Why your car needs a clear bra

Why your car needs a clear bra

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Many car owners choose to have clear bra paint protection film applied to their vehicle. Clear bra is sometimes referred to as an invisible shield, clear wrap or clear mask – all these terms mean the same thing, but we’ll stick with clear bra.

Having clear bra installed on a car helps to keep it in great condition for a longer period of time than if it was left exposed. The protective film provides a superb defense for the car against external elements which can damage its appearance and reduce market value. However, a high-quality clear bra can protect from chips, scratches and dents caused by rocks, bushes and road debris.

Furthermore, a car with clear bra is well-guarded against corrosion, rust and acidic contamination thanks to the urethane used in the film. In practice, this protects the paintwork from acidic rain, bug splatter and bird droppings, all of which can leave unpleasant staining on the car, ruining the aesthetics. Moreover, this layer of urethane prevents oxidization which can otherwise occur due to sun exposure. A clear bra also stops the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays from fading the paintwork.

The elastomeric polymers used in the protective film gives it a remarkable healing quality. Therefore, if the film becomes slightly damaged from scratches, the film can return to its original state with its full protective ability, without leaving a mark on the car.

Investing in a clear bra is a very prudent move, as the upfront cost is paid back multiple times in the future, when you don’t have to fork out for minor repairs and touch-ups. A clear bra also ensures that your car looks as amazing as it did the day you bought it in the months and years ahead.

Limitations of a clear bra

While a clear bra will offer unrivalled protection for your car, it’s important to stick with the facts and not get carried away by all the claimed benefits. Unfortunately, the internet doesn’t always contain accurate and complete information. That’s why, in this article, we’ll give you the full picture on clear bra protection films, assessing their benefits, possible downsides and limitations.

There is no magic way to protect your vehicle from all damage. For instance, if it gets hit by a large rock or piece of debris, there is going to be a dent. If you don’t maintain your vehicle on a regular basis and clean away droppings, the film will eventually degrade and leave a stain on the paint. Installing a clear bra does not mean that you’ll never have to wash your car, although you may not have to do so quite as often.

However, what a clear bra does do very successfully is protect from more subtle factors which cause deterioration over time. Clear bra offers a way to stop the fading and stains which would otherwise be unavoidable. These benefits may seem small, but you’ll notice a huge difference when your car still looks as good as new after years on the road.

Understanding clear bra technology

Clear bra technology was not originally designed for use on cars, but as a protection for United States helicopters in the Vietnam War. Leading rotor blade damage was causing the helicopters to crash, leaving the military in desperate need of a lightweight but strong material which offered sufficient protection. Replacing rotor blades was a very expensive process, but the urethane films developed by US manufacturing company, 3M, solved the problem. In addition to the rotor blades, the film was later applied to the noses of fighter jets.

Urethane films have also been used in NASCAR so that advertisement decals on the front of the vehicles maintained their appearance, protecting from chips. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that clear bra technology became available to the general public. Since their introduction, the automobile industry has embraced these protective films, with the vast majority of car manufacturers approving their use.

How is clear bra protective film made?

After spending money on a car, the last thing you want to do is apply a material to it without knowing what it is. As we touched on, urethane is the most important compound used in the film, and it works so effectively because of its transparent and lightweight features. Urethane is a sturdy polymer made from carbamate links and is not dissimilar to one of the greatest inventions of the modern world, plastic. However, urethane has a much higher resistance than plastic, meaning it can be used to prevent corrosion and impact damage. Nor is urethane brittle or prone to cracking. Ideally, urethane is a flexible material, so it can always retake its original shape following disfiguration.

You have probably heard of the word ‘polyurethane’ in areas unrelated to vehicles. The material is excellent for sealing up bathroom tiles so that fungus and mildew does not accumulate. Polyurethane is also used in American football shoulder pads and can be used to provide protection for underwater cables. Urethane continues to be used by the military. There remains no comparison for the incredible resistance and strength of the compound, which makes it a great candidate as a material to protect from wear and tear in any industry. Clear bra made with urethane is 0.008 inches or 8 mils thick, which seems wafer-thin, but in reality, offers a strong protective casing for the car.

Layers of clear bra film

Urethane is the middle layer of three in a clear bra film – some protective films are made with more than three layers, however. The top layer of a protective car film consists of elastomeric polymers, which as we know are effective at managing light scratching. These polymers also stop bird droppings and bug splatter from bonding with the rest of the film – the low surface energy of the material acts as a repellent to the compounds in the droppings and splatter.

The bottom layer of the clear bra is made with flexible acrylic adhesive which is able to neatly wrap around ridges and contours, thoroughly encasing the vehicle. This long-lasting adhesive is completely invisible and does not cause any damage or deterioration to the paintwork.

Addressing your clear bra concerns

Providing that the clear bra film has been installed correctly, it will be completely transparent and maintain the clarity of the paintwork. However, several years down the line, it is possible that some level of deterioration will occur. There are stories of the clear bra peeling, blistering and yellowing after it has been on the car for a long time – the good news is that there are steps you can take to avoid all of these. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Peeling

Poor application of the clear bra, or use of a low-quality film, may cause peeling – this is where the film peels away from the paintwork. However, peeling can also happen with bad maintenance, especially if cleaning the vehicle with a pressure washer.

To prevent peeling, leave at least a one-foot gap between the nozzle of the pressure washer and the car, and take extra care when cleaning exposed edges. The force of the water can cause the film to lift and peel when exerted on the edges of the bodywork.

Blistering

Blistering is the result of small pockets of air forming underneath the protective film. This happens when the clear bra has been applied poorly. Air bubbles are typically the result of small contaminants getting stuck under the film, preventing the bottom layer of the clear bra from forming a tight bond to the paint. These small gaps can become bigger over time, creating unwanted bubbles in the film and reducing its effectiveness.

Installing a clear bra is not an easy process, and that’s why it’s best left to a professional, who can take care of the painstaking preparation which is vital for a quality application. Before sticking the film to the paint, the car should be thoroughly washed and polished. Claying the car is another essential step to remove contaminants from the surface. Providing that a high-quality clear bra has been applied by an experienced professional, the potential for blistering is negligible.

Yellowing

Some people have reported yellowing a few years after the clear bra was applied – this is a concern, as yellowing to the paintwork will undoubtedly affect the aesthetics of the vehicle. The lighter the paint, the more of a problem that yellowing could be. Yellowing was one of the first and most common complaints about clear bras when they first started to be installed on consumer motors in the 1990s.

It turns out that this yellowing was happening because of a certain type of adhesive that was being used to bond the protective film to the car’s bodywork. The impact of the sun’s UV rays beaming down on this adhesive was discoloration, or yellowing. Therefore, manufacturers started to look for an alternative adhesive that did not cause this effect. Their search brought them to acrylic adhesives, which have now become commonplace in the clear bra industry. The beauty of acrylic is that it is UV resistant, eliminating the risk of oxidization and discoloration. Ever since then, there has been no problem with yellowing.

However, the prospect of yellowing reinforces the value of having your clear bra applied by a professional. They know exactly what materials are suitable for your car to stop discoloration.

While peeling, blistering and yellowing are all issues that you should be aware of, remember that all of these can be avoided by not cutting corners. By using high-quality products and conducting the proper maintenance, you can make sure that these defects are not an issue.

Final thoughts on clear bra

Getting a clear bra for your prized vehicle is a fantastic idea – it offers excellent protection for the paint without causing any side effects. None of us want to be worried about rock chips damaging the car bumper, and with a clear bra, there’s no need to be. And having a clear bra can be particularly useful if you live in an urban area or have to leave your vehicle in a car park all the time, where knocks and scrapes can be an inevitability. Rather than being forced to take care of each and every scuff, with a clear bra, what would otherwise be small bits of damage are non-existent.

Here’s what to expect from having a clear bra applied to your car:

  • Eliminates the need to repaint the bumper every few years
  • Long-term protection of the bodywork
  • Increased market value in the long run thanks to the bodywork protection
  • Clear bra is the best way to stop scratches on matte paint

The early worries about clear bra have subsided, and manufacturers now know which compounds are appropriate for use on the car. The flexible urethane film allows the clear bra to keep its shape, even after being smattered by rock chips. Meanwhile, the fading that happens to all cars without protection is not a problem with a film-covered car, because of the acrylic adhesive layer which guards against UV rays.

It’s clear that waxing alone doesn’t do enough to protect the paintwork of the car. Wax needs to be applied every few weeks. While it might give the car a gorgeous gloss, waxing does not provide the scratch-resistant layer that clear bra does. Moreover, using wax on a car with matte paint is not recommended.

It may be a good idea to have a clear bra, and then top that up with a nanotechnology coating, such as ceramic coating. This will double up protection from scratches, while further negating the risk of discoloration and yellowing.

However, do bear in mind that to get all the benefits of clear bra, it needs to be applied with expert care. To guarantee that your vehicle is fully protected, and that the clear bra will stand the test of time, consult a professional. An expert technician will take care of any washing, claying and polishing that needs doing before applying the clear bra.

 

 

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