A Basic Guide to Vehicle Wraps

Justin Pate Wrap Academy

Justin Pate conducts the Mutoh-Avery wrap academy at the SignWarehouse Denison location.

We recently wrapped up another Avery-MUTOH Wrap Academy lead by world renowned wrap installer Justin Pate. Justin has been wrapping vehicles professionally for over 16 years. His expertise is a great resource for our customers.

Justin is best known for his speed wrapping techniques. He can single-handedly wrap an auto hood in about 7 minutes. But speed isn’t everything. His success is built on Quality, Durability and Efficiency.

These three goals are achieved by combining the right techniques, tools and materials. The right technique with the wrong tools will lead to frustration and failure. The right tools won’t help if your technique is clumsy.  Here’s a quick summary of how to put it all together.

Technique: Quality, Durability, Efficiency

To install durable, high quality car wraps efficiently takes study and practice. If you missed the academy, never fear. To see Justin demonstrate his techniques and watch at your own pace, consider the following DVD.

  •   SpeedWrapping Tips and Techniques:  This video shows you how to streamline the vehicle graphic installation process. It includes in-depth coverage of the design, production and installation of vehicle wraps. An added feature is Hardware Removal XL,which shows how to remove troublesome hardware like mirrors and taillights and how to work around what can’t be removed.

Materials & Processes

Justin prefers  Avery MPI EZ RS wrap vinyl.  The new “Super Cast” face film is extremely conformable and prints very well. The RS adhesive formula (Repositionable and Slideable) has a low initial tack for easy positioning of panels. You can remove the liner and literally slide the vinyl around the vehicle’s surface to line up the graphic. Once the panel is positioned, you can use a squeegee to activate the adhesive and fix the panel in place to finish the application.

The vinyl is only half of the formula. For best results, choose the proper matching overlaminate film.

Avery’s DOL 1060 2 mil film is good for standard applications. Combined with EZ RS vinyl, it produces a total thickness of 4 mil, which is suitable for most vehicle surfaces. For compound curves and corrugations, the Avery DOL 1360 1.3 mil film may be preferable. The 3mil  total thickness makes it more conformable, although the thinner overlaminate produces a somewhat less brilliant finish. For really challenging surfaces like those found on A Chevy HHR, Volkswagen New Beetle, or Dodge Sprinter, Avery recommends the DOL 1460 1.3mil overlaminate, which is made from the same ultra conformable “super cast” face film as the EZRS.  And for covering windows, you’ll need an optically clear overlaminate film to ensure visibility from the interior of the vehicle is not reduced.

Stretching and Heating.

Don’t over use heat guns and torches. Most surfaces, including compound curves, can be wrapped without heat. Relying too much on heat risks stressing the film and causes failures. Though some manufacturers say the film can be stretched to 150% of its original size, Justin says a good practical limit is 115 – 120%.  Anything more is risky. If you’re going to stretch and heat a section, heat it first, then let it cool for a few seconds before you stretch it.

Always post heat the wrap. Post heating turns off the memory inherent in PVC vinyls so that the film doesn’t try to shrink back to its original size after you stretched it over a bumper, fender, etc. Use a heat gun (not a torch) and an infrared thermometer to warm the surface of the film to 180°F. Panel overlaps should be post heated to 220°F to make sure the vinyl layer on the bottom panel is heated to 180°.

Tools

3M Gold Nylon Squeegee

3M gold nylon squeegee in action.

The old saying is “a poor workman blames his tools”. But in wrapping, a poor choice of tools can ruin your workmanship.  Even the choice of squeegee can be critical. The wrong squeegee can cause wrinkles as it grabs and pushes the vinyl’s face film. Justin recommends the 3M Gold Squeegee and a soft felt buffer. For vehicle wraps, it’s the “Goldilocks” of squeegees; not too hard, not too soft, it’s just right.

In addition to the right squeegee, a back door prop can be a lifesaver. Use this to prop open the back door while you remove an old wrap, finish under the lip, etc. Magnets are perfect for creating a “temporary hinge” to hold a panel in place until you’re ready to remove the liner and setup your permanent hinge. A Biddi Safety Knife  is indispensable for cutting off sections of release liner as you work your way down the panel.

For a belt full of wrap tools, just get the whole Justin Pate wrap tool kit. It comes with all of these, plus a propane torch, wrap glove, extendable knife, blades, plastic razor blades, widgets gadgets and whatnot, all for only $199.00.

If you missed the Wrap Academy, you can still train yourself to wrap like a pro. Train at your own pace using Justin’s DVDs.  Outfit yourself with the right materials and tools. Then borrow your neighbor’s old Caprice and hone your skills. You might not be able to wrap a hood in seven minutes, but if you do it with Quality, Durability, and Efficiency, you’ll be on your way to becoming a professional and profitable wrap installer.

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