I would say at least one third of my clients have asked me this, regardless of whether or not they’re bringing an old car to me for a correction detail or a brand new one for a lighter detail job. Here are a few things to consider when deciding whether or not to have paint protection film applied to your vehicle and what areas to protect should you decide to have it installed.
Protection is the key reason behind installing PPF. Actually, it’s the only reason. Whether you’re looking to protect the front bumper from some paint chips and bug splatter, the entire front end from road debris or preserve the entire paint job by wrapping the whole vehicle, protection is the goal. Nothing comes close to providing the protection of PPF. No wax, sealant or paint protection coating will ever prevent rock chips in the paint and etching from bird dropping or bug splatter. A good wax/sealant/coating may help minimize etching in the paint, but they cannot prevent rocks and debris from chipping away the paint finish. The 3M Paint Defender is a cost effective solution to PPF and it provides a good barrier of thin film, but it is still very thin and can only do so much. In short, there’s nothing out there that will provide the protection of a good paint protection film, so it’s a must if you have suffered from paint chips in the past on a regular basis.
More people than you would imagine are concerned about looks after PPF installation. Most are worried in general about how the gloss or color of the paint will be altered, whereas others don’t want to see “the line” that’s associated with partial film applications (only 1/4, 1/3 or 1/2 of hood and fenders are covered, thus revealing an edge/line of the film). I too hate the look of the edge of a film running across the middle of the hood, which is why I always recommend full front end coverage. This ensures the entire front end of the vehicle, hood, bumper and fenders, will be covered with the film and have an even look to it. Also, with the entire front end covered, the only panels to compare to will be the doors. Since the doors are vertical and not easily visible in terms of gloss and color, the covered areas blend in much better with the rest of the vehicle. In other words, it’s a lot harder to compare gloss/look of the hood vs the door than hood vs fender that’s right next to it, or obviously hood to hood when only half it has the film applied.
From experience, there is always a slight difference in gloss between panels that have the film applied compared to those that don’t. However, this is usually only noticeable from 5-10 feet away or less. Some colors, such as grey and most whites, are very hard to tell even from 5-10 feet away. One way to greatly improve the look and close the gap between the gloss of uncovered and covered panels is by applying a good paint protection coating, such as 22PLE, to the film. This increases the gloss of the film and matches more the gloss of the actual paint that’s not covered by film. All in all, I have never seen a quality film install that looks “bad”. Yes you will be able to tell it’s on the paint (sometimes from 15 feet away and sometimes from only 3-5 feet away) but it’s not a bad look per say. So unless it’s an old PPF install and the film is starting to fade due to time and use/abuse, I wouldn’t worry much about the looks of it.
Last, but certainly not least, durability plays a big factor with a PPF install. The main way to ensure durability is to select a competent installer and a higher quality film. 3M and Xpel are two of the leading manufacturers of PPF, but there are a few others out there that look and work great as well. What you want to stay away from is cheap film that may work fine in protecting paint and be a bit cheaper to apply initially, but it will get discolored, scratched and faded fairly quickly. The initial savings are normally not worth the replacement cost of the film. Normally the quality films will last at least 3-5 years without fading or discoloration, but as you can imagine they do need to be kept clean and maintained properly in order to last as long as they should. In addition to providing a better overall look as mentioned above, paint protection coatings are a great way to preserve PPF and make it last much longer than it normally would. A coating will protect the film itself from swirl marks, fading and staining, as well as make it much easier to clean and maintain.
Well that’s about all I have for now. I am hoping to do a follow-up article soon to explain some of the things to look out for when selecting a good film and more importantly a good installer. Stuff like custom cut or pre-cut kits, folded edges and application methods. For now, hope this helps some of you in making a decision about PPF and as always thanks for reading!