To prevent rock chips and pitting on the front of the car, the traditional solution was to install a custom vinyl black bra or you just wait until the bumper is damaged enough and then paint it. Neither solution was very appealing. Now, there is an answer to all the problems of rock chips and road debris. It is generically called paint protection film. Several familiar names are in the business of making the film: Avery, 3M, Venture, Llumar. The original developer of the film was 3M and it was used in the Korean War to protect helicopter rotor blades. 3M later redesigned it for application to the front bumpers and hoods of vehicles.
With an enhancement in design to adapt the film for the auto industry, the idea took off. The concept was unbeatable. Car owners could now apply the film to bumpers and hoods, and drive the vehicle anywhere without worrying about getting bokeh a rock chip in their $100,000 Ferrari. Initially, each installation was custom cut from a bulk roll and carefully applied to the paint. It was time consuming and required lots of experience. The idea took a while to trickle down into the main stream vehicles. As demand increased for the protection, new companies sprung up design kits that could be cut out on a plotter and applied to the car. Hence, another segment of the paint protection film industry was born. The last piece of the puzzle was to have a network of independent, trained installers. Unfortunately, the industry suffers from a lack of skilled technicians.
Most films in the industry carry a 5 year warranty against discoloring or clarity factors related to the film becoming cloudy or opaque. More of a problem of earlier automotive films, this was one of the initial problems. On aircraft, the film is removed every year, and replaced with a new piece. On a vehicle, most people wanted a protection that did not need to be removed and reapplied so the manufacturers went to work to redesign the film to maintain its clarity for 5 years plus. Now films come with a 7 year to lifetime warranty on the clarity stability.
The film has never had problems with its adhesion principles. It does not peel off or peel back. While the film does not require any special treatment, it should be cared for through regular waxing. Also, keeping the car in the garage at night will extend the shine of the film as well as the vehicles paint job. All the film requires is basically good vehicle maintenance. That should include waxing the car 3 to 4 times a year and regular weekly or biweekly washes.
The benefits of paint protection film:
The paint protection film solved all the negatives of the vinyl bras and improved the benefits of having one. Utilizing the black vinyl bra is just a hassle to put on and take off. Worse, the bras would damage the paint where it was rubbing, and frankly, now they are not very fashionable. The paint protection film is nearly undetectable on the paint, the film does not damage the paint, and it does not require removal for washes.
Perhaps the most unique benefit of the film, aside from its durability against rock chips and road damage, is that you cannot see the protection on the car. It is on the vehicle all the time, rain or shine, ready to repel rocks and pitting.
Overall, the film is more effective at preventing rock chips and road debris than anything else. Unlike the paint, when the rocks hit the film, they just bounce off. It does not get marred up and scuffed from the day in and out driving. Over a 3 to 4 year period, the film not only maintains its clarity, but it does not get damaged and worn out. Another plus is that with the paint protection film in place, it still allows the paint to fade at the same rate as the rest of the car.
The ideal customer for the film is someone who cares about keeping up their car. Secondly, the daily commuter will fully utilize the film every day they get on the freeway. Lastly, this film is for the car owner who keeps their vehicle longer than 5 years and is concerned about maintaining the vehicles resale value at high blue book.
When shopping around for an installer, look for a company with experience. Good work is never cheap and cheap work is never good. Anyone can buy the film. The quality of the job can vary widely and there are a lot of people who try out the industry and find out how difficult it really is. It takes years to become competent with installations. After all, the last thing you want to do is invest lots of money into a new car and then skimp on the quality job. Once the film is professionally installed, it will not require any further maintenance.
On the subject of price, this service is never cheap. The average coverage on the bumper alone can range from $350 to $450. Think of this as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Most bumper repaints will run into the $600 to $700 range.