A short lesson on protecting and enhancing a vehicle's finish

Jan. 1, 2020
One of the most popular vinyl treatments today is something you can't see. We're talking about virtually invisible, paint-protection film that used to be only for preserving the finish on high-end exotics. But as material costs have dropped, it's bec
Custom Bay protection film automtive film vehicle film vehicle graphics Sharpline Converting Duurashield Mr. Norm's Garage specialty parts vehicle accessories

One of the most popular vinyl treatments today is something you can't see. We're talking about virtually invisible, paint-protection film that used to be only for preserving the finish on high-end exotics. But as material costs have dropped, it's become suitable for more consumers.

"You don't have to own a Ferrari to use our DuraShield clear urethane," points out Sharpline's marketing director Greg Duchinsky. "It's now much more affordable." And as custom paint jobs have risen markedly in cost in recent years, it only makes sense that more and more consumers are looking for a cost-effective way to keep the vehicles' surfaces from getting scratched and pitted.
For independent shops, this trend can be a new and more profitable source of revenue, as paint protection film is more expensive than traditional graphic treatments, because of the product's thicker material and different composition. The basic tools and techniques are similar, but a more thorough, time-consuming installation is involved, allowing the pro to include a labor upcharge.
Showing how a clear film goes on a vehicle is difficult to show in photos, however, so we chose instead to illustrate the techniques involved using a graphics package for a Mr. Norm's RPO Series L/48 Camaro. This vehicle features an authentic interpretation of the classic, first-generation Bumble Bee nose stripe and exterior accents, visually signaling a comprehensive array of accessories.
Whether you install bold graphics or an invisible film (or even both together), the cost of the materials is low, the profit margin is high and installation is fairly simple. Sharpline doesn't actually manufacture the vinyl (it's usually made by either 3M or Avery), but instead is called a "converter." Only a few companies nationwide are full-service converters, which typically handle a variety of services, such as fabricating, die cutting and screen and digital printing.
Sharpline's product lineup features a range of visual treatments, including various types of carbon fiber, (called CarbonFade), barbed wire (RadWire), metallics (Saber), retro-style (Flashback), flames (StreetHeat) and diamond-plate chrome finish (one of the most popular, especially on trucks). The company handles custom requests and design services.

Whatever the type and size of vinyl, the application process is fairly similar and easy to learn. But it's not a do-it-yourself product, as a certain level of expertise and technique is involved. Once you get the hang of it, though, the graphics go on pretty quickly, and your customers will be impressed with how much they spiff up a sports car or protect the paint.

Steve Temple is a freelance technical writer and photographer with more than 25 years' experience. He has served as director of sales and marketing for Shelby American and as online editor for major magazines such as Hot Rod, Car Craft and Rod & Custom.

Sponsored Recommendations

Best Body Shop and the 360-Degree-Concept

Spanesi ‘360-Degree-Concept’ Enables Kansas Body Shop to Complete High-Quality Repairs

ADAS Applications: What They Are & What They Do

Learn how ADAS utilizes sensors such as radar, sonar, lidar and cameras to perceive the world around the vehicle, and either provide critical information to the driver or take...

Boosting Your Shop's Bottom Line with an Extended Height Paint Booths

Discover how the investment in an extended-height paint booth is a game-changer for most collision shops with this Free Guide.

Discover the right Autel ADAS System for Your Shop and Business Model

Maximize your shop's profitability and efficiency with the right Autel ADAS system. At the cost of a typical alignment system, the Autel IA900 delivers an All Systems and Module...