What is the Lifespan of Paint Protection Film?

Are you considering paint protection film for your brand new car? Read on to find out how much it costs and how long it lasts.

What Is Paint Protection Film Anyway?

The term “Automotive Protective Film” is used interchangeably in the industry these days. It includes words such as “Clear Bra,” “Clear Mask,” “Invisible Shield,” “Clear Wrap,” “Rock Chip Protection,” and “Car Scratch Protective Film,” among others. Paint Protection Film (also known as PPF) is the most often used word for automobile protection films.

Paint Protection Film (aka Clear Bra) is made of a kind of plastic (urethane) that has a degree of elasticity and allows it to be coiled, spread, and twisted over corners and curves to provide optimum protection. The car’s body panels suit this product well.

In most cases, it is sprayed to a new vehicle’s painted surfaces to protect the paint from stone chipping, bug sparkle and others. The main reason car enthusiasts prefer clear bras is because it will preserver the integrity of the car’s original paint job. The physics behind this film consists of an elastic polymer that enables the material to maintain its shape when stretched or applied, which is the first layer of the paint protection film. When light scratches develop on the PPF, it can self-heal by using a heat gun or by being exposed to bright sunshine.

The following are the most frequent variables that influence how long a paint protection film will last: 

1. Surface prep of the paintwork before installation

PPF is an invisible protective layer, but it is only as effective as the surface beneath it. Surface Prep is also the longest-term process step because flaws and impurities must be removed from the paint before the paint protection layer is placed. This should involve thorough decontamination and, if appropriate, multi-stage machine polishing.

2. How it is installed

PPF is hard, indeed. If the film has bubbles, it distorts and does not cling to the surface properly. There is a linear relationship between how the PPF is applied and how long it will stay on your car. Typically, an air bubble develops as a result of a pollutant trapped under the layer. This will result in additional bubbles beneath the PPF over time. If you are thinking about getting a complete paint protection film installed, I highly advise you to go with a trustworthy contractor!

3. Environmental factors

One of the advantages of the Paint Protection Film is its heat and UV resistance to sun damage. Excessive exposure to direct sunlight due to a deterioration of the adhesive beneath may decrease lifespan. It is also important to mention that PPF is not bomb-resistant but is used to protect strong impact, such as steel shards. Suppose the PPF is continuously exposed to garbage and environmental pollutants such as bird excrement, acidified rain, or other hazardous substances. In that case, it may wear thin PPF if the PPF is not maintained correctly.

Installing Paint Protection Film

We would not advise anyone to DIY paint protection installation on their vehicle (unless it is a tiny part like the headlights or the like). When PPF is installed on the whole car, you want a specialist to ensure it is done correctly.

In general, the installation of paint protection film consists of five major stages;

1. Cleaning and preparing the paint surface

Most installers use a good degradation solution to remove particles. The surface should then be composed and polished to remove defects before PPF is applied (Similar to prepping for Ceramic Coating).

2. Cutting paint protection film into pieces

The technician cuts PPF material for installation once the car is prepared. It looks close to the window colour. They will typically be installed in pieces such as a hood, a rocker, a fourth panel, side mirrors, a door, etc. After the film has been cut, it is arranged and ready to be installed.

3. Applying an activator solution 

The use of an activator, commonly known as the fitting solution, requires installing a paint protection film. This allows the PPF to activate a ‘sticky substance’, causing it to cling to the surface of the layer. Depending on the kind of film, the fitting solution may range from simple water to soap.

4. Fitting and installing the PPF

This is the hardest part, and it is helpful to have a skilled expert perform the job. When PPF is applied, it does not always fit properly. It is much more challenging to install than vinyl. Spraying, squeegeeing, and repositioning the PPF are all part of the installation procedure. When the film is in the proper place, the installer will use the squeegee to remove any bubbles or wrinkles.

5. Letting the film dry

After applying the Paint Protection Film, the final step is to dry or heat the film and take out any bubbles and wrinkles. They utilize a thermal pistol for adhesive activation and compel the PPF to cling to the body. It reduces the material and therefore closely fits the surface of the bodywork.

However, impact absorption is meaningless without longevity; no one would appreciate PPF if it was excellent at protecting your vehicle but needed re-application every two months. Indeed, the most significant aspect of PPF is that it is a “set-it-and-forget-it” approach. This means that after PPF is placed, you can be confident that your car will be secure for many years to come.

How Long Does PPF Last?

Undoubtedly, the best part of a paint protection film is how long it lasts. We use the industry leading XPEL Paint Protection Film that last up to 10 years. In fact, PAD offers a 10-year warranty for all of our PPF installations.

In most cases, you can tell if you are purchasing high-quality films since they will have a guarantee. For example, Autobahn films are backed by a Full Lifetime Limited Warranty. The manufacturer is confident enough to provide this kind of guarantee means that you are receiving the best available.

The following are the three most important factors that influence the lifespan of PPF:

Prep time

If a water bottle’s surface is damp, filthy, damaged, or abrasive, the label will not attach properly and will begin to peel off shortly after application. PPF is subject to the same rules as other types of adhesive film. Preparation work for a PPF application is the most time-consuming and critical stage of the procedure since if it is done incorrectly, nothing that follows will be of any value to you.


Once the preparation process is completed, it is time to apply the protective film. Consequently, it is a delicate and complicated process, and the technicians must take care to avoid any bubbles, wrinkles, or folds that may lead to a bad outcome in the end. This is the stage when experience counts, which is why it is beneficial to deal with a business that has more than 20 years of expertise in this field.

Environmental factors

The whole purpose of PPF is to withstand abuse so that your vehicle does not have to. However, even though PPF is very resistant to environmental elements such as UV radiation, road grit and salt, and acidic bird droppings, it will ultimately wear out. The amount of damage that your film is subjected to will determine how long it will last. Comparing two vehicles with the same film, one of which is used on weekends for a fun drive and the other which is used as a daily driver with a 2-hour commute, the PPF on the first car will survive longer than the PPF on the second car, according to the study. The good news is that both automobiles are in excellent condition at the end of the day. 

Benefits of paint protection

Some of the primary benefits of paint protection film are as follows:

Protection from exterior paint damage

It protects the car’s paintwork from minor scaffolding and rock chips. The PPF takes the harm and over time heals itself. Protection of the car park PPF may be placed at the door borders so that your doors can be protected when opened on plenty of low-range parking.

Preserving vehicle paint  

This film includes a UV cover that prevents sunlight in colour to preserve the original colour and colour. It also contains swirls that may be caused by unsuitable washing methods + Duration of time. Compared to other types of paint protection, PPF is very durable (Up to 10 years in some installations).

The Bottom Line: Is Paint Protection Film Worth It?

It genuinely depends on the how much you value your vehicle, either financially or emotionally. Is it worth installing paint protection film on your old winter beater? Not likely. But it will save you from an expensive paint job on your brand new Tesla or irreparable damage on your 68 Camaro. PPF is the best method for safeguarding the value of your car.

PPF installation at PAD will cost anywhere from $550 to $5,500+, ranging from just the hood and fender to the entire vehicle body (all packages come with a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty). Most of our clients choose to only apply PPF on areas that are prone to road debris(the front bumper and surrounding areas). On the other hand, if you want to keep your vehicle’s exterior in mint condition without PPF, you should expect to pay $6,000 for a high-quality paint job every 3-5 years (even sooner if you drive a lot of highway or in the winter). 

At the end of the day, your investment in paint protection film will provide peach of mind and preserve the revalue of your vehicle. Now, it’s up to you to determine what that’s worth.

Final Thoughts

As a car owner, only you know what is best for your car. If you can afford to get paint protection film, we highly recommend you do. It will protect the factory paint job of your car from UV rays, dirt and debris over the next ten years. We hope this article was helpful for you to make a decision towards installing PPF on your car. At PAD we have years of experience installing PPF on luxury vehicles. If you’re interested, view our packages HERE or contact us for more information. Check out our other blog articles to get updates and learn more about car detailing.