Paint protection film

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Paint Protection Film (PPF, also called clear bra, clear film or clear paint film) is a thermoplastic urethane film applied to painted surfaces of a new or used car in order to protect the paint from stone chips, bug splatters, and minor abrasions. This film is also used on airplanes, RVs, cell phones, electronics, screens, motorcycles and many other areas. Paint Protection Film is OEM approved by virtually all car manufacturers.

Paint protection film is installed on a limited basis by manufacturers on various pieces of cars at the factory (e.g. the rear arches of Porsches). This flm is most commonly applied to high impact areas of vehicles. The film is generally installed by certified trained professionals who receive supplies from outside distributors and dealers. Some tinting and detail shops also offer this service.

The primary function of clear bra is to prevent rock chips in paint, scuffs, many types of vandalism and other scenarios that result in superficial damage to car paint.[1]

Paint protection film is mostly installed on the forward facing portions of automobiles but may also be installed on as much as a full body of a vehicle for the maximum paint protection.[2]

Military Origins of Paint Protection Film[edit]

As with many other consumer products, paint protection films were first developed and used by the military. During the Vietnam War, helicopter rotor blades and other sensitive parts of military transports were often damaged by flying shrapnel and debris. In order to help protect these moving parts the US military asked 3M to come up with a solution that was both inconspicuous and low-weight.

The advantage of replaceable film over the replacement and repair of damaged rotor blades was immediately clear and its adoption was uncharacteristically quick for the US military. As a result, there are still people in the industry who refer to PPF as "helicopter tape" although this term is becoming less and less common as automotive applications have taken precedence.[3]

Adoption of PPF by Automotive Sector[edit]

Paint protection films use by the military has continued to the present day and 3M now makes a wide variety of aerospace and military films.[4] With time, however, the automobile industry began to take note of the protective benefits of PPF and it was soon being employed by race car drivers despite the difficulty of working with the original films. According to Kathy Lam, marketing manager for the automotive division of 3M “The first films were thicker and less compliant, [because] their purpose was to help keep helicopter blades from eroding in the harsh, sandy environments to which they were exposed. Because the blades were flatter and less complex than automotive surfaces, they didn’t demand a highly flexible, conformable film.” [5]

Contemporary Automotive Paint Protection Films[edit]

Today's automotive PPF is highly conformable and optically clear and is available in a variety of thicknesses (measured in mil in the US) and colors. New products such as 3M's Pro Series line, are multi layered and offer a self-healing top coat capable of reforming itself after being scuffed or scratched, maintaining it's clear coat for more than ten years. Contemporary applications require a slip solution or gell as a barrier keeping the film from adhering to the painted panel. Custom and advanced applicators use steam, heat guns and torches to help apply film to complex surfaces. Pre-stretch and pre-form of films pioneered by Rommel Lyndon Villalon (Carson, CA) in 2013 are also used for complex wraps and curves. Paint protection film has many different manufacturers/distributors present in the North American market. Some of the popular film manufacturer/distributors in North America are 3M, STEK, FlexiShield, Suntek, CCL, Hexis. Training is not required to purchase XPEL, 3M, STEK, FlexiShield, Suntek, CCL,Hexis. Because installation of paint protection film has such a steep learning curve, typically requiring 3+ years of constant installation until offering a higher level of installations, most automobile owners look to expert installation facilities for the application of paint protection film.[6]

Types of Installation Available[edit]

There are different styles of installation of PPF. Many installers do not own plotters. So they are forced to bulk install film from the roll which is risk as the film is cut directly onto the surface of the vehicle. For installers with a plotter, they can use software designed to create a pattern to the shape of the panel the film is being installed on. It is possible to modify a plotter software pattern to suit the needs of an installer and/or their customer. The most experienced installers can actually hand template panels, and then convert those templates into digital format for software to then cut them digitally, meaning that any custom work can be converted into a digital template.

Two common references to installation-styles that are the popular are "pre-cut kit" and "bulking installation". Depending on the installer one is speaking with, they may feel one is superior to the other. The highest skilled installers of PPF are ones that are versed in both styles and create a solution for their customer based upon the customer's needs. Much care must be taken in selecting your PPF installers due to the sensitive nature of using knives around paint. A poorly executed PPF installation will result in damage to the body of a vehicle.[7]

In addition to installations performed in situ at the factory or by certified shops and dealerships, there are also a select number of vendors who sell pre-cut and vehicle specific paint protection kits, as well as individuals who sell these kits on online auction sites or other markets.

When choosing an installer, you must consider the following. How experienced is the installer? What warranty does the PPF have? What standard is their installation? How many years has the installer been working with PPF? Insist that the installer shows you their finished work on a vehicle in person instead of photographs. Ensuring that your installer has the appropriate credentials and experience is just as important as choosing the PPF itself.

PPF is designed specifically for physical protection against light road debris and scratching on paintwork. It is different from sealants which are usually in liquid form and are designed for UV and chemical resistance. Sealants harden up the clear-coat on your paintwork, but are not designed to protect your vehicle from physical damage. For this reason, both PPF and sealants can be used on vehicles to protect the panels in different ways.

New developments in Removable, Eco-friendly and customizable coatings[edit]

A recent trend in paint protection is DIY and professional applications that are roller on, brush on, and spray on high-build films, that provide a rugged protective finish and are removable. One such product is PaintArmorDIY and PaintArmorPRO by ColorXlabs. This is a water-borne, ecological protective coating. Some advancements are 1) Removability 2) Infinite thickness adjustment and 3) Color matching to OEM Colors. A rugged, textured finish is the result, with capabilities to match any factory color. In the off-road industry, popularity of rugged bed liner coatings on body panels has been taking off. PaintArmorDIY is similar to textured surfaces like Line-X or Rhino Liner without as much roughness and easier to care for surface that remains removable.[8]

Rugged Looks & Paint Protection Vinyl Wrap 'Bed liner on body'[edit]

A new Paint Protection Film PPF with a rugged look but remains removable is RuggedWrap,[9] a product from[10] RuggedWrap has a look similar to 'bed liner on body' that many pickup, jeep and suv owners have been applying in the form of permanent coatings like Line-X. In July 2013, USA Today[11] reported on the growing trend among vehicle owners to apply bed liner on body panels to achieve a rugged look.

RuggedWrap can achieve a 'bed liner on body' vinyl wrap in a removable, easy to clean vinyl wrap.


  1. ^ "3 Reasons Why You Should Have Clear Bra Installed on Your New Car". Detailed Designs Auto Spa. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
  2. ^ "Clear Bra Installation Options". Detailed Designs Auto Spa. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
  3. ^ "History of car clear bra paint protection film". 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
  4. ^ "3M Aerospace and Aircraft Maintenance". 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
  5. ^ "The Evolution of Paint Protection Film" (PDF). 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
  6. ^ "Paint Protection Film (PPF)". Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  7. ^ "Clear Bra: Is It a Good Fit For You?". Detailed Image -Ask a Pro Author Jean-Claude Corcoran. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
  8. ^ "ColorX Labs PaintArmor DIY Paint Protection Clear Bra Clear Wrap". ColorX Labs :: Innovative Protective Coatings. Retrieved 2017-01-30.
  9. ^ "Rugged Wrap, a Tough Vehicle Wrap That Looks Rugged and Protects Paint!". ColorX Labs - Super Tough Vinyl Wraps. Retrieved 2017-06-12.
  10. ^ "ColorX Labs - Toughest Paint Protection Film - Rugged Vehicle Wrap". ColorX Labs - Super Tough Vinyl Wraps. Retrieved 2017-06-12.
  11. ^ "Pickup owners spray the whole truck with bedliner plastic". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2017-06-12.