How to Install Precut Paint Protection Kits
Let's face it: the minute your car rolls off the assembly line, there's a 100% chance that it's paint job will be damaged by UV rays, bird poop, bug hits and the occasional rock chip. In other words, expect it so you can protect it .
Luckily for all of us, 3M™ Scotchgard™ Pro Series Paint Protection Films can put to rest all of our worries about the well-being and good-looks of our rides. There is one caveat though: if you've looked around both locally and online you'll surely have realized that it can be pretty darn expensive to install PPF yourself (especially with premium, 3M™ clear bra materials). In fact, you can expect to spend at least $1000 to have just your hood, fenders and mirrors wrapped with protection film. That's why we're excited to announce the release of our lines of precut 3M™ Pro Series Paint Protection Kits — not only can you save money by doing it yourself but you can choose to wrap only specific areas of your vehicle (for example, just A pillars and roof edge, rocker panels, trunk sill, etc.) or you can go all in for complete protection.
Whether you choose to protect all of some parts of your car, truck or SUV with our Scotchgard™ Paint Protestation Kits, we want you to have all the info right here at your finger tips which is why we've put together this guide to installing precut clear bra kits.
Tips Before Installing Your Clear Bra
Before taking on your paint protection project, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Clean up your workspace. Having a clean workspace, free from any dust and debris is essential to ensure good results. Dust in the air can get trapped under the PPF and cause bubbles. Dirt can also prevent the film from sealing well, causing edges to peel up after application.
- Make sure you can see well. Adequate lighting allows you to see what you are doing, which is especially important when you are working with a transparent film. If you are working in a dim garage, consider setting up a work light for better visibility. This will help you to match up edges precisely for a polished final look.
- Maintain the proper work temperature. Window tint film will adhere the best when the temperature is between 40 and 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid installing window tint in freezing temperatures or on very hot summer days.
- Schedule enough time for the task. Installing precut clear bra is definitely a manageable task, especially for a seasoned DIY-er. However, this does not mean it will be a quick process. If you plan to install a complete PPF kit be sure to allow a few hours to complete the task properly without being rushed.
- Invite a friend. Having an extra set of hands can be a huge help when installing paint protection to make sure everything aligns properly, and the film does not fold or crease during installation.
Recommended Tools for PPF Installation
If this is your first time installing a paint protection kit and you do not have any tools for installing clear bra, you may want to buy the lion's share of your tools from us. We offer squeegees, Olfa-style razor blades, low-lint cloth and pre-mixed application fluid to get you on your way.
Wherever you decide to get your supplies we recommend the following:
- Clay Bar: Clay removes from the paint what washing cannot.
- Utility knife: A sharp utility knife allows for precise, relief cuts and trimming of the protection film.
- Squeegee: Your squeegee will be your best friend during the application process. It allows you to smooth out any bubbles or water for a perfectly clean look. Squeegees are available in a variety of sizes and densities, so you can pick the right one for your job as well as to suit your personal preferences.
- Hard Card: Hard cards work very similarly to squeegees except they are firmer to allow more pressure. While a good squeegee should be sufficient, a hard card can be helpful for hard-to-reach corners and edges.
- Spray bottle: Applying your cleaning solution from a spray bottle is the most effective way to ensure your film remains lubricated throughout the application process to avoid tears.
- Soap and water: Mix a solution of one-part soap to ten-parts water. You will use this to clean your windows thoroughly before application. If you do not have an application fluid, you will also use this soap and water solution to lubricate your window tint film.
- Microfiber or lint-free cloth: Drying your windows with a lint-free cloth will prevent fibers from getting stuck under the tint.
- Heat gun: A heat gun is not necessary for all window tint installations, but can be a very helpful tool to have handy. A heat gun can be used to help the PPF conform to a curved surface or to release any creases or fingers from the film after application.
- Slip Solution: Used for positioning film. Use Rapid Tac or you may mi your own in a one quart spray bottle filled with water and 4 to 8 drops of Johnson's Baby Shampoo or a comparable brand.
Cleaning and Preparing Your Vehicle for PPF
We have already written a longer guide on how to clean your vehicle for wrapping and PPF so we'll just give you a basic outline of the steps below:
- Basic car wash (no waxes or protectants) 24 hours prior to installation to allow for complete drying.
- If wheels are shiny that means silicone-based or oil based protectant has been applied which means that it has been splattered along the whole side of the body. This calls for extra cleaning in those areas.
- Always clean your space before attempting to install your clear bra. It’s best to sweep and mop before you bring the car into the space, especially in winter due to the electro-static charge of the vinyl wraps that will attract dust.
- Remove hardware and clean it (molding, nozzles, side lights).
- Use a micro-fiber or paper towel folded into quadrants so you can flip it over as it gets dirty.
- Use overlapping strokes when cleaning, clean open doors and edges too.
- Use a general cleaner and a degreaser or an all-in-one.
- After initial cleaning, wrap a squeegee in the towel and dig it into creases and tight areas where your finger can’t reach. Clean under the hood, under the wheel well, clean all of the windows and the entire car.
- Use a clay bar or scratchless sponge.
- Use the “squeaky finger” check. If it squeaks, it's good to go.
Step-by-Step Precut Paint Protection Kit Installation
- Thoroughly clean application surface and surrounding areas with Slip solution and a lint free cloth. Be sure to remove any bugs, tar, and contaminates.
- Spray the application surface with Slip Solution.
- Peel the film from the liner and spray adhesive thoroughly with Slip Solution. (Do not be afraid to use a lot of solution.)
- Position film on the application surface making sure it will cover the necessary area.
- Spray the Tack solution under and on top of center area and squeegee down the center of the piece.
- Work from center out using Tack solution where needed to make the film adhere. Stretch in areas necessary to allow the film to form to compound curves and make sure to overlap your squeegee passes.
- During installation, the film can be lifted back up, re-wet and re-applied to achieve desired location and appearance.
- Lightly score film with Olfa knife or razor blade to trim off any excess film.
- Approximate curing time is 24 hours. The film can be washed and waxed to maintain original shine.
- Do not use harsh degreasers on film without testing a small area first. Do not use any waxes with harsh abrasives or colored dyes. It is best to wax the film every time the vehicle is washed - to prolong the life of the film, and to keep its glossy appearance.
Area Specific Instructions
Installing Precut Hood Paint Protection
- Use the slip solution to wet the hood completely. It is vitally important that your fingers be clean and wet during this process. When dry, the adhesive will mark easily with fingerprints if touched by dry or dirty fingers. Keeping your fingers wet and the material rolled up, carefully separate a small quantity of the shield from the liner on one end. Using one hand to hold the remaining rolled up kit, and the other to gently hold the material you’ve already loosened, place the loosened material onto the area of the hood you want covered. As you slowly, but gently, pull the liner to the opposite side of the hood, the material releases itself naturally onto your hood. Be especially careful not to stretch or rip the material while rolling it onto your hood, particularly if your specific kit includes a relief cut. (Any thin cut-out within the material that departs from the natural hood outline which will help the material to lie smoothly over curves or broadly contoured surfaces, is considered a relief cut.) If necessary, using gentle finger motion, release the liner from the material in and around any relief cut.
- Once you have the material placed on the exterior, you’ll want to position it correctly. In order to do so, spray more of the slip solution between the hood and the material by carefully lifting one side at a time. Spray the solution, replace the material, and continue to the other side. Take your time to gently lift and pull the material off of the hood to as not to stretch the material unnecessarily. Also, before attempting to move the kit, you must spray the top of the kit with more slip solution. You don’t want the squeegee to rearrange the position of the kit.
- Now that you have the material moving freely, you can position the kit without a problem. Center it leaving about 1/8” between the kit and the front edge of the hood.
- Now that the kit is where you want it, you can be certain that it will stay put by using the squeegee to make a number of small vertical strokes down the center of the hood. Once you have a 3” to 4” wide strip from top to bottom that is now solution free, your shield will be fastened and centered, which won’t allow any shifting.
- To avoid the material from lifting up on the edges where you have already used the squeegee, and to encourage fast bonding, you’ll need to rinse out any excess slip solution from under the material. You can do this by carefully lifting one end of the material back to where it has begun to bond, and using the alcohol and water solution, spray both the hood and the adhesive sided material. Be sure to rinse out any excess slip solution from between them. Keep in mind that the Tack solution will dry very quickly.
- Once that’s done, carefully return the material back onto the hood. Make certain the material is again lying flat and straight, and that the 1/8” gap remains between the kit and the hood’s front edge. It’s also very important that the top surface of the kit be kept wet. You want your squeegee to glide over it easily. Again, you must work quickly at this juncture to prevent the Tack solution from drying too fast in order to reach your optimum result.
- Now, beginning with the section that is slip solution free, you’ll need to use your squeegee to smooth out the rest of the material. Do this by starting from the center of the section that is slip solution free. Make a horizontal pass to the hood’s edge by letting your squeegee glide over it smoothly. Return back to the center, and overlap your first pass with the second. Move your way to the top edge of the hood with short, upward, strokes, overlapping them as you go. Do this until that quarter of the hood is smoothly covered. Following the same procedure, this time using downward strokes, begin again at the center of the solution free section and work to the bottom edge of the hood. Continue to overlap your passes as you work. To avoid leaving air or solution bubbles caught beneath the material, you’ll need to use firm pressure.
- If the edges insist on lifting back up, simply go over them with your squeegee wrapped in a paper towel. It will collect the extra moisture that is preventing the material from adhering to the surface.
- Once you have completed the process for one side of your hood, continue to the other side and follow steps 5 through 8.
Installing Precut Clear Bra on Mirrors
- Spray the mirror with Rapid Prep or other cleaner and wipe it clean, then wipe it dry. The mirror surface must be completely clean and dry to ensure proper adhesion of the film. The extreme curvature will require substantial stretching of the film so it is vitally important that it adhere well.
- Hold the film piece up to the mirror, white liner side down, to confirm it matches the mirror to be installed, and then pull off the cap sheet.
- Use your squeegee to tack down one end of the material. Starting on one corner of the part, pull away the protective adhesive liner and spray the exposed adhesive with soap solution. It is vitally important that your fingers be clean and wet during this process. When dry, the adhesive will mark easily with fingerprints if touched by dry or dirty fingers.
- When the piece is free of the liner, spray the mirror surface with soap solution. Then fiip the piece over so the adhesive side is down against the paint.
- Spray Tack solution under the inner edge to help tack the film in place, and use soap solution to lubricate the film surface above it.
- Squeegee the film down to lock it in place, beginning on the inner edge and working towards the outside. When the alcohol is squeegeed out, the pressure-activated adhesive will bind this area to the paint. It is important to 'nail down' the starting position so that the film can be stretched to accommodate curvature in the mirror.
- Lift up the piece on the outside of the mirror, and spray the paint underneath with soap solution.
- Gently stretch the film to reach the outer edge of the mirror and squeegee it down with overlapping strokes. Do not press the film down hard with your fingers while stretching it, as this could cause the pressure-activated adhesive to bind to the paint and leave visible marks.
Precut PPF Installation on Fenders
- Begin by aligning the fender edge with the upper edge of the paint protection strip. Double check to be sure you leave 1/8” gap both along the upper edge and the front edge. When applying the smaller fender pieces, the alcohol and water solution can be used without the help of the other solution.
- Now, using your squeegee very gently, begin making a narrow pass on the upper edge of your fender piece. Remember not to press so hard that you move the positioning of your piece. You can begin pressing firmer as the material begins bonding with the paint. Continue until there are no bubbles remaining and all of the alcohol and water solution has been removed from under the upper edge.
- Now that the material is attached from the top, using your fingers, very carefully slide the bottom edge down. Be certain you’ve thoroughly moistened the adhesive with the alcohol and water solution. While gently pulling the material down with one hand, use the squeegee in the other hand to firmly pass from the top edge completely through it to the bottom edge.
- Complete your piece by repeating the passes with your squeegee to remove any bubbles or air pockets. When working on vehicles such as the Chevrolet or GMC pickups, that have fenders with extreme contours, you may need to wrap your squeegee with a paper towel to ease out any persistent areas.
Applying 3M™ Pro Series Kits to Grilles
Generally, you will find that the painted surfaces you will be applying your pieces to will be larger than the actual pieces themselves. We have designed them this way intentionally. The smaller pieces allow for stretching just the right amount and it also helps the squeegee process to work much more smoothly. The narrow pieces will stretch a little when they are removed from the liner. How it is removed from the liner will determine how much and in what way it will stretch. Since it is much easier to extend the pieces by stretching them into place than it is to cut off any excess, we have designed the pieces shorter for this purpose.
- To begin, align one end of the kit edge with the edge of the grille. This type of grille kit works best beginning in this way.
- Now, using just a little pressure, particularly on the narrow sections, stretch the material to the other side.
- Once again, squeegee the area as you’ve learned to do on the other sections. As the material begins to adhere to the surface, you can continue to add a little more pressure to smooth it out.
Bumper Protection Installation
As the bumper kit film pieces are often quite large, it is advisable to have a glass-top or other smooth surface work table as a work surface for the following steps. It may also be helpful to have an additional person help when the film is first laid into position on the bumper.
- Starting with a bumper that has already been cleaned and dried, spray the bumper with soap solution. Then spray the work table surface liberally with soap solution.
- Starting in one corner of the part, pull away the protective adhesive liner and spray the exposed adhesive with soap solution. It is vitally important that your fingers be clean and wet during this process. When dry, the adhesive will mark easily with fingerprints if touched by dry or dirty fingers. Because the table surface has been liberally sprayed with soap solution, the associated surface tension will actually help hold the film in place while the adhesive liner is removed.
- When the piece is completely free of the liner, lift it off the table and lay it on the bumper so the adhesive side is down against the paint. Float it into position, centering it carefully left and right and as close as possible to the edge.
- Spray Tack solution under the center area on the top side of the bumper to help tack the film in place, and use soap solution to lubricate the film surface for the squeegee.
- Squeegee the film down to lock it in place, working from the center towards the outside. When the Tack solution is squeegeed out, the pressure-activated adhesive will bind this area to the paint - in effect the bumper film piece will be 'nailed down' in the center. It is important to 'nail down' the position so that the film can be stretched if necessary to accommodate curvature in the bumper. Many paint protection film kits are designed slightly undersized, so the film can be stretched during installation.
- Lift up the piece on one side of the bumper, and spray the paint underneath with soap solution. Locate the first 'target point' - the next point on the bumper away from the start position where the pattern has a critical fitting point.
- Lift the film, and spray this target area with Tack solution. Lay the film back down, then gently stretch the film to reach this first target point and squeegee the film down with overlapping strokes. Do not press the film down hard with your fingers while stretching it, as this could cause the pressure-activated adhesive to prematurely bind to the paint and leave visible marks.
- Repeat the above 3 steps (locate target point, spray it with Tack solution, stretch film gently into place and squeegee down) for any successive target points between the one just finished and the edge of the bumper. Work one section (target point) at a time until the last target point (the edge of the bumper) has been covered with film and squeegeed into place.
- Employ the same procedure on the opposite side of the bumper. Repeat the same three steps (locate, spray with Tack solution, stretch and squeegee down) for each target point between the ‘nailed down’ center section and the outer edge of the bumper. Work one section (target point) at a time until the last target point (the edge of the bumper) has been covered with film and squeegeed into place.
- Dry the film surface with a lint-free towel.
Airdams and Spoilers
- Due to the unique curvatures of these designs, stretching the material is vital to obtaining a smooth result when using these kits. Wet the surface completely with the slip solution. Then, roll the material out onto the surface.
- Using the soap and water solution, thoroughly soak both sides of the material. Then, center the material on the upper edge, remembering to leave the 1/8” gap on the bumper’s edged surface. It is typical that the arc from the kit piece and the arc on the bumper edge will be mismatched, so don’t become concerned. We will address that situation further into the instructions.
- As in earlier steps, once positioned in place, use your squeegee to make a vertical pass down the middle to adhere the material in place.
- Once the material is adhering to the surface where you made the center pass, lift the left side and rinse the soap and water solution out with the alcohol and water solution. It’s important however, that you leave a little of the soap and water solution around the farthest left 10” to 15" of the kit between the material and the bumper.
- After the plastic has been laid back down, use your left palm to hold down the last 10” to 15" as you stretch the material out and up a little. In this way you’ll force the material to follow the arc design of the bumper.
- While the material is being held in this position, beginning in the middle, use your squeegee, working your way out along the center. Working only on the upper section, continue to use your squeegee until it has adhered to the bumper and is secure. The lower portion will be worked later.
- Now go back to the left 10” to 15"and lift it up to rinse out any remaining soap and water solution on this side.
- Once it’s been thoroughly rinsed, put the material back down being sure to align the plastic with the bumper edges. Squeegee it into place. If there are any small “fingers” that have developed or not laid flat, leave them for now.
- You’re now going to work the lower section. Returning to the middle and using 1” to 2” strokes, squeegee the lower section toward the left side. Continue making the passes from the middle to the left until you’ve reached the bottom.
- For working the right side, repeat steps 4 through 9.
- To finish up, use your paper towel wrapped squeegee to double check your work, and to go back over any edges that may have lifted up, or any bubbles or “fingers” you may have missed.