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Spray-On Paint Protection for Your Hot Rod

Spray-On Paint Protection for Your Hot Rod


How would you feel if your hot rod kicked up a piece of debris in the road and it flew up and put a deep scratch on the car’s hood? Chances are you wouldn’t be happy and you’d worry about whether the break in the paint would cause the metal underneath to start rusting. If your hot rod had a paint protection film applied over the paint, you wouldn’t  have to worry as much. That film might prevent any scratching at all and if not, it will still keep a rust barrier intact.

Paint protection films seem like a new thing to hot rodders and car collectors, but they’ve actually been around for a long time. They were first invented in the ‘60s to protect the blades on military helicopters used in Viet Nam. We saw them for the first time about three years ago at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, where 3M and Meguiar’s had teams of professionals applying paint protection film to a hot rod and a muscle car during the trade show.

About two years ago, we invited 3M™ to demo the film at Gunner’s Great Garage. A team of professionals flew in to apply the film to a customized Chevy HHR. The pro install was cool, but complicated. It required cutting and trimming the film, using squeegees to remove moisture and air bubbles, special supplies and tools and a lot of manpower (and womanpower) to get the job done. The demo ran about an hour and a half and removing the film from the donor vehicle was a separate, labor-intensive operation requiring tools such as a heat gun.

Now, compare this to a new 3M™ Paint Defender System that will allow an at-home car builder or any do-it-yourselfer to spray on a liquid that quickly transforms into a clear, durable paint protection film. The Minnesota company unveiled the plan through an April 23 webinar in which it announced that the new Paint Defender system would become available nationwide, at Auto Zone stores and through Amazon, on May 3. Paint Defender will be an addition to 3M’s current line of professionally applied films and is intended for application by consumers.

The system provides a way for car owners to easily spray paint barrier protection on their own vehicles. The product is water based, which makes it easy to use, fast to dry and easy to clean up. Once dry, the sprayed on barrier becomes an invisible film that will protect the car’s finish for about a year. After that, it can be easily removed and replaced with a new application. According to 3M tech services expert Todd Mathis, who appeared in the Webinar, it will take about one can of Paint Defender spray film to protect the leading edge of a typical car’s hood and about two cans to cover the entire hood. A can will cost about $25.

 The new product was originally developed as a way to temporarily preserve vehicles during transport from the factory to the dealer. Mathis said that 3M scientists tweaked 248 different test formulas over the course of eight months before landing on a winning chemical balance that offered 100 percent clarity and a seamless finish. They also needed an easy-to-apply product that would be both durable and removable. During the Internet seminar, Mathis showed how the film stayed intact even when poked with a car key.

Paint Defender applies in three steps using a unique spray trigger. First, you mask the area off with products in an Application Kit. Second, you wax the masked area, prior to spraying, to make it easier to remove the film when desired. Then, you spray the film over the masked area using the special spray trigger. The masking kit will cost about $10.99 and the spray trigger will sell for around $6.99. Auto Zone and Amazon will be offering the complete system for $44.99. For more information, visit or follow @3MNews on Twitter.

A special spray trigger is used to apply the spray-on paint protection film to a waxed and masked off area of the car from an aerosol can.


When the water-based spray dries it turns into an invisible paint protection film that will last about a year. It can then easily be removed prior to another application.


During the introduction of the product 3M representatives demonstrated how a car key could not break the film created by the dry Paint Defender coating.