Your car’s paint can really take a beating. Over the course of your vehicle’s life, it will get scratched, dinged, and damaged. Weather, road debris, and other motorists can harm your car all too easily, so it’s smart to add another layer of protection over your paint. Waxes and other detailing products can help, but a protective film takes things up a notch. The best part is you can do it yourself.

This type of job used to be restricted to those willing to shell out a lot of money for professional installation, but these days, there are several DIY products out there. Putting a plastic film on your car by yourself takes some patience and precision. If you’re handy, you should be able to get it done on your own with few issues.

The Types of Protector Film

Paint protector plastic film

There are several different protector film products available. Typically they fall into two different categories. There’s a spray-on protection film and a pre-cut plastic film. Both do the same job and can be used for essentially any type of vehicle.

When shopping for a good product, make sure to go with a reputable brand. One that is worth looking into is 3M. The company offers both types of protector film products and is well-respected. The products come with written instructions, and there are also instructional videos available online.

The installation process is different for every product. It depends on the brand and type of protector film you choose. Still, there are a few things you'll always need to do no matter what brand or product you choose.

Man cleaning the car before he puts on the protector film

Here are some tips for successfully installing your protection film no matter what type or brand you purchase:

  • Gather All Tools and Supplies Before You Start
    Don’t start your installation without all tools and supplies close at hand. Some protection films will need certain steps done in a timely manner, and you can’t waste too much time looking for the right tools or supplies.
  • Prepare Your Vehicle Exactly How the Instructions State
    Every product will have slightly different preparation steps. It’s imperative that you prep your vehicle exactly how the instructions say you should. If you don’t, you could have trouble with the installation or get a poor end result. All products will have you clean the car beforehand, as the film needs a clean surface to adhere to.
  • Provide a Clean Working Environment When Applying the Protector Film
    Cleanliness is important for the car, but also for the workspace you’re using. If you have a lot of dirt or dust flying around, that’s going to make its way onto or under the film. Make sure you have a reasonably clean garage to work in.
  • Ask a Friend Help With the Installation
    Putting on a protector film isn’t necessarily a two-person job, but an extra set of hands never hurt. There will be times, depending on the kit, where you may feel like you need an extra hand. Call a friend you know you’ll work well with and ask them to help you out before you get started.

Doing the Installation

Car Protector film installation

While installation instructions will vary from product to product, for the most part, the installation will be similar to one of the two videos below depending on the type of product you chose. Watch the videos below to get an idea as to what the installation process is like. The product you buy will likely come with its own instructions. Stick with the manufacturer's instructions when doing the installation.

Spray Protector Film Installation

Here are the steps outlined in the video:

  1. Start with a clean vehicle.
  2. Mask the vehicle with a plastic tarp to keep spray from getting anywhere else on the car. Cut the plastic to expose the hood and tape it in place.
  3. Tape a line 45 centimeters up from the tip of the hood.
  4. Wax the application area before spraying the film.
  5. Start spraying the hood left to right on half of the hood. Apply three continuous coats without stopping. Use a left to right, then up and down, and then left to right again to make sure it’s fully covered. Keep the nozzle 15 to 20 centimeters from the surface.
  6. Repeat step five on the other side of the hood.
  7. Check and touch up as needed.
  8. Before the film dries, remove the line of tape 45 centimeters up from the front of the hood.
  9. Let the coating dry for two to four hours.
  10. Once dry, remove masking materials and park in direct sunlight.

Plastic Sheeting Protector Film Installation

Here are the steps outlined in the video:

  1. Clean the exterior of the car with a slip solution and clay bar. Next, spray tack solution and wipe down with a microfiber cloth. Then wipe alcohol to the edges of the body panel where the film will go. Spray your slip solution on car surface and squeegee away the solution.
  2. Spray the car with your slip solution.
  3. Roll the plastic pattern on the vehicle and spray the exposed adhesive side of the plastic as you put it over the car.
  4. Spray slip solution under the plastic and align it in the proper position.
  5. Once it’s properly positioned spray the tack solution and begin to squeegee away any air bubbles. Get the outside edges aligned and then do the center of the hood and work out. You should use overlapping strokes to ensure there are no bubbles under the film.

If you’re adding the film to the front bumper too, do all the same steps outlined above, but make sure to adhere the film at the center of the bumper with the tack solution before you work around to the outer edges of the bumper.