Install Car Graphics
Car graphics (commonly known as “Car Wraps”) are full-scale pieces that completely-cover the surface of your vehicle. As installation of this product can be tricky, we recommend hiring a professional installer.

Car graphics are made from a 4.25 mil film that has excellent durability and conformability characteristics. The life expectancy for this material is 5 years.



Before You Apply:
  • The first step to applying any graphic is to clean your vehicle. This ensures that the graphics adhere properly without the risk of failure. If you take the vehicle to the car wash, make sure the vehicle is completely dry before applying the graphics. This may mean allowing the vehicle to dry indoors overnight before applying.
  • If grease, oil, wax or other contaminants are present, wipe the substrate with a solvent such as Prep-Sol or Xylol. Then do a final cleaning with isopropyl alcohol (IPA) to make sure that no oily residue from the other solvents is left behind.
  • When cleaning the vehicle with IPA, we recommend using two lint-free towels. One towel should be soaked with IPA, which is used to loosen and clean off the contaminants (dust, dirt, wax, etc.). The second towel, which should be dry, will be used to wipe away the excess IPA before it has a chance to evaporate. It is also important to pay special attention to cleaning the cracks and crevices of the vehicle where contaminants generally build up. For these areas, wrap an IPA-soaked towel around a squeegee to get down into the crevasses. Before using any solvent on a vehicle, be sure to test in an inconspicuous area to ensure the solvent won't damage the vehicle's paint.

Tools for Application:
supplies to install car graphics
  • Tape measure - for positioning
  • Air release tool - for removing air bubbles
  • Masking tape - for positioning
  • Squeegee - for applying the graphic
  • Razor blade or Exacto knife (preferably one with break-off blades) - for trimming away excess vinyl
  • Heat gun or propane torch - for heating the vinyl on complicated applications


Preparation:
Prepare for your car graphics installation
  • Plan your install before starting. Identify which piece goes where and where you plan to start. Remember, after removing the backing paper (liner), you have one chance to install correctly. This material does have some degree of repositionability; however, this is generally intended so the installer can "snap up" a small area for repositioning, not remove an entire panel to start over.
  • Lay out the graphics and position them on the vehicle with tape. Check to make sure that you have each piece and check the overall positioning of the graphics. Make any necessary adjustments (or plan on adjustments) before actually applying the vinyl.

Temperature:

Temperature plays an important role in how well a vinyl sticks to a substrate. We generally recommend the temperature be in the range of 65-90°F, with 70-80°F being the optimum range. Whenever possible, try to apply graphics indoors in a controlled environment. Not only will this help you control the temperature, it will also reduce the amount of wind, dust and other contaminants. It is important to monitor both the ambient and surface temperature as both can have an effect on your application. Higher temperatures will make the film soft and more pliable (which can be nice if you are an experienced installer); however, the high temperature also makes the adhesive more aggressive, which can lead to pre-tack (where the film adheres to the substrate prematurely) and increased stretching if you try to reposition the film. Lower temperatures, on the other hand, will make the film more rigid and reduce the tack of the adhesive.


Applying the Graphics:

It is much easier if you have a second set of hands to help with positioning the film during the application process, so two people should be involved.

Install car graphics Step 1

First, wrap the hood.

Position the graphic and tape it into place. Since the hood isn't perfectly flat, you cannot follow the standard process of starting at the top and working your way down. Start near the center and work your way up, then go back and work down. Keeping the squeegee at a lower angle and taking your time helps prevent wrinkles.

In curved areas, you may begin to see some small wrinkles that look like "crows feet." Keeping the squeegee at a sharp angle will help prevent this. Don't chop at the material—this will only make the wrinkles worse. If the wrinkles get too bad, use heat to relax the film and get rid of the wrinkles. Be sure to let the film cool down before starting to squeegee again; this will prevent excess stretching. Keep applying the material in small strips until the hood is finished.

Once the hood graphic is applied, the film must be trimmed before going on to the next piece. When trimming out graphics, you must take care not to cut the paint. For this piece, trim the material flush with the edge of the hood. It is not recommended to leave excess film and wrap around the edge of the hood as this will be a potential point of failure in the future.


Install car graphics step 2

Next,
you will apply the side panel(s).

Applying one long, horizontal panel helps to eliminate seams in your graphic. You may not want to use this method on a hot day as you will be removing all of the liner at-once and will need to continually reposition the material during the application process. If the temperature is too high, you are at risk of pre-tack and stretching the film.

Again, it is possible to apply a graphic of this size with just one person, but it is definitely easier with two. Once you position the material, remove the liner and lightly tack the film to the car. You will then position the film to distribute it evenly on the surface. Next, place your first squeegee stroke along the length of the car. Apply the lower half of the panel, then work on the upper portion of the panel.

Install car graphics step 3

Then,
when you reach the wheel well area, trim out the excess material.

This helps to relieve excess tension on the material and makes the graphic easier to handle. The same goes for the upper panel in the hood and trunk areas where there is excess film.

As you near the front and rear bumpers, it is necessary to take additional time and work the film to avoid wrinkles. It may be necessary to use heat to relax the film and continue to work it into the contour of the vehicle. Remember: The trick here is to take your time and not overheat or over-stretch the film.

Install car graphics step 4

Finally,
go back and trim the material around the moldings and door panels.

Even though the film looks good in these areas at the time of installation, it is possible that some excessive stretching may have occurred, and trimming the vinyl in these areas will prevent any tenting. It is also a good idea to go back and look for any air bubbles you may have missed while squeegee-ing the material into place.


Car graphics installed

You're Done! Once your car graphics are installed, you can begin building your business through mobile marketing. Wait 1 week before washing the vehicle to allow the material full time to cure.

Page Authored By Stephen Evans

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