“Whether you have purchased a new or pre-owned car, one of the most effective methods of protecting your vehicle’s paint surface is to cover it with paint protection film.”Michael Taylor, Co-founder, TrackWorthy Group Ltd.
Paint protection film is a clear, strong and thin urethane film. It measures just 6 mils thick, or six-thousandths (0.006) of an inch. To put that in perspective, a human hair is about 1 mil thick, or one-thousandth (0.001) of an inch. Paint protection film protects vulnerable paint surfaces from scratches, stone chips and stains. It also protects painted surfaces from fading because it contains UV inhibitors.
Paint protection film was invented in the 1960’s during the Vietnam War. During the war, many U.S. helicopters crashed because debris damaged their rotor blades. 3M worked with the U.S. military to engineer a solution: applying a thin, protective urethane film to the leading edge of rotor blades. In the 1980’s, racing teams started using paint protection film to protect sponsor graphics on their race cars and to help hold the cars together during a crash.
The most common application of paint protection film is on the front bumper and hood. You can also cover mirrors and front quarter panels, or, if you are in an extremely protective mood, you can cover your entire car. This is more common for high-end exotic cars and can cost from $3,000 to $10,000, depending on the size of the car. On average, consumers will spend around $800 covering the front of their car in paint protection film.
The overall process takes several hours, depending on how many surfaces the installer covers. In our case, we covered the entire hood and the two front fenders. The whole process took about half a day.
To start the process, the installer loads the specific pattern from the pattern library into the digital plotter. With a sufficiently large sheet of paint protection film in the plotter, the digital cutting begins. Out comes the perfectly matching film, ready to apply onto the car’s painted surface.
In our case, a 3M authorized installer uses 3M’s proprietary software to cut out the exact shapes of film required for the 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia. The installer loads Giulia patterns into the plotter, and out comes the paint protection film, ready for installation.
The first step in the installation process is to clean thoroughly the paint surface that paint protection film will cover. The installer washes the painted surface to remove all adhesive residue, wax, tree sap, road tar, bugs, and other sediment. It is crucial to start the instillation process on a very clean surface.
Once the paint protection film is in the correct position, the installer uses a ‘tack’ solution, made of isopropyl alcohol and water, to anchor the film in place.
After first installing the film, you should avoid automatic car washes and refrain from waxing for one week, allowing the film to adhere to the paint surface properly. You should also avoid waxes that contain dyes, abrasive polishes or rubbing compounds. Otherwise, you can care for paint protection film just like the paint surface on the rest of the car. Better care of the film will result in longer life and greater effectiveness of the paint protection film.
Sounding a little like it is out of a science fiction film, some of the higher end pain protection films, including Scotchgard’s Pro Series, have self-healing technology. Most scratches can heal themselves, and small scratches can disappear. The film’s ‘healing’ usually occurs with the aid of heat, either from the sun on a hot day, or with the help of a hairdryer.
3M is the only manufacturer of paint protection film proven to meet automotive Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) specifications. 3M’s film is available when ordering vehicles from Toyota, Mazda and Porsche.
It is possible to remove paint protection film without damaging the painted surface. Using a steamer or hair dryer to warm the surface can ease the peeling-off process, but doing so is not required. Ideally, an authorized installer should perform the removal of paint protection film.
Share your paint protection film stories with us in the comments section below, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advertorial content: 3M Canada provided the paint protection film and installation for this particular application. However, the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of TrackWorthy, and the content was not subject to 3M Canada’s approval.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY SAM REITMAN. ARTICLE AND VIDEO © COPYRIGHT 2018 TRACKWORTHY GROUP LTD.