Pimp Your Ride: How to Apply Vinyl Decals to Cars and Trucks

Did you know that the car sales in the United States continue to stabilize after a few rough years?

After all, the current number of cars sold in the country is at around 6 million each year. It’s only expected to grow from here, especially with more car companies making affordable models.

If you want to get a decent car, you can always try the world’s largest automaker. Once you get it, you can decorate it for personalization purposes. The right decal can make your car look even more special.

Don’t know how to apply vinyl decals to cars? We’ve got you covered. Read on if you want to know the right steps to get the job done.

1. Choose the Right Materials

If you want to make quality vinyl graphics, you need to use the proper film. You might not have the right input when you do the job on your own, but it’s important to understand the differences between cast and calendered film.

Cast films start out in a liquid state cast onto a casting sheet. This allows the film to become thin, helping them conform to your car’s surface. That makes cast vinyl a premium product since it has great durability while maintaining its conformability.

A lot of material makers recommend cast films on vehicles if you want a paint-like finish. This durable material often lasts from five to eight years. It all depends on how you maintain it and your driving conditions.

Calendered films start as a mass of molten vinyl going through a series of calendering rolls. It pulls and stretches the film until it reaches the proper thickness. Its quality can make it last from a year to half a decade.

2. Clean Your Vehicle Surface

A lot of material makers have manuals that help you prepare your vehicle. But if you want to stay simple, you can start by removing all the dirt and grime using detergents and water. You can go to the car wash as a hassle-free alternative, but make sure it’s dry before you start applying your graphics.

If your vehicle has contaminants like oil or wax, try using a solvent like Xylol. Finish off by using isopropyl alcohol to ensure that no solvent residue remains. Make sure to test the solvent first and see whether it harms your vehicle paint.

You can use lint-free towels if you’re cleaning your vehicle with alcohol. Use two — one soaked with the substance while the other is dry. Use the latter to wipe the excess alcohol before it evaporates.

Check all the cracks and crevices, making sure that it’s clean. A good way to accomplish this is to wrap your soaked towel around a squeegee. Wait for everything to dry up before going for the next step.

3. Measure Properly to Apply Once

As soon as you shop for truck graphics, you can start positioning it after cleaning your vehicle. Take your time to position the graphics before your installation begins. It’s important to remember that you only have one shot to get it right once you take off the liner from the graphic.

Taking your time allows you to make the right adjustments before placing the graphics. For

example, you might need to reposition a decal to prevent its text from getting cut off. You might also account for the fact that the sign shop’s template isn’t 100% accurate.

Once you tape the graphics into position, take a step back and examine the layout. Take the vehicle contours into consideration. Develop a plan on how you want to apply the auto vinyl graphic.

Remember, vehicles aren’t flat surfaces like walls. That means starting at the graphic’s top and working down from there isn’t the best approach. Take some time to find the best place to start.

4. Make the Cut

The steps in this guide are for the dry application method. This is the most common method of applying vinyl graphics for trucks, and most experts recommend it as well. It needs some skill and experience. But with practice, you can reduce the time needed to apply it.

Applying the graphics dry means you don’t need to wait for several minutes before the graphic adhesion builds up. You can remove the application tape without worrying about messing up the wet application. Take note, new adhesive technologies help reduce the air bubbles that can happen during the application process.

Things to Remember for a Seamless Application

A lot of vinyl makers recommend a temperature range of 50º to 90º F when applying them. Apply these car logo and brand graphics when you’re indoors to ensure it’s in a controlled environment. This reduces the wind and dust you should deal with.

The room and car surface temperature will have a huge effect on your application process. Higher temperatures will make your vinyl film softer, thus more pliable. This also means your adhesive becomes more impressive — leading to pre-tack and more stretching.

As for lower temperatures, the film becomes rigid and the adhesive has less tack. That’s why it’s important to ensure to avoid these extremes. If you don’t, your application process gets more difficult than it needs to be.

The Basic Tools Needed for Graphics Application

If you’re applying vinyl stripe graphics, you need a few basic tools. These will help ease the process, ensuring that you don’t waste precious decals.

The tools include:

  • Tape measure
  • Air release tool
  • Masking tape
  • Squeegee
  • Razor-knife
  • Heat gun or propane torch

The tape measure and masking tape help you position the graphics with more precision. The air release tool ensures that the air bubbles get eliminated. The squeegee helps in the actual graphics application while the razor-knife trims away the excess.

If you have complications with the vinyl, you can use the heat gun. This heats up the vinyl to make it more pliable.

Learn How to Apply Vinyl Decals to Cars Today!

Reading this guide will let you decide the type of approach on how to apply vinyl decals to cars. If you can, remove the liner little by little. This ensures that the adhesive doesn’t adhere to the surface prematurely.

But why stop here? Check out our library of guides and tips.

Do you want to learn about South Africa’s automotive trade, for example? If so, read this post and learn more.