Lets Talk Shop

Let’s Talk Shop: Protecting the Wraps Investment

A lot of time and energy goes into designing and installing a vehicle wrap. The customer’s ultimate goal, with most wraps, is a long term successful advertising campaign for their company.

In order for the wrap to last, it’s important that the customer has been given some basic instructions on properly caring for their wrap. From washing to waxing to repairs, be sure your customer knows what to do.

Preventative Steps

You may not be able to prevent all problems from arising, but a few simple steps, during the installation process can help prevent some of the bubbling and lifting that can occur on wraps. Prepping the vehicle by thoroughly cleaning the surface, including and especially around obstacles, is the first step. Be sure to follow up all cleaning with an alcohol wipe down to remove any left over residue.

While the rest of the graphics on this vehicle still look great, the hood graphics have started to fail. Customer service is extremely important and we will replace this at no charge to the customer to ensure their confidence in our company. (Left) CrystalTek offers a vehicle polish designed for use on vehicle wraps.

In our shop, any vehicles with concave areas or tricky obstacles get a quick brush of 3M Tape Primer 94 to promote adhesion. It’s a great step to include for extra protection against peeling around wheel wells or compound areas. It also helps to prevent bubbles in concave areas.

Heat and lots of it. We use a lot of heat while installing the graphics, but the final post-heat process is what releases the memory of the vinyl and keeps the graphics in place. If problems do arise, adding a bit more heat can often fix the problem before it gets bigger.

First Few Weeks

We live in an area of California that has fairly moderate weather year round, but we still have fluctuations in cold, heat and moisture. All of these factors do make a difference in how a wrap goes on.

The first few weeks of a new wrap are the most important time frame for the customer to be watching their graphics. Be sure to verbally review maintenance instructions, or better yet, provide a list of instructions on your website or as a handout.

The customer should be watching for any areas of bubbling. Be sure that they are instructed to not press on any bubbles along concave areas. Pressure on these bubbles can cause them to split and ruin the section of graphics, while bringing the vehicle in for professional repairs with heat can fix the problem in minutes.

We had done a partial wrap on a customer’s van that included a large circular logo. The concave area developed a large bubble that could have been heated and pressed into place within a couple minutes. Unfortunately the customer kept pressing on the bubble and poked a hole right through it. The entire logo had to be replaced.

Have your customer also look for any lifting of graphics, especially along seams, door jams, wheel wells and in any areas that required extra stretching or conforming. Lifted graphics could be repaired by trimming them back, replacing a section or adding extra protective laminate to a seam. If the customer waits too long for lifted graphics to be repaired, dirt can build up behind the graphics causing failure to larger areas over time.

Hand Washing

Washing the vehicle by hand is always the best option. The customer should rinse built up dirt with clean water prior to rubbing the surface with a sponge or soft towel.

Vehicle wraps are laminated for protection against UV rays, abrasion and to enhance the finish of the graphics. Scrubbing the laminate with a brush can cause scratches and can dull the finish of the graphics.

Instruct your customer to use a soft sponge, a mild soap and lots of clean water. The vehicle should be washed from the top down, rinsing any soap build-up off the vehicle before it dries.

Most customer’s want to know if they can run their wrap through a car wash. Technically yes, the graphics won’t fly off the vehicle, but the car wash is made up of spinning brushes and large cloth pads that may be full of dirt. There is minimal control over how much abrasion their graphics will receive. The best protection of the customer’s investment is to avoid the car wash and wash the vehicle by hand.

The customer should also be instructed to wash the vehicle often. Dirt sitting on the surface of the graphics can cause scratches and discoloration. I’m often amazed by how filthy some customers leave their wraps. These are a big investment and the graphics should be presented professionally, and keeping them clean will ensure they do this long term.

Pressure Washing

We do a lot of fleet graphics and often the companies use a pressure washer to speed up the washing of their fleet of vehicles. It’s best to avoid a pressure washer if possible, but if not, you should suggest that your customer passes on some of these tips to the person who washes the vehicles to help avoid any problems.

The person washing the vehicles should check for any lifting graphics and avoid spraying any problem areas until they can be properly fixed. Also, the graphics should not be sprayed at an angle as this can push water under the graphic, causing it to lift and curl.

With all care and maintenance you should consult the manufacturer bulletin for the specific product you are using. Information may vary by manufacturer, but here are a few guidelines:

  • The maximum water pressure should be 800 psi to 2000 psi
  • The maximum water temperature should be 72 to 180 degrees
  • Keep the spray nozzle pattern at 40 degrees
  • The nozzle should be held back a minimum of 12 to 18 inches from the surface
  • The angle of the spray should be 45 degrees in a sweeping motion
  • Avoid Turbo pressure nozzles

Wrap Polish

All of our vehicle wraps are overlaminated with a premium gloss laminate that helps protect against abrasion and harmful UV rays and enhances the graphics. Some customers ask if they need to add a wax over the wrap.

It’s not necessary to add anything to protect the wrap, but if the customer wishes to add an extra layer of protection you may consider offering CrystalTek Wrap Polish as a possible solution. This polish is designed to protect wraps against pollution and harsh elements. The product will not yellow or chip and is safe on many finishes. Check out their website at www.crystaltek.us.com for more information.

If the customer chooses to use another type of polish, recommend a Teflon or silicone based polish. Carnauba-based waxes should be avoided as the rigorous buffing process can damage the graphics.

These waxes can also melt in the sun and the released chemicals can stain the graphics. Greasy melted wax can also attract dirt.

If you’ve used a matte or textured laminate on the wrap the customer should avoid using any wax or polish. Scratches are more obvious and more difficult to repair.

Customer Service

While there are many ways for the customer to extend the life of their wraps themselves, there are times when the vehicle needs to come back into the shop. We offer a three year warranty on our wraps, one year on view thru graphics, against peeling, fading and overall workmanship.

For us this is an important part of the customer service that our business has been built upon. We currently have a customer whose hood graphic is failing. It’s a horizontal surface that gets a lot of sunlight as well as a lot of heat from the engine.

Did we do anything in the printing or installation process to cause the graphic to fail? Not that I can think of. But, we will be replacing the hood graphic at no charge to the customer because it’s good customer service.

We’ve completed three full wraps for the customer and will do many more in the future as the customer grows his business. He knows we will take care of him whenever needed. Sure the hood graphic may cost us a couple hundred dollars in materials plus labor, but I will retain a good customer who will let others know about our company.

We’ve earned more business over the years by good customer service than we’ll ever earn based on price alone. A customer knows when you care about their success over just making another dollar.