Among the litany of paint protection solutions, installing PPF on a car is top shelf. Paint protection film is the prime example of a product that works as described. Its main objective is to protect the paint and other sensitive materials on your car from rock chips, road debris, and natural toxins. And with today’s advanced nanoceramic technology, some PPF manufacturers can infuse ceramic coating properties directly on top of the clear bra material.
While automotive paint protection film is virtually indestructible, it does require routine maintenance washes to keep it protected from dirt, debris, tree sap, bird droppings, bug guts, and more. So, if you’re on the fence about upgrading your car paint protection game to installing a clear bra or PPF, or you just did and are looking for tips on how to take care of PPF on a car – this blog is for you.
In the information below, we’ll talk about all things PPF. We will dive into the science that makes this product so effective, how detailers prepare the vehicle for installing PPF, and what you can do to keep it in optimal condition for years.
So – let’s explore the facts about paint protection film and how to correctly protect your investment.
Understanding the Facts About Paint Protection Film
The paint protection film is a polyurethane-based material that is transparent and extremely durable. It was created by the 3M corporation as a solution to protect helicopter blades for the US Army and Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Many old-school detailers refer to this product as Helicopter Tape.
Since those early days, technology has come a long way. Today’s variants are available with a gloss and matte finish, black, and even with a ceramic coating already applied to the top layer. It’s applied by professional detailers or auto salons, with similar techniques as installing vinyl wraps. It can be installed on the front end, front bumper, or entire car. Most professional detailers will recommend paint correction (which is removing swirl marks and other paint imperfection) – as PPF will amplify the paint job.
While older PPF products tended to yellow or age prematurely, today’s products are engineered with superior raw materials and with better manufacturing standards. In fact, like premium window tint, today’s PPF often comes with a 10 year warranty.
Is PPF Better than a Ceramic Coating?
Yes – every day of the week and twice on Sunday. There is nothing wrong with ceramic coatings – especially the professional-grade products sold by pioneers like Ceramic Pro. However, they have their limits on protective qualities.
Nanoceramic coating is intended to protect the substrate from exposure to natural elements – including acid rain, toxins produced by bird droppings, tree sap, and bug guts, and UV rays. It is not scratch-proof, and if a solid object strikes the vehicle at highways speeds, it can penetrate the coating and scratch the paint.
Paint protection film or PPF is the only protective solution that can reduce the potential of scratching, has self healing properties, and will hold up for 10+ years. It likewise protects against UV exposure, those natural chemical agents that stain clear coats, and can amplify the depth and clarity of paint.
So – if you’re asking which product protects a new car better – PPF or a coating – the win goes to the clear bra material every time.
Is PPF Worth the Cost?
As Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben Parker once said, “with great power comes increased cost.” Ok, he didn’t say that – but it’s the truth. The paint protection film is much more expensive than a professional-grade ceramic coating. If you were going to compare the out-the-door price to have your entire car coated with a Ceramic Pro 9H Gold Package (top of the line – lifetime warranty) vs. a KAVACA PPF Installation (same coverage and warranty) – you’ll likely pay three times as much for the full car PPF.
The question that every vehicle owner needs to factor in is whether installing PPF is worth the cost. When it comes to protection, what’s the cost of having your painted surface corrected, scratches repaired, or vehicle repainted due to damage – that could have been protected with PPF?
One way to mitigate the expense of paint protection film installation is to install it on high-strike areas. This is known as a full front PPF installation, where you’ll have the detailing shop apply PPF on the front bumper, hood, fenders, side-view mirrors, and the front door pillars. After that is complete, they’ll have the rest of the vehicle applied with a top coat of ceramic coating – giving them the best car care protection at an affordable price.
How Do You Maintain PPF?
Once you determine that PPF installation is best for you, it’s crucial to use the right products to clean and maintain the product. While these materials are extremely durable and rugged – taking your car through the automatic car wash is an absolute deal-breaker. The high-pressure water hoses can damage PPF – and the soaps they use are extremely alkaline based on the pH scale (like as high as 12 on the pH scale).
The best way to maintain a paint protection film installation is to follow these guidelines:
First – Hand Wash the Vehicle Every Two Weeks
The initial thing about PPF you need to realize is that it’s extremely porous. As such, dirt and debris will stick to the top layer with greater ease than a hydrophobic and extremely hard ceramic coating. Due to this fact, it’s crucial to hand wash your car with paint protection film every few weeks. We recommend the two bucket method of car washing.
If you’re not familiar with this technique – here is a brief recap of the process.
Step 1 – Gather Your Supplies
To complete the two bucket hand wash, you’ll need to collect a few supplies. Here is a list of items we recommend here at Americana Global.
Three (3) 5-gallon wash buckets. This might look like a type error – but hear us out. When you wash a car, you’ll complete this in two separate steps. First, you need to wash your tires and wheels. The reason for this is due to the brake dust that is embedded on wheels. Brake dust is comprised of tiny particles of steel and other metals.
When you wash the wheels with the same wash bucket and wash mitt as the rest of the car – you’re setting yourself up for deep scratches. So – be proactive and purchase a third, separate wash bucket – just for wheels and tires.
Also, if you’re looking to save time on washing wheels and tires, consider using Americana Global Wheel & Tire cleaner as a pre-wash formula. It makes washing wheels and tires simple – and can be used on ALL wheel types – even powder coated ones.
*Bonus PRO TIP – You should also consider buying a grit guard for the rinse bucket. This device is designed to trap debris left from the wash mitt after you wash a section of your car, truck, SUV, or another vehicle.
Two Microfiber Wash Mitts: Along with the extra wash bucket for wheels comes the extra wash mitt. Consider buying a washing wand – and a scrub brush for the tires. This will allow you to deep clean wheels and tires in one easy step. Use one wash mitt for wheels and tires only – and one for the rest of the car.
*Bonus PRO TIP – Consider buying two different colors of wash mitts – perhaps a black one for wheels and tires – and a red or bright colored one for the rest of the vehicle. This will help you reduce dangerous cross-contamination.
Second – Purchase A Dedicated Car Soap for PPF
While utilizing heavy degreasers and other chemical cleaners may seem like the go-to method for cleaning your Porsche, BMW, Audi, Tesla, or SUV, these chemicals are better suited for a shop or kitchen sink than your vehicle. First and foremost, to maintain your PPF, you’ll need to use a soap that is not harsh and is designed to clean without harsh chemicals.
PPF film has microscopic pores that can hold on to dirt and debris, and eventually degrade the longevity of the film and take a toll on the overall appearance of your vehicle. Using a soap that is too acidic or alkaline will cause damage to the top layer of the PPF – which can accelerate ‘yellowing’ or fading of the paint protection film over time.
Since the paint protection film is very porous, it’s also crucial to use a car shampoo that contains ZERO wax or petroleum distillates. Wax is used in car soap to provide lubrication. While petroleum distillate is often used with industrial car wash formulas. Both will leave residue on top of a paint protection film – which can also cause damage to the material.
Finally, make sure to use a car soap for paint protection film that contains no colored dyes. Since the PPF is porous, colored dye found in most car shampoos can also seep into those tiny imperfections found on a protective paint film material.
Here are the bullet points for the attributes that the best car soap for PPF possesses.
- pH 7 – Find a car soap that boasts a pH level of 7 – not just pH neutral. This term has a wide range – from 5.5 to 8.5 on the pH scale. You want to use one that is gentle as possible.
- Contains Aggressive Surfactants. The chemical agents that are in car shampoo for PPF that help to lift and encapsulate dirt and debris are called surfactants. Since the PPF is very soft, you want a soap with aggressive surfactants which will lift debris – without the need for deep scrubbing by hand.
- No Wax: Another item that sticks to clear bra material is car wax. Most car soaps that are pH neutral have some added wax – mainly for lubrication. However, when used – it can leave a small amount of residue on the surface or substrate. Since wax is sticky, you’re causing the PPF to get dirtier than it should by using soaps with added wax.
- Added Foaming Agents: The lack of lubricated wax introduces the need for something that can help reduce scratching. Foaming agents are a great substitute.
- Use one that can be applied with a foam cannon and two bucket wash. Here is a bonus tip – use car shampoo for PPF that can be used in a foam cannon and two bucket wash. This way, you can choose which washing method is best for you.
Final Tips for Maintaining Your PPF
Pressure washing is a fine option, but caution must be exercised because the pressure at the edge of the PPF can cause it to lift. Once that happens, water and dirt can get underneath the surface of the PPF and cause damage to your vehicle’s finish.
Another top tip to ensure that your PPF goes the distance is to ensure that it’s completely dry after a wash, so use a quality microfiber towel to get all the water off the surface to prevent water spots from forming. A great way to reduce water spots – and to protect your PPF at the same time, is to use a ceramic boost spray that can be applied while the vehicle is wet.
This serves as a drying aid – and provides a thin layer of hydrophobic protection on top. It’ll help keep the PPF cleaner – and improve the shine, depth, and gloss of your vehicle’s paint.
A professional applied paint protection film like KAVACA Ceramic PPF will hold up for 10+ years when properly maintained. The longevity of PPF depends on the quality of the prep work, the installation on tricky areas like door edges, carbon fiber, and rocker panels, the diligence of the maintenance, and environmental factors such as sunlight exposure can also cause variation in how long a quality PPF will last on a vehicle.
To stretch the life of your PPF, make sure to consider these tips:
- NEVER take it to an automated car wash.
- Immediately remove any bird droppings or other debris from your PPF when it happens and do not let it sit. Use a rinseless or waterless wash (detail spray) to accomplish this task.
- Wash your vehicle regularly, at least once every 2 weeks
- Use a 2-bucket method when washing your vehicle (one for clean, and one for dirty) to ensure that dirt and debris stay off your vehicle. (Remember that separate bucket for wheels & tires)
- Exercise caution with pressure washers.
- Do not let your vehicle air dry. Always thoroughly dry it with a quality microfiber or terry weave drying towel.
- Talk about the maintenance process of PPF and how to make it last longer with your paint protection film installer.
- Don’t put wax on top of a paint protection film. Use a dedicated Ceramic Boost Spray instead.
If you’re looking for the best car soap for PPF, you’ll find it with Americana Global Vinyl & PPF Shampoo. This is the world’s FIRST dedicated car shampoo that has been formulated for soft and porous surfaces like vinyl wraps and paint protection film.
It’s a pH 7 shampoo, with aggressive surfactants that work hard to break down debris, encapsulate it from the surface, for easy removal. It contains no added wax but is filled with foaming agents – which provides deep, rich, and long-lasting suds that can be used outdoors and in direct sunlight.
You can also use this shampoo for washing ceramic coated vehicles, vinyl wraps, boats, airplanes, vehicles that are waxed or use paint sealants, and more. It’s the most diverse car shampoo on the market today – and with a dilution ratio of 1:256, a little goes a long way.
If you’d like to try Americana Global Vinyl & PPF soap, click this link – and get 20% off your first order.
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