Paint Protection Kit
Is it just me, or do
motorcycles seem to collect scratches, dings and stone chips faster than
any other type of vehicle?
And the problem may be getting worse instead
of better - bigger and more complex fairings give better protection than
ever, but that surface area also means more places to attract scratches
and dings. Also, some of the manufactured fibers used for protective
clothing can scratch the paint on fuel tanks, side covers and other
And don't forget tankbags -- I've never seen a tankbag that
doesn't eventually mar the tank it's riding on, no matter what type of
soft material is used for mounting it. It's almost impossible to keep
tiny pieces of grit from under the tankbag, and the constant vibration
and movement of the tankbag eventually causes the grit to ruin the
So I'm always on the lookout for neat
ways to protect the paint on my bikes without making it appear too
obvious. After I learned about the clear paint protection films that are
available, I decided to give them a try.
There are various brands and qualities of
these clear paint protection film products, but after trying several,
I'm convinced that the 3M Scotchcal product is the best of the bunch.
Scotchcal is a clear urethane film that comes in various thicknesses.
was designed to protect painted and other surfaces on vehicles, and is
used by some of the luxury auto manufacturers, such as Porsche and
If you look close enough, you can usually find it on areas that
have a good chance of getting dinged by stone chips, such as hoods,
wheel arches and rocker panels. Although clear plastic coatings of
various quality have been around for a while - there's a piece on my
1986 BMW R65 between the seat and the gas tank - the 3M product has an
excellent reputation for quality. The 8 mil thickness is most commonly
used for protecting painted surfaces, although it is also available as a
40 mil thick film for covering headlights.
But finding bulk Scotchcal and then
cutting it to the correct pattern can be troublesome. I've probably
wasted more film than I've used, with my unsuccessful attempts to get
the exact shape I need. Simple shapes or flat panels and small pieces
aren't that big of a problem, but complex areas like fuel tanks can be
really tough to model. I installed a few pieces on various bikes
recently, but these were pretty simple, homemade patterns that covered
the obvious places; the sides of fuel tanks, battery covers and other
So I was intrigued when I was contacted
recently by Jim Lawson of Dallas Motorcycle Accessories recently to test
his new "SheerMask" kit for the BMW R1150RT. You may know Jim
from his well-respected "Ezy
Mount" PIAA light mounting kit for BMW's.
The kit includes
a computer designed, precision-cut pattern with pieces to cover part of
the bike's lower fairing behind the front wheel; the complete fuel tank
with pieces to fit the top of the tank, both in front and behind the
fuel filler; and a small piece to cover the metal section on the
handlebars under the ignition (see Illustration A). By the way,
the Scotchcal material is guaranteed by 3M for a period of 5 years
against manufacturer's defects not to yellow, crack or craze.
I was impressed with the quality of the
kit. It includes one large sheet with the cut pieces laid out on the Scotchcal
backing. It also includes a plastic squeegee, which is necessary to
install the product.
Although the instructions claim that the
R1150RT kit can be installed by a novice, my feeling is that this
particular kit should not be installed as your first Scotchcal project.
The compound curves on the fuel tank of the R1150RT turned out to be
quite a problem to get installed correctly.
Koeniger, a fellow
"BMW Bikers of Metropolitan Washington" (BMWBMW) club member,
"volunteered" his beautiful brand-new R1150RT for the
treatment. Mike rode up to my house one Friday when we
both had off from work, and after a bite to eat, we fired up my kerosene
heater in the garage and it was soon warm enough to work in our
shirtsleeves on the cold, late fall day.
3M suggests that the
temperature should be no lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit to
successfully install the product, and I wholly agree. Any colder than
that and you probably won't be able to get the Scotchcal to adhere to
Jim includes two sets of instructions
with the SheerMask kit, and we found them a bit confusing, as they each
give a slightly different take on the spray mixture used in the installation process. In theory,
installation isn't really that difficult. The only item you'll
need that isn't included in the kit is a spray bottle mixture of water
and dishwashing liquid necessary to lubricate the film during application.
The mixture is used to spray both the film and the
surface where it will be installed. If you've ever built a
model car or airplane, you'll be familiar with the next steps. Carefully
peel the film from its backing; thoroughly (and I mean thoroughly),
soak the area where it will be installed and also soak the film
itself on its front and back sides, and then slide the piece on to the
With a good soaking, the film should easily slide into place and can be
maneuvered around a bit if necessary for any final adjustments. Then
it's a matter of using the squeegee to gently squeeze out the water from
under the film, starting from the middle and working outwards. Lots and lots of patience is needed at this point to get it right.
Problem areas include anywhere there is a sharp radius or transition -
you have to keep working the film a little bit at a time to get it to
stick (see the area indicated by the red arrow in Photo A below). Sometimes a bit of finger pressure is necessary to hold down a problem
spot long enough so that it starts to stick.
Jim's instructions warn about avoiding
creases and wrinkles, but maybe I'm lucky - I've never found this to be
much of a problem. But I don't think Jim's instructions are as emphatic
as they could be about how much spray mixture to use. In my experience,
you can't use enough! Everything has to be really soaked for a
successful installation. It makes all the difference in the world.
Mike and I decided to first install the
small piece on the handlebar. This section on his new bike was already
showing signs of abuse from his key chain bouncing around. We cleaned up
the metal using some soap and water mix, then cleaned it again with
rubbing alcohol to make sure no dirt or grease was left.
This piece went
on very easily and should definitely solve the problem of the key chain scrape
marks. I would have never thought of covering this section if the
piece wasn't included in the kit, so this is a great idea!
Next, we decided to go for the
"chin" fairing in back of the front tire. Mike and I both felt
that the piece that's included in the SheerMask kit for this area is too
short. The red arrows in the photo point to the edges of the film.
The piece doesn't go completely across the fairing, so it ends up only
offering about 50% of the coverage that it could in this area that
really takes a beating.
We both felt that this piece should cover
the complete area behind the wheel, as illustrated by the blue arrows.
I talked to Jim about this section; he feels that if the piece was
longer, the curves in this area might be too complex for a first-timer
Then came the hard part. We studied the tank for a while and realized
that it would not be easy to get it right. After rolling up our sleeves
and taking a deep breath, we decided to try the front section of the
tank first. After cleaning off Mike's nice new Zymol wax job, we soaked
it completely with our sprayer, then peeled the film off its backing.
must have worked on this section for 20 minutes before we realized that
the piece was just a bit too wide for the tank.
We simply couldn't get
it to fit in its proper place between the gaps in the fairing on either
side of the tank (blue arrow in the photo below). We finally decided to
peel it off and trim the edges. The film is designed to come off, but it
isn't easy to do - we took it very slowly and used lots of juice from
our sprayer as lubrication.
We eventually got it off without tearing it
and trimmed off about 1/16" from each edge, using a metal
straightedge and a razor. Our second try proved successful, with the
only problem being the very sharp transition from the top of the tank
down the sides (red arrow in photo below).
Photo A -
R1150RT Fuel Tank
transition problem area
between fairing and fuel tank; the pre-cut film was
slightly too wide for this area.
||The edge of the installed SheerMask film is just
It definitely took the two of us to get this piece on correctly. Even
with my experience in installing paint protection films, my feeling is
that there is no way either one of us could have done this alone.
professional installer would probably have no problem, but not the first
The back part of the tank was somewhat
easier, but it was tricky to get the cutout for the fuel filler lined up
correctly with the corresponding cutout on the front piece.
we got everything "squeegeed" to perfection and it looked like
all of the pieces were going to lay nicely. There's always some
cloudiness here and there when the film is first installed, but that
usually disappears in about 24 hours.
Jim suggests using regular auto polish to
take out any of the scratches that may appear in the softer Scotchcal
from the squeegee. You should probably wait several days to do this, to
make sure everything is nice and dry.
It also would be nice to have a piece to
cover the area on the fairing above the headlight. This section takes a
lot of abuse from stones and bugs. Even on the cold fall day we chose to
install the SheerMask kit, Mike had some bug splatters on the front of
the fairing from his ride over to my house.
All things considered, Mike is very pleased with the outcome of the
project and with the added protection that the SheerMask kit provides,
especially on the fuel tank and on the handlebar. Since there is
no way we could have cut a template ourselves to cover some of the more
complex areas, we felt that the cost of the product was fair.
Note: For informational use only. All material and
photographs are Copyright © webWorld International, LLC - 2000-2011. All
rights reserved. See the webBikeWorld®
page. NOTE: Product specifications, features and details may
change or differ from our descriptions. Always check before purchasing. Read
Terms and Conditions!
Paint Protection Kit
From: Dallas Motorcycle Accessories,
4514 Tranquility Drive, Garland, TX 75043 or Cyclegadgets
Retail Price: $59.95; $39.95 for the K1200RS
|Fits: BMW R1100RT; R1150RT; K1200RS;
Comments: Provides good tank coverage;
excellent protection from stone chips and tankbag scratches; computer designed and CNC cut film patterns; nicely designed and
packaged. Installation is a bit difficult due to the
curvature of the RT's fairing; could use another piece
for the front of the R1150RT's fairing above the headlight;
a bit on the expensive side.
Accessory Page | BMW
Thomas Cheng of Secondary
Exposure Incorporated, a company specializing in paint protection
"Paint chipping is going to get worse since the government came out
with a bulletin recommending the decrease in usage of lead based paint
by vehicle manufacturers. Lead is toxic, but it adds strength to paint.
Instead, paint with higher water content (in place of lead) is now
commonly used among all car manufacturers; just ask a Ferrari owner and
you'll realize that the paint is often described as soft as butter. In
addition, car makers get an increase in revenue from the
repainting/repair of damaged paint by their own body shop (dealer
price!). Thus, it's the consumers who'll have to cough up money for the
inevitable -- paint chips, nicks, and scratches."
"There are many 3M Scotchcal paint protection film vendors.
Unfortunately, most people do not know how to chose one. What people
should look for is the price for the amount of coverage, how thoroughly
will an area be covered (does a full bumper get wrap to the wheel
well?), how many pieces to cover a big area (minimum number of seams),
and most importantly, how competent is the installer (don't even bother
doing the hard pieces yourself, you'll just be throwing away money since
extensive training is a MUST!). Majority of installers will not be able
to install a piece to fully cover the front bumper from wheel well to
wheel well. Look for those who can do it competently with MINIMUM amount
of silvering, haze, bubbles, and imperfections; remember that you are
paying for protection not perfection, and installers are only
"An experienced installer is the #1 indication that you are getting
what you pay for, since they don't come cheap, and cheap installers
don't do good work. Anybody can sell the film (the cheaper the film, the
smaller the pieces?!), but it's hard to find a competent installer who
is passionate in applying the film; it's LITERALLY an art to them not
just a job. And they are their own hardest critics. Good Luck on your
quest to stop the paint manufacturers from decreasing the value of your
motorcycles! All paint protection question welcome!"
Thanks Thomas -- you can contact
Thomas with your paint protection questions.