How can I safely remove protective film from my car’s hood and fenders?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who needs to get rid of his car's 10-year-old clear mask.

In this Sunday, June 14, 2020, photograph, the company logo shines on the grille of an unsold 2020 Armada sports-utility vehicle at a Nissan dealership in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
–AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Q. When I bought my Nissan Altima back in 2010, I added the accessory of a clear mask to protect the front of the hood and fenders. It was put on with an adhesive. These days, the mask is cracking and my hood looks terrible. Picking at it with a finger, it feels like it will chip off. Can I somehow peel or chip the mask off, and if so, what is the best way to do so, without damaging the hood? Also, what would be the best way to safely remove the adhesive?

A. Typically, this type of film lasts about five to seven years, so you did really well getting 10 years out of the clear mask on your car. I have removed this type of vinyl film with a heat gun and plastic scrapers. Typically, once you can pull up a corner you’re in pretty good shape to remove larger pieces. Then, while continuing to gently heat the adhesive, you can take off the larger sections. Once you have all the film removed, you can clean the adhesive with adhesive remover. Once you have removed the film, clean up the paint with a polishing compound then apply wax to restore the paint. 

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Q. I have a 2008 Jeep Compass with front-wheel drive and five-speed manual transmission. Sporadically, the warning lights for the anti-lock brakes, airbag system, and traction control turn on. This seems to be affected by temperature — more warnings in hot weather than in cold. I am able to reset them while underway at highway speed by turning off the ignition for a few seconds. This works for a while then the lights come back on. I have been told several things. First, the problem is with the computer and a new module is needed. I’ve been told this is quite expensive. A used computer is just about impossible because of the manual transmission and front-wheel drive. I have also been told that it is not the computer but a sensor in one of the wheels. My current mechanic says it is most likely the computer, and he offered to remove it and try to get it rebuilt. Lastly, all say that given the age and mileage on the car — which runs fine — leave it alone, ignore the lights, and drive the car. I’m interested in your take on this issue.

A. The problem could be either or both of those issues causing the warning lights to come on, although I would be looking for a poor electrical connection — specifically a poor ground wire connection. The best thing to do is spend some time with a voltmeter and check for voltage drop across these circuits. At 12 years old, one of the wheel sensors for the ABS brakes could have failed, which would also disable the traction control system. The fact that the ABS and airbag lights come on together leads me to believe it is a ground problem. This is also a case where time could be a good diagnostic tool. Over time, the issue will get worse and the problem will be easier to find. 

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Q. What car or SUV can I buy without start-stop technology? I have rented a couple of new cars that have this feature and I hate it. 

A. I have driven a lot of vehicles over the years, and every vehicle that I can think of since 2018/2019 has this gas-saving feature. The idle stop feature is well intended, and is designed to save fuel. In my road tests, I’m not sure it actually does. When manufacturers add this feature, there is an automatically calculated bump in EPA fuel economy numbers. This is no different than years ago when some manual transmission vehicles had “upshift” lights. When the manufacturer added this light, the EPA fuel economy number went up one mile per gallon on paper. Nearly every vehicle with this system has some ability to shut it off, at least for that one trip. Some manufacturers govern the system by how hard you press the brake pedal. Light pressure on the brake at a stop keeps the engine running. Heavy pressure shuts the engine off. 

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to [email protected]. Listen to Car Doctor on the radio at 10 a.m. every Saturday on 104.9 FM or online at northshore1049.com.

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