5 Paint Protection Film (PPF) Sins

PPF is one of those things that is becoming more regularly tacked on as a ‘value add’ by higher end car manufacturers. Some of these (McLaren, Porsche, Ferrari) use very selected suppliers. In the cases of others, it is just another upsell. I would never get the dealership to do this kind of work to be honest.

The quality of the film is one aspect. Installation is another.

Unfortunately my 4C arrived with a plethora of issues related to PPF. I was just glad that it had some form of protection and any PPF is probably better than having none at all, but I knew it would need to be redone at some point. You will have seen me covering the removal in another thread. You might not be able to tell from pics or far away, but here are the irritating bits about PPF.

As with most things with a combination of service and product in SA, low quality PPF has an adverse effect on the market in that it itself isn’t cheap by any means (in terms of what it costs the end user) and drives up the price of ‘proper’ stuff that should be priced around this level. 

There is no ‘one throat to choke’ when things go south either… and the ability to pass the buck is even greater than with other detailing related things…

“Oh, it wasn’t my installation! It was the kak film – I’ve taken it up with the supplier” (who turns out to have shut down – but hey they will give you a discount on a new installation… with their new supplier)
Condescendingly ask what products were used on this thing that was supposed to be acid, fallout and heat resistant but got ‘damaged’ from some gentle washing? Who knew Meguiars soft wash gel was going to destroy your R15K PPF installation?
It’s lifting? See combination of the two responses above
It’s gone yellow? Oh you must have parked in the sun too long…
And of course the fanatics favourite low-effort line: “I’ve never had a problem before…”

When you get it, you’re likely to be happy for a good 6 or 12 months and these ‘installers’ can be long gone by this time or the shop might have changed owners or brands in between. It allows the premium films to charge EVEN MORE knowing you will pay for a guarantee 

In this post, I am showing you what a R22K installation that Alfa Romeo tacks on to the price looks like up close 

I mentioned up above that you will NOT get anywhere with complaints and I will advise absolutely NOBODY to have this done at a dealer. The manufacturer will send you to the dealer as it is an ‘aftermarket’ thing and the dealer will say they just facilitate the payment and the warranty sits with the supplier who installed it and who may or may not exist – won’t stop them billing it as something ‘official’ as an extra…). Now bear in mind everyone and their dogs is into this at this point. I had people come in to do ‘sandblast look’ vinyl on my windows and they offered to do PPF on my cars at probably the same rates if not more than VPS Randburg would have charged me.

Some people will find the pics nitpicking but when you’re getting into something like this, you do want it to look good and not like your grandmother’s chairs with plastic covers over them. The sides and roof fared far worse than the fenders and bonnet. The bumper has other issues. Unfortunately in a year from now I can see these all being different shades of yellow…

Some of the sins: 

1. Yellowing and clouding of the Film – this is one directly related to the film’s quality. They will all go yellow eventually, but the higher end and more modern films have long guarantees against this. The worst offenders will actually go cloudy over time. The PPF on my 4C is around 1 year old and I feel has yellowed unacceptably.

This is much more visible on white and will be more obvious on certain parts of the car.

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2. Lifting of the film

This defeats the whole purpose of having PPF – it is unsightly and allows dirt to accumulate in a way that will progressively and actively damage your paint. This tends to happen in places where the installer applied and readjusted too many times close to stress points or otherwise found the limits of the adhesive.

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3. Bubbles within the film

Some films have pores some are just glorified book covers that people shape and put onto vehicles then call it PPF. This is as much an installation issue as it is a film quality issue. When you leave that workshop, you can rest assured someone will tell you ‘a few bubbles are normal, they will go away’. 

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4. Incomplete coverage

Something very good and very poor quality places will both do is proper full-edge coverage of the panel (both for different reasons). In the middle are those who will pre-cut the film… but in a way that it doesn’t overlap the panel. This makes installation DRAMATICALLY easier, but then leads to issues of lifting and dirt collecting below the film. This is a major issue and you pay almost the same for this kind of product vs. what some would charge for a good job.

5. Dirt trapped in leading edges

Again related to both lifting and incomplete coverage. Any kind of dirt trapped in the leading edges is probably a minor issue when it starts, but a recipe for disaster over the timeframes that PPF is applied (3 to 7 years).

You will see examples of both 4 and 5 in the pics above as well.

The point was to describe my experience, show some of the issues and perhaps help those of you wanting to do PPF on your cars to choose suppliers by asking the right questions and doing proper inspection before driving off.

Hope that was interesting or useful.