How Does Vinyl Affect My Vehicle?JUNE 1, 2023| kaylar
Vehicle wraps of any type give your mode of transportation that extra pizzaz, but most people want to know how that extra pizzaz will affect their vehicle in the long run. Understandable. The common understanding is that vinyl harms a vehicle’s paint when removed. This is both true and false (confusing, I know) and the verdict is decided by a number of variables.
Type of Vinyl
All vinyl comes in one of two categories: cast or calendared. The difference between the two is the level of flexibility the material has. For instance, cast vinyl conforms well to curves or can be heated into textured walls. Calendared material, on the other hand, wants to stay flat and won’t conform well to curved surfaces. Below is a brief comparison of the two.
- Conforms to curved or rough surfaces
- More expensive to manufacture
- Shrinks slightly but not too noticeably over time
- Does not conform well to curvy surfaces
- Less expensive to manufacture
- Shrinks slightly over time, faster than cast will
- Stronger adhesive (typically)
If you’re planning to wrap your vehicle, make sure your wrapper is using a cast vinyl. Because calendared vinyl doesn’t conform well to curves, it’ll start to bubble or tear when forced to conform. Some wrappers use calendared vinyl for die-cut decals on the flatter surfaces, but we suggest sticking to cast material for the best all-around vehicle wrap experience.
Average Life of Vehicle Vinyl
Business owners considering a vehicle wrap for advertising purposes often ask how long their wrap will last. Return on investment is huge in the business world, so knowing what to expect from your vehicle wrap helps you understand its value. Different brands of vehicle vinyl boast different durability levels; below are listed the life expectancies from the manufacturers we use.
At SpeedPro Greenville, we use Avery Dennison 1105/1360 for our vehicle wraps. These materials (vinyl/laminate) have a life expectancy of 4-6 years on vertical surfaces and 2-2.5 on the horizontal surfaces. This expectancy is based on our personal experience, and the manufacturer’s information. The location of your vehicle and that area’s weather shouldn’t be an issue – we’ve sent wraps to both Alaska and California and haven’t heard of any problems.
One thing to note: if your design has custom cut decals that have ultra-thin elements, the adhesive might not be enough to hold the strip of material down. We suggest either thickening those lines or trimming the thin pieces off.
Vehicle window graphics come in two forms: window perf and regular vehicle vinyl. Regular vinyl has the same durability as the custom printed material listed above. The only difference is the possibility of windshield wipers or the act of rolling the window up/down affecting your vinyl. If your graphic is solid and covers the whole window, you’re less likely to have an issue. However, if your window graphics are custom cut decals, the edges could begin to pull up as blades or gaskets hit them.
Window perf is a perforated vinyl that allows you to still see through your window. Our preferred material comes in an 80/20 pattern (80% vinyl, 20% holes). The expected life is 1-2 years, but using windshield wipers and rolling windows up/down could affect that lifetime.
Color change materials come pre-colored, pre-laminated and unprintable. We offer customers both Avery and 3M color change materials, depending on the color and finish desired. Across the board, durability for horizontal surfaces is 2 years, so we suggest replacing at least horizontal surfaces every couple years. The following life expectancies are listed for vertical surface application.
- Black & white – 12 years
- Other colors – 10 years
- Metallic & pearlescent – 5
- Brushed metal and shade shifting – 4 years
- Diamond – 3 years
- Generic Colors – 7 years
- Patterns/textures/metallics – 5 years
Chrome material is a flashy, yet expensive material. Avery’s chrome has an expected durability of about 3 years on vertical surfaces.
Signs of Aging Vinyl
One of the first signs of aging vinyl is the color beginning to fade. As the South Carolina sun beats down on your wrap, it’ll start leaching the color from your vinyl. Out materials are UV resistant, but over time, the vinyl will succumb.
If peeling occurs within the first few months of your vehicle being wrapped, take it back to your printer/installer and have them take a look. Often, that peeling is due to an install error and can be quickly fixed to allow your wrap to continue advertising.
Vinyl peeling occurs when the material’s adhesive starts giving out at the edges either due to grime or water getting under the vinyl, or to age as the adhesive weakens.
Custom cut vinyl is more susceptible to peeling as the vinyl edges are more exposed to the elements and cleaning utensils. The vinyl on full vehicle wraps gets tucked into the seams of the vehicle, which helps protect the vinyl’s edges.
When your vinyl starts cracking, you need to get the material removed asap. Cracking happens as the vinyl/laminate layer shrinks and pulls itself apart, but it leaves the adhesive in place. As the material separates, you’ll start to see grey and black adhesive appearing through the cracks. When the adhesive reaches this state, it becomes more difficult to remove.
Effects of & Solutions for Aging Vinyl
Shadowing occurs when vinyl is left on a vehicle for any extended amount of time. It happens as the sun naturally affects your vehicle’s exposed body paint and the vinyl on top, but not the paint underneath the vinyl. For instance, if you put your logo on your vehicle door, then remove the logo in 3-4 years, you’ll see that the paint beneath the logo is like new although the rest of your vehicle paint has aged naturally.
The only solutions to this effect are to repaint the vehicle (make sure you have it done with factory-grade paint) or cover the affected areas with vinyl. Do consider, though, the lifetime of vinyl if you’re thinking of covering shadowed areas with vinyl.
Often when removing vinyl, adhesive gets left behind whether the vinyl is 5 months old or 5 years old. Usually, a product called Goo-Gone effectively removes left behind adhesive. Sometimes rubbing alcohol will do the trick. However, if the vinyl is left on too long and the material is pulling away from the adhesive, you might have a little more trouble removing both elements.
If the adhesive doesn’t come off after Goo-Gone, your next step will be to use a buffer. We suggest going to a body shop or professional installer and have them do it. Do be warned, however, that this removal method could damage your vehicle’s clear coat.
Clear Coat/Paint Damage
There are two sets of circumstances where your clear coat/paint could be damaged. The first, is during the removal of old vinyl. As mentioned above, the methods needed to remove old vinyl can eat away at the clear coat, and can even go down to the metal if done carelessly.
The second scenario occurs if your vehicle has been repainted with non-factory-grade paint. If the wrong paint is used, the vinyl’s adhesive could accidentally pull up the paint as the installers reposition the graphic during install or later when the graphic is removed. Sometimes when buying a used car, paint issues might come up as a surprise gift from the previous owner. If you’re worried about your vehicle’s paint job, do some research of the vehicle’s history online.
STANDARD VINYL LIFETIME IS 4-6 YEARS ON VERTICAL SURFACES AND 2-2.5 ON HORIZONTAL SURFACES. We can’t express enough how important it is to keep your vinyl fresh. Not only does old vinyl reflect poorly on your business, it’s also more expensive to repair/replace.
Despite the possible challenges, SpeedPro is ready and waiting for your call to rewrap (or wrap for the first time) your vehicles. We’ll walk you through the entire process, regardless of whether you need removal. Call today to get a quote!