06 Dec Car Wrapping 101: How to Wrap a Car
Auto vinyl wrapping is one of the hottest trends in aftermarket car customization and for good reason. Car wraps allow you to instantly change the look of your ride for a fraction of the cost of a new paint job, and wraps are easy enough to put on and take off that you can transform your vehicle as often as you like. Go chrome for a while, then try out matte black or carbon fiber or alligator skin; whatever you can think of, vinyl wraps make it easy.
For the best results, leave car wrapping to the pros. But if you have the DIY spirit and a desire to wrap your own car, this article will serve as an introductory how-to guide of sorts to help you get started. Just make sure you purchase a high-quality vinyl wrap kit to get maximum benefit from wrapping your car.
Car Wrapping Tools
If you want a professional-looking car wrap, make sure you use professional wrapping tools. Learning to use the tools is another matter, but first make sure you have the right stuff in your toolbelt:
- Squeegee – Medium tension squeegees will come in handy for most of the vehicle’s surface, but you should have a soft squeegee on hand for conforming film into tricky areas like shallow recessed areas and around bumpers.
- Multi-cartridge utility knife – A multi-cartridge utility knife with 9mm snap-off blades will come in handy when trimming corners and hard to access areas. Professionals recommend 30° angle blades as opposed to the standard 45° angle blades for cutting on vehicles.
- Snitty vinyl cutter – The “snitty” is a plastic-encased cutting tool that protects the vehicle from cuts and scratches while trimming off excess film.
- Plastic removal tools – These allow you to easily remove plastic trim, molding, and door panels without scratching the vehicle or damaging the hardware. Pick up a plastic removal tool kit with multiple sizes for use around the entire vehicle.
- Tucking tools – Micro-squeegee tucking tools are specifically designed for tucking film behind soft molding around windows and doors without risk of damage the vehicle or the wrap film.
- Car magnets – These come in handy for holding film panels onto the vehicle so you can trim the panel into sections or hold the film in place securely while the backing paper is removed.
- Infrared thermometer – Post-heating is critical for getting vinyl wrap to stay in place in recessed areas, and an infrared thermometer will help you reach the exact temperature directed by the manufacturer (typically around 180 degrees).
- Heat gun – A strong blowing heat gun is essential for car wrapping. This is one tool you don’t want to skimp on, so look for a quality heat gun from a reliable brand for best results.
Prepping the Car for Vinyl Wrap
One of the keys to a great car wrap is making sure the vehicle is totally clean and dry prior to laying down the vinyl panels. In fact, the initial prep is just as critical as the film you use to wrap the car. First, wash the vehicle down with soap and water (use a mild detergent, and only a drop or so). Pay extra attention to door seals, wheel arches, and other hard to reach and overlooked areas. Allow the car to dry for 24 hours.
While the vehicle is drying, let the vinyl film outgas by leaving it standing vertically and loosely wound. Out-gassing will help the vinyl feel less tacky during installation, which will result in an easier application and a better fit and finish.
After the vehicle is clean, spray down the vehicle with isopropyl alcohol and wipe dry with a lint-free microfiber towel or chamois. This will remove any dirt, oil, grease, or soap residue remaining on the vehicle.
Car Wrapping Pro Tips
The car wrapping process is pretty straightforward, but there are some nuances to doing it well that can have a big impact on the finished product. Here are some helpful pro tips to keep in mind:
- Keep the squeegee at a lower angle to avoid wrinkles and remove bubbles
- Apply the vinyl to the flattest part of the body panel you are working on to create a base line and work from side to side instead of top to bottom
- When stretching vinyl, always pull outwards from the largest area to spread the tension and avoid ripping the film
- To remove wrinkles in the film around a corner or tight edge, heat the film to 180 degrees and then let it cool for a few minutes to relax the vinyl before smoothing out with a soft, flexible squeegee
- If wrapping in cold weather, do so in a temperature-controlled indoor environment and let the vehicle sit in the workshop or garage for at least 24 hours to avoid “shocking” the film, which can cause the wrap to shrink or come apart from the vehicle
Benefits of Professional Car Wrap Installation
You can learn to wrap your own car, or you can leave it to the pros. Unless you plan to start a car wrapping business or change the look of your car every week, investing in new car wrap tools and taking the time to learn the trade probably isn’t worth it. When you take your car to a professional car wrap shop, all you have to do is tell them what you want, leave the keys, and come back in a few days to find your car wrapped to perfection.
If you have a high-end car, you deserve a high-end car wrap. Auto Super Shield is the premier luxury car wrap dealer and installer in South Florida. Browse our selection of premium vinyl car wraps or high-quality paint protection films, or call (561) 367-0101 to talk to one of our experts.