Plastic Road Armor: Covering vulnerable areas of a new motorhome’s paint with Xpel Ultimate clear paint protective film keeps it looking like new for years
Buyers of high-end coaches that run into seven figures are very finicky about every aspect of their rolling investment, from the quality of the interior craftsmanship and furnishings to the paint and graphics on the exterior. Leaning a little to the obsessive side, they expect perfection when they take possession, and take great pride in keeping their estate-on-wheels looking as good as the day it rolled out of the factory.
Although it’s easy to keep the interior looking as fresh as the day it was new, the exterior of coaches that spend a lot of time on the open road is another story. No matter how good the paint job, it’ll start showing signs of being battered by the normal onslaught of debris thrown up from the road’s surface and the acidic nature of insect impacts. The result is sand-blasted headlights and wheel-well edges, and nicks, chips and blemishes in the paint across the coach’s frontal area. Time and miles dictate the speed at which the paint damage is done. But it will happen.
That’s why clear paint protective films (PPF) for automotive paint were invented. They are what Eugene, Oregon’s Body Guard Paint Protection, an installer of Xpel Paint Protection Film products, calls “sacrificial shields” – the thin, clear urethane film that takes the hits, protecting the paint and graphics underneath.
When the PPF starts looking ugly from the normal encounters of everyday driving, the peel-and-stick product can be readily removed and replaced by professional installers without harm to the paint beneath.
Fit for Kings
Marathon Coach, a premier custom motorcoach builder, used to offer the installation of PPFs as a $3,000 option on its builds. But the film was so popular that it is now a standard feature on every new coach that rolls out of its manufacturing facility – and Body Guard Paint Protection is the company it turns to when installing Xpel’s high-end Ultimate PPF at the massive Coburg, Oregon, operation.
The Xpel library of patterns cover more than 60,000 applications, including the newest custom coaches like those Marathon builds. These patterns save professional installers time and ensure the body contours and configurations of each vehicle are perfectly matched from the hood, bumpers, wheel-well arches, headlights and even down to windshield-washer locationsXpel provides its installers with access to more than 60,000 patterns. The company can print/cut the film so every piece fits the vehicle perfectly, with cutouts and reliefs already in place for the wipers, lights, grille, bumpers or any other special contours/shapes. Body Guard Paint Protection uses a 64-inch Graphtec printer for all Marathon Coach PPF installations. ,https://www.motorhome.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/005-Xpel-Install-Marathon-film-fingertips.jpg| Xpelâ€™s Ultimate PPF is made up of three layers (top coat, film and adhesive) with a total thickness of 8.5 mils (.0085 inches). The top layer is â€œself-healing,â€ so swirl marks, fine scratches and small indentations smooth out when exposed to direct sunlight or hot water.,https://www.motorhome.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/006-Xpel-Install-Marathon-spraying-front.jpg| The first key to a professional installation is making sure every inch of the surface to be covered is clean and dust/lint-free. Any imperfections in or on the paint will show through the clear protective film. A specialized cleaner is used to set the stage for the installation.,https://www.motorhome.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/007-Xpel-Install-Marathon-lifting-film.jpg| Xpelâ€™s PPF comes with a protective backing from which itâ€™s removed prior to laying into place on the coach. This film is a wet-apply type, so a very generous application of a wetting agent (a couple drops of dish soap in a quart of water) is sprayed on the film before and during the install process.,https://www.motorhome.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/008-Xpel-Install-Marathon-spraying-film-body.jpg| The next step is spraying the area where the precut film will be laid down with a special solution that allows the film to be repositioned as needed prior to applying pressure with special squeegees. Xpelâ€™s wetting gel adheres well to vertical surfaces instead of running off like soap/water mixtures.,https://www.motorhome.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/009-Xpel-Install-Marathon-squeegee-film.jpg| It takes a deft hand and a lot of experience to squeegee the clear film so there are no bubbles or creases. Kitzelâ€™s 15 years of installing PPF makes the application task look easy. Believe us, itâ€™s not. ,https://www.motorhome.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/010-Xpel-Install-Marathon-two-hands-corner.jpg| The filmâ€™s elasticity and the use of the special wetting agents allow it to be stretched (if needed) and positioned around corners without distortion.,https://www.motorhome.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/011-Xpel-Install-Marathon-film-on-bumper.jpg|  The template for this 2018 Marathon Prevostâ€™s front bumper had the cutouts for the headlight washers and cuts for the special curves, making the installation a lot easier and quicker than it would have been if Kitzel had to make all the cuts with the film on the vehicle.,https://www.motorhome.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/012-Xpel-Install-Marathon-refelction-paint.jpg|  When the Xpel Ultimate PPF is applied, the high-gloss finish perfectly matches that of the motorhome. Hot, soapy water will keep it that way for years. It can also be cleaned/washed using Xpelâ€™s Protection Film Sealant. ,https://www.motorhome.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/XPel-NO-ARROW.jpg| The PPF is so thin that it takes a very close look to see where it has been applied. Hereâ€™s a close-up of the film edge (arrow) around the embossed â€œPrevostâ€ on the front of the motorcoach. The film is about the thickness of a sheet of paper.,https://www.motorhome.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/014-Xpel-Install-Marathon-film-headlight.jpg| Headlights, being plastic, are very susceptible to damage from being constantly bombarded by grit, bugs and road debris. The Xpel template includes pieces cut out to perfectly fit the 2018 Marathonâ€™s headlights. Kitzel uses a half-dozen different types and sizes of squeegees during a typical motorhome PPF installation. ,https://www.motorhome.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/015-Xpel-Install-Marathon-film-taillight.jpg| Marathon technicians noticed that the plastic taillights were receiving as much damage as headlights from grit being sucked up by the vacuum created as the coach rolled down the highway. So their Xpel application includes protective film for the taillights. The install also covers the painted wheel arches to protect them from sand and stones thrown up by the tires. “]
The crystal-clear Ultimate PPF Expel manufactures is a triple layer composition that’s just 8.5 mils (.0085 inches) thick. The hair-thin, clear topcoat’s “elastomeric polymers” have self-healing properties, which help it flow back into a smooth, glossy surface after being impacted, or getting swirl marks or fine scratches from washing and waxing.
Xpel’s Ultimate PPF is self-healing when it’s sitting in the sun, or when you wipe over the film with hot, soapy water. Give it a hot bath and the high-gloss usually comes right back, according to the company.
Underneath the topcoat is a clear 6-mil-thick polyurethane film (.006 inches) with a 1.6-mil, pressure-sensitive adhesive backing. The film is optically invisible when applied, requiring a very close-up inspection to see where the edge of the film ends and unprotected paint begins.
Xpel claims the makeup of its film allows it to withstand the effects of UV exposure, while allowing the paint underneath to fade at the same rate as the paint that isn’t protected. Once the Ultimate PPF is installed, whether done at one of Xpel’s retail dealers/installers around the country, or at the OEM level, it’ll protect the paint from the harmful effects of bird droppings, bug acids, road salt, tree sap, air pollution and road grime. The company backs its PPF with a 10-year warranty against yellowing, discoloration, peeling, cracking and hazing. If it fails, Xpel replaces it, labor included.
Installation requires a professional, and great attention to cleanliness. The Xpel Ultimate film installed on the Marathon is optically clear, so it will show any nick, scratch or dirt spec the film is laid over. It can be applied to a new motorhome or an old car or truck, or just about any smooth surface, which is great for dinghy vehicles, which tend to get blasted by road debris behind the coach.
According to Body Guard Paint Protection, any paint defects, chips, dirt specks, lint, hair or dust on the surface before the film is applied will remain after the film is installed, so it highly recommends that the PPF be installed on a clean vehicle that’s brand new or just repainted, even before it is driven on the road.
That was the scenario when we caught up with the technician installing Xpel Ultimate PPF on Marathon No. 1267 Prevost H3-45 Double Slide right after it came out of paint. The $2-million-plus 2018 show coach was getting the full Xpel package, from front end to wheel-well arches to the taillights. Typically, MSRP for an application such as this would start at about $2,500, depending on the make and model, and especially on the condition of the surfaces. Additional prep work may result in additional costs.
The images accompanying this article show the attention to detail and the amount of expertise that’s involved in installing a quality PPF. It’s clearly a way to keep the paint of any new motorhome – regardless of price – looking good for many years to come.