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Paint quality problem? Why all the wraps?

I have been surprised at how many owners seem to be wrapping new cars with one of the clear films. On top of that, I have never heard of a manufacturer offering wrap as a new car option. Is there a problem with Model S paint quality? I paid extra for the MC red and I expect it to be perfect on delivery and durable in use (I expect delivery in a couple of weeks). I take care of my cars very carefully. Should I expect to have to take some kind of extra care with my Tesla?

My factory paint (blue) is quite bad. Detailer says he hasn't seen such a bad finish in many years. Mine has spots everywhere, he suspects "solvent pop". I think it was rushed through production (yay, first profitable quarter ever!) and put outside for a couple weeks while the finish was still soft.

I had 3M clearbra installed on my S550 when I got it.....This is just one of the more progressive things that Tesla is known for doing, many sports/luxury car enthusiasts already get these films on their cars along the front bumper and fenders, sometimes the entire hood. These are the same type of people that would get their bumpers resprayed instead if not for the film, not something a typical car owner is known for doing but not uncommon among cars in this price range.

Also, since Tesla is located in California, they are required to used more environmentally friendly paints which tend to be softer than what other manufacturers use. Additionally, in the past 10 years or so most auto paint applications have tended to be much thinner than in times past. I've been applying hood, fender clear bras on my cars since 2005. It saves the front end from chips in a big way.

Sorry to hear about the car paint problem.
Have you contacted a Tesla service center? Will they repaint it for free?

Paint protection works and is becoming quite popular. Most manufacturers have areas of the car covered (eg the rear quarter panels) to protect against rocks kicked up. Toyota offers hood and fender protection as standard offering on its Camry now ($395 option).

My Model S was hit by a 60+ mph rock while going 80+ mph in the opposite direction. It took a small gouge from my paint armor where it would have normally taken a chip off any normal paint job.

Go to your neighborhood grocery store and look at the hoods of older cars. How many notches are there from stone strikes? They are all makes and models, so paint quality has nothing to do with it. I hope to take off the wrap in 4-8 years to reveal a nearly perfect factory finish.

I think there's a lot of psychological overlap between those that wrap their phones in cases and clear shields and those that wrap their car. I can't say I fall in that category, though. A car, like a phone, is made to be used. It gets a few chips here and there, but that's what happens to cars. And this from someone fanatical about washing and detailing his car.

My current car came with paint armor from the factory, and I can't imagine a more terrible thing to have on it. The fact that its white makes it really obvious that dirt gets trapped around the edges, and it's a nightmare to clean. So if you do get it wrapped, make sure it goes around the edges of the sheet metal instead of stopping 1/8" short, especially on light colors.

In the same way I like to interact with the glass and metal of my phone, I want to touch the metal of the car when I wash it or open the frunk. Not having chips would be nice, certainly, but not at the cost of that tactile relationship. Rubbing your hand over your car's metal after you've just clay barred it is fantastic.

I ordered paint armor on my 2010 Infiniti FX. After my 2005 looked like it was sandblasted from rocks driving it daily on the highway, this was quite a good option for me. After 3 years it had no paint chips. It was not even a question for me - ordered it immediately.


Many owners of expensive cars get their cars wrapped for extra protection of their investment. Check this gallery for example.

@Gizmotoy I totally agree with you about people casing their iPhones but the clear film wrap of the car is very different. You usually keep your car much longer than you phone and a good wrap job is very indistinguishable.

The reason people are wrapping their cars has nothing to do with the quality of the paint job and everything to do with the price of the car. Many Model S owners spent double what they've ever spent on a vehicle before, so naturally they would like to protect their investment. What I don't like about the wrapping process is that it requires removal of all trim pieces, emblems, etc. I would hate to have a brand new car go through that process, it seems unnecessarily invasive.

@Amped, I wouldn't worry about that stuff it all snaps on or is double sticky tape, easily reapplied. I'm doing opti coat when I get my S.

Having your car wrapped in clear film is a very smart decision, so long as it's done properly (wrapped edges and full coverage). One thing to keep in mind, if the paint condition is poor to begin with (Teslas are known for this unfortunately), you will need to have the vehicle prepped by a detailer to remove the defects BEFORE applying the clear film. Many car owners (and clear film installers) think it's possible to apply the film and rid themselves of the paint defects, however, you will merely magnify the swirls/scratches if you do not have them removed before the film is installed.

Once you have the film installed, it's still recommended to have it protected with a proper sealant or coating to keep the film from prematurely "yellowing."


What does this process typically cost for a vehicle like this? I don't need specifics, just a ballpark idea.

@jeffsstuff Depends how much you get wrapped, if it's fully wrapped or a kit. I could see the cost being anywhere from $400 (partial front-end wrap) to $5000 or more for a full vehicle wrap.


I don't know about the paint quality, but that has nothing to do with why I got my car wrapped.

My previous car got lots of little paint chips on the hood and pits on the plast fascia. The wrap prevents that.

@olanmills - Correct, clear film is used to prevent rock chips. I was referring to the condition of the paint below the clear film and that it's important to prep the surface before installing the wrap. Clear film is definitely a smart choice.


dbower - I have had the MC red on mine since May. The only thing I've done to the car is to apply some liquid glass. The paint has held up very well so far. No complaints.

Xpel wrap for the front half of the car (hood, front end, front doors) was quoted at $2200. Opticoat Pro installation (entire car including wheels) was $700. So I could wait until I feel the need to repair road damage and do three Opticoat Pro apps (adding touchup paint buffed in by pros) for less than the cost of one Xpel job on half the car.

If I had the money, I'd do the Opticoat Pro and then have the whole car Xpel-wrapped. Not being there at this point, it becomes a difficult call as to which is the better option.

I don't wrap my sofa in plastic like my grandmother did and I don't wrap my car either. I notice the imperfections in the wraps and bras that come over time. We have a local paint shop that has fixed the few dings that I have gotten over the past 15 years at about $200 a pop.

Seven months of grinning and still a perfect paint job.

@TeslaOR I don't think it's the same as wrapping your sofa with plastics but the cost is certainly a consideration. I agree it may not be worthwhile to wrap a $30K Camry but I would not save the money for an $100K investment.

You may want to try hand wash your car once and see if you're still grinning. ;-)

@ thranx,

You are comparing two completely different products that do two completely different things. Opti Coat is nothing more than a chemical, like wax, which bonds with your paint. It does nothing to protect your paint from impact damage. The only way to protect from impact damage is to use a physical barrier between the impacter and the paint surface. That would be the Xpel. It is a an actual clear plastic film that is wrapped around the body panels of your car.

Please do not expect a "wax" product like Opti Coat to do anything to protect your paint from impact damage.

@AR thanks for clearing this up in a few sentences.

There are different issues at play here.

CA low VOC compliant water based paint--seems to be softer and more prone to damage (swirls, scratches, as well as impact).

Desire to protect/preserve finish on expensive vehicle (nothing new--all car dealers now offer some kind of protection, be it a wrap/film or a chemical application).

FWIW, I am not into wraps or films, but recognize that the paint is soft. I chose to do a chemical application, specifically by having my professional detailer apply OptiCoat pro, a thick ceramic based clear coat. He did apply a thicker layer at impact points. This will of course not protect against major rock chips, and probably not as well as a film or wrap would.

Please take the time to search here using and also go to the TMC site and search there for much more information.

I have done clear bras on all my cars since 2005 to avoid the unavoidable stone chips.

Regarding paint quality, we can't really expect these cars to be up to MB or BMW quality. After all, the TM paint shop is left over from the Toyota/GM joint venture, so the equipment must be at east 15 years old IIRC. We get Toyota/Chevrolet quality paint jobs as the price of innovation. I had to have my rear bumper repainted due to a parking lot ding and the TM-approved body shop said it was the worst paint they'd seen on a recent car.

Same for body panel figments, which TM has had issues with since the start. They now have new front and rear bumper part numbers and special retrofit kits for cars with older bumpers. If the kit won't do it, TM is now offering to replace the bumpers. My car is going in on Oct 30 for two new bumpers, as the fix kit still left my bumpers misaligned where the bumper meets the body in the wheel well.

I never heard of wraps until I started visiting this site! I have never owned a car that was expensive enough to wrap. I don't even know if I have seen a wrapped car. But I am convinced (so far) to go with the OptiCoat Pro and the Xpel wrap on my Model S. My delivery will be in 2014.

My question is: So if a rock hits the wrap, isn't a tear in the wrap going to show? I know you are protecting the paint with the wrap, but every rock that would have chipped the paint will still tear the wrap, won't it?

Secondly: How often do you generally replace the wrap? How do you know when to replace it? How do you maintain the wrap? (I can't imagine waxing over the wrap.) What about the OptiCoat - how often does that need redoing? Does it get chipped or sun damaged?

Thank you! I expect that your answers will help a lot of visitors here besides me.

On light scratches, the wrap has some ability to "self-heal". In my case it left a tiny chip in the armor.

At that point, the entire panel needs to be peeled off and a new one applied. How often is really a matter of your ego vs. wallet. For that tiny ding, I'll wait. In a separate incident where I rubbed against my garage door frame, the damage was big and I had it replaced. The paint was perfectly protected, only a small divot in the aluminum was left (which no paint armor would protect anyways).

Pungoteague--are you sure TM is reusing the old NUMMI/GM paint shop?? The part of the factory that they have rehabbed/cleaned up is all new, with new stamping equipment, new transporters, new robotic machines, etc. I have been on the tour. The video available showing the paint line looks pretty high tech. This is IMHO not a technology issue but a 'feature' of the available paints and clear coats legal to use in CA.

Based on the Nat Geo documentary, I doubt the paint robots are repurposed from NUMMI days.

I got the film on my red S. I had about a hundred little chips in my 6 yr old prius and did not want that in my new car. After about 12 month while on the freeway a nearby truck made a rock hoot sideways at my car and hit it just behind the front wheel well. dented the metal and did not chip the paint, due to the armor. Another instance is in tight quarters I rubbed a house with my front bumper; transferred paint from the house to my bumper, looked really bad. When I took the car in for service, TM sent it to a detailer ad the house paint is removed and the bumper is unmarred while the film is a little distorted. Cannot even notice the scrape.

I recommend to get the film, it is cheap ding insurance.

I don't know the reality, but when TM bought the NUMMI facility they said that it came with all the stamping and painting equipment, which was intended to be reused in the new operation. They have since said that they converted areas into the clean factory format and relocated much of the old equipment into the TM line. IIRC, that included the robotic equipment, which was reprinted red and hung with Tesla logos. Since painting equipment hasn't changed much despite some new-tech water based green paints, I doubt that TM would have bought new. The coolest stuff in the Nat Geo documentary, the robots, were repurposed.

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