We all started somewhere in the paint protection film (PPF) industry, whether journalists or installers. Sergey Yakobchak, owner of New Layer Customs in Troy, Mich., launched his PPF career by bulk-installing on a 2015 Ferrari 458 Spider. Talk about getting your feet wet!
$270,000-Worth of Stress
For the uninitiated, Tyler O’Hara, the owner of American Wrap Co. in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and PPFMag columnist, provides an explanation of bulk installs on his website: “All too often, I see people on the internet and have customers come to me asking about bulk installs. You may be wondering—what is a bulk install? A ‘bulk’ or ‘custom’ install is where we take giant sheets of uncut material and essentially install it from scratch on the car. This process is usually more wasteful, very time-consuming and should only be performed by installers with many years of experience. Hence the larger price tag it comes with.”
Yakobchak learned how difficult bulk installs are during his first go with PPF.
“Absolutely horrible,” Yakobchak says of his first install, which included the full front end—bumper, hood, fenders, headlights and mirrors. “It’s a hard car even for skilled installers, let alone for a beginner. I lost a lot of money going through a lot of material and re-doing every panel multiple times until I got it to look okay.”
The year was 2018, and Yakobchak was two years into entrepreneurship. He says the installation took three to four days and taught him a valuable lesson.
“The main thing I learned is to not practice on clients’ cars,” says Yakobchak, who entered the vinyl wrapping game in 2011. “That job humbled me very quickly. I thought that it wouldn’t be that hard with my vinyl wrapping background. I couldn’t be more wrong. I should have started with personal cars or friends’ cars. But to be fair, being an immigrant, I didn’t have any friends back then and didn’t have a decent enough car to practice on.”
Yakobchak says he’s still learning every day, but he says he’s come a long way since that initial installation. He placed second in the Paint Protection Film Competition at the 2022 International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ (WFCT).
“Installation-wise, my team and I can achieve almost invisible installs,” he shares. “We wrap almost every corner and every edge, making it look like there is nothing on the car.”
Starting With an Everyday Car
Nick Mueller, owner of Busters Customs in Traverse City, Mich., started his PPF journey with a 2019 Honda CR-V EX-L. Like Yakobchak, Mueller’s first application was a bulk installation. He applied PPF to the bumper, hood, fenders, mirrors and rockers.
“Fenders/hood/rockers were [easy],” Mueller says. “Bumper and mirrors were difficult. I re-did the mirrors about two to three times before accomplishing no silvering/chicken skin; only to find them pull back after a week or so. The client was amazing. She had no problem being patient with me. A huge piece of advice I can give to anyone starting out is be transparent with your client. Let them know you’re a starter; or it may not be perfect the first try. This industry breeds difficult work, and nobody is perfect at the beginning. The number one shortcoming for most installers is promising their client 100% perfection. A great PPF install is usually 90% if you’re lucky.”
Mueller has been installing PPF for four and a half years now. Since his initial start, he’s come a long way.
“A full front can take me roughly two to three hours with/without patterns, compared to six to seven when I started,” Mueller says. “I alternate between patterns and bulking just because patterns don’t always line up best or provide workability like bulking does. Bulking certainly takes more time; this can eat into your efficiency and profit. I recently gave myself a pat on the back for completing a full-body, Tesla Model X in six hours thanks to patterns.”
“I’ve been in the detailing industry since I started mobile detailing back in high school, and I haven’t looked back since,” says Cole Perkins, the founder/owner of Southern Detail Pros in Denham Springs, La. “My exposure to PPF happened in 2018 when I started working at a few higher-end shops in my area. I’d say that seeing installers in their prime while being brand new to film helped me understand the concepts early on.”
Perkins first installed PPF on a rented Toyota Tacoma. He says it was a great opportunity to get some practice and determine if PPF was the next step for his detailing business.
“From my first vehicle and months after, everything I did were bulk installs,” Perkins says. “I believe it gave me many essential skills early on that people who start with patterns take longer to develop. My first installs took a very long time. It was all just fighting to understand and read tension, having to bulk install and attempting panels multiple times. I would work some crazy hours on these installs.”
Perkins’ drive to go further inspired him to enter the PPF segment. “PPF has definitely taught me patience,” he says. “But more than anything, it has taught me how rewarding it can be to step back and take pride in something you did with your own hands. I still have fun with every install I’m a part of.”