Tesla Paint Q&A
Updated: Jul 29, 2022
These genuine Tesla owners’ questions were from an Immaculate Paint Protection presentation to the Tesla Owners Club of Pennsylvania.
Why do Teslas require extra care for their paint?
Tesla does many things right—but their paint isn’t at the top of that list. From my personal experience, I’ve known Tesla owners who report that the paint chips and pits easily and that micro-scratches especially on dark-colored cars can cause the paint to look grayish or milky. I’ve seen these issues on Teslas with only a few hundred miles on them. I’ve also seen that the paint on Teslas chips on obvious areas such as the bumper and the hood, but also in front of the rear wheels. Tesla has addressed this with a cold weather kit, which is essentially mud flaps. Tesla owners who drive in places with tough winters where they use salt and sand on the road (Pennsylvania and New Jersey, anyone?) report that the paint on the bottom of their Teslas degrades heartbreakingly fast.
Like many new cars, the paint on new Teslas can be thin. Thinner paints look better when new, and they’re also quicker and cheaper for manufacturers to apply. As an industrial engineer who’s coming from the automotive industry, I know that the paint application step is always the limiting factor in building cars. So, the more vehicles you can paint per day, the more vehicles you can build per day. If you can hasten the paint application, you can get that assembly line moving faster!
Another factor contributing to poor wear of Tesla paint is the geometry of the vehicle. They have a flat plane that pushes the air up and over the car, grabbing rocks and debris, dragging them over the plane, and creating unsightly paint chips. With today’s patience-challenged drivers all around you, careening past you on road shoulders and kicking stones up onto your Tesla, your vehicle is at greater risk for paint chips now more than ever.
Fortunately, you can protect your Tesla’s paint effectively and efficiently—with paint protection film (PPF), ceramic coating, and proper Tesla car-washing procedures.
Why should I apply PPF to my Tesla?
PPF makes sense on any new vehicle. Tesla owners are smarter and investing more money than the average car buyer. PPF will protect your Tesla’s paint—and protect your investment.
Teslas might go from 0 to 60 in 2 seconds, but you’re not outrunning stones being kicked at you by other vehicles. With today’s erratic drivers all around you, there’s a good chance that stones will be kicked up onto your Tesla, putting it at risk for paint chips and other damage.
PPF saves you from future repaintings, which cost money and time and diminish your Tesla’s value.
When should I apply PPF to my Tesla?
PPF is applied when a car is brand new. Best-case scenario: Drive your brand-new Tesla straight from Devon 67 miles to my shop!
However, you can apply it to a car you’ve been driving awhile. I help customers make this decision on a case-by-case basis. I’ve seen some vehicles with 8,000 miles that are still a great candidate for PPF. But you can only protect a new-car finish if you have a new-car finish.
What is PPF?
PPF is a clear polyurethane film; it’s virtually invisible. PPF is engineered to be removable years after application—revealing the brand-new, factory-finish paint that’s been protected below. (However, I don’t recommend removing PPF before selling or trading in your vehicle because if you do so, the dealership is likely to think your vehicle was in an accident and repainted, which tanks the value. Let the new buyer remove the PPF to enjoy the brand-new paint.)
What brand of PPF should I use?
The installer’s name should be listed on the manufacturer’s website. High-quality manufacturers protect their reputation by allowing only the most qualified installers to install their film.
Can’t I buy a PPF kit and apply it myself?
Sure, you can YouTube it, but it’s not a DIY project. Much like you can YouTube “cardiac surgery,” but you shouldn’t perform it, and you can YouTube 737 piloting, but you shouldn’t try to land a jet, PPF installation is a job best left to the professionals. More personally, I could YouTube “hair coloring,” but I’d never suggest to my wife that I could save her money by dyeing her hair. Consider this: Only 1 percent of trained PPF installers work in the profession after a year or two. It’s that hard to get it right and do it well.
I can buy PPF from my dealer; why should I buy from Immaculate Paint Protection instead?
Did you know most dealerships offer paint protection options? They are really nothing more than a simple spray wax backed up by a warranty from a third-party insurance company. Dealerships installing paint protection film most often rely on third-party contractors to complete the installation. Who is the installer really working for—you and your vehicle, or the dealership?
Does PPF affect your Tesla’s lease?
Check with your lender to be sure. PPF should make a used car more valuable, but the real question is: Will you benefit from the increased value?
How does road salt affect PPF?
You’d far rather have your PPF getting road salt on it than your Tesla’s paint and metal surfaces. PPF is unaffected by road salt, and it will protect your paint from it. Films are guaranteed not to yellow. What’s more of a concern is driving your Tesla behind a rock salt truck! All of those undissolved pieces of rock salt are coarse, with jagged, sharp edges. It’s like driving behind a dump truck that’s throwing rocks at your Tesla at highway speeds. Avoid this scenario if at all possible!
When should I remove the PPF?
I recommend removing it by the 10-year mark, if not before. PPF is engineered to be removable years after application—revealing the brand-new, factory-finish paint that was protected below.
How much does PPF cost?
See our special Tesla pricing at https://www.immaculatepaintprotection.com/tesla. Our hassle-free, haggle-free pricing is posted online. Select the best paint protection solution for you. It’s that simple. We won’t harass you with calls, emails, and texts, but we are always happy to answer questions. We love educating our customers about how to best protect their vehicle’s paint.
What is ceramic coating?
A ceramic coating, also sometimes called quartz, applied to your car gives it amazing shine. It also makes your car easier to wash—saving you time and money. You won’t have to wash your Tesla as often, and when you do, it’ll be easier to clean. Ceramic coating also protects your Tesla against UV damage.
Professionally applied ceramic coatings last for years. At Immaculate Paint Protection, we offer ceramic coatings with multiple-year warranties, with no special maintenance or servicing required. Compare that with a wax or sealant that might protect your Tesla for a few months.
The coating is a silica dioxide (SiO2)–based material that’s carried in solvent and applied onto the vehicle. The coating cross-links, or chemically bonds, to the porous clear coat, filling in the microscopic pores.
Ceramic coatings are especially beneficial for Tesla’s Full Self-Driving. With a coating, the sensors stay cleaner, longer.
How is ceramic coating applied?
To apply ceramic coatings, first we thoroughly wash your Tesla—twice. We do a mechanical decontamination clay bar process to remove any bonded-on contaminants, and we do a second chemical decontamination process to remove iron that settles down into the paint. Then we buff and polish it to a mirror-like gleam. My team wears gloves throughout this entire process to prevent any oil or contaminants from interfering with the ceramic coating bonding. We wash it again and wipe it with a special degreasing agent to make it “surgically” clean.
If necessary, we can do color correcting. Then we apply the ceramic coat. The number of coats varies by manufacturer. In most cases, more coats do not provide more protection. (Some installers use this sales tactic.) After applying the ceramic coating, we keep your Tesla dry and in our shop for at least 24 hours before you pick it up.
After having a ceramic coating applied, keep your Tesla dry for 14 to 21 days, ideally in the garage, to allow the coating plenty of time to cure. Sunlight helps too.
How much does ceramic coating cost?
See our special Tesla pricing at https://www.immaculatepaintprotection.com/tesla. Our hassle-free, haggle-free pricing is posted online. Select the best ceramic coating solution for you. It’s that simple. We won’t harass you with calls, emails, and texts, but we are always happy to answer questions. We love educating our customers about how to best protect their vehicle and keep it looking great.
Can’t I buy a ceramic coating kit and apply it myself?
I don’t recommend it. A DIY spray coating might last for a few months, compared with years for a professionally applied coating. We have a very meticulous, specific procedure we follow and expensive supplies and equipment—which is unlikely to be duplicated at home. Applying ceramic coating is an art; it isn’t a job for unskilled amateurs.
If you really want to apply a coating yourself, make sure you know how to operate a machine polisher. If you make a coating mistake, you will need to machine polish the coating off and start the entire process over again.
How should I wash my Tesla?
How do you wash your Tesla? Very carefully!
Even if you protect your Tesla with PPF and ceramic coating, it can still scratch with dirty sponges, snow brushes, and other paint hazards. The best rule of thumb to keep in mind: Anything that touches your Tesla could scratch it. Most important: Don’t use anything that’s been in your kitchen sink on your Tesla—no scrub pads or scratch rags, ever.
Don’t take your car to an automatic car wash (except possibly a touchless one), and never allow your service center to wash it. We give our customers a card to hang on their rearview mirror when their Teslas are at the service center that says, “Do not wash! You will be liable for repairs.”
If you take your Tesla through a touchless car wash, don’t apply any of their sealants because you already have a coating on your Tesla and these car washing sealants will mask or override the benefits of the ceramic coating. (If you’ve done this in the past, a decontamination wash will remove those.)
Instead, wash your Tesla yourself, using the two-bucket method. This is universally accepted as the best method to wash your vehicle. You use one bucket with soapy solution and one with clean water to rinse the wash mitt.
We give each car a complimentary wash. Part of that washing is a triple and quadruple quality check. We really do stand behind our work and client experience.
Also, at Immaculate Paint Protection, we educate Tesla owners on how to wash their cars from the beginning of the process to the end—a $150 value. We enjoy washing cars, so anytime we can share our passion with someone else, that’s a win in my book.
About the author: Bill Fetter’s passion for cars started at an early age, as he loved anything with wheels. Through his childhood, Bill observed his dad’s work as a mechanical engineer turned marketing manager and proud lifelong employee of General Motors. During high school, Bill honed his passion for cars by hand-washing and detailing his neighbors’ vehicles. Knowing he wanted to be in the automotive industry, Bill earned a degree in Industrial Engineering from Kettering University in Flint, Michigan. He’s worked as an engineer in the automotive manufacturing, medical device, steel industry, and pharmaceutical manufacturing fields.