tend to gravitate towards paint protection film (PPF) to give their machines the longed-for protection.
The question is, how effective is PPF?
While the effectiveness of PPF in protecting your car’s paint cannot be disputed, there are other factors that you should have in mind before making the decision.
For instance, you should know both the pros and cons of using PPF.
This article has gathered all the information you need to know concerning PPFs under one roof. I have clearly outlined the advantages that are associated with PPFs.
Likewise, I have provided you with alternatives that you may use to protect your car’s painting.
Read on to ensure that you can make an informed decision.
What Is Paint Protection Film?
Paint Protection Film (PPF) has also been dubbed clear bra, clear mask, or an invisible shield.
It is a thermoplastic urethane that is thin and transparent, usually embedded onto your car and tasked with protecting its paint.
It traces back to military operations after 3 M developed it to offer helicopter blades protection (particularly the leading edges usually exposed to damage from debris and shrapnel).
Clearcoat is the first outermost layer that is directly exposed to the environment.
It is about 0.5m thick and is made from a polymer material that makes it elastic and gives it self-recovery features.
This means that it can still return to its initial position whenever the material expands, shrinks, or gets scratched.
Polyurethane is the second layer and is light, transparent, and flexible. It resembles plastic material. It has resistance to abrasion and corrosion and has self-recovery features.
The adhesive forms the last layer and binds the PPF to the car paint coating. When exposed to UV Rays, the layer may be oxidized, changing its color to yellow.
However, variants that are resistant to UV Rays have been developed.
PPF is commonly applied to the front bumper covers, mirror housings, the front parts of hoods, and headlights. However, due to its effectiveness, some people tend to wrap it on the entire painted surface of the car.
The car paint protection film resembles the vinyl bumper sticker, usually used for the same purpose. However, PPF has better resilience as it is thicker than the vinyl material.
The most popular brand is clear bra. This can be installed on a do-it-yourself (DIY) basis. Alternatively, you can seek the help of a paint film installer. This brand is commonly used for fenders, door edges, and bumpers.
Disadvantages of Paint Protection Film
Wrapping your vehicle with a PPF is a form of investment since you will save o maintenance and repair costs. That means you will have to fork out a good amount of money to secure the film’s best quality.
Besides, you will also have to incur extra costs in having the PPF installed.
The main determining factors include the quality of the paint job on your car, the level of expertise of the installers you will engage, the vehicle parts you want to be covered, and the job’s complexity.
A PPF installation cannot cost anything below hundreds of dollars with all factors considered. This makes it disadvantageous for someone who is working within a budget.
The high cost explains why some people opt for cheaper vinyl wraps, though not as effective as PPFs.
However, you may find consolation in that PPFs pay for themselves thanks to their self-healing properties.
Reduces Car’s Gloss
Though thin and almost invisible, there will always be a glaring difference between the natural and ‘with-PPF’ look of your car’s body.
This is because paint protective films may still be detected.
The downside is that PPFs will reduce the gloss or shine of your vehicle!
If you are an enthusiast of shining and outstanding paintwork, a PPF may not be an option for you.
You will have to make a tough choice between a dull look and giving your car painting the protection it needs.
Discoloration or yellowing
On the one hand, a paint protection film serves to protect the painting on your car from damage resulting from the sun, road debris, and contaminants.
On the other, PPFs can equally play a part in contributing to the damage caused to your car’s paint job.
When exposed to UV rays, the adhesive layer in PPFs becomes oxidized, and the PPF turns yellow. This gives your car an old and un-aesthetic look.
Plus, after a long period of use under the sun, the 3 layers of the PPF cause your car’s paint coating to become discolored.
Paint protection films cannot repel water, meaning they are at risk whenever it rains or when cleaning your car.
The consequence is that you will always come across some stains or debris that cannot be easily removed.
However, there have been attempts recently to remedy such situations. One approach utilized by PPF installers is to apply a ceramic coating on top of the PPF to offer further paint protection.
Also, PPF manufacturers have introduced a technology that makes the PPFs hydrophobic. You, therefore, have to be keen to purchase a hydrophobic brand, though you may incur extra costs in that respect.
Although paint protection films serve to increase the longevity of your car’s paintwork, they are not permanent themselves.
It has been uniquely manufactured to ensure that it is durable to withstand the environmental elements that may cause damage to your car.
However, each PPF product has its peculiar lifespan. A majority range between 5 to 10 years, after which they are required to be replaced or removed.
Sounds expensive, right?
I will advise that you consider the warranty periods offered by manufacturers of the different brands before making up your mind to purchase a particular one.
This will go a long way in covering extra costs within that specified period.
Cheap is expensive. Does that phrase sound familiar?
It is applicable here too. Unless you employ the expertise of a competent PPF installer, the longed-for results may not be satisfactory.
Going for affordable but below-par installers may cost you a fortune. They will do a botched job, and you will have to dip into your pockets to rectify such mistakes.
For instance, a botched job will leave you worrying about bubbles and dirt spotted under your newly installed PPF.
This usually results from poor installation when the installer does not clean your paint or correct paint defects apparent on your car.
Likewise, your PPF may not end up being invisible if the installer does not have the required experience or accidentally skip a vital installation step.
Damage To The Film
Most PPFs have self-healing properties. If the PPF is damaged or scratched, you have to pour hot water, and things get back to normal.
However, some conditions may not be remedied by self-healing properties.
These include deep scratches or rock chips. In such a case, the only option will be to replace the PPF. This makes maintenance a tad expensive.
Car Washing Considerations
The car washing process becomes delicate and requires attention to detail with a paint protection film.
What you may ordinarily use to wash a typical car may be inappropriate when it comes to ‘with-PPF cars.’
To properly maintain the PPF, you will have to use mild soap and water. However, it will be imperative to direct your attention to the contents or ingredients of the soap you are using. Are you wondering why that is necessary?
PPFs cannot withstand some of the products that ordinary paint can!
For clarity, you should not at any point use washing products that contain kerosene, dye, or naphtha to wash your car.
The first and the last will eat through the film, while dyes will leave stains.
Plus, you may want to avoid using pressure washers to clean your car if it has been wrapped with paint protection film.
If you must, then the right precautionary measure will be to stand far away from the vehicle and ensure the angle of the water does not affect the edges of the film.
Alternatives to Paint Protection Film
One alternative you resort to is using a vinyl wrap. However, you should be aware that this is not as nearly effective a PPF.
Also, the other alternative to PPF is having your car ceramic coated. A ceramic coating will prevent your car from sustaining scratches, but it will not do much as far as stone chips are concerned.
You may opt to deal with the rock chips as they arise.
That means having your car repainted whenever it sustains a scratch. The more challenging task will be finding the perfect paint shop to deliver quality work.
Paint Protection Film: Clear Bra Car Pros and Cons
- It is not visible
- It has self-healing properties
- Protects your car from rock chips
- It is expensive to install
- Discoloration or yellowing over time
- Self-healing properties don’t help in cases of deep scratches
- May need replacement if damaged from debris
- May damage the car’s paint coating if it is left for too long
- It is not permanent and needs to be replaced every 5 to 10 years
- Parts with PPF appear less shiny than unwrapped parts.
- It may require an extra coating to improve the water beading of your car.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is The Paint Protection Film Worth It?
Yes, a paint protection film (PPF) is worth every dollar. This is especially so if you aim to maintain your car’s value and protect its paint job to the best of your ability.
PPFs are thin and invisible, have self-healing properties, and some come with warranties between 5 and 10 years. This reduces maintenance costs you would otherwise incur, keeping the paint job in shape.
Can You Remove Paint Protection Film?
Paint protection films can be removed. It could be on a do-it-yourself (DIY) basis, or you could take your car to the installers to be removed.
If you decide to do it yourself, you may use a razor or a plastic scraper to release the film if it comes off easily.
The best option is to use a heat gun or a blow dryer for more convenience when it comes off in pieces.
Which Is Better Ceramic Coating Or PPF?
The scale may tilt to either side. As a rule of thumb, PPF is better since it offers more protection against damage from debris or rock chips.
However, ceramic coating is better than PPF as it is a more permanent solution.
PPF needs to be replaced from time to time as it may turn yellow after prolonged use under the sun. Thus, it may be a bit more expensive than PPF.
How Long Does Ceramic Coating Last On PPF?
A ceramic coating can last for up to 5 years. This is better than regular paint, which averagely lasts for about 3 years. Likewise, sealants and wax last for an even shorter period (a few months).
The longevity is partially attributed to the semi-permanent bonds that ceramic coatings rely on.
Can you polish a car with PPF?
Yes, you can polish your car with PPF.
Tip: you should not use abrasive chemicals when polishing your car with PPF. Also, be careful not to build up wax against the film’s edges.
How Strong Is PPF?
PPF is very durable. It will go a long way in withstanding heavy damage from rock chips and scratches. PPF will also be very effective in protecting your car against environmental conditions like acid rain.
Hi I’m Marshall based in 1478 Doctors Drive Santa Monica, CA. I’m your DIY Car Repairman with more than 5 years experience in automobile repair, a skill I learned from my old man.
I started this blog to share my experience on both simple and technical aspects of your car.