Welcome to the review and test of the a 3M product called:
Scotchgard™ Paint Protection Film.
It's not too long ago that
I was strapping down my giant blank vinyl bra, on the front of my car.
Six years ago I wanted to keep my car spotless, and keeping the front
end out of harms way was a tough task. Most of us don't have a garage
queen that sits in a custom showroom, or that gets trailered to the
local track on weekends. With the new breed of "daily driver" sports
cars on the market, the need for a better way to protect the front end
of the car has been a long time in the making.
The "clear bra" system is
nothing new, in fact it has been on the market for quite sometime.
Protective films have become very popular, in fact many dealers are
offering it as an option. Ferrari and a few other manufacturers have
also started applying it before customers take delivery. The fact is,
paint and body work are expensive. Random touch ups and dent removal
can cost nearly $100-200 per panel in some areas. The average
enthusiast is still yet unaware of how far these clear bra systems have
come or that they exist. This is why this article is here, to educate
and help the car lover to, enjoy driving without fear of the annoying
chips and nics from daily driving.
Q. Why the clear bra, why not just use the standard vinyl bra covers, they have to protect the car better.
A. The truth is the old
vinyl bras that cover the car like a shield are much thicker, and will
deflect larger objects. However, it is very difficult, to remove and
install them. They should never be left on for extended periods do to
moisture being trapped between the paint and the cover. In so many
cases, people tend to leave them on too long or use them when it rains,
which causes clouding or hazing the in the paint's clear coat. Even
worse they trap dirt and debris between the cover and the paint, which
during movement, or removal can cause scratching of the clear coat as
well. Aside from that, most people have a problem with the vinyl bra's
aesthetics. Back in the day, we all understood, that it's better to
have the black bra than paint damage.
Q. Just how much can a film like the 3M actually protect?
A. You will find loose
claims about this. Testing from 3M reveals that the protectant will
deflect road debris without film damage at up to 60MPH with the
standard film. Reading further on will demonstrate some of this with
some in house testing. My personal testing and from talking to other
owners reveals that this film will take some serious abuse without
showing signs of it. There are limitations, the film is designed to
protect against chips and small dings from small rocks and road debris,
not 4" hail or a baseball bat to the car. It may still prevent paint
damage but it won't stop large dings and dents.
Q. I heard it is really expensive.
A. Yes and no. Depends on
who does it. Many dealerships hire contractors to come in to apply the
film. If you have it done at a dealer expect to pay two people for your
clear bra. Depending on the vehicle, they may mark up the service
anywhere from $100-300. (This is from a local query of 8 dealerships in
Northern Illinois) If you find a local installer, who is certified by
3M you get a guarantee against workmanship defects for 3 years in
general sometimes longer. The cost for a full laser cut application
designed for the car (partial hood, fenders, mirrors, and front bumper)
will cost on average 550$ installed. An OEM vinyl bra or a Calgon
Customs, will cost on average $200-300 depending on the vehicle.
Q. Can I do it myself?
A. Yes, but watch the videos first. Call this number at 3M to order:
So now that we have the
most basic questions out of the way, lets move onto more reasons on why
this product works so well. The biggest thing with this product was how
easy it was to clean, with an almost urethane like finish, anything
that soiled it like, bugs, tar, sap, and dirt, came right off with a
damp microfiber sponge with a squirt of dawn blue, or your standard
clear coat safe car shampoo. Waxing the surface is so easy because of
how glossy the clear coat on the film is. Even the car nuts, cannot see
any spider webbing or scratches on the surface of the film. However on
darker cars the film is not optically clear, so depending on lighting
the areas covered by the clear bra seem to have a different color. 90%
of the time it is nearly impossible to see the clear bra on the car,
but given the right lighting most people can see the seams. See the
pictures on the right..
Caring for it is so simple
from using a wax to a product like 303 Aerospace Protector (303 AP),
which I have almost devoted myself to using on all rubber vinyl and
other surfaces. And in the tests I do, it seems like the perfect
product for applying to the 3M clear bra for keeping it slick feeling
and looking. 303 AP has been used in my other articles, on CV boots,
rubber seals, and ball joint boots. Since I have started using it on
many of these parts, the rubber and vinyl still have the same
flexibility of new parts.
Now that the care section
is covered, we will move on to durability. I am always asked on how the
film hold up to abuse. From what I have seen, if the product is applied
right, the film will take huge punishment without any sign of it.
Before I had my fender repainted I was able to try to damage the film
on that side I used three different keys. I tried to scratch, gouge,
and cut it. Even will all my force I could not cut through the film in
the car. When it was removed it showed no evidence of this on the paint
either. Additionally on the mirror I have covered in the film as my
test sample I attempted at using a serrated kitchen knife to see how
much pressure it took to cut through. With light sawing action and
pressure, the knife did nothing. With moderate sawing action and
pressure the knife was cutting the film, however it did not damage the
paint or cut through, with heavy pressure, over 10 lbs the knife cut
through and cut the paint. The point here is even with sharp objects it
is effort to cut the film. With blunt objects it will be extremely
difficult to cut the film, which is one of the reasons why it works so
well for deflecting debris on the road.
What would this review be without some type of demo?
You may check out the video of the shooting on the right.
right off the bat, be it bad luck or the right angle showed the pellet
to penetrate the 3M film. However it did not damage the clear coat or
the paint underneath. The following 6 shots deflected off the coating
showing no damage at all, the 7th shot was a miss.
Shocking as it
seemed, after 7 shots and one miss, I could not find one mark on the
mirror, except for what looked like a small even feeling area on the
lower part of the mirror that was not there before. I was curious to
see if stripping all the protectant off the mirror, would increase drag
or friction when the projectiles hit.
every shot caused a slight indentation on the clear coat of this mirror
with a visible black spot from where the pellet hit.
I would have to say it
seems very important to have some type of protectant on the paint, be
it the wax of the week or the clear bra, and some 303. I was amazed at
the fact that an untreated surface was so vulnerable to damage, vs. one
that had some type of protector. On a negative note, this mirror seemed
to have an extremely tough clear coat on it, probably much thicker than
the average body panel.
In my future tests I will
have a piece of sheet metal painted and coated with the 3M for similar
tests. However for now, I think it is very clear that the 3M product is
a must have for those concerned about keeping the car's paint mint. If
the enthusiast can front the money, it is probably one of the most
useful investments that can be made, aside from an oil change.
VIDEOS -right click save as 7MB MPEG1
STEP 1 3M and 303
STEP 2 No 3M 303 Applied
STEP 3 No 3M No 303 All Protectors Stripped
I would like to thank the following for making this article possible.
3M Proper Auto Care 303 Products Hondavision.com
the clear film and in no way sponsored or supplied any of the film or
parts for this article. It was completely self funded.
care is where we buy all of our supplies for our tests, at least for
cleaning, we thank them for there great selection fast shipping and
303 Products has some of the best cleaners that are safe, and protectants that are really amazing, check them out.
Hondvision.com for their support and funding for projects.