Vehicle Body Wraps - Just a fad?

If you’re like me then no doubt you’ve heard the phrase “you can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter”. Until recently I was one of many that believed the misconception that wrapping is a poor mans spray job. Alternatively it could be a cunning way to mask paintwork flaws and like many I believed that applying a vinyl wrap was as simple as applying stickers to a model kit.

To understand more about this growing industry the Compare Parts team recently took a trip to S6 Wraps and hijacked one of their training courses.

Why Wrap? Why Not Paint?

Firstly painting a car can be costly business, pending the quality and body shop; You can pay anywhere between £2,000 and £15,000 for a decent job. Your car will look amazing but the other half will resent you for using your child’s college fund. So the next best thing is wrapping, this allows for the protection of the cars paint and the ability to personalise the car in a temporary fashion for a fraction of the outlay.

Wrap comes in many forms, as shown below –

Clear / Chip Guard

Plain Gloss / Metalic 

Matte / Satin Colour

Chrome/ Colour Changing

Printed Wrap

Vinyl, What's There To Know?

There are many variations of vinyl. The type used for wrapping is different from that of a sticker or sun strip. Different types of vinyl have varying lifespans and application characteristics. One thing we learnt from the training course and talking with industry experts, is to do your homework. Look into the wrap you wish to use or install, there are various brands – 3M, Tech Wrap, Hexis, Avery; Some are better quality and/or easier to use than others, as we found during the practical exercises on the course.

Before vinyl wrap can be applied, there are a couple of things to consider in preparation –

  • The vehicles body surface needs to be painted or if using fibre glass panels, a gel coat finish is required as minimum.
  • The paint or surface needs to be in good condition and free from debris or road tar. 
  • The vehicle will be needed for a couple of days, this is to ensure it’s correctly prepared and finished to a high-standard.

Can I Do It Myself?

Yes, but the likelihood of it looking like a Stevie Wonder special is high. For little money you can sign up to a 2-day course at S6 Wraps or Hexis to understand the basics. We highly recommend this, you will learn about the stages of preparation, temperature tolerances, shrinkage, application and finish. You may even get a goodie bag with tools to get you going!

There are loads of tools and gadgets on the market, however the only specialist tools needed to start out are as follows –

  • Decent heat gun – You dont need to go crazy, but at the same time, don’t bother with cheap rubbish.
  • Sharp snap off blade knife
  • Mit Glove – Yes, you will have an iresistable urge to do an MJ impression.
  • Squeegee – This is your ultimate tool.

What Are The Downsides?

Ultimately you get what you pay for, there are a number of ‘pop up’ companies that appear over night offering cheap quotes. Go to an established shop you will get a quality job and expert advice on which brand is tailored to your budget and application. There are some things that are out of the control of the wrapper, but a professional will advise you of any associated difficulties with your vehicle. The major risk being the quality of paintwork on your vehicle. Whether it’s a used car that may have hidden damage or a brand new factory fresh car, there is a risk that the vinyl on removal may remove the paint if it is of poor quality.

The other downside is that depending the vinyl type, quality and aftercare; It’s only temporary and wont last forever although it should last several years.

Verdict

Yes it is worth it and in some ways a better alternative to paint. It allows you the flexibility of personalising your vehicle without lasting or costly colour changes, although colour changes will need to be notified to your insurance company.

If you’re set on doing it yourself get booked in on a course, do your homework into materials and equipment that you’ll use. Otherwise use well known reputable companies, with extensive portfolios of high quality work on expensive vehicles. No-one would let Dave from down the pub have a crack at their Ferrari now, would they? Depending how long you’re going to change the colour of your vehicle if you’re within the UK you may need to inform the DVLA. Your Registration will no-longer match the factory colour and you may trigger ANPR software on Police vehicles.


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