Clear Bra Tips for Truck Owners
Rock chips are the inevitable outcome of any extended period of truck ownership. No matter how careful you are, at some point an errant stone is going to get kicked up by the car in front of you and take a chunk out of your paint. You might even do it to yourself driving down a gravel road by shooting back rocks at your rocker and rear quarter panels.
It used to be that the only real form of protection against rock chips was to install a hideous black ‘bra’ on the front of a vehicle. Usually made out of vinyl, these monstrosities were not only ugly, but cheaper models also introduced the very real risk of damaging the paint themselves by baking into the factory finish over time or by trapping water and “gunk” between the cover and the clear coat.
Thankfully, technology has advanced past the days of the black vinyl bra and introduced the “clear bra” – but not all clear bras are the same.
A clear bra is a thin, transparent film that can be applied to the hood, painted from bumper, and sections of the grill on a car or truck, as well as the road-facing surface of side mirrors, quarter panels, areas under door handles, and any other area that might take damage from rocks, road debris, or other abrasives. Professionally cut and installed, a clear bra is supposed to provide a layer of paint protection that is almost invisible.
Unfortunately, not all clear bras are created equal. Also known as ‘paint protection film,’ there are a number of clear bra options out there that range from ultra cheap to somewhat expensive. As with most products designed to protect or improve a vehicle’s paint, clear bra material is one area of the market where you really do get what you pay for.
Cheaper clear bra installations fall prey to a number of problems. Over time, the film itself can yellow and ‘orange peel,’ creating a mottled, blotchy appearance. Low-buck adhesives used to bond the clear bra to the paint can become difficult to remove. This is especially a problem for non-factory paint jobs, or vehicles which have had paint repair performed in the past, as a cheap adhesive can take some paint with it. Finally, cheaper materials just don’t stand up to the repeated effects of having stones hurled their way, which can lead to tears in the covering or edges that peel up.
As for who the front-runners are in the clear bra game, it’s tough to find a consensus. In general, there are three names that consistently pop up again and again when reading reports of long-term positive experiences with clear bra installations:
While there are certainly some drivers out there who have been disappointed with the latter two companies, and who argue back and forth about which products are superior, Ventureshield appears to have almost universal support amongst clear bra fans. As you can see by that link, Ventureshield is now a subsidiary of 3M.
Regardless of which of these three clear bra brands that you choose to go with, a quality installation is just as important as the material being used. No matter how good the clear bra might be, if it is installed haphazardly or quickly there is a strong chance that it will not adhere properly to your paint, look blotchy or allow water and dirt to accumulate underneath it.
When looking for a good installer in your area, try calling your local dealerships and body shops and asking who they recommend. When you have a couple of names, make sure to ask a lot of questions before setting up an appointment. Some key questions:
- How long do you warranty the material? How long do you warranty your work?
- Is your warranty UV protected?
- Does your warranty cover bubbling? Discoloration? Edges that peel up? Scratches/scuffs in the material?
- How long does installation take? How long do I have to leave my vehicle out in the sun?
- Who cleans the hood and other surfaces to be covered – your or me?
- What happens if you cut into my paint job when you’re trimming away excess material?
- How long have you been installing clear bras?
- What dealerships and body shops do you work with? (Beware of installers that don’t have any body shop or dealership clients – they’re either too expensive or not very good).
Generally speaking, a good installer won’t be thrown by any of these questions and should be able to answer them quickly and easily. If they struggle to come up with an answer, go with someone else. When it comes to installing clear bras, practice makes perfect. You want to pay someone who has a lot of practice.
Filed Under: Toyota Tundra Accessories