The process looks relatively straightforward. Clean the car, clean your hands, use lots of a soap-and-water solution to keep everything wet while positioning the film (without ever touching the adhesive side of the material), squeegee from the center out and don't use too much alcohol-and-water solution (it helps activate the adhesive). Easier said than done, even if you have covered a hundred model airplanes.

There are several companies selling pre-cut kits and downloadable patterns for both pros and the DIY market, some with clear loyalties to particular products. Coverage varies between kits, often with the vehicle's price(and even between models), so do some research. Approved installers are listed on manufacturer and design-house websites. Be sure and ask to see samples of an installer's work, as well as their references, and agree ahead of time on what you expect.

Professionals generally use larger, one-piece patterns that are more difficult to install, while DIY kits often have smaller pieces that are easier to install but have more seams. Knowing how far the film will stretch, where to lock it down first and just how much alcohol you can use is knowledge that only comes from experience. And when I say clean, I really mean CLEAN! Even after I washed the car, Keszthelyi washed the car and DeLeon went over it one more time inside, and we still had to stop several times to remove small bits of dirt. And never, ever wear fuzzy red fleece while installing PPF on a white car-just ask Keszthelyi.

At points during the installation, I wondered if the small piece on the leading edge of the fender had slipped off; you had to look closely to see it was still in place. You will notice the film-remember it is there to protect- not necessarily make the car look better-and most obvious is the line running across the hood. But for practical purposes, the film is invisible from a few feet away. The Vector's chin spoiler wasn't part of the kit, so DeLeon and Keszthelyi just shrugged and showed me how a custom install works. They also insisted on a few other custom touches, running a small strip of film down the door edges and even putting a piece on the rear bumper at the trunk opening. This area had already scuffed by my son's hockey bag, but the small mark disappeared under the film. Covering the entire rear bumper with PPF is popular, especially in NYC's "park by Braille" environment.

The pattern DeLeon downloaded to his computer controlled plotter/cutter fit very well, though as with anything in life, there are compromises. The film stops at the very edge of the hood, leaving a tiny strip exposed. Keszthelyi explained the difficulties in wrapping very small radii without having an appropriate surface under the hood for the film to adhere to, something not there on my Saab. Some owners insist that lights, grills, badges etc., be removed in order to provide maximum protection, but a totally custom job like that wasn't in the budget. And given the cost of the material, coverage areas will vary in order to keep kit costs in line with that of the vehicle. Though the Saab flares all the way to the center of the front wheel arch, coverage stops a few inches short, dictated by cost and difficulty of installation. The difference in frontal area is small and covering it would have required another two or three feet of 24-inch material and made for an even more challenging installation. Like I said, compromise.

Once the PPF is installed, treat it just like you treat your paint-you do wash your car often and use a high quality wax on a regular basis don't you? Give new PPF a few days before any pressure washing and always wash from the center of the PPF to the edge. Wax up to the edge of the PPF and gently remove any buildup there with a cotton swab or baby toothbrush. Use Plexus, an aviation-grade plastic cleaner, protectant and polish recommended by all the top PPF installers, to keep the PPF in top shape.

Only time will tell how well the PPF will hold up on my car, but 3M's testing has shown 97% of the original finish can survive ten years. Knowing it is there brings a certain peace of mind when I find myself stuck behind a salt truck spreading an icy road, or hearing the splat of one of the South's highly acidic love bugs, or the rattle of wind-blown sand on the way to Vegas. You get the idea.

Scotchgard Paint Protection Film by 3M X-Treme Vehicle Coatings
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