Given that most vehicles are only available in single colors, many people want to make their cars or trucks look more attractive. It may be purely for aesthetic reasons, you want a vehicle that turns heads, or it may be that you have a commercial vehicle that you want to customize with graphics and lettering. For many years, the only way to achieve a unique look was with a custom paint job, but since the 1990s, a new technique called vinyl wrapping was invented.
What’s a vinyl wrap?
For over 70 years, vinyl was implemented to add custom logos or lettering onto vehicles. Still, it wasn’t until the early 90s that the idea of wrapping a car entirely in vinyl was formed. Vinyl is unique in that it’s flexible, easy to color, and resistant to harsh weather. Modern vinyl is extremely thin that it’s very similar to a thick coat of paint and can come in large or small rolls depending on the job, making it versatile for applying almost any design you’d like. And yes, the vinyl wrap won’t scratch even if you use outdoor car covers
Which is better – vinyl or paint?
If you’d like a custom look for your car or truck, both paint and vinyl are great options for different reasons. Custom paint jobs have been done for decades now, and the techniques to do them have become very sophisticated. The skill and equipment needed to do a high-end custom paint job can bring the price up, though, as well as lengthening the time necessary to complete the work. The main advantage is that a quality paint job can last a vehicle’s lifetime, meaning you won’t have to pay for the work to be done twice. On the other hand, if you need to sell your car or change the look, you’ll likely need a new paint job to make the vehicle more desirable for the average person.
Vinyl gives the flexibility to change your car’s look without the high cost, and you can even do the job yourself with a steady hand. The tools and skills needed to wrap a vehicle are accessible, although if you have a larger vehicle or multiple vehicles, then a professional is recommended. Fleet Graphics & Fleet Wraps are the best ways to add branding and a custom look to numerous trucks in a fleet and give a consistent look to be recognizable.
Vinyl car wrapping lends itself to a more temporary solution to changing a vehicle’s look, which is attractive for many people. If you’re wrapping your car, you can change the look regularly without any real issues, and if you have a commercial vehicle, you can easily change your truck’s branding if needed.
Guide to DIY Vinyl Wrapping Your Car
Preparing your car
The first thing to ensure when wrapping your car is that the body is as smooth as possible, so note any chips or dents as these can cause problems when covering your vehicle. If a wrap sticks to this imperfection, it will make it more pronounced, so take your time to remove them if possible.
Ideally, you want to wrap your car in a clean environment away from any dust or debris that may stick to the vinyl’s adhesive side. Take some time to clean your workspace to minimize anything that could cause an imperfection in your wrap.
When choosing what day to wrap your car, try to pick a day that’s both warm and dry, as vinyl wrapping is sensitive to changes in temperature. If the weather is too cold, the vinyl may tear, and if it’s too hot, it may become overly sticky, so a temperature of around 68°F (20°C) is ideal when possible. With your workspace cleared, you need to clean your car using non-wax products like Turtle Wax MAX Power Wash, which will give you the ideal surface to work with.
You can then start measuring each section of the vehicle you’re wrapping, taking each measurement, and adding a few inches for you to hold. Adding extra is better than not having enough as you can always cut it down to size later on if there’s excess.
Laying your first sheets
If this is the first time you’ve applied a vinyl wrap, then it’s best to start on small and flat surfaces, which will help you understand how to work with the material and give you the confidence to work on the more intricate parts.
Cut the appropriate amount of vinyl from your sheet, and then, take the vinyl while wearing cotton gloves and remove the back to reveal the adhesive back, keeping tension if possible. The task is far more comfortable if you have someone else to help hold the vinyl tight. With the vinyl still tight, slowly lay it over the panel and start to apply pressure at the middle using your squeegee, and work your way outwards slowly. Using this technique will ensure that any air is pushed out and not trapped in the sheet, causing air bubbles and ruining your finish.
Pressing out wrinkles and air
When you get to curved surfaces, you may find that the process becomes more difficult, and if you do see any wrinkles or air bubbles forming, slowly peel the vinyl back off the surface, apply heat no higher than 120°F (80°C) with a heat gun, and pull the vinyl tight again. You can then start your process of using the squeegee to press the vinyl back onto the surface, working from the center to the outside of the sheet.
Finishing and edging
To finish your wrap, use a utility knife to trim any excess material, and then, use your heat gun to heat the edges to a minimum of 212°F (100°C), which will cause the adhesive to become extra sticky. You can use your squeegee to seal the edge of the vinyl to the surface of your car. With the whole section stuck to the panel, take your heat gun and apply the same heat to the rest of the panel, which will activate the vinyl’s adhesive side and create a long-lasting bond. If any bubbles appear at this stage, they can be popped with a sharp pin and pressed back down with your fingers. With this done, wait for at least 12 hours before doing anything to let the adhesive set.