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Driving Into the World of Paint Protection Film Installation

by

After years of contemplation, I finally took the plunge and signed up for the Xpel Paint Protection Film (PPF) installer training course in March, 2018.

For years I have been fed up with the poor film installs on many of my clients’ new cars. Installs of cheap films by dealerships or unskilled shops left unsightly blemishes in the film, unnecessary exposed edges, or poor coverage. A couple years ago, I spent some time online looking for a high-performing shop where I could refer my clients, hoping for a better quality install. Based on many recommendations I ended up finding a great option pretty close to me and have been more than comfortable sending them my clients for film work over the last couple years. However, while the work was high-quality, the shop trustworthy and a very viable option, the arrangement also posed a couple of significant detractors; scheduling conflicts were frequent and visiting and paying two different shops wasn’t ideal for my clients. On top of that I didn’t like being the middle man and wanted to be in charge of the quality, that way if a client wasn’t happy with the film work, the responsibility would be solely mine.

Initial concerns and deciding on where to go for training.

My biggest hesitation with taking the plunge into film installation was knowing the initial start up cost, especially since I only work part time and don’t plan to go full time. Between the cost of a plotter, rolls of film in various sizes, and monthly software fees, I just couldn’t justify doing it, at least not until I was comfortable with my abilities. After talking with a couple of my good friends who do both film and detailing a possible solution came to light; one where I could hone my skills without a significant initial investment in equipment and software. Thus, I selected Xpel for the training and my choice of film. Xpel is one of the most commonly mentioned brands when the discussion of film comes up and most people I talked to had good feedback about their 4-day training class. My biggest reason for going with Xpel though was that I could order customizable, pre-cut film kits directly from Xpel. This meant I didn’t need to spend $6000 on a plotter right away and I could easily get by with the kits and a few bulk rolls for hoods and other areas.

Attending the Xpel training class

My experience with the Xpel training was quite positive. I felt fortunate to have 2 good detailing buddies in the class with me and ended up making a couple other friends as well. The first half of day one was spent in a lecture on the basics and then we dove right in, starting off by applying film to some complex molds. I think it was pretty clear after the first day that we all felt in over our heads. The instructor mentioned that we may feel that way but promised it would get better each day, and he was right. The class was set up with various bumpers, hoods, partial and full fenders as well as a side mirror to train on, most of which were considered to be very difficult on their 1-5 star rating. Overall the class was very good but it is just an entry level class covering the basis and the installation of partial kits. While I wish we could have devoted some class time to doing full hoods and bulk installs, there is no way it would have all fit into the 4 days. I left the class feeling pretty confident on bumpers and partial kits but was a little worried about full hoods, especially the ones like my 2017 Dodge Ram hood. At the time, I hadn’t decided to do an article on film and my experience with the class, so unfortunately I didn’t take many pics. Below are a few pics my buddy Kevin with Straight Line Detailing snapped while we were at Xpel training. As a side note, Xpel does actually test you on the last day; participants have to wrap a bumper and exceed a certain score to pass the course and obtain the certification.

Welcome to the real world!

After training I returned home and started working on my own vehicles and the cars of friends and long-time clients for practice. I performed all of this practice work at a reduced rate and with full disclosure of my desire to continue practicing my skills, knowing I was very new to film and they were more than happy to help out. For the most part things have gone very well but I have definitely had to redo panels because of debris, lift lines, silvering, or other adhesive disturbances. It is definitely easy to feel defeated and frustrated anytime you have to start over. The hood of my Ram was by far the most difficult panel I’ve done to date. The application took 2 tries and even the second wasn’t flawless and still needs to be redone at some point. Applying film is definitely far more stressful than detailing because I am a perfectionist and hold myself to a very high standard while, at the same time, still learning this craft. That being said, I do enjoy film and my confidence increases with each car. Most of the cars I’ve been taking on have been relatively simple installs and, if I know something is beyond my current abilities, I send it to my local installer or have them come to my shop and do it. Not having a plotter at my shop has added some additional stress because if I mess up and need to start over I have to either bulk the car or order another kit with next-day shipping, which can also require me to keep the car longer than planned. Thankfully all my clients have been wonderful so far and are more than happy to give me more time if needed. I’ve been staying pretty booked up with film jobs as of late and am planning to invest in a plotter in early 2019. I’m not sure which software I’ll go with yet as some of the monthly fees are significantly higher than others for someone just doing this part-time, but we shall see. Below are a few of the cars I’ve done since March.

Closing thoughts

Overall, I have no regrets taking the Xpel class and getting in to film and am glad I took the plunge!

I will say it’s been a very humbling experience and installing PPF is a lot harder to do then I expected. There are many videos of seasoned installers doing a panel quickly and accurately, but it’s nowhere near as easy as they make it look! I’ve been fortunate to have great friends that I can look to for help and advice on difficult panels or anything else I may be struggling with. Gregory Gellas of Signature Detailing has been a huge help so I have to give him a big THANK YOU for everything he’s done! Anyone looking to have work done in the New Jersey area should definitely give Gregory a call! I’m planning to take another class in the future for training on some more advanced techniques and hope to continue growing this business!

Anyway, I hope this article helps anyone that’s been considering getting into PPF!

Chad Rskovich Rasky's Auto Detailing
Chad Raskovich
Rasky's Auto Detailing
Minneapolis, MN
RaskyAutoDetailing.com

7 comments on Driving Into the World of Paint Protection Film Installation

  1. James Melfi James Melfi says:

    Great insight and feedback Chad!

  2. Steve K says:

    Great job , Chad! Looking out to ensure your customers receive the Best that they can get. Keep up the great work…👍

    I actually had Greg do myXPEL film and Finest coating when we lived in N.J. Nearing 4 years since it was installed and with the few exceptions of being bombarded by road debris and doing its job, it still looks great.

    I may have to drive back up there, also e point, and have him do it again in another year.

  3. Larry says:

    I’m in a very similar boat. I took the 3M ppf training last June, the timing worked out great because were in the middle of buying my wife a new car and I wanted to get it protected. I paid a local shop to wrap my s4 the previous year but wanted to try it myself. I too detail part-time and do not have the desire to purchase or store a plotter. Thankfully, the local 3M distributor is pretty close and does same day turnaround. For this reason, I just buy kits/rolls as needed. Two days out of the class, I found myself staring at the front end of our new Maserati and felt crazy intimidated by the size of the hood. It was my first bulk hood install. Fortunately, I spent the prior two weekends doing a full correction as the film waited it’s turn in the corner. The end result was a fairly clean install, that did improve as the film stretched over the coming weeks. Same story with the bumper, headlights and mirrors.

    I struggle with the confidence to take on new jobs, which only further delays my ability to climb the skill curve. I too offer reduced rates and only do installs for select clients that I’ve properly discussed expectations. Again, I’m making this too complicated to learn. As of late, I just decided to buy rolls and focus on continuing wrapping my wife’s levante as the test mule. I’ve redone good panels all for learning. All this said, I definitely think ppf is the best skill to learn for any folks who want to broaden their offerings.

    • Chad Raskovich Chad Raskovich says:

      Thanks for sharing , Larry!

      How have you liked the 3M film? I was given a roll of it to try out and while I think it looks great I found the adhesive to be very aggressive and very unforgiving. Xpel seem to be a bit more friendly to work with but nowhere near as easy as STEK was. I still want to try out some Suntek too but for now I’m just going to stick with Xpel. 🙂

      • Larry says:

        Agreed, super aggressive which is the culprit some the unsightly work marks on the wife’s car. Unfortunately for me, XPEL is pretty strict and there is a large chain in Charlotte that has monopoly rights to distribution which precludes me from trying their film. That said, I was able to authorized with Suntek and STEK. Both of which I like a lot but STEK proves challenging as they don’t sell pre-cut kits. Suntek does but at a slightly higher cost than my local 3M distributor. I like the designer line from STEK, including the black and carbon designs. I think there is a more niche market for those accent type installs but I like the option. 3M does have the best warranty on the market, in addition to the 10 year film warranty they provide owner reimbursement for deductibles. I don’t push the warranty too much but it’s a nice kicker. I know some local fellow shops have found it pretty beneficial. That said, any time a client or friend asks for a local installer recommendation. I lead with the ‘choose the installer first’ and then the film mantra. I think that’s the biggest variable.

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