Perhaps the best product
…you’ve never seen
When we first heard the name “Clear Bra,” visions of the latest Victoria’s Secret designs ran through our heads. We knew we had to investigate, strictly in journalistic pursuit, of course. It turns out that Clear Bra is one of the street names for 3M’s Paint Protection Film. Initially developed to guard the leading edges of military helicopter blades from debris, the film has been refined and repackaged for OEM and aftermarket automotive applications.

Clear Bra is a nearly invisible, “always-on” alternative to bulky and often problematic vinyl front-end protectors. You have to be close to the vehicle, and look hard, to spot this stuff. As with vinyl bras, it offers protection from stone chips, insects, small scratches, and the wear-end-tear sand-blasting effect from years of driving.

Instead of having to remove and reinstall a bra after every foul-weather encounter (which can trap dirt and moisture underneath), paint-protection film is semi-permanently installed, similarly to window tint. It has a lifespan of about seven years and requires no special maintenance. Should the need arise, or when the film wears out, it can be replaced. And you can wax it along with the rest of your car, minimizing bug and sap stains and easing stain removal. The only minor downsides are that it’s much less reflective than paint and looks dull under certain light.

The film is supplied in 8 – 14 mil thickness in bulk roll form – for cut-to-fit applications on hoods, fenders, bumpers, mirrors, rocker panels, and lights – or in precut customized application kits for a wide variety of cars and trucks. Installation of the pre-cut kits can be accomplished by a skilled do-it-yourselfer, but professional application is recommended for best results.

Our professional applicator, Hugh Bernardi Jr., of Interwest Distribution Company, demonstrated firsthand what’s involved in the installation process. Hugh used the 14-mil film for all lighting surfaces and 8-mil everywhere else. He cut a nine-foot-seven-inch piece of film, secured one end to the front fascia, and then grabbed the unsecured end, while using the tire as a foot stop so he could lean back and stretch the film across the front of the car. Impressive, to say the least. Vehicles with pronounced bodywork curvature only complicate the job. While the material can be installed on paint surfaces of any age, it makes sense to do the application when a vehicle is new and undamaged. Many dealers provide or subcontract this service.

We’re impressed with Clear Bra. Installation on our SVT Focus came in at about $900, which included covering the hood, fender, mirrors, front fascia, and all front-end-lighting. Prices vary depending on vehicle size and difficulty of installation. Basic hood/fender/mirrors packages, the most commonly purchased combo, cost about $300 installed. Cost of the process compares favorably to that of even the most minor body-damage repair. Clear Bra may even offer a good return on investment for those who lease their cars, as compared with possible paint touch-up costs or reduced vehicle value (most lessors deduct for damage and excessive wear and tear) at lease turn-in.

Wonder if you can buy this stuff through the Victoria’s Secret catalog?