Paint Protection (PPF + Nano Coating)
My objective is to preserve the IS-F as best as possible, this meant some form of physical protection against the elements and commonly this meant a ceramic or nano coating over the entire car. However coating along isn't enough as it lacks durability and strength against small debris chipping paint work or scratches over time as the coating degrades. At the moment the ultimate form of protection against the elements is to apply paint protection film (PPF) which protects the paint work against physical damage and ceramic coating for its hydrophobic properties and chemical resistances. For those that don't know paint protection film in the simplest terms is a clear film you place over your paint work.
Unfortunately for us in Australia this still seems to be a very new concept and there are not many dealers, installers or reviews so i hope my experience will help anyone considering this OCD level of protection for their vehicle.
I went through Project Detail back in late December 2017 which offered both Xpel and Suntek PPF. I went with Xpel Ultimate as it still appears to be the market leader for its 10 year warranty period (which includes UV yellowing), self healing properties, chemical resistance and thickness. Xpel also provide pre-cut films that the installer can modify to perform either a to-the-edge or wrap-around fitment of the film. As for the nano coating I went with Gtechniq as they have recently release a new product called Ultra Serum at SEMA 2017 that has 9 year warranty .
I decide on getting the full front end kit (bumper, fenders, mirrors, headlight), full bonnet, side skirts and rear bumper for the PPF and also go GTechniq Ultra and Gtechniq EVO3 over the entire car, wheels and ppf.
$2500 - PPF Front end kit + side skirts
$600 - PPF Rear Bumper
$400 - Gtechniq Ultra + EVO3
Total - $3,500 AUD
Here are some shots of it done. It is difficult to tell there is even a film over parts of the car until you're literally right up to it.
I dealt with Richard for the entire process in which he performed the installation of the PPF and coating. I have only recently got my IS-F back (Feb 2018), yes that's right almost 2 months... During the initial quote the installation time was only meant to take 2 weeks maximum to perform the entire job. However due to a lot of back and forth issues with the installation of the film failing due either dirt stuck under the film, lifting, or poor installation (cuts in the film) this made things very difficult for installer to complete things on time. It is very lucky for Richard i am very patient and do not drive the IS-F often enough hence why i tolerated the slow completion time. I do not exactly know how common it is for a PPF application which is meant to take 2 weeks on average (from what i have read online) to blow out by 2 months but it alot of the reasoning i got was due to difficulty applying a thick PPF like Xpel, poor time management and health issues with installer (thankfully his in good health now); however in my opinion it seem the installer lacked enough experience, attention to detail to avoid poor installation and the level of accuracy of pre-cut films available for certain cars.
Here are some photos of the issues i faced
Jagged cuts around the parking senors. This piece is a pre-cut piece for the front bumper so I'm exactly sure why it needed to be manually cut; perhaps low quality measurements from Xpel which as a required to be manually cut which was also poorly done.
Here is another example of poor knife work. This is a shot of the mirror, this piece was a bulk fitment (meaning manually cut to size and fitted). As you can see the edge of the film itself is not cut straight and there are multiple cuts in the paintwork.
There are also quite a few cuts on the paint work on areas that needed manual trimming to get the PPF to fit. Areas such as parking sensor, mirrors (see above), corners near the fog light, rear bumper reflector, bonnet, corner edges of the front bumper and side skirt.
Here is a cut in the side skirt which needed manual trimming to cut out dirt that got stuck on the edge of the PPF
Rear bumper reflector cut in paint work
Sadly i did not take enough shots of this as it was no brainer to replace when speaking with Richard, however here is an example.
Dirt trapped near the foglight at the front bumper. I also had dirt trapped under the side skirt and other areas of the front bumper.
Lift on the edge of the front bar near the wheel and mirrors. This occurred a lot and i was told to pressed them back down and they should eventually stick down, unfortunately this was not case and if not attended to in time dirt was going to get trapped.
This is the edge edge of the bonnet as you can see the PPF has folded over itself and left a sizeable crease
Random cut in the PPF near the brake duct. Also those with keen eye may see the bubble on the left of it and cuts in the paint work near the foglight.
One of the strangest issues was one of the fender PPF was cut into two pieces leaving a decent gap for dirt to get trapped into. The PPF piece is meant to be one piece. There was also alignment issues with the PPF on the fender which resulted in the PPF bunching up on the F Logo. I did not have a photo of this.
There was also curing issue from the Gtechniq Ultra serum on the driver mirror which left a tough residue, it seems the nano coating was not buffered off in time.
I did mention i had the rear bumper included as part of the PPF job, sadly however this was not completed due to Richard having difficulty installing the rear ppf piece. This was a bulk fitment, meaning it had to be cut to size and measured manually. I have been told he attempted to fit it multiple times however due to the shape of the rear bumper it proved to be too difficult due to the thickness of Xpel not bending and stretching across complex curves (corners where the bumper meets the trunk). He even had a go with Suntek which is meant to be more pliable but this also failed. As a result this took too long to complete and I was unhappy with continuing any further so a refund was provided.
As you can see i experienced quite a lot of issues hence the reason why this entire job took 2 months to complete. With the issues you see above all of them were dealt with by either fully replacing the entire PPF piece or by trimming. Here is a break down:
Bonnent PPF was replaced 3x
Front bumper peice was replaced 1x; the replaced piece had the odd cut near the brake duct, no attended too. I decided against it due to time.
Passenger sideskirt was replaced 1x; the replaced piece also needed to be trimmed for dirt trapped (see above)
Passenger fender was replaced 1x
Driver fender was replaced 1x
Both Mirrors Xpel pre-cut piece replaced with bulk fitment due to coverage
Driver side bulk fitment piece was replaced 1x Suntek film. i.e meaning the PPF coverage is Xpel except for the Driver mirror which is Suntek (still keeping an eye on this piece as it seems like its failing due to stretching and lifting at the edges)
Rear bumper was bulk fitted with Xpel 2x, 1x Suntek, 1x Clear Shield Pro - Pre-cut piece - Failed and not applied
I would also like to note getting any failed piece was rectified without question or issues. All of PPF pieces were recoated after they were installed.
At this point you must be thinking no way would anyone jump through hoops and I would agree with you. However, I appreciate the ability the drive my IS-F in any condition weather it's long distance (think about small debris hitting your front bumper), track (think about small rocks, debris being kicked up from the car in front of you) or suburban driving (think bird poo, tree sap and the small debris) I know it's protected the best way possible in any condition there and then.
In summary, i would not recommend PPF for anyone and did not feel it was worth it due the amount of issues i faced, if it was a problem free installation i'd be thinking differently about it.
For those still considering it here is a break down why i wouldn't recommend it.
It is very expensive for what is offers. Some may argue a respray is more cost effective (it can cost around $5k-$6k for entire PPF wrap) but then you open the discussion up to for colour matching... You decide whats worth it.
Quality of work is gamble, you'll find in my experience above i mentioned nothing wrong with Xpel and alot of my issues was due to installation so you are at the mercy of the installer. For Sydney alone, i was only able to find 3 installers that offered Xpel and could do the job. I went with Project Detail due to detailed break down of what was exactly involved and it was not the cheapest.
Your expectation may not line up with the installers
Understand that the film will eventually degrade and requires the same level as care as any other non protected care. It is not something you set and forget
It can be cosmetically disturbing to some, with my car being white there is a very light yellow tone (difficult to notice and not eye-catch) when you compare it a PPF panel against a non-PPF panel. There is also a very likely chance, almost certain chance that bits of dust/particles will be trapped under the film, darker cars help hide this fact. Having PPF will never win you any beauty awards.
Understand that any point in time a blade is required to trim or correct PPF you risk getting cuts in your paint work. Nothing can undo this kind of damage.
For those that can accept the above here are some tips i can offer which may help you in your PPF journey:
Call every single installer that offers the PPF you want. It doesn't matter weather its Xpel, Suntek, 3M, Opti-coat you need to speak with them and discuss:
What is exactly involved before and after they apply the PPF
Ask weather they wrap-to-the-edge or wrap-around the edge
Ask to see some examples of the work - I did not do this but really wish i did! You should pay attention to how corners are wrapped, edges of the ppf are straight and aligned with the body line and look for any stretch marks.
Ask about their warranty procedure and what happens if something goes wrong with the install. - You can see how useful it was for me
I would recommend getting only pre-cut pieces to reduce the amount of blade work required.
Only bulk fit when its absolutely necessary
I would recommend getting things wrapped-to-the-edge as there is less chance of the PPF lifting and getting dirt trapped. Your installer may have preferences here which will determine this too.
Apply some kind of nano coating on top, this will greatly help the longevity of the PPF in terms of chemical burns like bird poop, harsh cleaners, UV staining and ease of cleaning. Note: The coating must be applied after the PPF is installed not on the paint work.
For those that are on the fence about paint protection in general i would strongly recommend you look into nano coating a lot closely as they do offer a lot of benefits and no real disadvantages over your traditional wax protection. Researching and comparing is the least you could do if you care about how your care ages under your ownership.
I will be posting yearly updates on how the PPF and coating holds up over too, so you can join me on my journey.