Car Doctor Q&A: Can’t Get the Bra Off

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This isn’t what you’re thinking. Read on. 

Q. When I purchased my 2010 Malibu LTZ, I paid the dealer to have a protective plastic film [Ed. Known in the industry as a “car bra”] installed on the hood, as well as the side mirrors and front bumper. Unfortunately, now that the car is almost 10 years old, the film has broken down and dirt has become embedded underneath the plastic. I returned to the dealer to request it be removed and was told that an outside company originally did the installation and that company has gone out of business.

I was able to find a garage that charged $200.00 to remove it from the hood but the mechanic told me that because the bumper is made of plastic it would take a lot more work and probably cost double. He couldn’t guarantee removal without possible damaging the car. Any suggestions?

A. It is time, patience and technique that gets the film off. Generally, to remove this film or any kind of vinyl wrap requires only a few tools; a heat gun your fingers and plastic scrapers.

Carefully heat the film with the heat gun not too close to the surface that you are damaging the paint. Keep the gun moving, just enough to allow you to catch the corner of the film and begin peeling it. Then once the film bubbles a bit you should be able to get under the corner of it with your fingers or if necessary a plastic scraper.

The preferred technique is never pull straight up but when possible pull the film off at 180 degree angle to itself to release the adhesive.

Here’s a good descriptive video showing the process in action:

Once the film is removed cleaning with some adhesive remover and the buffing and polishing should get the paint looking good again. Goo Gone will work, but the safest thing for your paint is a product called Rapid Remover.  Keep in mind the film protected the paint and surfaces that were not covered are going to be dull, and the protected parts are going to have a showroom shine.

The costs of removing the film should be pretty reasonable. You can get a heat gun for $30, and Goo-Gone or Goof Off is less than $10. The Rapid Remover product we mentioned is available from body shop supply stores near you, or from Amazon for $27 for a 32-oz bottle.

From there, it’s all your labor. The process described here also applies to vinyl decals that you may not want on your vehicle any longer.