What Does Clear Bra Paint Protection Film Actually Do For Your Car?
You just spent north of 100K on a new car that you absolutely love and you want to protect it, keep it like new. Believe me, I get it. You’ve heard about protective films. You remember something called the “Clear Bra”, but you’re not sure what it is, you don’t know how to find a good installer and you’re afraid it might somehow damage the exterior. Well, I think I can help you with all that. Today, I will introduce you to the premier product and technique used for exterior car protection. It’s called the Clear Bra Paint Protection Film.
Automotive paint protection film or the “clear bra” is made from a transparent urethane material. Like a lot of technological innovations, Urethane was developed during wartime, in this case, the Vietnam War. U.S. helicopters were crashing when the leading edge of the rotor blades sustained damage and needed to be protected. Enter 3M, a company that worked with the military to develop tech that would be lightweight, but resilient. It also needed to be easily replaced at the fraction of the cost of the entire rotor blade. Eventually, the urethane technology was expanded to include the nose of a fighter plane. A version of the urethane film is still being used by the military today.
Where Did the Clear Bra Come From?
In the 80’s NASCAR began using the film to protect the front end of these incredibly expensive racing cars. It also provided an inexpensive way for advertisers to plaster their mark all over the cars creating a massive opportunity for new revenue. Eventually, urethane films became available to everyday consumers and became known as a paint protection film or clear bra in Los Angeles.
What’s The Technology Behind The Clear Bra?
Now, because the Clear Bra is about to be installed on you’re new, beautiful, expensive car, you probably want to know what the heck it is. The first thing to know is that the Clear Bra comes in sheets of material. OK, so what’s in a sheet? The main ingredient is urethane, a powerful and versatile polymer made from links of carbonate. It’s amazing! Urethane is lightweight and transparent like plastic but is not brittle or susceptible to tears or cracks. That’s not all. It has a high resistance to impact, abrasion, and corrosion. Also, because of its flexible nature, urethane can return to its natural shape after being stretched.
Given all that urethane can do, it’s reasonable to ask, “Why isn’t it used for other things?” The answer is that urethane is used in many other ways that are very commonplace to us today. For example, urethane can be found in household caulk because it seals spaces from moisture and prevents the growth of mildew and fungus. Urethane is also used to coat boats and cables to protect from water damage. It’s used in everything from mining equipment to sporting equipment like football pads and surfboards.
The Clear Bra is not just a layer urethane it has two other layers. The top layer is a clear coat made of elastomeric polymers. This layer enables the film to heal itself from small scratches. It also has low surface energy, which prevents organic compounds like bird droppings from bonding with the film. The bottom layer is lined with an acrylic adhesive allowing for flexibility so that it can be stretched and wrapped around every curve of your car. It’s durable to prevent detachment and invisible so that the paint job can still shine through.
Can The Clear Bra Cause Potential Problems?
I’ll bet this is your next question because it’s a good one. You’ve probably seen or heard about problems with the Clear Bra happening over time. Let’s look at some of the realities and see if we can shed some light on why these issues come up.
While peeling can certainly result from a poor application or substandard film, it’s more likely the result of improper care. Let’s say for example that you’re using a pressure washer to clean your car. If the pressure washer is directed at the edge of the Clear Bra, it can lift the film and cause peeling.
Early on in the development and use of the Clear Bra, there were reports of yellowing after some time. The companies that manufacture the Clear Bra investigated and discovered that the yellowing came from the adhesive. UV exposure was oxidizing the adhesive leading to discoloration. Eventually, acrylic adhesives, which are UV resistant, were used. Today all quality film manufacturers use an acrylic adhesive but beware of inferior products.
Small air bubbles in the Clear Bra create a blistering effect that is assuredly caused by a poor installation. More often than not, an air bubble occurs due to a contaminant trapped under the film. This creates separation between the film and the surface of the car. The vehicle’s surface must be very carefully prepared before the Clear Bra touches the paint. How should an installer do this? Washing, claying and polishing are all important steps to take, but equally important is a controlled environment where the air can be filtered.
While it’s true that problems in real-world situations have been caused by the use of a Clear Bra, we can only conclude that it’s due to either a sub-par product, sub-par installation or both.