How Long Does Paint Protection Film (PPF) Last? A Comprehensive Guide
Industry| 6 min read
Published: March 16, 2023
Candy red. Acid green. Sunflower yellow. These colors made Cadillacs and Mustangs famous (before The Fast and The Furious arrived on the scene). Wherever you’re driving, a high-gloss paint job stands out. Who doesn’t want their paint job to be the envy of everyone around them? And if you could make that “like new” finish last a little longer - why wouldn’t you?
The lifespan of your car is very important. Considering the costs related to painting and servicing, car care is definitely a labor-intensive endeavor.
The good news is that there are lots of ways in 2023 to reduce the expenses and labor and preserve the integrity of your car from head to toe. We’ve already given you all the ins and outs of vehicle protection, but here we’re going to ask that age old question - how long does paint protection film REALLY last?
While we may be your resident windshield protection experts, we’ve been in this industry long enough to know a thing or two about paint protection film to give you a real look at what you can expect.
A PPF is a thin, lightweight, colorless film that is installed right on top of your existing paint. It is averse to water penetration and prevents dust and dirt from scratching or sticking to your car body. This seals in the paintwork even more, protecting it from wear and tear.
Let’s get right to it - most vehicle owners can expect to get anywhere from 5-10 years out of their paint protection film. Keep in mind that this will depend heavily on the quality of the film brand, if it has any self-healing properties, the driving conditions you’re facing on a daily basis, your driving habits, maintenance, how you care for it, exposure to sunlight…we think you get the point - the list is long.
So how do you make sure you’re getting the most out of the film that you choose? And which film is right for you?
Vehicle finishes and paint products differ; so, too, does PPF when it comes to design, quality, and durability. Applying the wrong type of film may lead to a shorter time of protection or inadequate protection from the elements. Choosing a reputable PPF brand is going to make sure that you’re getting a high quality product, and likely a quality installer to do the job.
On that point, don’t cheap out when it comes to the installer. Similar to windshield protection film, a good installer can make a huge difference and not only give you a better look, but can actually give you better protection since they aren’t leaving as many edges exposed. A highly-skilled, professional installer definitely helps extend the film’s lifespan and guarantees optimal paint protection. Opting for a cheap installation could lead to a poor application and means you need to reinstall it sooner than expected.
Paint Protection Film and its total lifespan are influenced by driving habits. Daily driving and exposure to intense sunshine, rain, or snow affect the longevity of the film when compared to the vehicle of a weekend-only driver.
Additionally, sand, stones, insects, dust, and tar can stain and scratch paintwork, necessitating a repaint. Along with driving, parking plays a big role in PPF longevity. Vehicles that sport a paint protection film and park indoors will definitely see a much longer life than those parked outdoors in an uncovered location.
If you're consistently driving on rock-covered, dusty highways (and following those trucks closely...) you're also bound to get more small stones and debris hitting the paint that will eventually wear out the film.
PPF Maintenance Plan
The way you care for and maintain the outside of your vehicle also plays a role in PPF maintenance and health. Most modern paint protection films boast nanotechnology: engineering that creates a strong bond at a molecular level. Often, your PPF is coated with a self-healing technology i.e., the molecular bonds can reshape and fall back into place. While there is some evidence that this self-healing effect wears out over time, it will help prevent small scratches and damage in the early days of your PPF.
Using the wrong products and washing with these frequently will bring your film closer to its expiration date much faster. Similar to how you want to treat your windshield protection film, we always recommend that you handwash with soap and water to shake off any build-up of dirt or grime on the film.
Always avoid using a pressure washer to mitigate the risk of the film possibly peeling off or cracking. While an automatic car wash may seem convenient and easy, unless you’re confident that it is touchless and relatively gentle, it may be best to avoid them altogether, as their high-pressure jets may etch the film.
Beyond soap and water, here are a few tips on car care to ensure you’re keeping your paint looking great (whether or not you have paint protection film).
1. Try to avoid washing your car within the first week of having a PPF installed. During that first week, the film is still “curing” and needs time to sit so that any water left trapped under the film can evaporate (helping the film to adhere to your paint properly.)
2. Handwash with soap and water. Harsh chemicals can degrade the film’s surface and diminish self-healing properties or, worse, discolour the film itself.
3. Use clean, edgeless microfiber cloths. Using dirty or abrasive cloths to clean your paint will cause minor scratches, which wear down or degrade the PPF coating over time. If you’re looking for a good microfiber cloth, check out our recommendations.
4. Remove any dead insects and bird droppings from the surface as soon as possible! These can leave permanent stains or etch marks in the film if left for too long, so be sure to take care of them as soon as you notice them.
As mentioned previously, paint protection film has become an extremely popular product in the automotive industry! That being said, many people haven’t had it on their car for the entirety of the now common 10-year warranty that comes with the film. There’s a good chance that while you may not make it into the next decade with your new film, taking good care of it can get you at least half way there.
Many experts suggest applying wax or sealant to preserve your film and help it last a little longer. A car wax and/or PPF sealant will effectively expel dirt and moisture, adding another protective layer. Your paint protection film is doubly protected from micro-scratches on the surface. Keep in mind that these products—to be truly effective—need to be compatible with the PPF you have chosen, so ask your installer what they recommend. It’s also a great idea to research these products before using them so you know whether or not you’re buying into something that adds any value.
You can also go above and beyond by having your installer apply a ceramic coating to the exterior of the PPF. A nano-ceramic top coat or nano-ceramic coating can work well with a PPF, providing an extra layer of protection from impact damage and exposure. This layer offers super strength and durability. Overall, how you care for your car directly impacts how long your protections will last.
We hope this will help you make some better decisions when it comes to buying and caring for your PPF in the future! And if you’ve ever wondered whether or not you should consider protecting your windshield as well as you paint - you absolutely should! Protective films like ExoShield are designed specifically for the windshield (don’t just slap PPF on your glass!) and will give your full vehicle the protection it deserves. Many installers will even sell a full vehicle protection package to make sure you’ve got everything covered.
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