What’s the Difference Between Vinyl Wraps and Clear Bras?
When people look to make alterations to the outside of their car, they tend to consider some of the more permanent options. For color and design, they paint their vehicle. When it comes to protection, ceramic coating is a popular option.
However, two things can accomplish similar results that most people don’t know about. These are vinyl wraps and clear bras. Both perform particular functions and offer various benefits, but few know what these differences are. If you’re curious as to what they might be, this guide is here to help clear things up.
Since these films cover your car’s paint job, let’s start by discussing how they affect your vehicle’s appearance. If you want to completely change how your car looks, vinyl wraps are the way to go. These can come in practically any color imaginable. Plus, you can also choose from several finishes that’ll drastically change how the new color of your vehicle looks.
However, the best part of wraps is the fact that you can add decals to them as well. This feature costs a ton if you have it done with a standard paint job. While a custom wrap will cost more than the base model, it’ll still be significantly cheaper than a painted-on decal. That means you can go crazy with the designs and color schemes without worrying about breaking the bank.
We can’t forget about clear bras, however. These won’t have the color options or decal possibilities of vinyl wraps since, as the name implies, these films are transparent. Still, even though clear bras don’t focus on aesthetics, you can still change their finish. That means the normal paint job of your vehicle can have a glossy or matte look if you install a clear bra across your entire vehicle.
The next feature on the list is the potential protection of each film. This is where clear bras tend to shine since it’s the main reason to install one. Most clear bras are made from a plastic material known as polyurethane, which stands strong against most types of scratches your car is likely to experience.
Even though clear bras can still get scratched themselves, they are strong enough to protect your vehicle’s paint job underneath. The best part of this film is that if it gets scratched too deep, you can use heat to seal it back up, helping it last for many more years to come.
As for vinyl wraps, though, these offer little to no protection from potential scratches. While it can protect your paint job from getting marked up, any significant damage will rip through the vinyl pretty quickly, showing off your car’s paint underneath. This doesn’t look great, so many people put a clear bra over their vinyl wrap to help protect it.
The Thickness of the Films
Due to the difference in strength between these two films, one could assume that clear bras are thicker than vinyl wraps, and you’d be right. Vinyl is usually three mils thick, whereas clear bras tend to be eight or more mils thick. However, that’s a minimal difference because one mill is one-thousandth of an inch. Most people wouldn’t be able to feel the difference in their thicknesses.
Since the type of material seems to have more of an impact on a film’s overall strength, does the thickness even matter? Well, it does during the installation process. The thinner size of the vinyl makes it easier to bend over the edges and into the grooves of a vehicle. That means if you decide to install it yourself, clear bras will be more challenging to get right.
The Installation Process
It’s best to have a professional do the installation for you. Properly installing a vinyl wrap or clear bra is like putting a screen protector on your phone; only way more difficult due to the size of your vehicle and the pieces of film. To do it right, you need to thoroughly clean the car first to remove any dirt or debris that could get stuck underneath.
After cleaning and letting it dry, vinyl wrap installation is pretty straightforward. It’s a dry-apply film, so you essentially just need to open it up and stick it on, flattening out any air bubbles as you go. Clear bra installations are a bit more complicated, which is why it’s best to go to a professional. You have to wet the surface with water and a touch of shampoo, then flatten the film onto the car. Since it’s clear, the film can be hard to see, which makes lining things up difficult.
Ease of Taking Back Off
As previously mentioned, one key feature of these films is that they can be temporary. While there aren’t many reasons why you’d want to remove one, both are easy to do. For vinyl, you’ll need to heat it to melt the adhesive. Once you do, you can either peel it off or use a scrapper to pull up the film.
Clear bras are similar, but you’ll use the scrapper to break apart the hardened film. You can use heat here as well to help it break apart more easily, but that step isn’t always needed, especially if the film is quite old.
How Long They Last
Of course, that leads to the question, how long can these films last? While their ranges vary, clear bras tend to last longer than vinyl wraps. Most clear bras can last as long as 10 years on a car. Most people will likely sell their vehicle for a new one before their clear bra gives out.
On the other side of things, vinyl wraps usually only last about five or so years. However, that’s only in temperate environments. In hotter climates, vinyl won’t last nearly as long. Some people who live in southern states report their vinyl wraps breaking apart after only a few years.
How Much They Cost
The final difference between vinyl wraps and clear bras is the cost. Depending on the level of customization you do for your vinyl wrap, it could cost you a few thousand, but it depends on the size of your car. The same goes for clear bras, but you can get the price under a grand if you only do part of your car.
A great feature of clear bras is that you don’t have to cover the entire vehicle. Since most scratches only happen on the front end, you can choose only to cover half of your car and call it a day. Regardless of your choice, you’ll get your money’s worth, whether for style or protection.