How to Vinyl Wrap a Car

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 6.01.13 pmFirst up before rolling out a long how to instruction guide on how to take a roll of what is effectively book contact and lay it down on your car. We need to clear up a few things first: Number one; we have wrapped exactly one vehicle. This by no means makes us experts at this and thus we are only sharing our experience of what we learnt in the process. Number two; the vehicle we did wrap is full of errors, granted we probably got better at it as time went on but we are in no way claiming to be the authority on bubble less good looking vinyl wrapping.
So what have we learnt on the way? The primary thing we learnt is that the sparkle contact hides the flaws in the work. Patching rips and having multiple layers overlap is an unforgivable sin but the sparkle black we used seems to hide these seams rather well so when rips and errors did arise we could repair it with a patch without having to start the whole panel again. So if your a novice like we are then we advise getting the sparkle wraps. Take into account that sparkle paint and panel was a very nineties thing to do to your car so the current trends may not agree with our choice of wrap.
Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 5.55.04 pmAlso; no we will not do your car for you!
To wrap one whole car has taken at least forty eight hours of work. Granted its our first time and we’d probably get better and quicker at it as time goes on and we land more experience under our belt, but at $99 an hour multiplied by forty eight you’d pay $4,752 for an average vinyl wrap. Unless of course bubbles, creases and overlapping becomes fashionable, we don’t see this happening.
A few quick tips before starting; First up you will need a few mates around to lend a hand with this stuff, unless you’re Henry the Octopus or have graduated from Hogwarts, there is a very real need for more then two hands when working with the stuff.
Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 6.03.36 pmSecondly, be aware that the dings and scratches in the vehicle will show up through the vinyl, so in the same manner as painting the car you want to make sure the car is straight, rust free and clean.
Before you start your work you will want to wipe the areas you are wrapping. Do this with Prepsol or brake cleaner.
The other trap we fell into cost us a lot of time and heartache, the mistake was not allowing enough time for the paint and panel work to dry before laying the vinyl down. When working with bigger sections of panel there is often a need to lift the vinyl back off, when there has not been sufficient time to allow the paintwork to dry the vinyl ripped the fresh work straight off the panels and ruins the vinyl. Leave a decent amount of time after doing the panel work before wrapping.
Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 5.54.04 pmOur Mate Nic is known for a few things, bringing his mothers great cooking to the shop, arguing even when we agree with him and never paying top price (i.e, a bit of cheapskate). Therefore the vinyl we had was of the finest quality China had to offer, the result of this is we had a very low quality product. Those in the know with such things tell us that the 3M product is a much better and is far easier to use however it comes in at about $1000 worth of vinyl to cover the whole car. Though if you can afford it you’re better off with a good quality vinyl.
Another top tip; make sure you order enough to allow for mistakes! Assuming you get better as time goes on, you will make less and less mistakes, but we’re all human and even the most experienced guys at this still make errors occasionally and have to rip the vinyl back off a panel and start over. Also, allow enough leftovers to fix areas where drunken louts have decided to remove the vinyl for you.
So now how do we do it. Start
Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 5.54.47 pm
with the big flat panels; the bonnet, roof and doors are easier to wrap than mirrors, bumpers and grills. After doing a few panels you will start to get the hang of it and can move on to the harder items.
Measure your surface area and allow a few inches extra on all sides, also take into account that in the sun the vinyl will shrink so don’t cut it off at the edges or in a few months time you will have a shrinkage issue showing the original cars colour around the edges of your work.
Lay the vinyl down with the protective film removed and the adhesive side facing the panel (if you need this instruction you should not be doing this job). Start in the middle of the panel and using a credit card or Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 5.54.18 pmsomething similar made of hard plastic work from the middle out, guiding the air bubbles and creases out. This is where friends are needed, you’ll have to lift the vinyl back up and pull it tight as you work the creases and bubbles out. Work the credit card across the whole surface area to force the adhesive to stick and lay the edges down. Now with a blade cut the excess off. Again remember to allow for shrinkage, tuck a few millimetres of excess under window rubbers or around the door sills.
Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 5.55.17 pmWhen moving onto harder panels and even with some of the easier ones there is need for a heat gun or a hair dryer. Heating up the vinyl allows it to stretch which can allow you to work it around corners. Be careful as you can burn the vinyl or even melt it. The heat gun can also be used to shrink the vinyl. Heat up the area you need to shrink and then allow it to cool and it will pull tight on itself. As with most things in life its a matter of practice, we noticed that the last few panels we did had less flaws and came out much nicer then the first ones we did. So just keep practising until you’re happy with it.

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