I’ve been protecting paint jobs on high-end cars for over 20 years at my shop in Van Nuys called Sticker City. What’s happening is a problem and I feel that I must speak out. Don’t get me wrong, there are very good installers out there, but more and more I see prices rising due to an arrogance within the industry. You see, if people don’t know how a process works, an installer can create added value where there really is none. This ensures that the customer will pay top dollar for “expert” treatment. Sounds deceitful, doesn’t it? I think you’re right, so today I want to debunk the 5 myths of Paint Protection Film.
Before I jump into the 5 myths let me be clear. There are really good reasons to have paint protection film installed on your high-end car. Paint protection film offers the BEST protection possible for vehicle surfaces from; road debris impacts, topical contaminants, chips and damages, as well as adding additional UV protection. Also, the advances in the technology over the last 4-5 years have been incredible. It’s all really good news. I just don’t like seeing installers take advantage of their customers.
Paint Protection Film Myth #1 – All Corners Must Be Fully Wrapped
Installers commonly use the selling point that all corners must be wrapped, to set themselves above other installers. The sad truth is that paint protection film can’t wrap every corner cleanly without bunching up around the edges. Now there is something called the “edge prep” that can help…temporarily. Unfortunately, this product can negatively affect or even completely ruin a paint job. Seems pretty ridiculous to me when the original intent was to protect the paint job.
Paint Protection Film Myth #2 – “Custom” Equals “Superior”
Many installers will claim they only offer custom installs. Do you know what this means? They take a piece of film, lay it over the panel, squeegee it out to semi match the panel, and start cutting the film directly on the painted panel. That’s it! That’s what you’re paying a premium for their “expertise”. Can you believe that? It makes me crazy and it gets even worse. The reason they only offer custom installs is because they can’t afford a plotter (a machine that precisely cuts the PPF) or don’t want to pay monthly for a program to cut patterns which are exact to factory specs.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. How do these installers get away with it? Typically, they rely on spouting old information like “patterned film is inferior because it leaves visible edges”. Not true anymore, patterned film has evolved exponentially. Truly superior installers have the ability to modify the patterns within the plotter software. They can literally customize patterns however necessary from full edge wrapping to customize patters requested by the client. This super precise system eliminates the unnecessary dangers of accidentally cutting the clear coat.
Paint Protection Film Myth #3 – Film Wraps Are Impenetrable
If an installer tells you that a clear bra film can’t be damaged, run for the hills. That’s right, they are lying! They can get away with it because the dangers, particularly when installing to areas that don’t need it, might not be seen immediately. Want to read the list of things that can do damage these areas?
- A rock slung from an 18-wheeler can penetrate your film.
- Your son or daughter gouges the film with the exposed metal on their bike.
- The film flaps off the edge and is now an eyesore that leaves the paint exposed.
Here’s the worst part. The solution to these problems is to remove and reapply the paint protection film. So, you call the original installer and they’ve gone out of business. Once you finally find someone to do the work, you discover that when the old material is removed, you’re left with cuts in your paint along all of the edges of film. Now you have to pay for a re-paint on that panel or multiple panels or live with the inevitability of rusting.
Do You Care About The Look Of Your Car ?
Paint Protection Film Myth #4 – All Edges Must Be Tucked
Beware when an installer says they tuck film under some trim. Why? When edges are tucked they will either eventually come up, or just collect dirt. The challenge is that paint protective film needs something flat and solid to hold onto, so when the area isn’t large enough, you’ve got problems. Now the installer will have to trim because the edges look terrible. Here again, free hand cutting creates a high likelihood of cutting directly into your paint. A much better solution is to leave the line below trim on the flat surface. If done properly the line will be aligned with the panel gaps and will be barely noticeable, if at all.
Paint Protection Film Myth #5 – PPF Is a Permanent Protection
Paint protection film is not meant to be a permanent protection for your paint job. It’s a matter of the life expectancy of the adhesive, typically a few years. If it’s removed after a super hold takes place with the adhesive, it becomes likely that the paint job will be damaged. So why not just leave it on? Well one way or another the film is going to be damaged. It may be because of harsh weather conditions or more common in Southern California, over exposure to UV rays. Therefore, since it’s going to have to come off anyway, you might as well do it before it’s too late.
Now, if the installer wrapped everything and tucked the edges then they had to remove the panels. Guess what? When the film eventually has to be removed, then the panels have to be removed again and re-installed. Not only does this add a tremendous amount to labor costs, it greatly increases the potential to break a mounting clip. If installers removed every panel and made all edges seamless then PPF install costs would have to more than double what they need to be. It’s just not worth it. Nor is it worth the costs of time, effort, and money later down the line.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, customer satisfaction will rely on the professionalism of the installer. I hope you get the message that this doesn’t mean the most expensive, the most custom or the most time required for the install. Find someone who’s been established in the business. Look for credibility as well as transparency and you can avoid unnecessary expense and headaches down the road.