It's a gritty, grimy, messy world out there. And every time you head out on the highway, your Corvette has to face up to it. A vinyl nose bra is one way to fend off the ravages of rock chips, but it can't cover your headlights, and who wants to obscure a Corvette's spectacular hues, such as Torch Red or Atomic Orange?
Which leads us to paint-protection film. Unlike a vinyl nose bra, it's nearly invisible, and it can be applied not only to the front bumper and valance, but also to the headlights, side mirrors, and doors—actually, the entire car, if so desired. (Indeed, we've heard that a number of '14 Stingray buyers are virtually enveloping their new Corvettes to shelter their investment.)
Not all films are created equal, though. XPEL's founder, Tim Hartt, was originally a distributor and pattern maker for another well-known film manufacturer, but he decided to improve on the product's clarity and longevity, among other features, and introduced his own line in 2006.
Today, the XPEL's most popular clear-film product is the Ultimate, consisting of a polyurethane film with an acrylic polymer adhesive on the underside, plus a clearcoat made of elastomeric polymers on top. Referring to this new, elastic topside coating, Hartt says, "That's where the magic happens." How so?
XPEL's Ultimate actually has the ability to "self-heal" micro scratches, he claims, since elastomeric polymer tends to flow somewhat, filling in lower spots, especially in the presence of heat. Primarily, though, the XPEL film is designed to prevent chipping from pebbles and other debris, as well as contamination from road oils that can collect in the pores of the paint and cause yellowing.
Hartt also points out that cars operated certain areas of the country need extra protection. In the Southeast, swarming love bugs can cake up on paint and eat into the finish. Road salt, meanwhile, poses an obvious problem in colder climates, while airborne pollutants are a constant hazard in some urban areas. With XPEL's film, these contaminants wash off easily with standard car soap, and the surface can be waxed or polished for extra protection along with a show-quality shine.
Whatever your location or climate, having an extra layer of protection makes good sense—not only to avoid the cost of a repaint, but to keep your Corvette's finish looking new.
01 The XPEL film comes in pre-cut patterns mounted on white backing paper. Typically it’s installed by a professional trim shop, as it requires a fair amount of expertise and fitting time. After peeling off an edge, the film is attached to the body, and the rest of the backing is separated as it’s unrolled.
02 A liquid solution with a gel polymer (previously sprayed on the body) keeps things moist, allowing the film to be adjusted into exactly the right position. Any excess of wetting solution is then squeegeed off.
03 To eliminate trapped air, some sections might require lifting, re-spraying, and reapplication.
04 Some areas are more intricate than others, such as around the hood emblem. The XPEL film has the outline of the emblem area already cut into it, but this insert needs to be peeled off during installation.
05 The edges of the emblem cutout must be carefully aligned between the crossed flags and the air intake.
06 Some body areas, such as the lower valance, have multiple and reverse contours, requiring the use of a heat gun to stretch and mold the film for a proper fit.
07 Since they protrude into the airstream, side mirrors attract bugs like flypaper, but XPEL’s film can be stretched over the cone of the mirror to provide invisible protection from insect splatters.
08 Areas subject to road rash, such as adjacent to the wheelwells, can be protected as well.
09 Door edges and recesses are subject to wear and tear, along with dirt and oils from fingertips, so they, too, can benefit from the film. It can even be replaced easily, since any adhesive residue rubs off by hand.
10 One clear advantage—literally—of XPEL film over a vinyl bra is that it can applied to headlights.
11 The fender area next to the headlight can be covered with film as well.
12 After a loose fitting, a squeegee removes trapped air and helps fit the pre-cut pattern into position next to the headlight rim.
13 Additional application of the polymer gel solution ensures tight adhesion on areas subject to high airflow.
14 Once installed and dry, the XPEL film is barely visible. Pricing depends on the extent of coverage but starts as low as $500 for small sections. Covering larger areas, including the entire vehicle, runs anywhere from $2,500 to $4,000. That’s still less than a new paint job, which would be subject to fresh damage as well.