Auto-detailing is by no means a radical idea. The notion of car polishing has been around since the 1800s, but of course, we have come a long way since those early days. No longer limited to hand-applied waxes, paint protection has blossomed into a billion-dollar industry over the last 2 centuries. So how exactly has car paint protection evolved throughout the years?
Waxes have been around since the time of bonnets (the hat, not the car part) and horse carriages. Originally manufactured from natural materials, waxes add shine and protection to your car paint. The product is buffered onto the car to ensure even coating and a glossy finish.
The problem, however, is that if your car is not cleaned properly prior to the treatment, you could very well damage your car paint by rubbing on the dirt that is already on the car surface. For that reason, it is best to leave the waxing to professionals. A waxing treatment can cost up to 500 US dollars, and most expert suggests waxing your car 3-4 times a year. It might sound excessive at first, but the truth is, waxes can be washed away by rain or a regular car wash, and regular upkeep is necessary in order for the wax to perform at its best.
1st Generation Paint Protection Films
Then came the invention of Paint Protection Films during the Vietnam war. The US military’s helicopter rotor blades frequently suffered damage from flying dust and debris, and so they asked 3M to develop a product that will protect their aircrafts and minimize the repair costs.
The result was a PVC-based clear film that protects the paint against anything ranging from acid rain to minor collision. The technology was then used to produce commercial paint protection films to be used on cars as a more durable form of paint protection. While effective, these films are not aesthetically pleasing. Many car owners encountered problems including film yellowing and aging after leaving the films on their vehicles for extended periods of time. They also found that the films tend to turn hazy overtime and affects the overall aesthetics of their vehicles. The hard PVC films are difficult to install, and therefore, installers generally use heat guns to assist the installation process. Since the films need to be hand-cut before being applied to the paint, installation generally took a long time as well. For those reasons, the paint protection films failed to achieve popularity in the commercial market.
Then, as we entered the new millennium, a new form of paint protection surfaced; nano-based chemical solutions that are applied to car surfaces. The solutions, called coatings, bond with the car paint permanently, strengthening it and protecting it against scratches. The coatings are more durable than waxes, and produce a much glossier finish than its counterpart.
Since these coatings are born around the same time as most prevalent social media platforms, they rose to the front of public attention in the blink of an eye. This is, sadly, sometimes done on the back of exaggerations and, in some cases, false advertisements. While originally promised as an impregnable protection solution, customers soon found that they run into trouble with watermarks on the coating, especially in the tropics. Add to that the coating does not actually protect the vehicle against road debris or rock chips, most consumers find the 1000-dollar price tag a tad too steep.
Be that as it may, coating proved to be a much more long-lasting option than waxes, and the launching of this product did drive down the prices of professional waxing significantly, much to the joy of traditionalist.
Contemporary Paint Protection Films
Unsatisfied with the flaws of nano- coating, manufacturers soon found the answer to a better product by improving on the existing paint protection films. This time, they decided to build their films using a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) material that is not only more malleable, but also ages better with no problem in yellowing. These films, like their predecessors, shield vehicles from slight impacts and scratches. They also have the added ability to self-heal, and are anti-UV, as well as heat-resistant.
Aware of the issues with long installation times on older models, manufacturers have also developed pre-cut patterns for their paint protection films. Their databases contain information on most available car models on the market, and can quickly and accurately plot the necessary pieces of films. Not only does this speed up the process, but it also eliminates the risk of having the original car paint damaged by razors during installation.
Nothing is perfect however, and paint protection films are no exception. Because of the technicalities involved in the installation process, paint protection films should only be installed by experienced professionals. It also requires proper care in order for it to perform its intended function for as long as possible.
Protecting our investments is a natural and common instinct, and every day, new products are being launched, each promising to be the next big thing. No matter which solution you choose, it is important to understand your specific needs, and pick the option that best fulfills them. No matter which paint protection product you use, it does not render your vehicle invincible. Taking proper care of your car is the easiest way to ensure that it will keep looking shiny and new no matter how many miles it’s racked up.
To learn more about paint protection films, click here.