One of the most common concerns of new vehicle owners, or those who’ve had their vehicle repainted, is how to keep the new paint looking just as perfect as the day it was sprayed. High quality waxes and polishes can make the paint sparkle and shine but they have no ability to protect the paint from the ravages of the open road. This is an issue everywhere but especially for those owners who live in areas where they get two seasons per year: Winter and Road Construction. What can vehicle owners use to protect their pride and joy from things like gravel, dirt, sand, salt and other road projectiles?
For many years vinyl nose masks, or “bras”, have been popular. While they are widely available, they have downsides; they vibrate at speed and can scratch the paint they’re designed to protect, they don’t always fit very well, and they’re prime bait for thieves. Some creative owners have had custom-built Lexan shields installed, acting almost as body armor. Others have gone “low tech” and attached things like window screens and Saran wrap to their cars in the hopes of adding a little protection.
In the recent years, paint protection film technology has grown rapidly to the point where it has become a viable alternative. Numerous companies have popped up offering various types of protective kits and films for most vehicles. Roadfly paid a visit to two of the most popular companies, Dynashield and Invinca-Shield, to get a close-up look at what paint protection film is all about. We met with the owners of Dynashield, Mike and Brenda Messer, and Thomas Bell of Invinca-Shield, and discovered there was a lot more to paint protection film than meets the eye (or the hood, or the fenders…). We also watched as the Messers installed one of their kits on to a brand new Infiniti G35 coupe and learned that the performance of the film is directly related to how well it is designed and applied. While the more adventurous reader may be tempted to self-install their own kit, many will find that having an experienced installer makes a big difference in how well the protection film looks and performs.
Dynashield is located in Jonesboro, Georgia, which is south of Atlanta. While the company has only been around for 18 months, Messer has many years of experience with aerospace composite materials in both military and commercial aviation. His first experience with paint protection film came several years ago when he had a kit installed on his personal truck. He immediately recognized the technology – the grandfather of automotive protection films is used on helicopter blades to prevent abrasion which degrades performance (remember that a helicopter’s blade plays the same role as an airplane’s wing, the spinning rotor creates lift which allows a helicopter to fly). Both Messer and Bell are quick to point out that modern automotive protection films are not “helicopter tape”, and those who claim it is are simply ignoring the new technology of current products.
Both Dynashield and Invinca-Shield custom-design and manufacture their kits using computer software and a sophisticated digital pattern-cutting machine. This eliminates a potentially serious problem as there is no free hand cutting involved. Many installers of other kits have to use knives to cut the film during installation and this could lead to paint damage if a mistake is made. The software and cutting machines were major investments, but both companies feel it gives them a big advantage over the competition. Dynashield primarily uses protection film from two companies, 3M and Venture, while Invinca-Shield uses 3M products almost exclusively. Each have advantages and disadvantages and Messer from Dynashield discusses the differences with every customer before producing the kit. After the kit has been cut, attention focuses on prepping the car, and this is where the similarities between Dynashield and Invinca-Shield end. Dynashield wants the customer to bring his or her car to their shop or one of their handful of installers.
After a day with the Messer’s, we learned the ropes of their technique. Each car is hand washed before it’s pulled into their workshop. The workshop itself is impressive; ventless, sealed and insulated with air conditioning and a 3-micron air filter making for ideal work conditions. The shop is not for show; it provides a controlled atmosphere that assures a top quality installation by eliminating dust and other particles from interfering and causing durability problems in the future. Once in the shop, Brenda Messer carefully preps the areas to be protected by using an adhesive remover to take off wax, paint sealant, bug residue and any contaminants. That’s followed by a swirl mark remover which removes light scratches and polishes the paint to perfection.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Dynashield kit is the use of up to 48″ wide sheets of film instead of the more common 24″ wide sheets. For many vehicles this allows for one-piece protection on large areas such as the hood. The larger sheets eliminate seams and edges, giving a clean look to the installation. It makes for a challenging installation; however, and only a few shops have successfully installed a Dynashield kit. Messer makes it look easy by using a steam buggy to set the film instead of a heat gun which he believes can blister the film if used carelessly. The entire installation process can take up to 12-14 hours when done by the Messers. Many vehicle owners leave their cars overnight, and some even have them trucked-in to be worked on. While we were visiting, a BMW Z8 was parked in the Messer’s garage, awaiting its application of paint protection film before being extensively driven.
Dynashield focuses on the high-end vehicles of the automotive landscape, producing kits for brands such as Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes, Infiniti and a few select models such as the Nissan 350Z. Contact Dynashield directly at http://www.dynashield.com or (770) 471-8598 if you are interested in their products. Along with the front-end bra they offer door edge guards and headlight guards. They also offer less expensive kit alternatives for those who want to install it themselves.
Speaking of do-it-your kits, Invinca-Shield is the premiere source for do-it-yourself car buffs. Invinca-Shield is one of the most popular choices because they make ready to apply film protection for over 4,000 car models. Numerous shops all around the country can apply Invinca-Shield on your car, but they are quick to point out that their product is very user-friendly. An instructional video comes with every purchase, along with all of the tools to get that professional look. The kit also includes a few sample pieces to experiment with before tackling the big job.
Invinca-Shield is based out of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, and has eight full-time employees. The company has been in business for more than seven years, which has allowed it to collect an extensive library of templates that cover almost all cars produced in the last 10 years. Kits for many popular classics are also available. The entire library is on a database that enables easy access, ensuring same-day order processing in most cases.
Templates for motorcycles, boats, RVs, racecars and commercial trucks are also available. Another thing that sets Invinca-Shield apart from the competition is the ability for customers to order individual pieces instead of only complete kits. This is ideal for cars that may have aftermarket accessories.
As far as installation is concerned, “patience is key” according to Invinca-Shield CEO Thomas Bell. He described applying the film as being very similar to applying window tinting or wallpaper, “but dealing with the contour is a factor,” he added. “It’s much easier to apply the film to the flat front of a Ford F150 than to the front of a compound-curved Maserati.”
One of the biggest concerns with paint protection film is the effect of aging, but there’s no need to worry. The film will not yellow because it contains a UV protection agent that prevents discoloration. It still allows the sun’s rays to penetrate the film, which keeps the covered areas from looking more vibrant than unprotected portions. So, if for any reason you decided to take the film off, your paint would not appear two-toned afterwards. Also, the film will not remove any paint or have any other kind of effect on properly painted surfaces when taken off. If Invinca-Shield sounds like the right fit for you, contact them at http://www.invinca-shield.com or (336) 838-1392.
After visiting the shops, we were left with the clear impression that proper installation of paint protection film is the most important component in obtaining a top quality, durable product. While a do-it-yourself kit may be tempting to those trying to save a few bucks or just feel like tackling this project, it would be a good idea to explore all the options available before plunking down your hard earned cash. Whichever direction you take, there is no question paint protection has come a long way from black vinyl bras and pieces of plastic wrap flapping in the wind.
Justin Downum and Steve Litscher contributed to this article. All photography courtesy of Bret Frazier.