5 Facts About Paint Protection Films for Those Interested in Auto Detailing Training
Auto detailers are like magicians. They take vehicles into their hands, and when their job is done, it’s almost like having a different car. By reconditioning vehicles, auto detailers can prepare them for the showroom floor, or revitalize a client’s beloved auto to be just like new again.
One of the tricks up the sleeves of an auto detailer is something called automotive paint protection film (PPF). PPF is a thin polyurethane film that’s wrapped over a vehicle’s paint finish and acts as a skin to protect it against damage. PPF is prized for its ability to keep cars looking sparkling and brand-new, even after several years. Read on to find out five facts about PPF.
PPF is Very Different from Vinyl Wraps
PPF isn’t the only paint wrap in the auto industry. Vinyl wrappings are also placed over a paint finish, but there are some significant differences between the two. Vinyl is easier to install, but it’s much heavier. And unlike PPF, it isn’t very transparent.
Perhaps more importantly, whereas vinyl is applied more for stylistic improvement, PPF is actively protective while letting the finish shine through due to its transparent and lightweight nature. To get an idea of just how thin PPF is, it measures at a thickness of only six-thousands of an inch.
The Military Were the First to Develop PPF
Like many other auto components, PPF was initially developed for military application. During the Vietnam War in the 1960s, the Americans were frustrated by how the rotor blades of their helicopters were easily damaged by debris or shrapnel. Researchers developed PPF as a material to wrap around the spinning blades and provide some protection.
Because of this practical purpose, the first versions were dull and didn’t sparkle like the modern iterations. A few decades later, racing teams started to wrap their cars in the material. Nowadays it’s widely commercially available.
PPF Should Always Be Installed by a Professional With Auto Detailing Training
A driver might think of PPF as just like a larger version of a smartphone screen protector. However, non-professionals shouldn’t try to install PPF at home. PPF needs to be installed by professionals who’ve received their proper auto detailing training, as the process is more complicated than it might seem.
First, the vehicle needs to be properly prepped before the installation. Then, a machine called a plotter pre-cuts the material into sections that will be form-fitting. The film doesn’t fit perfectly when applied, so it must be continuously moved and squeegeed into flatness. An activator—either water or a soapy substance, depending on the PPF brand—needs to be applied to make the film stick. After application, the PPF is heat-activated to give it a tight fit. A non-professional attempting this job can seriously damage the paint of the car.
Protecting Paint Helps to Reduce Oxidation
Auto detailing course graduates can use PPF to help render paint resistant to small scratches, as well as acid, bugs, bird droppings, and mineral deposits. It also reduces potential oxidation due to exposure to the sun, moisture, or UV light. Oxidation occurs when materials containing iron are exposed to moisture or oxygen, creating rust. Water molecules literally penetrate the material and weaken it from the inside.
No one wants oxidation to ruin a beautiful vehicle. PPF acts as a skin that reduces the impact of oxidation, deflecting UV rays and moisture to maintain a rust-free condition. It can even protect against the destructive impact of acid rain.
PPF Has Self-Healing Properties
One of the most incredible things about modern PPF is its ability to self-heal. The elastomeric polymers that make up PPF can return to their natural shape after being scratched or disfigured. When lighter damage is inflicted, the PPF absorbs it.
This doesn’t mean PPF is invincible, though. It can still be damaged by larger debris, or if it’s left dirty and unwashed for long periods of time. PPF should last an average of between 5-10 years before it needs to be replaced.
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