Wrap side panel

Dually Done Solo: How to Wrap a Side Panel by Yourself

Mike Zick is the owner of Mike Zick Installations, Inc. in Arlington, Texas. 817-456-2840. He has been in the sign and graphics business since 1989 and had his own  installation company since 2001. He is a 3M Preferred Installer, Lowen Certified Installer, and a 3M Graphics Authorized Trainer.

Photo 1

So you have that one customer who wants you to wrap his work truck. The first thing that you think and say is absolutely we can do that. Then he tells you that the truck is a 2013 Chevrolet Dually … and you think of the bed and fenders … then doubt may enter your mind. How are we going to do this? Can we design it to look right? How do we handle the curves? Can we actually install it properly? Can we make money on this one?

First you want to start looking at the project and decide if you can get the customer’s information across in such a way that it is clean and easy to read. There are times when less is more, especially when you are dealing with a truck bed like this. There are only a few areas on the bed that are truly flat. You should keep those areas in mind if you are looking to place information on the bed and in the print. Overlays are always an option if you are concerned about the final placement of the customer’s information (see photo 1).

Choosing your material for this type of wrap will be critical for your project to be successful. For this article we chose 3M 480CV3 Envision Print Wrap Film with its corresponding laminate. I have also wrapped these trucks with 3M 180CV3 and had great results. The other item to think about is how big do I need to make this panel to wrap this fender in one piece? We determined that a panel that was 53" x 124" would be large enough to give us the length needed to start from the cab and end on the tailgate. The height needed to be 53" in order to give me plenty of material to wrap over the top of the bed and down below the bottom edge of the bed with plenty of extra. You will need the excess material in order to heat and stretch during the install with a minimum amount of stress on the graphic.

I prep the vehicle per my normal cleaning process (see photo 2). A basic wash first. Then I remove the marker lights and tape the connector to the bed so I don’t lose them in the inner fender well. The next steps are: apply a prep-solvent wipe, and final cleaning with isopropyl alcohol diluted with water (2/3 alcohol - 1/3 water).

Once I have finished prepping the vehicle, I am ready to dry-fit the graphic (see photo 3). I tape the graphic to the cab to make a hinge and match it up to the cab graphics, which I usually apply first. I also use magnets on the tailgate side to hold the graphic in place until I remove the liner.

Photo 4

I will then remove the liner and pull the material tight to try and pull the wrinkles out of the material—mainly on the outer-most flat portion of the fender (see photo 4).

I will then start installing the large flat area of the fender first. I will keep an even line where I have installed just as it starts to break over the top of the fender. If you don’t keep the line even, you can get yourself in a jam quickly. When working down the face of the fender, I usually stop where the marker lights are and work that section when I am working the fender transitions.

Photo 5

The next step is where the beauty of the material will come into play. I will start applying heat to the top section of the fender to allow the material to relax and become more pliable (see photo 5).

It takes quite a bit of heat to get this done on such a large area. I will always use a heat gun to attack this kind of install. I can get more consistent controlled heat over a larger area than with a torch (see photo 6).

Photo 6

While the material is still warm, I will start working from the flat outer edge toward the top of the bed. This process needs to be slow and consistent and keeping an even line across the top of the bed. Once you reach the top of the bed, begin to work along the top of the bed toward the front and rear of the truck bed (see photo 7).

Now you will have a good amount of material in front and behind the fender. You will need this in order to heat and conform the material with a minimum amount of stress on the material. Start working from the flat area toward the bedside. You will need to continue to use your heat gun (heating a larger area than needed) and squeegee a little at a time. The excess you have at the front and back of the bed will be used to pull the wrinkles out of the material as you work. You will get to a point where the vinyl is finally low enough to break it over and pull the material down toward the bottom of the fender. This will be accomplished by using heat and tension (see photo 8).

Photo 7

I use the same process on the front of the fender… working from the flat area of the fender toward the bed. The only difference is that I will set the graphic along the front edge of the bed to make sure the graphic aligns with the graphic that is on the cab (see photo 9).



Photo 9

Once I finish my install and before I trim any portion of the bed, I will post-heat the bed. Post heating the bed is done by using a heat gun and getting the truck bed heated up to 200 degrees in the areas where I have stressed the material. The post heating process will break the memory of the material and keep it in the form in which you have installed it (see photo 10).



Photo 8

Finally to finish things out, trim all edges, use edge tape along the bottom edge of the graphic if you feel it is needed, and pop the marker lights back in. If you take your time and think ahead of where you are at, take what the vinyl gives you, and don’t work yourself into a jam, you should be able to wrap a dually fender by yourself in one piece.


Photo 10Photo 11