CAR WRAP INSTALLATION GUIDE – full vehicle wraps
PART ONE: vinyl, application environment & storage
Vinyl wrap films are thin like skin. It will stretch even “cold” – meaning without heating it – and is very pliable. Because of it’s thinness underlying defects and deep scratches may show through. Hairline scratches and swirl marks will not show through.
Vinyl films can have a directional characteristic in their colour appearance (like a grain in wood), meaning that if you 1/4 turn it it may look like a different shade. You need to check for this before install. If the vinyl is directional, for the best overall appearance, do not alternate between lengthwise and widthwise.
Temperature plays a critical role in how well the vinyl adheres to the substrate. We recommend a working temperature to be in the range of 20 to 24 C. If the temperature is too low, there is a higher risk of tearing as the cold makes the film more brittle. If the temperature is too high, the adhesive will activate and bond more aggressively, this will add difficulty when repositioning the vinyl on the target surface.
We strictly recommend applying film indoors, as this will not only help maintain a consistent temperature, it will also reduce the amount of dust and contaminants that may collect on the surface & under the film.
Try not to expose the film to heat sources (radiators, heaters) or direct sunlight. Keep humidity as low as possible and always store the vinyl vertically. When storing vinyl after using the product, make sure the material is tightly wound around the core. VViViD® uses a paper liner that is effected by moisture and humidity, it is paramount to keep the vinyl in a dry place.
PART TWO: pre-wrap preparation, cleaning
Pre-Installation Cleaning Products & Tools
- Grease and wax remover – Blank wax, polish & other coatings remover
- General Paint-safe Cleaner – Grime Car Wash
- Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA)
- Lint-Free Towel or Lint-Free Paper Towel
Cleaning and surface prep for a successful, professional car wrap:
1.) The first step is to clean the surface with paint-safe grease and wax remover to remove any dirt or grime on the surface. We recommend to have the car generally cleaned with car wash soap (avoid using cleaners with waxes). Then proceed to rinse the surface with water.
2.) Thoroughly dry the surface with a clean lint-free towel or lint-free paper towel. Pay particular attention to ridges, edges and seams as these areas are often neglected and may carry the most dirt and grime. To clean hard to reach edges, wrap a lint-free towel over a squeegee and proceed to swipe multiple times. Each swipe should be done with a clean portion of the towel until the towel shows no dirt on the swiped edge. This may be time consuming, but often these edges, especially in vehicle wrapping installations, are where the ends of the film are anchored and may peel off if not properly cleaned.
3.) Surfaces with any grease, oil or wax greatly reduce film adhesion and may form bubbles on neglected areas. To remove these contaminants, we recommend using a grease and wax cleaner. Alcohol-based cleaners, such as isopropyl alcohol may be used, but is not as effective at removing wax in comparison to solvent-based cleaners. Alcohol is best used for spot cleaning and a quick wipe-down.
4.) Make sure the substrate is completely dry before applying the film. If necessary, use a blow dryer or heat gun to speed up the process.
5.) Proceed to apply the film as soon as possible to reduce the amount of dust and contaminants that may accumulate on the surface over time.
PART THREE: application, wrapping the car with vinyl
Tools needed for wrapping a car:
- Squeegee – 3M Blue, Gold and White
- Felt Tip for Squeegee – felt tips
- Utility Knife – Retractable 30° Precision Blade, Stainless 30° Blade
- Heat Gun – Digital or Standard
- Wrap Gloves – 100% Cotton Gloves
- Primer – 3M 94 or Vvivid
- Edge Cutting Tape w filament – WrapCut
- Masking tape
- Tape measure
- Infrared thermometer (optional) – digital thermometer
Applying vinyl takes practice, skill and most of all patience. For large projects, like vehicle wrap installations, we recommend having a second set of hands.
1.) Plan your method of attack. We recommend applying the film to flatter areas first, just because these tend to be simpler and more convenient to get out of the way.
2.) Check to make sure there is nothing hindering your application, such as logos, hood ornaments, and other bulky objects that won’t be wrapped. We recommend researching how these objects stick to the car and the best method of removal.
3.) Using your tape measure, roughly measure the surface of the panel you are applying to, leaving extra material (at least 4-6 inches) on either side.
4.) Unroll the desired amount of film and cut using a utility knife. Try not to unroll or place the film on the floor, as this will leave dust and debris on the film, causing scratches when applying with a squeegee. Inspect the vinyl for any problems (damage, manufacturer’s defects). Once you cut off this first section for the first panel to be wrapped, check if the film is directional or not. This is best to do in the sun or very brightly lit areas. Take the piece that was cut-off and 1/4 turn it and place is beside the roll to see if it is still the same shade or not. If yes, no problems you can turn the vinyl any which way. If there is a difference, that is not a manufacturer’s defect it means you will have to install all the panels on one side in the same direction, without turning the vinyl. Plan ahead!
5.) With someone helping you, carefully remove the backing paper while applying some tension to the film, so that less creases appear. Have that person help you position the vinyl and drape the film over the panel. At this point, ensure that the entire panel is covered without any edges of the panel exposed.
6.) When placing vinyl on moderately curved surfaces, carefully reposition the vinyl in order to create tension over the entire surface.
Visually identify the center of the panel. This will be your starting point.
Once you have a starting, peel back the liner and place the vinyl wrap onto the target surface. Make sure your material is larger than needed for easier handling.
Using moderate pressure on your squeegee, apply the film while pushing out trapped air from beneath starting from the middle outward.
In every swipe, make sure to overlap the preceding swipe by a quarter to ensure that all air has been removed from the area.
Using felt or an edge buffer will help limit installation damage when applying pressure. If you don’t use the correct amount of pressure, you risk leaving air trapped behind the film. To see if the right pressure is being used, use a heat gun on an installed surface, if bubbles apear, use more pressure.
Another great way to see how VVIVID® films work is by installing it on a piece of glass and understanding how the air-release channels work according to the pressure you are using.
CURVED SURFACES – DEALING WITH CONFORMING AND WRINKLES
On curved surfaces, you will inevitably encounter some folds or creases on the film. Reposition the film with tension to avoid creases when installing.
- When needed, heat the film to soften and conform it to the shape.
- It is critical not to overheat the film. This can lead to losing the texture or luster of the film.
- Every film has a different tolerance to heat and we suggest testing how much heat the material can tolerate before application on test pieces.
- At one point, folds or creases slowly transition into what’s known as “crow’s feet”. If you chop at these, they will flatten and become permanent wrinkles. Simply lift the film slightly and gently apply heat until wrinkles shrink away & disappear, then re-apply.
- Using both hands, carefully pull the film until the vinyl appears flat, while still applying tension lay the film over the surface.
- Try to squeegee the remaining crow’s feet and if they still do not disappear repeat steps until the crow’s feet eventually disappear.
PART FOUR: detailing, corners, edges, post-heating & finishing details
Properly finishing the installation can make the surface seem as if it was never vinyl wrapped in the first place. Making this seamless finish requires experience, skill and most importantly, paying close attention to detail. Improper finishing can lead to revealing the surface beneath, poorly sealed edges which slowly peels over time.
Edges refers to the space between two panels of the surface. For example: on a car, it would refer to the space between the front door and a fender.
To prepare this area, gently heat the space between the two panels and run your finger down the gap while wearing cotton gloves. This will help cure the adhesive over the edges of the gap and will also help conceal the surface beneath. Continue this process over all seams on the surface.
Cutting requires a sharp blade or you will risk tearing the vinyl as appose to slicing it. Cutting takes very steady hands and intricacy or you may run the risk of cutting the surface and damaging it.
Opposite to what most people think, leaving more than 3mm can actually risk the integrity of your wrap. For a wrap to be installed properly, the extremities of the wrap must be completely installed on the panel. Any loose or floating material not properly adhered to the panel or acting as a flap to exposed air will ruin the integrity of that edge or corner. To seal an edge, make sure you heat and press the film into place ( we recommend 90 degree). A trick we use is having a squeegee guide the blade on edges. This gives us clean cuts and a 2-3 mm excess which is perfect. This is pictured below for reference.
Edge: When cutting the edge of a panel, it is paramount that this cut is clean and precise. When cutting, a 2-3mm margin is required for folding around an edge for a paint-like look (pictured below).
Proper edges and corners
For rounded or sharp edge corners, heat the vinyl until malleable and push the film deep in the corner crevice. A moderate amount of heat should be used on the corner in order to fuse the area. Do not cut when film is still hot. Just like the edges, a clean cut should be made, make sure material is flush and installed without flaps and creasing.
Cutting on paint:
Cutting on paint is scary but there is a way of doing it. It takes skill, patience and a really sharp blade! Gently glide the blade over the film soft enough that you do not cut through the film but rather crease the surface of the film. This crease will allow you to pull away vinyl and making clean cuts without damaging the paint beneath.
Wrapcut® can also be used if you are not comfortable with the above mentioned method.
Post Heating: very important, must do step!
Vvivid vinyls are mainly heat activated. Basically our films are designed to be easily repositionable (low tack) before the vinyl is heated and adheres firmly (high tack) after the vinyl is heated. Once the wrap is finally applied to your surface and detailed cuts, edges, corners are set. Use your heat gun on the highest setting and run it over areas that may have been stretched, edges, corners and press the material in with a glove. ( 90 degrees releases any memory on the film, this is necessary for a longterm wrap).
When heating, you may encounter a bubble or two, simply use a pin or sharp edge, pop and remove the air with your finger.
This is probably the most important step in the wrapping process. It is also the most neglected, take your time and ensure everything is properly installed for longevity and reliability.