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Install Tips

Before You ApplyThe first step to applying any graphic is to clean your substrate. To ensure that the graphics adhere properly, without the risk of failure, we must thoroughly clean the vehicle. Proper cleaning of the surfaces of a vehicle for graphics application is a critical step in the application process. Please note that most material manufacturers have technical bulletins available on their web site or through their technical support department that provide detailed information on how to prepare a variety of substrates for graphics application. While these instructions will serve as a good guide on how to clean your vehicle before applying graphics, it is always a good idea to check with the material manufacturer to make sure you are following their recommendations.



The first step to cleaning is to remove all of the dirt and grime with a commercial detergent and water. As you can see in this "before" photo, my vehicle was covered with dirt and salt because of the winter weather here in Cleveland. To ensure that the vehicle is clean, take it to the car wash to get as much of the dirt, salt and road grime off of the car. Note: If you take the vehicle to the car wash, it is important to make sure the vehicle is completely dry before applying the graphics. This may mean allowing the vehicle to dry indoors overnight before applying.


If grease, oil, wax or other contaminants are present, wipe the substrate with a solvent such as Prep-Sol or Xylol. Then a final cleaning with isopropyl alcohol (IPA) to make sure that no oily residue from the other solvents is left behind. CAUTION: Before using any solvent on a vehicle, be sure to test in an inconspicuous area to ensure the solvent won't damage the vehicle's paint.


When cleaning the vehicle with IPA, use two lint free towels. One towel should be soaked with IPA which is used to loosen and clean off the contaminants (dust, dirt, wax, etc.). The second towel should be dry and used to wipe away the excess IPA before it has a chance to evaporate. It is also important to pay special attention to cleaning the cracks and crevices of the vehicle where contaminants generally build up. For these areas, wrap an IPA soaked towel around a squeegee to get down into the crevasses as shown here.


After cleaning, preparation is the next most important step in applying vehicle wraps. It is always a good idea to plan your install before starting. Which piece goes where and which one you are going to start with. Remember you really have only one chance to get it right after you take off the backing paper (liner). Today's material does give you some degree of repositionability, however this is generally intended so the installer can "snap up" a small area for repositioning not remove an entire panel to start over.


Before applying the first piece lay out the graphics and position them on the vehicle with tape. This helps you to check all the graphics and allows you to check the positioning of the graphic and make necessary adjustments (or plan on adjustments) before actually applying the vinyl.

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