Can I install PPF myself? It’s a question others frequently ask us… So, as factory-trained Xpel installers based in Hampshire, we thought we’d use this week’s blog article to answer it.
Can I install PPF myself?
Tools and materials.
Anybody can purchase tools and materials for PPF installation, there are retailers online that will sell both. But the adage, “You get what you pay for”, rings true here! Xpel won’t sell to the public,the company deals only with trade clients and its network of certified installers. In fact, as far as we are aware, none of the major paint protection film brands will sell kits directly to the public. This makes sense because film manufacturers want to see their products used in the best way possible. Without some proper training and practice, that won’t happen.
It’s also worth noting that the less experienced you are with PPF, the more likely you will make a mistake. Most mistakes will ruin the piece of film you’re working on (or leave a permanent mark). So, you’d be stuck having to buy another expensive pre-cut piece, without having a wide format plotter, as we do, to cut another template.
Getting a really clean PPF installation is challenging at the best of times. Beyond installing a small piece like a boot protector (on the top of the rear bumper) or door edge guards, it’s not something you should attempt outside.
When first released from the backing paper, before the film is soaked with a soapy slip solution, the glue is really, really sticky! It will grab dust from the air, fibres from your clothes, hair from your body, and passing insects. You name it; it will try and stick to it.
Our Hampshire studio is the perfect environment for PPF installation. We keep it scrupulously clean and tidy, it has air filtration, and we are conscious of what we wear (and yes, I might have been seen running a lint roller over my clothes and hairy arms). All these factors give us the best chance of the cleanest installation possible.
The film likes to be warm, but not too warm. If the panel is too hot, the slip will want to dry too quickly. If this happens, you’ll get unsightly marks under the film where the glue tacks in unwanted places. So being able to control the temperature of our environment is vital.
Skill and Technique.
I used to be involved in a vinyl wrapping company many years ago, so I had some experience using a film medium. That said, vinyl wrapping is quite different to PPF installation.
Matt and I trained together in PPF installation in early 2017 for a whole week. Feeling overconfident, we returned to the studio with rolls and rolls of film to start practising before offering our services to the public. Once out of the training room, we soon realised we had a long way to go! I couldn’t put a number on the hours we spent perfecting our installation skills. But we likely went through £10k worth of film in practice before we were ready for our first customer job.
We’ve been installing for around five and a half years and can say we learn something on every job. We’re always trying to raise our standards just a little bit more, trying to find improvements. Thankfully our wastage rates have come down since those early days! But we still throw templates on the floor and cut another one when we’re not entirely happy. It has to be perfect for our clients every time!
Reasons you shouldn’t install PPF yourself.
Have you ever tried installing a screen protector on your phone? Many people will tell us they struggled and didn’t get it right the first time. That’s a flat piece of stiff or rigid film onto a flat glass screen. Now add a few curves…
Very few things PPF is installed onto (barring pillars) are flat. Even the flattest-looking bonnet isn’t actually flat. When you lay a PPF template onto a panel, it doesn’t actually lay straight on. Usually, it will be slightly smaller than the panel (generally shorter) because it needs tension to remove material gathers to cope with convex and concave shapes. But it isn’t a case of just tugging the film into place and slapping it down because it will mark the glue – and because PPF is see-through, you’ll see the glue.
On something complex like a bumper, proper alignment is critical to a good install. Misaligning a parking sensor, or around trim, by just a millimetre or two in the centre, then again halfway across, could easily lead to 5mm of misalignment out the outer edges. If you don’t get it right, it simply doesn’t fit, and will look awful, potentially leaving paint exposed.
Installations are very sensitive to the chemistry of the solutions we use. We might tweak the slip solution depending on the temperature, humidity, and complexity of the panels we’re working on. Without understanding that relationship getting a decent install will be much more difficult.
At best, poorly installed pieces will look horrible and leave paint exposed that could have been covered. At worst, we’ve seen installs that have left horrible cut marks in the paint where people have tried to rectify their install mistakes by trimming the film without knowing how to (it’s a very delicate operation!). Cheap films sometimes have very aggressive glue, and removing it from a panel, especially without the correct tools and technique, could take the paint off with it, a costly mistake.
Honestly, PPF is something to leave to professionals. So rather than asking, “Can I install PPF myself?” Pick up the phone and call us!