Paint Protection Film Installation – Project Tacoma Introduction

In our first installment for our new Tacoma project, we’ll be protecting the paint and headlights with SunTek clear PPF (Paint Protection Film) and STEK colored films.  Even though our new project is 2020 we bought it used with just under 18k miles.  Despite having that little time on the road; there were a few blemishes here and there on the factory paint.  Even brand new cars sit on lots as they await their new owners and we’re crackpots for mirror finish paint.  On higher-end cars, temporary plastic protection is applied to preserve the paint before it gets to the dealership.  In this article, we’ll be covering paint protection film installation and what we did to prep the paint before wrapping the front end in film.

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Woah, yeah it looks terrible how did we miss this spot? Well, we learned about bird poo so now you will. Birds don’t poo and pee separately so combined it’s the worst and while we wouldn’t think twice about washing bird poo off ourselves often people leave it on their cars and this is what happens.

Before we begin with protecting the paint first we have to deal with that minor damage.  Our truck spent some time parked under a tree where bird droppings burned into the clear coat.  It wasn’t bad enough to be noticeable on the first inspection of the vehicle but under certain light, it was there.  Being a detailer working my way through college I couldn’t help myself and attacked the problem areas.  Thank goodness it was limited to a few spots on the hood and roof.

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Not noticeable when you pull back though. My garage lights are in need of an upgrade but I still found some spots that needed attention. Before going crazy with the buffer or wet sanding we tried the heater gun trick to try and lift the defect to the surface of the clearcoat. Even with this keep the gun moving as the paint can blister if the gun is left in one spot for too long. I follow the rule of if the paint is getting too hot to the touch I’ve gone too far with any correction method.

Going from the least aggressive approach as possible to the most aggressive we started out with the heater gun trick.  Sometimes simply heating the area is enough to re-arrange the molecules in the clearcoat through expansion and contraction. This heating and cooling can get the defect to the surface and disappear but unfortunately, it didn’t work.  Step two was a full clay bar treatment to decontaminate the paint surface before trying compound buffing.  In some ways, buffing can be more aggressive than wet sanding because of the heat that’s generated.  We used a medium abrasion foam pad and a buffing compound from Meguiers.  After repeated moderate pressure first passes and weight of the buffer subsequent passes the stains still wouldn’t lift.  If we had a more aggressive cutting pad that might have worked but those pads generate more heat and have a greater chance of burning through the paint.

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Here the buffing foam pad is a medium cutting pad with a compound to cut the clearcoat. A more aggressive wool pad could have been used but since we’re working with the contours of the hood the dangers of burning the edge were greater. If we went this direction we would have taped the edges.

With other options exhausted, we busted out the 5000 grit wet sanding paper.  Without a paint thickness gauge and lots of experience, you can tread on some dangerous ground here.  The paper was worked with a diluted ph neutral car soap with about 10 passes then inspected and proceeded with.  This one is really best left to the pros as it’s so easy to go too far.  This was followed up by more compounding, then polishing, and finally sealing.

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Going for broke we busted out the wet sanding paper. This is probably best left to a pro unless you get a few body panels to practice with. Paint can vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. A pro probably would have wet sanded the whole hood with a machine. We spot sanded and buffed the whole hood to blend with compound and then polished it.

2 comments

  1. Psshhh, a year of training. I did this with no training! Did I mention, after I finished, I peeled it off and paid someone to install it correctly? Love this product, but would never attempt it on something I wanted to look good myself.

    1. Completely understood. A buddy of mine tried it himself when he saw the price. Bought $500 worth of material to cover his entire Tacoma for a color change and protection against Arizona pin stripes. I think the comment was ‘haha, yeah…there was a lot of trial and error.’ It was a full day in their shop for this install just to do the front 1/3rd with mostly two guys and up to five that knew what they were doing.

      I tried tinting my garage windows once and out of eight windows I think 2 of them looked decent.

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