In the months leading up to the delivery of my WRX, I spent a fair amount of time researching what kinds of mods/upgrades most owners recommend. One of the most frequently mentioned was paint protection film (AKA “clear bra”) for the front of the car.
I had seen countless pictures and forum threads complaining how easily the WRX’s front bumper and hood gather rock chips. I’d seen suggestions that this is due to the thinner, water-based paints that Subaru uses, and while I can’t substantiate this claim with any scientific proof, I can say that my Fiesta ST gathered a whole LOTTA chips on it’s front bumper and hood over the three years I owned it.
Thankfully due to the black paint and darker primer/plastic underneath, the chips weren’t obvious, but that didn’t make them any less painful to wash or detail.
With this in mind, I began researching the various paint protection film options available. It seemed that overall the two most recommended protection films were 3M and XPEL Ultimate. While a bit more expensive, the XPEL caught my attention for one important reason; its ability to “self heal”.
Thanks to a specialized formula, the XPEL Ultimate film allows the clear coat polymers to flow freely when heated. If its scratched or marred, applying a bit of warm water or leaving it out in the sun for a few minutes is usually enough for the scratch to level and heal itself. I’ve heard reports that the newest iteration of 3M’s film allows for a similar level of self-healing, but wasn’t able to get any real owner feedback regarding the 3M specifically.
I did however stumble across a great post by Nick over at nickscarblog.com, highlighting his experience with XPEL Ultimate on his used Audi TT RS. Nick seemed to echo the feelings of most people I talked to who have worked with or had XPEL on their own cars; that it was worth the extra money. As luck would have it, shortly after I began my research a local friend of a friend had their Corvette Grand Sport wrapped in XPEL. After quick inspection of the completed product and chat with the owner, I felt comfortable and ready to pull the trigger.
I contacted a few Twin Cities-based businesses for quotes, and in the end decided to go with Bravo Protection Products out of Wayzata, Minnesota. In addition to a competitive price, Tom did an awesome job breaking down the entire process for me over the phone. He answered all my questions, addressed any concerns I had, and we set an appointment for the following Monday afternoon. I was already seriously impressed with their level of customer service and felt reassured that my car would be in good hands.
Monday morning rolled around, and I made the trip up to Wayzata to Bravo’s shop. I was greeted by Tom who, once again, walked me through the process and confirmed the work to be done. As it turned out, the original estimate had been a bit conservative. This was mostly due to the extra material needed for the side skirt kit (as it runs the full length of the lower half of the car, as well as protecting the rear spat area). In addition to a full 30% tint all around, they would be installing XPEL Ultimate on the following:
- Front bumper
- Full hood
- Front fenders
- Side skirts
- Door mirrors
- Rear spats
I agreed it was probably worth spending the extra cash now for the peace of mind and handed the keys over. I settled into their lobby, expecting to have to wait through the afternoon, but to my surprise, they finished everything in a few hours!
When I stepped outside to examine their work, I couldn’t help but grin. The pre-cut XPEL templates they had used wrapped around most of the car’s leading edges, leaving very few seams/lines for the eye to catch. I was very happy with the result, and pleasantly surprised at how much of the car the XPEL had covered.
The 30% 3M tint job had turned out awesome as well. Tom had recommended going 30%, as 50% tint (the legal limit in Minnesota) was barely noticeable on a darker car.
After living with both the XPEL film and 3M tint for a few weeks, I think I’d split the difference and go with a 40% tint if I had the opportunity to do it again. 30% isn’t blackout dark by any means, but it does make it tough for other drivers to see me wave. Call me ridiculous, but it’s something I enjoy! Regarding the film, I can safely say it was well worth every penny.
After a 500+ mile road trip across Wisconsin recently, the front of my car had collected an obscene amount of dead bugs and road debris.
Had it not been for the XPEL, I’m fairly certain a number of the bug stains would have etched the aforementioned soft Subaru clear coat (the car sat out in 90+ degree sun for a day while I was at a wedding). Instead, when I got home and got to washing the car a few days later, almost all of the grime and staining was immediately rinsed off with a simple foam gun wash. Having struggled with caked-on bumper bugs and dirt for years with my previous cars, I can’t understate how awesome it is to be able to blast everything off with a garden hose.
I also had the misfortune of testing the self-healing properties of the film when a quick detailer bottle slid off the sunroof, down the windshield, and rolled across the hood. The bottle left a few minor scratches in the film, but a few hours later they had almost completely settled and healed themselves!
Overall, I’d highly recommend the XPEL Ultimate film for anyone looking to protect their vehicle’s paint. It can be a pricey pill to swallow, but the protection and peace of mind you gain pays for itself over and over. I’d recommend setting aside a few bucks to have the PPF applied immediately after picking up your new car, as every minute you drive without it is another opportunity to collect chips and stains that will have to be corrected!
If you have any questions about my car or PPF/tint in general, feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly!