You’re not alone if the thought of even a small scratch on your Tesla makes you wince. Tesla owners invest in exterior protection heavily, go directly from dealer lot to customization shop on delivery day, and even plan what upgrades to get before finalizing their car orders.
It just makes sense. When there is trailblazing technology inside your car, you want the outside to match. Fortunately, there are lots of innovative after-market upgrades designed to help extend the like-new look of your Tesla’s exterior for years. Today, we’re breaking down five such products: skid plates, vinyl wraps, paint protection film, window tint and ceramic coatings.
A skid plate is a sheet or strip made of abrasion-resistant metal or plastic. It’s attached to the underside of your car, and off-road vehicles sometimes come from the factory with them already in place.
Installation: Some skid plates require bolts, while others are attached with adhesive. Installation is quick, and Tesla owners may choose just the front, just the back, or both bumpers.
Benefits: Skid plates protect your car in off-road driving conditions and also shield against damage from scraping against pavement, potholes, curbs, parking blocks and steep driveways.
Limitations: Skid plates vary quite a bit in style and can be visible, so make sure you like the look before you have one installed. They’re also a long-term commitment, as some installation methods damage the finish or body of a car where they’re attached.
Popular Brands: Bumper Bully, Bumpshox, Parking Armor, SLiPLO
Vinyl wraps are about 3 mils thick on average, and come in a broad range of colors and styles. They can even be printed with custom artwork.
Installation: Wraps are applied directly to paint, using a “dry” process that uses heat to mold it to the contours of your car. Wraps can cover all paint, select areas, and even windows. Window coverage is typically reserved for bus ads and promo vehicles.
Benefits: Wraps allow you to completely transform car paint at a cost much lower than a custom paint job. The result is minimally protective and mostly for aesthetics.
Limitations: Warranties typically last 2-3 years, although many products promise a much longer life. Expert installers are required for removal and/or reapplication. Once scratched or nicked, a vinyl wrap is permanently damaged.
Popular Brands: 3M, Arlon, Avery, Oracal
Paint Protection Films
Paint protection film (or PPF) is an optically clear, polyurethane film with a glossy or matte hydrophobic top coat that self-heals scratches with heat from your engine or the sun. It’s typically around 8 mils thick.
Installation: PPF is applied directly to paint, in select areas or all over your car. It’s a “wet” process that requires a liquid solution to activate the film’s adhesive and at least 24 hours of drying time. Coverage ranges from spot areas to a full wrap, which covers all painted surfaces.
Benefits: PPF keeps your car finish looking great with a virtually invisible barrier of defense against swirl marks, scratches, flying rocks, bird droppings, insects, road grime and more. This protection comes with a 5-10 year warranty.
Limitations: Quality of installation has a huge impact on the look and performance of PPF, so almost all brands recommend professional installation at a reputable shop. Installation prices vary from region to region.
Popular Brands: SunTek, LLumar, 3M, Xpel
Window tints are typically PET (polyethylene terephthalate) film combined with dyes and a layer of adhesive. They are designed to protect your car’s interior from sun damage. Many have other advanced additives to enhance performance, such as nano-ceramics or carbon. They’re available in shades from dark to light to nearly clear.
Installation: Tint is applied to the inside of front, side and rear car windows, using a “wet” method similar to what’s used for PPF.
Benefits: Window tints upgrade any car with a head-turning custom look. Shades of all darkness levels block UV rays to help keep your car’s interior from fading or cracking with sun damage.
Limitations: The look you want might be illegal where you live. Many states restrict what tint darkness can be installed where. Incorrectly installed tint is unattractive and costly when you need a do-over. For this reason, professional products and installation are often recommended over less expensive DIY kits.
Popular Brands: SunTek, LLumar, 3M, Xpel
Ceramic coating, also known as nano-ceramic coating, is a liquid typically containing small particles of silicon dioxide and other ingredients, which creates a hydrophobic surface over your paint.
Installation: Ceramic coating is a liquid that’s dripped onto an applicator and wiped over your entire car. Most ceramic coatings require direct heat from a heat lamp or “heat baking” to cure and dry, and they harden to form a uniform, microscopic layer.
Benefits: Ceramic coating provides resistance against scratches and makes bird droppings, insects and road grime slough off easily when you wash. Adds a beautiful, high-shine look to your paint.
Limitations: Ceramic coatings don’t offer any protection against rock chips and are definitely not permanent. Depending on the product you choose, life expectancy can be anywhere from 1-4 years.
Popular Brands: AvalonKing, Ceramic Pro, Modesta, Opti-coat
The exterior car care market is growing and innovating, giving you lots of choices and a constant stream of new and improved products. Let this overview and your personal preferences guide you as you research and decide how to polish and protect your Tesla’s individual look.
Wondering about combining exterior upgrades, or curious about a product not mentioned? Post your question in the comments.
Ready to protect your Tesla? Find a SunTek Dealer