Behind The Scenes: How Is Automotive PPF Installed?

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Tyler O'Hara, of American Wrap Company, installs PPF connected a vehicle's hood.

©2023 Michael Harley/Schnell Auto, Inc.

PPF, aliases Paint Protection Film, is simply a bladed transparent movie adhered to a vehicle's painted assemblage panels to protect nan overgarment from damage—consider it a beingness protective obstruction to protect nan overgarment from vertebrate droppings, bug splatter, acerb rain, sap, and difficult water.

Unlike home-applied wax and polishes, which only create a bladed microscopic obstruction betwixt nan overgarment and nan environment, PPF should beryllium installed by an knowledgeable professional—proper installation requires training, specialized tools, and practice.

To study much astir nan process, we visited Tyler O'Hara, proprietor of American Wrap Company successful Newbury Park, California. The Southern California shop is an authorized trader for XPEL—its Ultimate Plus PPF is recognized arsenic nan champion connected nan marketplace today.

Every occupation is different, depending connected nan type of conveyance and really overmuch overgarment nan proprietor wants protected. A elemental job, which would conscionable screen nan beforehand of nan vehicle, would return “one to 2 days,” explains O’Hara. A much analyzable installation, covering each of nan paint, could return “three to 5 days aliases more, depending connected nan car.”

To simplify nan installation process, I’ve surgery it down into 5 basal steps:

All paint, moreover that of a brand-new vehicle, must beryllium meticulously prepared for PPF.

©2023 Michael Harley/Schnell Auto, Inc.

Step 1: Cleaning and Paint Correction

Automotive paint—even that of a brand-new vehicle—contains flaws, aboveground contaminants, and micro scratches. So, nan overgarment aboveground is thoroughly cleaned and meticulously polished earlier PPF is applied (effectively sealing everything beneath it). Old wax, silicones, insignificant scratches, marring, swirl marks, hazing, and different blemishes are removed. This process, often called “paint correction,” prepares nan vehicle’s clearcoat for PPF.

Stripped of lights, grilles, and badging, nan conveyance is fresh for PPF installation.

©2023 Michael Harley/Schnell Auto, Inc.

Step 2: Remove Accessories

PPF is applied to nan paint's surface, which presents a dilemma erstwhile it reaches nan separator of nan sheet adjacent to a constituent aliases portion of trim. To trim corners, immoderate installers will extremity short, leaving a mini spread of unprotected overgarment (and an unsightly line). Premium shops will region components (e.g., taillamps, doorway handles, windows, etc.) truthful nan PPF whitethorn proceed to nan separator and wrap astir for a seamless installation. They will besides region badging, which will beryllium reinstalled later. While location are reasonable limitations to really acold a shop will spell (e.g., removing nan beforehand windshield is taking things to nan extreme), pulling disconnected elemental snap- and bolt-on components is expected of a first-rate installation.

Rolls of XPEL Ultimate Plus PPF beryllium connected nan shelf.

©2023 Michael Harley/Schnell Auto, Inc.

Step 3: Cut PPF to Approximate Size

PPF whitethorn beryllium ordered successful pre-cut sheets to fresh immoderate applications, but astir master installers will bid ample rolls (typically 60”-80” wide and up to 75’ successful length) that request to beryllium trim to size to fresh nan vehicle. American Wrap Company uses a computer-guided vinyl cutter to trim precise patterns for its installations (improving accuracy and reducing merchandise waste). However, immoderate pieces are still trim by manus pinch a crisp blade. With uncommon exceptions, nan pieces are not trim to their vanished size, arsenic a mini magnitude of overlap is required for nan separator wrap.

Liberal amounts of liquid are utilized during nan installation.

©2023 Michael Harley/Schnell Auto, Inc.

Step 4: Apply PPF

XPEL applies a protective backing to nan PPF during manufacturing to protect nan pressure-sensitive adhesive, which must beryllium peeled disconnected earlier installation. “PPF is installed pinch what we telephone a ‘tack and a slip’ solution,” says Chris DiMinico, merchandise head astatine XPEL (read my question and reply pinch DiMinico here). “What constitutes nan tack versus nan gaffe solution would alteration per installer because they person different techniques. So, pinch nan tack solution, that is an isopropyl intoxicant mix, typically pinch distilled water, conscionable to make judge location are nary contaminants successful it. And then, pinch nan gaffe solution, it's typically a babe shampoo and distilled h2o mix. And you usage babe shampoo because it's nan only shampoo that does not person immoderate shape of silicone successful it.”

A difficult integrative squeegee is utilized to region nan solution and adhere nan PPF to nan surface.

©2023 Michael Harley/Schnell Auto, Inc.

The PPF is ‘floated’ onto nan aboveground pinch wide amounts of gaffe solution—it tin past beryllium maneuvered into place. Once positioned, a difficult integrative squeegee presses nan liquid retired from beneath nan surface, simultaneously adhering nan PPF to nan paint. “The process takes clip and patience,” mentions O’Hara. “Much attraction is taken to guarantee that location are nary contaminants trapped betwixt nan movie and nan vehicle’s surface.”

Curved pieces coming further challenges. Thankfully, PPF is flexible, truthful it whitethorn beryllium mildly stretched astir analyzable surfaces—if nan movie is pulled excessively far, it will create unsightly ‘stretch marks’. This is wherever acquisition and expertise travel into play (on that note, O’Hara came successful first spot successful nan 2022 XPEL ULTIMATE PLUS Paint Protection Film Installation situation past year). Lastly, nan squeegee process pushes nan gaffe solution to nan edge, wherever nan movie is past cautiously wrapped retired of sight.

The last touches earlier nan conveyance is returned to nan customer.

©2023 Michael Harley/Schnell Auto, Inc.

Step 5: Ceramic Coating (Optional)

Technically speaking, nan PPF installation is done erstwhile nan past area is wrapped and nan vehicle’s components are reassembled. But astir master shops, for illustration American Wrap Company, will use a ceramic coating to nan film. “Sticky contaminants, for illustration character sap and roadworthy tar, are PPF’s worst enemies,” cites O’Hara. “A ceramic coating will protect your overgarment protection movie from stubborn contaminants. It will besides make your PPF easier to clean. That’s because nan ceramic coating is people water-repellant. When you lavation your car, nan h2o is pushed off, taking gunk and grime pinch it.”

I asked O’Hara really XPEL’s PPF should beryllium maintained truthful nan product’s 10-year warranty is preserved. “It’s effortless to maintain. I show group to manus lavation only, nary abrasives, nary polishing compounds, nary cutting compounds, thing for illustration that. What I do connected some of my cars is manus lavation it pinch pH-neutral soap, rustle barren it off, and past usage XPEL Ceramic Boost to support nan dust- and dirt-resistant surface.”


Special acknowledgment to Tyler O'Hara, proprietor of American Wrap Company, for allowing maine to sojourn his shop and return pictures a half-dozen times for this story.