5 Essential Steps for Perfect PPF Film Installation

Rivian PPF

Paint Protection Film (PPF) is an excellent way to shield your vehicle’s paint from scratches, chips, and weathering. To ensure the film adheres properly and looks flawless, it’s crucial to follow a meticulous installation process.*

*shameless plug here to…hire EZ Auto Spa for your vehicle or training!

Step 1: Preparing the Surface

Before you can begin applying the PPF, it is imperative to prepare the surface of the vehicle. This means thoroughly washing the car to remove any dirt, grime, or debris that could interfere with the film’s adhesion. After washing, it’s equally important to clay bar the paint to remove any embedded contaminants and then wipe the surface down with an isopropyl alcohol solution to ensure it is completely clean and free of oils or waxes.

Once the surface is clean, it’s critical to work in a controlled environment to prevent dust and dirt from settling on the paint during the installation process. Ideally, the vehicle should be in a clean, dust-free workspace with a temperature between 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal film adhesion and workability.

Example of a Clean, Dust Free Workspace

How long does PPF installation take?

  1. Installation Time Range: The installation of Paint Protection Film (PPF) can vary from a few hours to a couple of days.
  2. Dependence on Coverage: The duration depends on the extent of coverage you want for your vehicle. Smaller areas like door cups or fender flares can be done quickly, even while you wait.
  3. Partial Front Installation: Getting a partial front PPF typically takes about a day.
  4. Full Front PPF Installation: If you opt for a full front PPF, the process usually extends to two days.
  5. Full Vehicle PPF Installation: Installing PPF on the entire vehicle is a more extensive process, typically requiring two to three days, and sometimes more.
  6. Customized Packages: The installation time is influenced by the specific customized packages you choose for your vehicle.

Step 2: Cutting the PPF to Size

If the PPF isn’t pre-cut, you’ll need to measure and cut the film to fit the sections of the vehicle you plan to cover. This step requires precision to ensure the film will align correctly without excess material that needs trimming later. Using a sharp blade and a cutting mat, cut the film to size, leaving a slight margin for final adjustments.

For those using pre-cut kits, ensure that each piece is labeled and organized according to the part of the vehicle it corresponds with. This organization will make the installation process smoother and reduce the chance of mistakes.

Step 3: Cleaning with a Slip Solution

The next step involves creating a slip solution, which is a mixture of water and a small amount of baby shampoo or a dedicated slip solution product. This solution is lightly sprayed on the vehicle’s surface and the adhesive side of the PPF. The slip solution allows you to move and adjust the film on the surface without it sticking immediately, giving you the flexibility to position it perfectly before it sets.

It is important to not over-wet the surface, as too much slip solution can prevent the film from adhering properly. A fine mist is all that is needed to provide the necessary slip while still allowing the film to tack to the surface eventually.

Step 4: Aligning the PPF Film

Carefully place the PPF on the wetted section of the vehicle, starting from one end and gradually laying it down to avoid wrinkles. Take your time to align the film correctly, paying extra attention to the edges and corners where the film should wrap slightly around for full coverage. This step may require patience and a steady hand to ensure proper alignment.

If the film isn’t positioned correctly, gently lift it and use the slip solution to re-wet the surface as needed. Avoid stretching the film as it can distort the shape and make it difficult to fit.

Step 5: Applying the Film

Once the PPF is properly aligned, use a soft squeegee to start applying the film from the center outward. This technique helps to avoid trapping air and ensures a smooth application. Work slowly and methodically, using overlapping strokes with the squeegee to push out any air and slip solution from under the film.

Applying the film requires a delicate balance of pressure; too light and you won’t expel all the air and solution, too hard and you risk damaging the film. Keep the surface and the squeegee lubricated with the slip solution to prevent scratching the film during this process.

Step 6: Squeegeeing Out Bubbles

After the initial application, you’ll likely find small bubbles or pockets of trapped solution. Using the squeegee, work these out toward the nearest edge of the film. This can be a time-consuming process, but it’s crucial for the longevity and appearance of the PPF.

For stubborn bubbles that don’t squeegee out, you can use a pin or a fine needle to gently pierce the bubble, allowing the trapped air or solution to escape. Then, gently press the area with the squeegee to flatten it out. Be careful not to create a tear or stretch the film in the process.

Step 7: Trimming Excess Material

Installation of a protective film on the car body.Protection of the paintwork.

If there is any excess film extending beyond the edges of the panel, it must be carefully trimmed away. Using a sharp blade, trim the film as close to the edge as possible without damaging the vehicle’s paint. It is often helpful to wrap the edge of the film slightly around the panel to create a seamless look and ensure the film stays secured.

When trimming, maintain a steady hand and don’t rush the process. It’s better to make several light passes with the blade than to try and cut through the film in one go, as this reduces the risk of slipping and cutting the paint.

Step 8: Final Inspection & Care

Inspect the film closely for any imperfections, such as small bubbles, creases, or areas where the film hasn’t adhered properly. Use a heat gun on a low setting to warm these areas and then press them down with a squeegee or your fingers. Heat helps the film to stretch slightly and adhere better to the vehicle’s contours.

After the installation, it’s crucial to allow the film to cure for the time recommended by the manufacturer, usually 24 to 48 hours, before washing or waxing the car. During this time, the film’s adhesive bonds fully with the paint, ensuring a long-lasting and protective finish.

To get your PPF done right the first time, get a quote from EZ Auto Spa!

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