Our Automotive Roots

3M captures the spark of new ideas and transforms them into thousands of ingenious, surprisingly interrelated products. From inventing the Post-it® note you write your daily tasks on, to creating the films that allow smart phone batteries to last longer, to providing Neil Armstrong with boots for the first moonwalk, 3M products impact customer experiences from the mundane to the historic.

This is especially true for the automotive industry. For over 100 years, 3M has developed over 1,000 innovation solutions used in cars from the manufacturing line, to the repair shop, to the NASCAR-sanctioned race track, to your garage.

Major Milestones in 3M Automotive History

Abrasives used across the vehicle

With the introduction of it's Wetordry™ Waterproof Sandpaper in 1921, 3M developed the first short-cut in the history of automobile refinishing by speeding up and improving the quality the process.

Today 3M is an industry leader in the automobile abrasive market, providing a wide portfolio of solutions, such as the introduction of headlight restoration products with an industry-leading optically clear finish.

3M™ Masking Tape

In 1925 3M developed automotive masking tape to allow auto body shops to successfully paint two-tone cars. Today, 3M offers a wide range of masking tape for just about any surface, including automotive refinishing, weather resistant tapes, fine line masking and striping tapes, textile tape, large area and many more.

Custom Vehicle Graphics

In 1949 -- at the height of the popularity of cars with wood-grained paneling (or “woodies”) – 3M invented 3M™ Di-Noc™ film to give cars the same look more easily and economically. Since that time, 3M has introduced films used across the vehicle, from paint-replacing “blackout” pillar films, to fleet graphic films used to advertise products on semi-trailers and city buses, to custom graphics used to decorate racing cars. 3M has also made these films easier to apply by inventing technologies that prevent graphics from sticking to surfaces before being properly placed and eliminating air bubbles commonly created in the application process. 3M Racing,
Jason Campagna on introductions after DiNoc.

Automobile Bras

3M invented the car bra for Porsche in the 1960s. Often made from cloth or vinyl, an automobile bra attaches to the front of a car to protect the hood and bumper from chips and scratches.
Tinted Windows

In 1966, 3M was awarded the first patent for window tinting. The idea was to use a metal mirror with holes in it to reflect a certain percentage of the sun's radiation back to keep heat out of the car. Today, 3M™ Crystalline Window Film contains no metal, which offers great visibility and amazingly high reflection of ultraviolet light and heat


Acrylic Tapes

Since 1978, 3M has been the industry leader for attaching exterior automotive components with double-sided foam tapes to prevent corrosion and rust issues associated with rivets and welding.
Vehicle Cabin Filtration

In 1990, 3M introduced vehicle cabin ventilation filters using Filtrete™ filter media that contains electrostatically charged filter media. The product can help to clean the air of odor and particulates, such as dust and pollen, in your car heating and air conditioning system.

3M Scotchgard™ Paint Protection Film

Since its invention of paint protection film in 1960, 3M has used the product to protect helicopter rotor blades from becoming damaged by debris (1960s), to protect fighter jet painted surfaces (1970s), to keep NASCAR stock cars together during collisions (1980s), and to protect your vehicle’s paint finish from harsh conditions like sand, road debris and bugs and lose the auto "undergarments" (1990s).

Scotchgard™ Paint Protection Film is a rugged, virtually invisible urethane barrier that helps keep paint looking great, reduces damage to the finish and keeps your vehicle looking better longer.


3M has been involved with NASCAR since the mid-1990s, providing its cars with innovative technologies and products. Today over 50 different 3M products are used on NASCAR cars and 3M is an official sponsor across 18 product categories.
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3M™ Paint Preparation System

In 2000, the 3M™ Paint Preparation System was introduced to provide a quicker, cleaner, and more efficient way to repaint cars in auto body shops. Today, the system is used to repaint millions of cars repaired annually across North America and Europe. In addition, the product allows users to reduce the use of solvents in the cleanup process by up to 70 percent.

Easy-To-Use, Professional Grade Products

In 2006, 3M introduced a comprehensive line of professional car care appearance products. The products capitalize on and combine 3M’s wide range of technologies and our 3M’s innovation process. 3M has continued to enhance the product line, with the addition of the Bondo® product line in 2007 and recent introduction of cutting-edge category solutions, including Headlight Restoration and Paint Defender.

Celebrating 100 Years of Automotive Innovation

Chip Foose is a well known hot rod shop owner, automotive designer and fabricator, and star of the reality TV series Overhaulin on Velocity. Watch as he draws the 100 year history of 3M products.

100 Years