If you’ve just gotten a new car and you want to keep it protected, PPF is definitely for you. Your film, especially from top brands like Avery, 3M, Xpel, STEK, etc. should last up to 10 years *with the proper care.* Let’s talk about easy tips and methods to make sure your PPF stays in its best shape, and therefore your car stays looking shiny and new for all of those 10 years.
In the video above, Ji uses his 2023 Model S for demonstration. It has PPF on the rocker area from factory. Unfortunately, not more of his car has PPF at the moment. It’s used in a lot of TESBROS product R&D and rarely stays the same way for too long. But if you are looking to get PPF, I recommend only covering the front end (bumper, hood, mirrors, fenders, headlights) and the rockers since those are the highest impact areas, but you can do the whole car of course. We have Tesla DIY PPF options at tesbros.com.
What is PPF?
PPF’s purpose is to protect the car’s paint from rock chips, scratches, and scuffs. It comes in gloss, matte, and more recently, color. It’s a thin layer of polyurethane that has super durable, self-healing abilities. It’s about 3x the thickness of color vinyl for reference.
How To Wash PPF
Let’s start with the proper wash technique. Use pH neutral products on your PPF, like our car wash shampoo. The two bucket method is the most recommended and the most popular way to wash your car. It’s best to wash your car every 2-3 weeks depending on how often you drive and what kind of road conditions you encounter. This method includes 2 buckets of course, one for wash and one for rinse. Using these two buckets instead of one avoids putting debris back on your car. To go even further, having a grit guard in your rinse bucket will help keep the dirt in the bottom of the bucket.
If your car has template or pre-cut PPF on it, it generally will align right to the edge and not roll over. If you have any areas where the PPF sits on the edge, clean those first. Spray down the PPF areas with water. If you’re using a pressure washer, don’t spray directly into the edges. Then, go over the areas with your wash mitt and shampoo. Lastly, use a boar brush, dip it in your wash bucket, and go over all the edges, agitating that dirt that sits there. Boar brushes are soft, not bristly, and don’t scratch your surfaces. Ji does a good demonstration in the video above.
Once you’re finished with that, rinse down the areas, and start on your entire car. Dunk your mitt in the wash, carefully glide over the surface of your car, and then dunk in the rinse bucket before repeating. Don’t go in circles! Wash in straight lines. This decreases the chance of swirl marks. I like to flip my mitt half way through the panel, and rinse after every panel. Wash top to bottom in this order so you go from least dirty to most dirty:
- Roof and rear windshield
- Side glass, pillar and mirror
- Front windshield
- Hood and fender
- Rear quarter panel and trunk
- Rear Bumper
- Front Bumper
Disclaimer: I recommend NOT washing your car the first 7 days after installation or leaving it out in the rain. The moisture in between the film and the paint is still evaporating and the edges are still drying. The use of shampoo will hinder the edges to set correctly. Also, if there are tiny bubbles smaller than a nickel, they should go away on their own within a couple weeks, so don’t be alarmed by that.
If you do use a foam cannon and/or pressure washer, make sure to keep it 12-18 inches away while spraying. Don’t spray into the edges either. This could cause the edges to peel prematurely.
The two bucket method is the same way I would wash paint, vinyl, or ceramic coating. It’s the safest way to wash cars in general.
Avoid Water Spots
Drying your car is crucial to avoid those pesky water spots. Most people don’t have deionized or “clean” water, but if you do have access to that, it’s really nice to have. That just means that your water has little to no minerals in it. Minerals in the water are what causes the water spots. So technically if you have clean water, you don’t have to dry it. Either way, it’s good practice. Here are the two ways I recommend drying your car:
- Big plush microfiber drying towel. Simply run it across your car gently as demonstrated in the video instead of rough scrubbing.
- Leaf blower. I like to use EGO. This is an easy and satisfying way to blow the water off your car. It’s especially easy if ceramic coated.
For on-the-go and in-between regular washes, you might get bugs, bird droppings or tree sap on your film. It happens! It’s best to get those things off right away instead of waiting for your regular wash every few weeks. I keep a waterless wash (aka quick detailer) in my car with a microfiber so I can grab those things easily when I’m out and about before they stain or etch. If they stay there too long and end up etching in the film, there’s no way to get that out unfortunately. Waterless is also an easy way to clean door and trunk sills!
Ultimate Protection = Ceramic Coating
To have even more protection, you can put ceramic coating over the PPF. It’s scratch resistant, self healing, and has hydrophobic properties to make it easy to clean and harder for stains to set in, keeping your PPF underneath in good shape. It would really bring out the shine of your wrap too. A lot of wrap shops will give you a deal if you decide to do both.
Many films come pre-coated with a ceramic layer, but these will last about 6 months. If you coat it with ceramic coating, it should last up to 3 years.
Keep in mind that ceramic coating always goes last; Nothing adheres to ceramic coating, so it can’t go under vinyl or PPF.
- You can remove it without damage to the paint.
- A lot of wrap shops will have a warranty that I recommend asking about when you’re inquiring.
- You can DIY wrap! At TESBROS, we have PPF wraps for exterior and interior that are pre-cut and come with everything you need to wrap. From glovebox protection to wrapping your entire Model Y, we’ve got you covered.
- Good news! The advancement of the film no longer allows it to yellow or crack, and many top brands will have a warranty on that.
- One cool thing about PPF is that surface scratches and swirl marks in the film will heal over a period of time with heat from the sun. You can also pour warm water over the area to accelerate the process. This will only work for light, surface level scratches.