Clear Bra Film Comparison (3M vs. Xpel vs. Stek vs. Suntek)

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2FOabQPBz4 Found this recent video that was posted by a 3M distributor. It appears to be a lab technician/engineer who is doing testing on the 3M PPF versus the Xpel, Stek and Suntek competitors. The 3M film appears to be the thickest of the group and appears to come out of this test with the least amount of damage. All of the other films were similar in thickness but still appeared to incur different amounts of damage. I think any PPF is better than none but I think this is an example where you have to consider a balance between protection and appearance. From my experience, the Suntek/Stek films have a significantly better appearance (less texture, more clear) than the 3M product. They are also more appropriate for using on cars with complex curves which becomes important if you are doing a full vehicle PPF job. But if appearance is not a concern and the highest level of protection is desired, perhaps 3M does have a better product?
 

The Critic

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Originally Posted by Pelican
Above all that is the person applying it, he/she MUST be competent.
Agreed. Edges lifting, fingers, contamination, paint being cut, etc are common issues that I see. Most clear bra applications require a follow-up appointment, especially the ones where full panels are wrapped.
 
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Originally Posted by The Critic
".......I think any PPF is better than none but I think this is an example where you have to consider a balance between protection and appearance. From my experience, the Suntek/Stek films have a significantly better appearance (less texture, more clear) than the 3M product. They are also more appropriate for using on cars with complex curves which becomes important if you are doing a full vehicle PPF job. But if appearance is not a concern and the highest level of protection is desired, perhaps 3M does have a better product?
I didn't watch the video when you mentioned it was a 3M distributor who created it. The end result was going to be obvious. Speaking from the perspective of having three "well-bra'd" vehicles, I agree with most of your paragraph above. I have 3M on the Altima, Suntek on the Outback, and STek on the Santa Fe. Both the Suntek and STek are a better quality product based on my personal experience. This is especially true when you have to apply a PPF film to a car with a lot of curves. And the overall appearance is better than the 3M. I disagree with your last sentence. If appearance is not a concern, why bother with the expense of a PPF? And as with a lot of things, the prep work on the areas receiving the PPF is CRITICAL. As in "wash, clay, and correct" before applying the film. Unfortunately, that's not always done by some installers and the end result shows the lack of prep work, regardless of the brand of the film being used.
 
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The Critic

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Originally Posted by dkryan
I disagree with your last sentence. If appearance is not a concern, why bother with the expense of a PPF? And as with a lot of things, the prep work on the areas receiving the PPF is CRITICAL. As in "wash, clay, and correct" before applying the film. Unfortunately, that's not always done by some installers and the end result shows the lack of prep work, regardless of the brand of the film being used.
If you take the 3M film out of the equation, the differences in appearance between the XPEL, STEK and Suntek films are more similar than different. For most customers the appearance is very acceptable. I agree that Suntek and STEK films look better, but most people will not see the differences unless the films are compared side-by-side. Prep work for PPF is an interesting topic. I agree on wash/clay and prepping the edges are critical. But correction is not always necessary for PPF. If the paint is in fairly good condition and only has light swirls, PPF will hide the defects. PPF will actually hide a lot of paint defects. Obviously if the panel has severe paint defects, oxidation or water spots, it should be addressed before install.
 
I like the idea of the films. Makes sense. Concerns I have. After lets say such 10 yr warranty it begins to fail. Then what? How well is it going to come off? Additionally, how good is this said "warranty". Does the warranty include labor to replace the film? Is it pro rated? I have known people spending a grip of money to have this done on their cars, some do the whole vehicle, then in 2 yrs sell their car?? Makes no sense. Note: these films do scratch and swirl just like paint does. Don't be fooled thinking they wont. When properly applied and properly maintained? I am sure they are great.
 
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The Critic

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Originally Posted by Jeffs2006EvoIX
I like the idea of the films. Makes sense. Concerns I have. After lets say such 10 yr warranty it begins to fail. Then what? How well is it going to come off? Additionally, how good is this said "warranty". Does the warranty include labor to replace the film? Is it pro rated?
The warranty is not prorated but only covers yellowing, cracking or a material failure of some type. I have seen films fail after 5-7 years and turn cloudy but this was the "older technology" films from the 2010 era. Removing the film required a heat gun and a steamer. The secret is to remove the film before it cracks and fails completely. I would expect all of these films to yellow over time, which is why wrapping entire panels is preferred. I have already seen some of the newer Suntek films turn slightly yellow (when placed side-by-side to new film) after only a few years. Most of these films are sensitive to maintenance and do tend to swirl more easily than paint, but some of them do have self-healing properties.
 
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I've had Suntek applied to the Sorento, JGC and RAV4 within a couple of days of getting them delivered as new vehicles. The film looks great on the Sorento, on its 5th year. Had the film installed full hood, front fascia, headlights, full front fenders, A pillars, mirror fronts, section of panel in front of sunroofs, door handle pockets for all the cars. Annual Krown spray as well. We get a lot of sand blasting with the winter roads up here, and I do keep cars 10+ years.
 
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I have the XPEL 10 year on a FIAT. Self healing. Very happy with result. Took all day. Prep, wash, clay-bar, etc is everything. My installer had won some international competitions for clear-bra installs. Been six years now. Never clear-bra'd a car before.
 
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Originally Posted by DAC17
Originally Posted by Pelican
Above all that is the person applying it, he/she MUST be competent.
This!
This, x2!! Incompetent install on my brand new Armada recently. Highly rated online, but my experience was painful and time consuming. In the end, was removed and fully refunded but at the cost of a few small hairline scratches that I can't prove were/weren't there before I bought it in. But they weren't there. Lesson learned, you get what you pay for! Or barter for in the OP's case! LOL
 
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Previously, I used the Suntek Ppf, but now I’ve chosen the F-performance Ppf. It seems to be more glossy, super hydrophobic, the insects are easily removed from the car after the highway. And it has perfect self-healing effect.
 
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If you are looking for a removable clear I would consider Plasti Dip. Personally I don't have the need for the protection as anything bug related gets washed off as soon as I get home. Rock chips get touched up when I feel like it. I do those with a toothpick.
 
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I have 3M Pro on hood/fenders/front bumper on my Golf R, and then coated with Gloss Coat to make washing a bit easier. The panels are practically indistinguishable from the rest of the car, and completely indistinguishable from about 10 feet. Works for me. That said, the Golf doesn't have much in the way of complex curves.
 

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One of my other friends is starting out in the PPF business. He uses GWSF Defender Platinum. I may have him redo the two front bumper pieces with a bulk sheet to avoid the small seams at the edge.
 
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