Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Clear Bra - Patterns, Installation, Materials Explained

To better understand the variables involved in a professional paint protection installation I have attempted to describe them in this write up.    They are as follows: expertise, type of film, pattern design, pattern coverage, pattern options, price, condition of the paint, shop lighting, shop cleanliness, installation climate and warranty.  Consider all these issues when making a decision on an installation shop.

1.  Installers Expertise

The installation of paint protection film is a trade and through training, testing and experience the installer gains the knowledge and understanding on how to correctly install paint protection kits.   The use of a certified professional installer - those listed on the manufacturers websites - are trained professionals who have passed stringent testing requirements, learned the designers nuances for the pattern fitments, are approved by the manufacturer's to install their films/patterns, offer manufacturer's warranty and handle warranty claims. 

Each pattern design house has nuances and a certified professional installer has a full understanding of design criteria which will make for a better installation and fitment.

You want the experience, skill and knowledge of the certified professional installer working on your vehicle.  Many installers remove vehicle components and disassemble parts to allow for concealment of edges ( wrapped/hidden edges) and you want to insure your installer has the automotive expertise to perform these functions.  Do not assume a shop in business for ten (10) years has ten (10) years of expertise in the installation of paint protection films.  Most film manufacturers will not warranty their product unless the installation is performed by a manufacturer's certified professional installers.

Certified installers want to use the best fitting patterns, have the most coverage options, latest patterns available when new vehicle models come out, and direct contact with pattern makers to provide feedback, request patterns as needed and a manageable software to allow enhancements to the patterns (wrapping/hidden edges, hood cut-downs, bumper cuts, bikini cuts etc.).  XPEL DAP is that program period. 

Remember the key to a great fitment vs. poor fitment is the “Installation” - you pay for this expertise BUT you need a great pattern to allow for the tight fitting coverage.  There is no excuse for poor workmanship, installers not trained and certified will install paint protection film without your high standards in mind.  No client should accept a poor installation!   Competitors Workmanship
Pattern was installed incorrectly. Poor coverage
Huge gaps in protection.

2. Pattern Design
There are numerous pattern companies on the market today so ensure you compare apples to apples on the pattern coverage and pattern options.  Patterns are not created equal.  It is difficult if not impossible to look at a pattern to determine if the pattern fits tightly around the contours of your vehicle.  Many companies offer free patterns to installers who use their films, many patterns do not fit properly or are piece-meal (numerous parts and/or relief cuts which allow for ease installation, less film usage, less costly, easier to mail; all at the expense of coverage, protection and visual appearance).  Many patterns can involve trimming and cutting on the vehicle simple because the pattern does not fit correctly or the installer does not know where to stretch the kit leaving excess film to be trimmed. 

Many pattern companies offer kits for the entry level installer and may sacrifice the client’s coverage and fitment.  A great fitment pattern does not mean the pattern will fit correctly.  The installer must understand the design of the pattern and how to properly install the pattern to insure proper coverage and fitment. 
This is a premium pattern BUT the installer did not understand  or know how to install the kit to protect the 3/8" of un-protected paint under the light of this Porsche GT3.
Another kit not installed properly. Not the huge gaps where the paint is not protected.

This pattern is correctly installed - just poorly designed - lacks tight tolerances into the fender well area.  This is a poor pattern design.  Pattern's are NOT created equal.
Here is the same vehicle ( old film removed) with a tight fitting pattern and wrapped edges. These kits are more difficult to install, take additional time and cost more coupled with a premium film may cost you additional HOWEVER your wow factor is higher, client is more pleased with the fitment and protects the clients vehicle much better.
Below is a comparison of two different pattern companies:

4 Piece Kit - Tighter tolerances as seen in the fog light areas, center section has more wrap around coverage as well as better coverage in the lower area which allows for reduced and hidden edges for a better and cleaner installation.

5 Piece Kit - this kit has 4 more edges, easier/quicker to install than the kit above

  • Many kits offer reduced coverage,  multiple pieces and have several relief cuts. These attributes help to aid in the ease of installation but do nothing for the appearance/protection/coverage of the vehicle.
  • Having a one-piece pattern vs several spliced pieces keeps pricing down, reduces film and allows for a simple installation.  This may sound fine until you consider you are sacrificing protection, coverage - long term appearance (more edges, more areas unprotected, more areas to collect wax/dirt buildup -you are literally "cutting corners.
  • Software or installers knowledge lacks the ability to update or change the pattern to reflect the clients needs. Custom wrapping, adding additional coverage etc.
2014 Stingray - modified to include wrapped markers, wrapped hood and grill zones and will as wrap of lower chin spoiler

2014 Stingray - No coverage behind the markers (ease of install - poor coverage), no protection/detail in grill area and large relief opening in the chin spoiler for ease of installation and an area to collect dirt over the life of the pattern.

3. Coverage
Understand how much coverage (film covering the paint as well as the protection) is being offered?  Is the bumper coverage fender to fender or pure frontal coverage?   Is the hood really protected in the right places?  Are there gaps at the edges which allow paint to be unprotected?  Are there coverage options for the hood, fenders, bumpers, a-pillars, rockers, splash areas, roof, etc?   Does the shop offer (wrapped) hidden edges?  Does the shop offer removal of emblems, headlight washers, headlights, blinkers, tow hook covers, and grills etc. so there are no visual edges around these components?
Wrapped grill removed for complete hood wrap.

Removal of hood emblem, headlights, markers and toe hook cover 

Removal of markers and mud guards

4. Installation location
Shop cleanliness, exceptional lighting conditions and climate controlled installation area the installation should be completed at the installers shop.  This allows the installer to insure the best possibility of a clean installation so installer can prevent debris during the install and can better see debris under the film during installation process and remove it. The installers shop also allows for a consistent slip solution which is temperature and humidity dependent.  Local installations through convenient may lead to debris under the film and a poor installation. These three (3) installation variables ultimately affect the installation of your paint protection film.  Local installations many times cost additional due to the travel time.  You need to evaluate local installation vs on site installation.  *

5.  Brands of Paint Protection Film
Some films perform better in specific climates and/or vehicle uses.  Is your vehicle a daily driver, weekend run about or show car?  Do you wash/care for your vehicle on a regular basis?  What is your local climate?  What color is your vehicle's paint?  What is your budget?  How long will you keep your vehicle?  

In Florida, the love bug enzymes attack and etch the paint.  Many paint protection films also can not hold up to these enzymes and stain/mar the film surface. 

Types of paint protection films on the market:
  • Non-Coated Films:  This films are manufactured with layer(s) of urethane with a different durameters. These films have longevity issues from a a wear and tear perspective (staining, discoloration, dulling and abrasion etc.).   These films require increased maintenance and removal is more difficult and time consuming.  Many times marks, scratches and rubs can not be removed from the film.  They do however protect the paint. Examples: Durashield, Premiumshield, Uncoated Suntek, TrimBrite, Avery SPF 1000, Oraguard 270G 
  • Standard Films: This films are manufactured with coated layer over the urethane film and may have a different urethane composition on the top layer.  This type of film offers a balance between visual appeal, maintenance, cost and warranty. Examples: 3M Ventureshield which also is sold as a no label film, XPEL Extreme, Hartz Defendall, llumar, Aegisa Oraguard 280G, Hexis Car Protect 150
    The film on the left was removed from this 2008 Z06 (below).
    Installed XPEL Ultimate Paint Protection Film

    This film was removed from 2006 Porsche Carrera with only 18,600 miles.  
  • "Self Healing" Premium Top Coated Films: This film is offered for the most discriminate clients and cost a bit more than other films on the market.  Offers ease of maintenance and cleaning plus high gloss and improved invisibility and stain resistance with an excellent warranty. These films offer a special polymers that flow.  This allows the top coat to find its natural level again after being disturbed on the surface. These films offer increased warranty periods.   The better films on the market are XPEL Ultimate Paint Protection Film, 3M Pro 4 and llumar and suntek films. There are others new films comin on the market to compete with these films.
  • Installation of XPEL Ultimate Paint Protection Film installed on this 2006 Corvette after removal of a poorly installed kit and yellowed film. (logo was removed/re-installed to eliminate the edge line)
6. Warranty
Clients ask about the film warranty period however rarely ask what does the manufacturer warranty cover, how well do they support warranty claims and is there an installation warranty. All films come with a manufacturer warranty and non - cover installation of the films. Always ask to see the warranty cards from the manufacturer and the installer. Many manufacturers offer warranties on the film only and not the removal, re-installation and pattern used and many only offer the manufacturers warranty when installed by a certified installer.  Note of caution;  a warranty with a lifetime warranty may not be the best warranty for you.  Warranty periods vary from  five (5) years to lifetime. 

3M is the only film with a new fully transferable warranty. The warranty follows the vehicle and not the owner of the vehicle. Increases your resale value and continues to protect the vehicle's paint after you sell the vehicle.

3M also offers a Paint Protection Film Service Agreement....should your film become damaged or the film is penetrated and damages the paint. You are covered for full repair and replacement of the film and repaint with NO deductibles.

So do your homework and ask questions. (we list all our warranty information/cards directly on our website at http://www.clearshieldprotection.com/warranty-cards.html

7. Condition of the paint

Consider the paint condition during your selection of a paint protection film installation ship. Most vehicles come right from the dealership with swirls, scratches buffer holograms, water etching and water spots already instilled into the vehicle's finish. Most are caused by improper wash methods i.e. automatic car washes, dirty wash media (towels, sponges or microfiber towels), Some detailers introduce swirls by poor wash and drying techniques, dirty polishing pads or even the wrong type of machine and/or pad for the application.

Many certified paint protection film installers use paint correction specialists or offer this service to their clients. Allow for a full inspection your paint finish and have the professional recommend the proper level of paint correction for the removal of imperfections such as very fine, hairline scratches in the paint that under direct sunlight appear to look like spider webbing around the sun burst. Please understand you will NOT see imperfections such as swirls once the film is applied, however for car aficionado, knowing they are there will just keep you up at night. Paint correction specialists can address these imperfections and remove them prior or after the installation of the Paint Protection Film. Correction under the film yields a pristine finish frozen in time.

8. Price
Prices are based on  experienced certified installers, type of film, pattern design, coverage requirements, pattern company used, job complexity, computer & installation time spent adjusting patterns for edge wrapping, vehicle prep, fair labor costs and attention to details, along with final inspection and sealant application.  A custom installation means pattern adjustments and require certain parts like the grill, lights, plastic trim, emblems, markers, mud guards, etc. to be removed/reinstalled so the film can wrapped reduce exposed edges. This, requires additional time, and more importantly, a skilled professional installer to remove/replace these parts back to the factory standards. 
Many shops perform installations part time and rely on limited experience non-certified installers, low pricing to attract customers, use the least expensive materials and " do-it-your-self" kits or cut the pattern directly on your vehicle.  

These are the views/opinions of Clearshield Protection Services, Inc.  - we have installing paint protection films since 2002.  Please feel free to provide input and feedback, should I have miss information I will research and update this document accordingly.  This no way reflects the views of manufacturers or other installers. 

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