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Model S XPEL Installation Article (PPF or clear bra)

Discussion in 'Model S: Interior & Exterior' started by KManS, Sep 22, 2017.

  1. KManS

    KManS Member

    Mar 28, 2016
    Overland Park, KS
    My history with "clear bras" goes back 20 years to when I acquired a Cosmos Black BMW that was notorious for getting rock chips. At the time I purchased a pre-cut kit from Invinca-shield that consisted of 3M material. I had to teach myself to install the kit and thankfully I had a lot of patience back then and the car didn't have too many curves on the front bumper. Since that time I've either installed or had installed on my cars some form of clear bra style protection. Fast forward to May of last year when I purchased a brand new GT4 from a dealership in Chicago. The shop the dealership used was a certified XPEL installer so I had my car covered with the new XPEL Ultimate film before driving it back to Kansas City from Chicago.

    Over the last year plus the GT4 has seen plenty of use including high speed track use and I am pleased to say that the XPEL has held up like a champ, completely protecting the covered areas of my car. You can see my prior installation on the GT4 at this link: Ultimate Film - Articles

    One thing I noticed about the XPEL film as compared to the prior clear bras I had is that the XPEL film didn't haze up or get micro scratches in it but rather has stayed nice and smooth and shiny, all while protecting the car. When I decided to fly to Tampa Florida and pick up a 2013 P85+ CPO car from Tesla I wanted to get XPEL installed for the drive back to KC. Sadly there were no installers in the area with availability that met our travel schedule so I drove the car back and picked up 2 rock chips along the way. Ugh. I called XPEL and they referred me to the Auto Glass and Tint Shop in Merriam, KS, one of their premier XPEL installers:

    I called the shop and scheduled an installation. Before the install, I had some prep work to do. I picked up some pearl white touch up paint and touched up the rock chips (could be a whole separate article!) and I took my car to a local detailer for a mild paint correction. I wanted the car's paint to be as defect free as possible before installing the XPEL film and because after the XPEL install I planned to coat my car with a Ceramic nanoparticle coating (yet another article). Here are some images of my car before the install:

    For those who don't know, the way an XPEL install typically works is that the shop downloads the pattern from XPEL corporate and then creates the pieces on a giant plotter machine at the shop. Those pieces are then used on the car. I had decided to go with full coverage for the front bumper, full coverage for the hood, full fenders & mirrors, then added rocker panel coverage and behind the rear wheels coverage. You can see the patterns and kits available for your car on Here are a couple of images of some of the high end equipment at Auto Glass and Tint:

    When I arrived at the shop to shoot some pictures (thanks to Auto Glass and Tint for letting me do so!) the first thing I noticed was the installer was wiping down the edges of my hood. I had watched the GT4 install and I didn't recall this taking place so I asked about it. It turns out that XPEL makes a paint protection film surface prep liquid that helps ensure that the surface is clean and that the film will properly adhere when wrapped around the edges.

    The first area of the car that was covered was the hood and the piece was so large that to adequately install it took 2 people, so again, this isn't probably something you want to try and tackle by yourself at home.

    I watched as the installer worked all the water from the spray bottle out from under the PPF material as well as any air bubbles. When an area of the car proved to be somewhat difficult the installer used a piece of equipment that I had not seen prior installers use, a steamer. I asked about the steamer as I had seen other installers use a heat gun or a hair dryer but never a steamer. Evidently, the steamer is the preferred method that XPEL teaches when certifying their premier installers as opposed to a hair dryer or heat gun that can damage the film if not used properly. In addition, the steamer helps keep the material flexible and lubricated while also making it more pliable and easier to work with in more difficult areas. I would recommend finding an installer like Auto Glass and Tint that uses this method now that I've seen in done first hand.

    I wanted to get some images of the patterns after they were cut on the plotter but it is hard to pick up the very fine cut lines on the material with a camera. The installer was nice enough to put a piece up on the glass cutting wall so I could capture an image of him peeling back the pattern from the glass. The installer actually prefers to line up the pattern on the car first and then peel back as he works his way across the surface as shown in the next couple of images:

    After tackling both fenders the installer turned his attention to the mirrors and then rocker panels and the quarter panel just behind the rear wheels. I attempted to get some pictures of these areas but on a white car it is pretty hard to see the film unless you look closely or run your hand across the surface:

    After those areas were finished he turned his attention to the front bumper and black nose cone. For the most part those areas went on fairly smoothly despite the compound curves. Evidently, XPEL uses laser imaging to help create the 2D patterns to accurately fit a 3D surface. The front bumper piece also came with hole pre-cut for the parking sensors so there was NO cutting on my car.
    The only issue we ran into was the lower bumper lip piece when the angle on one end of the piece didn't line up exactly with the other side of the bumper piece that had already been installed. At this point most shops would be left with a couple of options, either they would install the piece and leave a gap where the pieces didn't line up exactly right, or the installer would over-stretch the piece and then cut on the car to try and make it line up. Neither one of those options is preferable so my installer decided to create a new piece. I didn't know that installers had the ability to create new pattern pieces, but with the right training and right software the installer is able to modify the existing pattern on the computer and send a pattern update to the plotter and cut a new piece. In all my years of watching these installs I had never seen this done. The installer said that it happens from time to time, especially when panels don't quite line up right or minute differences cause things not to line up. Here is the installer making adjustments to the pattern on the computer:

    After this piece was re-cut and installed the car was finished. The installer went over the entire car looking for any bubbles or edges that had lifted, etc. Then the car is left in their shop overnight so the pieces can set up on the car. I came back the following day and after another inspection by the installer I was handed my warranty card and information and sent on my way. I immediately drove home and put the car in the garage so it would be ready for me to apply the Ceramic coating next. It is better to put the Ceramic coating on top of the paint protection film than underneath it. I'd like to thank both XPEL for making such terrific film and patterns as well as Auto Glass & Tint for doing a great install job and taking the time to educate me on their install process and of course to allow me to take photos so I could share them here! If you have any questions please feel free to reply below or PM me and I will do my best to answer them!


    The car safely back at home, no more rock chips! Woot!
    (I should also say that the combination of XPEL and a Ceramic coating makes the car SUPER EASY to clean, and of course very shiny!)
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