How to remove an INVISIBLE BRA on your RV, or car.
Bugs, Rocks and your RV front end
Boy, I can remember, over ten years ago, when 3M ( and maybe others, I’m not sure how many companies made these things) came out with their “Invisible Bra” for automobiles and specifically for RV’s.
It was hailed as the final and perfect solution for keeping Bugs and small scratches and dents from rocks off of your RV front end. And honestly, it worked!
As we all know, one real nuisance for RV owners (not to mention automobile owners) is the number of bugs that will commit suicide on the front of your RV as you drive down the road.
Add to that those scratches and small dents you end up with from the rocks other driver's automobiles “kick” up from the road in front of you and your front end can start to look like it has been through a battle zone.
RV with Invisible Bra
The Bugs are the worst problem
These darn bugs, in varieties from tiny mosquitoes to large strange things that seem to have wingspans that block out the sun just before they hit and splatter across your windshield are the worst to deal with.
Some are just individual insects that have lost their way, I guess, while others travel in swarms that are so thick, when you drive through them, it sounds like you have run into a sandstorm.
If your RV front end isn't protected, it can soon become a pock-marked surface with dried up stains everywhere.
Of course it never helps when your RV front end is a flat surface with absolutely no aerodynamics to help some of these things slip off to the side and miss your front end.
I won’t even go into the different ways people have tried to get the front of their RV and their windshield clean after a long day on the road. Using soaps, detergents, scouring rags, brushes and more have been tried, to no avail.
Oh, you could have installed a black vinyl bra, custom designed for the front end of your specific model of RV, that fits like a glove and which was (supposedly) easier to clean than your bug infested paint job, and really many RV owners did just this.
A good vinyl bra usually fits the RV well, and it looks good. But, it is a bra, and it does distract from your fancy RV paint job.
So many RV owners were so frustrated with this bug and rock problem that they (and I, of course) jumped on the opportunity to have something that was not only easy to clean, but a very stylish addition to our RV.
This new product was what everyone called “the Invisible Bra”
Plastic Razor Scraper with Blades
What is this "Invisible Bra"?
This new product was a fantastic idea, and I think everyone in the RV industry jumped on the bandwagon to provide this product to RV owners.
The manufacturer had developed a product line using a special clear plastic, in sheet form that could be cut and glued to the front end of your RV.
It not only was clear and it allowed your RV paint job to show through. To top this off, it was also guaranteed to not block any UV rays from the sun.
This meant that the paint under the plastic would “age” and “fade” at the same rate as the paint that was not under the plastic. Wow, this meant you could remove it later and your paint job would be unchanged and you wouldn’t be able to tell if it was ever on your RV.
Then you add the fact that it was guaranteed to meet these specifications for 10-years, and you had a product everyone wanted on their RV. So, for the next five years or more, this Invisible Bra was placed on the majority of RV's sold.
It was great. You had your front end protected, and your paint job looked great, it was invisible, right?
Plastic Razor Blades
Time and the Invisible Bra on an RV
But, after a few years, people started complaining. Their Invisible Bra had started to be, well, visible.
Remember, the bra didn’t get rid of bugs, and you had to clean them off, yourself. And, the cleaning guidelines was to “use your regular RV cleaning detergents”.
Of course, every RV owner used whatever they liked to to get rid of the bugs; in fact, the stronger the better seemed to be the norm. And, for those pesky stubborn areas, they often used tools (rags and brushes) that actually scratched the plastic layer of the bra.
Some of these scratches even went all of the way through the plastic layer.
Well, over time these scratches allowed small amounts of water and also mold spores, it seems, to work their way into the scratches and onto the paint itself. This trapped mold built up to the point that the typical RV front end looked like it was covered with a brown “rust” under the once-clear plastic layer.
The manufacturer was safe, of course, because we RV owners had used things to clean those dead bugs off of our mont ends that were definitely NOT on any approved list of cleaners.
So, we all just kept on running in our RV's with their now ugly front ends. And OK, it looked bad, but it was still protecting that front end paint job, and when you pulled into a campground, everyone knew what the situation was; just another bad Invisible Bra.
How the Invisible Bra is installed
The Invisible Bra concept was a simple one.
You place some clear plastic onto the front end of an automobile or RV and it took 99% of the abuse a bare front end would have taken from bugs, sand and small rocks.
And, oh yeah, when you went back and read the original ads and documents from the manufacturers they even had a disclaimer in case you were hit by a rock that was large enough to cut through their thin layer of plastic.
Application of the plastic
The application process was a relatively simple one.
- First you cut the clear plastic to roughly fit the area of the vehicles front end.
- Second, you washed, cleaned and then wet down the section of the body you wanted to protect with the plastic.
- Third you wet down the back side of the plastic which had a thin coating of a glue that the water activated.
- For the final step, you placed the wet plastic onto a wet RV front end.
- Once it was roughly in place, you just used a squeegee to push the water from under the plastic, making sure to eliminate any bubbles that might show up as you worked the plastic with the squeegee.
- And finally, the plastic was elastic to a degree, so it could be “stretched and shaped” as you used your squeegee.
Then you just sat back and waited for the glue to dry. Once the glue was dry, you had a piece of plastic that was a perfect fit over your RV paint job, that would be there for years.
Or so they thought.
Putting a Bra onto an RV
Putting a Bra of any kind onto an RV front end just replaces one bug collector with another. Don Bobbitt
What went wrong with this wonder product
Over time, these accumulated scratches and small holes destroyed the look of the Invisible Bra.
I guess, what was never considered is just how desperate an RV owner might be to get rid of dead bugs.
As I mentioned, RV owners not only used harsher chemicals than was was recommended, but they used brushes and other tools in their efforts to the point that, over time, left scratches in the plastic coating.
And, of course, add to the scratches the uncountable small pieces of sand and gravel, flying at high speeds when kicked up from the road, eventually putting thousands of very small pinholes in the plastic in addition to the scratches.
The final catastrophe for the RV owner who had used this Invisible Bra was the growth of Molds.
You see, all of those small pinholes and scratches allowed not only water to enter under the edges of the plastic, but the this water became a perfect breeding ground for molds to grow, and eventually to die.
And, of course, the dead mold turned brown; an ugly dark brown, in fact. So, the RV owner watched helplessly as his beautiful front end slowly turned into a collection of brown lines and spots.
How do you get rid of this plastic covering?
I should probably note here that as ugly as a mold infested plastic “Invisible Bra” might make your RV front end look, the paint job under that bra is invariably in great shape, near perfect condition, in fact.
So, the goal of every RV owner is to get this ugly plastic off of the RV without harming the it’s underlying paint job.
Looking at this problem objectively, there are two problems the owner needs to attack, if they want to get this “Bra” off without harming the paint. and these problems are; the Plastic itself and then the Glue holding it to the paint.
Each of these problems requires a different form of attack and if you are going to try to remove the bra yourself, then you need to heed these warnings..
Warning #1 - The first warning for the owner is that the plastic itself generally has so many scratches which are usually cut all of the way through the plastic that any attempts to just peel the plastic off will meet with failure.
You see, those scratches (cuts) are so numerous that as you try to peel the plastic, it separates every 1/8-inch or so. What I am say is that you end up removing thousands of small pieces of the plastic because it will just will not peel off in larger pieces.
Warning #2 - If you try to use harsh chemicals to remove the plastic, it turns into soft sticky balls of plastic that will harden quickly, if left on the body. These can take days to dry enough for you to actually remove them.
Also, most of the chemicals that are capable of removing the plastic, are also capable of damaging your paint job. So, great care must be taken with any chemical selection and it's use.
So, What are your options?
Once you understand what you are dealing with, you can select the method that suits you, but in reality there are only a few "best" methods of removing an Invisible Bra from the front end of an RV.
Go to a Paint Shop
You can go to a good automotive paint shop that is comfortable with painting RV's.
At one of these, they will take your problem off of your hands and remove not only the plastic and glue, but the paint itself. Then they simply repaint your RV front end.
Doing this, your RV ends up looking great but you will have shelled out several thousands of dollars for your new and nice-looking front end.
Use a Heat Gun
I do know there are some people who used a hair dryer. The heat slowly weakens the glue under the plastic and allowed you to actually peel away decent size strips of the plastic. But, he did admit that it was a very slow process.
But, you have to keep the hair dryer far enough away from the paint so you don’t harm the paint itself, while at the same time, being close enough to weaken the bond of the glue.
This is a tricky way to remove the plastic, but I understand that a steady hand can do it properly.
Of course, you then have to get rid if the residual glue left behind.
Probably the most people I have heard from told me they used paint scrapers.
The scrapers were not made of metal but rather they were cheap one-piece plastic scrapers. I asked how expensive these scrapers were, and they gave me different prices but they all told me they were relatively cheap. But they also admitted that they had “used a lot” of them to get the job done.
You see, the edge of the plastic scraper has to be straight and beveled to a sharp edge, or at least what passes for sharp when something is made of plastic.
The scraper had to be sharp enough and firm enough that it an be worked under the edge of the plastic Bra, while at the same time not scratching the underlying paint.
Of course, the areas with less scratches peel easier, and the process is labor intensive and takes a lot of your time. Most of the people who used scrapers would pick a small area at a time and not rush through getting rid of their Invisible Bra.
What did I do?
Well, first of all, I read a lot of labels on paint removers, adhesive removers, paint cleaners and other chemicals that I found on the shelves of my favorite building material stores like Lowes and Home Depot.
I then had to go back home and look up some of the ingredients in these cleaners and honestly, the possible health effects from using some of them scared me as much much as the potential environmental hazards.
So, i eliminated the possibility of using most of the chemicals I did find.
I decided I wasn’t going to use a heat gun or hair dryer and create a new problem, accidentally damaging my paint, while trying to solve another one, so that option was eliminated.
And honestly I simply couldn’t afford to take my RV to a paint shop and spend the kind of money the other guys told me they had spent on theirs getting their front ends redone.
So, I ended up using paint scrapers. But, I went one step further.
I got online, and on Amazon I found some scrapers made like the ones which use old-fashioned two-sided razor-blades for scraping labels and stickers off of a windshield or paint from a newly painted window frame and glass.
But, these were different, The holder was the same design but it was made of plastic, and the vendor also sold packages of two-sided razor-blades made of plastic.
They were priced right and I ordered a few of them to try out. It ended up they worked great for me.
When you take your time, you can use these to relatively easily scrape off pieces of the plastic bra, and then I use a not-very-powerful, but safe, cleanser called Goo-Gone.
I coat the glue covered areas with the Goo-Gone, and then wait a few minutes for it to soak into the glue. It softens the glue enough that I can then scrape it from the surface of the paint.
Oh, it’s still a slow, manual process and it seems to take forever, but, as I said, it’s cheap and it works. So, my recommendation is to plan on using more elbow grease, spend less money and you can still get rid of that darn not-so-invisible bra on the front of your RV.
You see, I'm nearly 2/3 done and my RV will soon have its original front end paint showing all over. Then it's just a good washing with soapy water, followed by a good hand wax, it will look like new.
by DON Bobbitt, October 2015
Removing 3m Clear Bra from an automobile
© 2015 Don Bobbitt
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