Z06 Vette wrapped in Black Satin.

Check Writing vs. Check Cashing: Avoiding Wrap Returns

Troy Downey is the founder of Coronado, Calif.-based APE Wraps. he specializes in custom, one-off wraps while also providing training on how to wrap vehicles with Avery Graphics films. For more information about Troy and APE Wraps, visit www.apewraps.com.

Think about this: Are you in the Check Cashing business or the Check Writing business?

In the Check Cashing business, the only time you want a client to come back to you is when he/she wants you to complete another (new) project.

A Check Writing business is one where a client returns because there was a problem with their wrap—due to an installer error, or worse a material failure (usually because the client was ignorant to the facts regarding the actual durability of their wrap). In order to make things right, you end up writing checks.

Foundation: Setting the Tone

The check cashing business begins and ends with the management of client expectations. Establishing exactly what is expected from them and what you’ll be providing is one key element to the success of avoiding wrap returns. No matter how minor you may think the following example is; it is the foundation of what you can expect from the client and conversely from your team.

  • Example—Have the client perform this simple exercise; this will help you determine whom you are actually dealing with. Inform the client prior to their arrival that their vehicle(s) needs to arrive at your facility in squeaky-clean condition.
    How well the client follows this simple directive will tell you volumes about what you can expect from them in the future regarding post-wrap care, and will define your ability to warrant the actual durability of your wrap. On the other end of this simple condition is you and/or your team member’s ability (or inability) to communicate the directive.

The point of this initial exercise is to set and manage the conditions in the vehicle wrap business. Remember, "The Devils is in the Details," so get it right the first time.

High Road vs. Low Road
No matter which of the roads you take, they both come with a condition, but there’s only one that you can control.

  • High Road = Control — Spend the extra time, effort and money needed to do it right.
  • Low Road = No Control — The path of least resistance and corner cutting.

Either road you choose you’ll be sleeping with the project, till the end of life on the wrap. The question is which of these projects are you more willing to sleep with—a guaranteed return and upset client, or the one that will stand the test of time. This is a defining moment in how large the check writing (or check cashing) will be.

Temperature is King
For the application of pressure sensitive films the most common cause of failure is improper temperature conditions. Ideally we would like to have the ambient and surface temperature to be in the 65°-75° F range. But if we can only have one end of the spectrum we always choose the higher temperature as the cold end of the spectrum will not promote adhesion, and consequently the media will fail prematurely.

The Secret is Patience
When it comes to application techniques, the secret is patience, patience, patience. Avoid overstretching. It is not necessary to stretch the hell out of the media to get coverage, it's more about softening the media over the larger area with heat, to change the direction of the media to conform to the surface.

Weave into Concave Surfaces
When concave surfaces are extreme always weave into the areas Do not pressure. It takes more time, but that’s part of paying the price of High Road quality. This technique will stand the test of time.

Edges Corners and Seams
The most vulnerable places for a wrap failure are edges, corners and seams. The bottom line here is that failure will occur due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • Vehicle surface was not properly cleaned
  • Film media was overstretched
  • The wrap was not post-heated enough, or was done at the wrong temperature.

The Expectations Hit List
Following is a down and dirty hit list to help you manage expectations. Managing your client and your team, and what’s expected of them, is imperative. These marching orders are the basis to a quality application and will better ensure that the wrap will not return.

  1. Interface - Using the proper verbiage when communicating with your team and with the client. Be very clear and concise when discussing what’s expected of them!
  2. Surface Preparation - I'm talking about "Hermetically Clean.” The cleaner the surface the better the adhesion. Adhesion is King!
  3. Materials - Print media and laminate selection. Optimum performance of all aspects in this segment: Cast vinyl is King. Print quality must have stellar outdoor durability and great penetration.
  4. Lamination - Be sure to hold off on laminating until after the proper cure time, or “outgassing” time when using solvent-based printers. If you laminate too soon, then all your high-road efforts go out the window. “Oh I have latex so none of this pertains to me." Whoa my friend…. it does more than you think. Just because you laminated quicker doesn’t mean that there isn’t baggage. There’s always a price to pay whether it’s on durability, cost, time and speed. Kind of ironic though when writing this that these four elements define the most desirable aspects of a proper printer selection. We will address this in another article.
  5. Application - Your team must follow all the proper preparation and application techniques to insure a sound, durable installation (see above). Always work towards a perfect finish. Use the right tools, temperatures and techniques for the job.
  6. Delivery - Upon delivery of the finished wrap make sure the verbiage you use with the client is clear and precise (see #1). Let clients know that if they don’t take care of their wrap it will fail before it estimated life expectancy. Have them sign off on the invoice, agreeing to the verbiage that was used to ensure they understand the conditions. 

* From the 2016 issue of WRAPS magazine.