Ah, the not so wonderful winter experiences drivers in Michigan share.

“Everybody’s been behind a salt truck and you hear it plinking off your car,” said Larry Millen. “I tell you, you’re driving down the road in a brand new car in zero-degree weather and your ice-cold paint is getting pelted by rock salt and it’s brittle and it’s getting damaged.”

Everyone makes preparations for winter driving, or at least they should, from filling your vehicle’s windshield reservoir, to having the radiator’s antifreeze checked, to making sure you have a windshield scraper and snow-removal brush, to installing a set of winter tires.

But how many people think about the painted surfaces and headlamps, and how winter driving damages them?

Millen is among those who offer a way to protect such areas of a vehicle, and not just in the winter. He owns Livonia-based Clear Auto Bra Michigan, a boutique shop that applies Xpel Ultimate paint protection film to cars for private owners and many new-car dealerships.

Owners often have expensive or exotic cars wrapped to protect their surfaces. Yes, that can cost a few thousand dollars, but repainting such a vehicle can run well into five figures.

However, “people tend to disregard this in the winter time,” Millen said, adding that such a belief is a misconception. “The big concern people have is that it cannot be applied in the winter time, but we install (indoors) year around and have been for 14 years.”

And, he added, the product is warrantied. A news release from Texas-based Xpel Technologies Corp. notes that its clear protective film is warrantied for 10 years when applied by its network of trained installers, such as Millen’s firm.

Xpel’s product is a clear urethane film with clear coat and elastomeric polymers that “heal” over time, automatically eliminating swirl marks and small scratches, the manufacturer said, all while protecting vehicle surfaces from such things as sand, gravel, rocks, insects, bird waste and, yes, road salt.

Millen said his shop — he has three full-time installers — is so busy from late February until Thanksgiving that people sometimes have to wait a couple of weeks to get their car protected.

While some get their entire vehicle wrapped, Millen steers most to what he calls the “standard package” — front bumper, leading 18 inches of the hood, forward-facing parts of the front fenders and the mirrors covers. Such protection usually runs around $1,100, he said.

“We an also do a la cart from there. Every customer has something different they want. Some want the A pillars and area around around the windshield protected. Some want the headlights covered. Some want the rocker panels done.

“For winter protection, what I would recommend is our standard front-end package and I would add headlights,” Millen said. On some cars, he added, such as Corvettes and Porsches where the rear fenders flare out, he’d also recommend rocker panels and the front edges of those rear fenders, “which get peppered pretty bad.”

He said pickup owners often also want rocker panels protected.

For more information, and a list of installation shops, visit the website.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at

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