Paint protection film was first used by the military to protect helicopter rotor blades before being adopted by the aviation industry in general. The motor racing industry then began to utilize it for protection of sensitive exterior areas on race cars, and in recent years it has grown in popularity amongst private vehicle owners, and vehicle manufacturers, with a number of them using it on their brand new cars, or at least offering it as an option for the buyer. Paint protection film is fundamentally a very thin thermoplastic urethane adhesive backed film that is applied to certain exterior parts of a vehicle to create an invisible barrier that protects the paintwork underneath, and even though it is very thin and light, it is still very tough and resilient, as it is pressure sensitive and abrasion resistant.
The main reason that a paint protection film is usually applied to a vehicle, is to protect it from stone and rock chips which is one of the most common ways the exterior of a vehicle can become inflicted with light cosmetic damage. Small stones and rocks can get flung up from the tires of passing vehicles and cars traveling ahead, and impact on the surface of your car, chipping the paintwork and sometimes even removing enough surface material to expose the bare metal underneath, which can then lead to corrosion and rusting. Even if the stone and rock chips don’t lead to corrosion, they can still leave an otherwise great looking vehicle appearing tired and neglected. The paint protection film absorbs the shock of any stone or rock impact and safely deflects them, leaving the paintwork underneath untouched and because the film is so tough and pressure sensitive it too will not become damaged and will remold back to its original form.
Paint protection film is usually applied to a vehicles front bumper, headlights, bottom edge of the hood, wing mirrors, fenders, sills, lower doors and around the rear wheel arches as well as the rear bumper to protect the paintwork from stones and rocks that may also be thrown up by the vehicles own wheels. As well as primarily protecting against chips, paint protection film can also be applied to provide protection from other common hazards that a vehicle exterior sees on a daily basis. Bird droppings, tree sap, bug splats and acid rain can all etch into, and damage the paintwork, but if a protection film is applied, these contaminants will be sitting on the film itself and not the paintwork, and so can be easily removed and washed away without having to worry about the paintwork being damaged. Paint protection film will also effectively help to protect a cars exterior and minimize the damage inflicted from scuffs, scratches and parking dings which can happen all to often, whether it was your fault or not.
In some instances, for example if your vehicle has single stage paintwork, paint protection film can also help to prevent it from fading and oxidizing, as it acts as a temporary clear coat or lacquer that prevents the suns harmful UV rays from penetrating the paint directly. Any good quality film will also be non yellowing and so you do not have to be concerned about it degrading and discoloring over time. To add to this, paint protection film can not only be used on cars but can also be effectively used on boats and other marine craft, ATVs, motor homes and even consumer electronics and gadgets that are susceptible to cosmetic damage. There are a wide variety of paint protection films available, including ones produced by well known manufacturers such as 3M, XPEL and Venture Shield, but all professional grade films will do pretty much the same job.
The film is applied to the paintwork much in the same way that a vinyl wrap, or vinyl graphics are applied to a vehicle. An appropriate lubricant is applied to the underside of the film to allow it to be easily positioned before it is worked out along with any trapped air bubbles with a small squeegee. Heat can also be applied to allow the film to be stretched and worked around curves and contoured surfaces. Unlike some vinyl fitments, paint protection film generally needs to be installed by a professional fitter in order to ensure that a quality adherence and lasting finish is achieved.
The process is a semi permanent one and if the film is applied properly, can last for years but it can also be fairly easily removed with a little time and effort without risking damaging the paintwork underneath. This can be useful if you are selling your vehicle and want to remove the film to reveal the fresh, undamaged paintwork underneath to any potential buyers for example.
Although the paint protection film purchase and application can be fairly costly, it should be seen as an investment, as the cost of having it fitted will be considerably less than the cost of having to get professional body shop repairs carried out, as well as the inconvenience this can cause. In general, it is an easy and hassle free way to keep your vehicles paintwork protected and in as good condition as possible for the length of your ownership of the vehicle and it is certainly worth considering if you own an expensive luxury, vintage, classic, or super car. Once applied, paint protection film should simply be washed and maintained just like the rest of the car and you can even polish and wax it, though you should ensure that you remove all product residue from the edges of the film to prevent any unsightly build up.