Technical: Steam Removal of PPF

I think perhaps some of you thought I was exaggerating on the forum upgrade thread when I said I had a lot of detailing content I felt like sharing…

Anyway as promised today is less about detailing, although this product can be used for a variety of tough cleaning tasks, normally on the interior, but at times in the engine bay and outside. This is one of those tools that might sit unused for 6 months at a time, but when it’s needed you realise its importance! The job itself is one that I feel a lot of people will need to do soon as

a) PPF should be changed every few years and from the stories of friends there are shops that have ruined paint when doing this removal (and removal of wraps) and blamed it on poor quality PPF… The newer PPF products are incredible and last a VERY long time but there is plenty of dodgy stuff around.

b) PPF quality fitted at car dealers might be charged at a premium price, but is usually bottom of the barrel. Just take a look at how many cars have noticeably yellowed, had application issues (lifting, edges attracting dirt) etc.

I am not anti-PPF and will be getting high quality PPF reinstalled on these panels which I am sure will hold up. There ARE products available to bring back PPF, but this was pretty much dead in the water and almost going cloudy.

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Also as promised today, it is not Karcher or Gyeon but rather from Verimark. Now I am a professional marketer/MDM (this is what pays for my detailing and car addiction) and we normally talk about Verimark in negative contexts (usually when agencies or internal ‘experts’ want to sell a product with a laundry list of features that range from exaggeration to pure vapourware)

However, in this thread I’ve already mentioned their cheap and cheerful microfibre towels and now (shock and horror) I am showing you this Genesis steamer! I’ve had this unit for around 6 or 7 years now and it has seen relatively light duty in my cars. I normally use it when we buy new cars or I put friends to work using it on their interiors before I tackle the application of leather shield or other treatments (When I mentioned above that my mates come over, it isn’t exactly charity – they arrive prepared to quench the level of thirst that a particular kind of job is likely to generate and knowing that they will be doing some dirty work!!)

This isn’t a particularly difficult unit to work with and it is pretty idiot proof (I mean my 6 year old son helped me to use it) but I do wish it had the ability to leave the pot ‘open’ and use a secondary trigger on the hose. It is for this reason that I enlisted a second set of hands in the form of my son to use it for this particular job!

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A bigger tank would be a big plus, but I haven’t seen the need to upgrade from this unit. This becomes a problem for larger interiors like that of the M5 where you will need at least 3 fills and each fill is a 5 minute wait for the unit to cool off enough for you to open the pressure vessel. That said, like so many things in my garage, I saw enough value to know I would buy a bigger/better version one day, but never had the need because it was so reliable and functional.

As I alluded to above, one of the things that annoyed me was the relatively poor quality PPF that had already gotten to the point of being impossible to rescue (the front bumper is lifting and has some bubbles, but clarity is still OK as are the fenders and bonnet. The roof will have to be done as well but I am thinking of wrapping it, so I will tackle that at the same time. Steaming PPF off is easy once you’ve gotten the hang of it BUT you have to be very careful. There might be a bit of adhesive residue left on the paint, normally at the edges but this is easily dealt with. People say you can use a heat gun… You probably could, but I think this is a far better (and if you believe the internet) more ‘correct’ way of doing this. There is less risk of damaging your paint or reliance on technique than when using a heat gun IMHO. Either way this entire car is CFRP or composite of some description… I wasn’t keen to have a go at it with a heat gun…

Once you’ve heated an edge a little bit with some steam, you can start to pull it away. The first bit is the most crucial and you should be careful until you can get a grip. Once you have a grip, you also need to avoid the temptation to apply too much force. It really shouldn’t require a lot of force to remove. With my son’s finger on the trigger I started to alternate between heating the ‘outer’ surface of the PPF while working the adhesive side with blasts of steam as I pulled it off.

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Both sides came off fine in the end. Apologies for the lighting, but you get the idea.

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As you can see the film wasn’t bad from a thickness perspective and on a darker car would probably have been OK at this point (though you can even see the yellowing on black over time). This was on a squeaky clean car already so what you see is stuff that was embedded into the film, if not a reaction within the film itself causing it to yellow.

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In terms of price, you can find similar units to this one ranging from R600 to R1000.