What You Need to Know Before Starting a DIY Car Wrap Project
Vinyl car wraps have a relatively short history, dating back to the early 1990s. The first vinyl car wraps were developed as an alternative to traditional paint jobs, which were expensive and time-consuming to apply.
Early vinyl car wraps were made from a primary adhesive-backed vinyl material designed to be applied to a vehicle’s exterior. These early wraps were often used for commercial vehicles like delivery trucks and vans to promote businesses and products.
In the early 2000s, advancements in vinyl technology led to the development of high-quality vinyl materials that could be printed with high-resolution graphics and designs. As a result, vinyl wraps have exploded in popularity and are now widely available to the public.
If you are considering installing a vinyl car wrap, you may face a dilemma on whether to have it done by a professional or do it yourself to save on costs. Today, we will look at the process of wrapping your car as a DIY project.
One of the most obvious reasons that you may have for doing a wrap job yourself is the cost savings involved. Having a professional installer wrap your car can be surprisingly expensive.
Even for a small car, you consider installation costs around $2,000. That figure can easily hit $8,000 to $10,000, depending on your vehicle and the installer’s experience.
You would have already spent several hundred dollars on purchasing car wrap vinyl. These costs can add up to a pretty penny and often makes many car enthusiasts wonder if they would be better off trying to wrap their cars manually.
However, cost is but one of the many reasons. A lot of people take up car wrapping as a hobby. The car wrap community is strong, and there are often competitions and events like WrapFest where enthusiasts come together to show off their custom wraps.
There’s no point in trying to make car wrapping seem like something easy. It certainly isn’t. There is a reason why professionals charge so much money to do the job for you. If this were a project that anyone could do, we would see car wrap services going out of business, left and right. Instead, the market is set to grow at 18.8% by 2028.
A DIY car wrap project will be tricky, but you can find several tutorials that take you step by step through the entire process. If followed correctly, the results can be surprisingly good.
Here are some of the steps that you would typically take to wrap a car:
Vinyl selection: First and foremost, you’ll want to consider the durability of the vinyl. According to SIGNWarehouse, high-quality vinyl is essential for a high-quality car wrap. The better the quality, the better it will withstand the elements, including UV rays, water, and temperature changes.
You will also want to look at the adhesive strength of the vinyl. A strong adhesive will ensure the vinyl stays in place and doesn’t peel or bubble over time.
Preparing the surface: Before applying vinyl, clean and dry the surface thoroughly. Remove any dirt, grease, or debris affecting the vinyl’s adhesive quality. Use a clay bar to remove any embedded contaminants left on the surface. The clay bar helps smooth the surface, making it easier for the vinyl to adhere.
Check for any dents, scratches, or imperfections on the car’s surface. You may need to repair these before proceeding with the vinyl installation. You will also want to apply a primer to the surface to help the vinyl adhere.
Measuring and cutting the vinyl: Measuring and cutting vinyl for a car wrap can be time-consuming and meticulous, but ensuring a seamless and professional-looking installation is essential.
First, measure the area of the car panel that needs to be wrapped using a measuring tape. Remember that you want to add a few inches of extra material on all sides to account for trimming and shaping during the installation process.
Next, use a vinyl cutter or sharp utility knife to cut the vinyl to the appropriate size and shape. Use a cutting mat to avoid damaging the work surface or accidentally cutting through the vinyl.
When cutting the vinyl, consider any curves or contours on the car panel and adjust the cutting accordingly to create a precise fit. Ensure your vinyl is cut straight and at a 90-degree angle to avoid misalignment or uneven edges.
Applying the vinyl: Once you have carefully removed the backing paper from the vinyl, the actual application process begins. This application has four main steps. First, start by lining up the vinyl on the car’s surface, ensuring it is aligned correctly.
Next, use a squeegee to smooth out the vinyl and remove any air bubbles as you go along. Take care not to stretch the vinyl as you work. Third, use a heat gun to soften the vinyl and make it easier to manipulate around curves and corners.
Finally, trim any excess vinyl using a sharp knife or blade, not cutting into the paint on the car. You want to work slowly and methodically, taking your time to ensure a smooth and even application.
Finishing up: Finally, inspect the vinyl for any imperfections and make necessary adjustments. You can use a heat gun or hair dryer to stretch or smooth out creases or wrinkles.
You will likely find some minor mistakes if this is your first application. This is to be expected. Usually, they are not noticeable unless you point it out to people.
Vinyl wrapping your car can be a great way to take a more active role in customizing your vehicle. Seeing the final product after you work hard on getting that perfect wrap can be fulfilling. With that said, if you were thinking of wrapping your car by yourself to save money, remember that you will most likely require extra vinyl sheets.
You will most definitely make mistakes, but trial and error is part of the journey. If that sounds alright, manually wrapping your car can save you a lot of money in the long run.