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Can a wrapped car be buffed?

How to Repair and Remove a Vinyl Wrap

An increasingly popular trend these days is the wrapping of cars. Vinyl wraps offer you a range of colours far beyond what a manufacturer can offer as standard. However, there may be times where you need to know how to repair and remove a vinyl wrap, which this article will show you.

Wrapping your car gives the flexibility of changing the colour of your car, without paying for a full respray. Unfortunately, damage can sometimes occur. This may result in the wrap needing to be removed and replaced.

Vinyl signwriting commonly found on vans for advertising may also need to be removed. Much like paint, swirl marks can be inflicted into wraps. While these cannot be polished out, they can be lessened using other methods.

How to Repair Vinyl Wrap

Vinyl is a thermoplastic, meaning it can be reformed multiple times using heat. If swirl marks can be seen in the wrap, gentle application of heat will allow the plastic to reform to a flat and even surface, i.e. vinyl wraps are ‘self-healing’. This will not repair deep gashes into the wrap but may help to improve the gloss effect of the wrap.

Step 1 – Decontaminate The Paint

The first step is the ensure the surface is clean of any contaminants. Ideally, you should remove all former waxes and sealants to leave behind a bare surface.

Step 2 – Apply Heat

To apply heat, I tend to use a heat gun, but a hairdryer will do the job and will be a less risky option. Begin with the lowest heat setting and move the nozzle around, keeping it about 20-30 cm away from the surface. Do not hold the nozzle in one place, as this can burn the wrap.

Every couple of passes, feel the surface with the back of your hand, it should be hot, but not so hot you cannot touch it.

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Step 3 – Repeat Until Blemishes Have Been Removed

Repeating this process several times should result in minor swirl marks gradually being removed.

Step 4 – (Optional) Perform Paint Correction

You can treat most vinyl wraps like paint in that, you can correct using a dual action polisher. You need to follow the same processes that you usually would to remove swirl marks, but bear in mind that vinyl wrap is not as durable as paint, meaning that you will need less pressure, passes and abrasives to repair the vinyl wrap.

How to Remove Vinyl Wrap

Removal of a vinyl wrap is usually quite a straightforward process, and once again will require the use of heat. Whether you are removing an entire section of wrap, or signwriting, it is best to start from a corner.

Step 1 – Use Heat

As above, warm the surface until it is warm to the touch, you can add more heat this time as you will be removing the wrap. Use your fingernail to pick a section of the wrap and gently start to work the wrap off, applying heat constantly to keep the adhesive soft.

If you are removing wrap from a door panel or the like, you might need to open the door to find where the wrap is tucked in and start from there. If you come across any stubborn parts, pause and reheat the surface. While unlikely to happen there is always the possibility paint could accidentally be removed.

Step 2 – Adhesive Remover

If heat does not seem to be sufficient by itself, you may find it useful to have adhesive remover to hand. Tar removers will also work for this, and you can find our recommendations for the best tar removers here, in the photo below, I’m using Koch Chemie Tew Tar and Glue Remover.

Koch Chemie Eulex Adhesive and Stain Remover – 43001

  • Adhesive & stain remover.

You will have to apply the solution at the point where the wrap and paint meet. Allow the glue remover to seep underneath the wrap, before continuing the removal.

Step 3 – Remove Glue Residue

Once the wrap is fully removed, there may still be some residue left on the surface. This can be removed by dabbing some glue remover onto the surface and gently removing with a microfibre cloth.

Step 4 – Correct Any Defects in the Paint and Protect

Polish and protect the paint and enjoy the original colour of your car!

Step 5 – (Optional) Machine Polish

If you have removed some signwriting, for example from the side a van, you will probably be able to see some ‘sign ghosting’ where the sign once was. This is notably a problem on older single stage paint and happens when UV exposure causes the paint to fade, but the paint under the wrap has been protected. This will require polishing to fix.

A machine polisher will be most effective but using a polishing compound like Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound by hand will greatly improve the look of the vehicle. If you do polish the vehicle, ensure you regularly wax the paintwork to prevent any future fading.

FAQ

Can vinyl wraps be buffed?

Can vinyl wraps be buffed?
Using the right products, yes. You can use a finishing polish with a soft finishing pad on a wrap. You should avoid using heavy cutting compounds on wraps.

How long do vinyl wraps last?

Depending on the manufacture, installation, and conditions the car is used in, wraps can last up to five years. A wrap on a daily driven car will begin to lift much sooner than a wrap on a garaged weekend car.

Can you pressure wash a wrapped car?

Yes, you can, but it is best not to use a hot water pressure washer to do so, as this can soften the adhesive. Ensure to keep the tip of the pressure water a safe distance from the surface and avoid blasting the corners of vinyl signs.

James Gillespie

James is a professional detailer and owns East Antrim Detailing, based in Northern Ireland. He joined the Prep My Car team in 2020 and specialises in paint correction, detailing guides and troubleshooting on the site. He’s been touted as one of the best up and coming detailers in NI and started his business aged just 20.

How to Remove Scuffs on Vehicle Wrap Film

There are times when your vehicle accidentally hits somewhere on the sides as it comes out from a place like a grove or a garage, and there are scuff marks leaving on it. This has been quite a headache for a lot of people.

Sometimes the paint of a wall gets on to the vehicle wrap film, and sometimes even the body of vehicle where there is no film protecting gets damaged with lots of scratches.

Some people would choose to rush to get some chemicals in order to get rid of those marks quickly so that the vehicle wrap film can get back to its brand-new-alike. But this can actually harshly damage the vehicle wrap film itself.

There is an easy and handy way to solve this problem without using any harsh chemical product so that your vehicle wrap film remains safe even under this circumstance.

But you have to first prepare a magic eraser, which is basically used for the kitchen and it is easily accessible in most stores. These erasers are extremely good for working on those types of scuff marks on vehicle wrap film.

Spray soaping water on the particular areas that have those marks, run over them with your magic eraser as if you are using a clay bar — Speaking of which, some people would choose to use clay bar when it comes to a situation like this because it seems soft enough and will not damage the paint. But notice though, as long as clay bar stays on a particular spot for too long, it will become very aggressive, so it is risky still.

In this case, a magic eraser should be the best option. As you run it over the surface, you can also determine on what level the scratches are: Is it a deep scratch on the surface of the body or just the surface area on the vehicle wrap film?

Be patient and spend some time, if it is just paint marks, it will come off clean as you go back and forth with the magic eraser, as well as cleaning up all the other residues there. As soon as the mark is off, wipe it down with a microfiber towel.

In some cases with cars like MINI, the mirrors’ covers are plastic-based and they are unwrapped, but damaged with scuff marks left on. If it is just paint, the magic eraser can also solve it out. Once the mark is off, spray again and shift it to the next spot with the eraser.

Some might ask that it sounds like it is ok to just use a sponge to do all these, so why not, because sponge can totally soak even more easily than a magic eraser? The fact is that a sponge might scratch the surface as you go over the vehicle wrap film, which might lead to a costly result.

So take your time with the magic eraser, as long as the scratches are not too deep and they come off, your vehicle wrap film would look brand new again as you wipe down.

By using this one simple accessible tool, you can keep your vehicle wrap film from harsh chemicals (so that actually keeps it from further damages). You do not even have to put your gloves on and your place will not smell bad because of using chemical products. So it is a really helpful way in terms of getting rid of scuffs.

However, if you realize the physical damages have gone too deep and even magic eraser cannot help, for example, when you see some white spots on the film, and as you go over, you find out that the damages have already gone to the base layer of the vehicle wrap film, it is best to get a re-do.

If you are running out of time to do that, the quickest way – although we do NOT so much recommend, is to use a marking pen in the as-similar-as-possible color to fill the in the scratch. Apparently, this is only for emergency though.

How To Keep Your Car’s Matte Paint or Wrap Looking Fresh

Whether or not you keep up with the latest color trends, splashing new or extra shades on your car is a popular modification. And while there’s no shortage of stunning car paint options, the matte look is still going strong. Hence why vinyl wraps, which mimic the matte look for a lot less, also draw plenty of appreciative eyes. However, whether you go wrap or repaint, a matte car requires some special care to look its best.

Matte car paint is harder to maintain than non-matte paint

The rear 3/4 view of a matte-black-painted Lamborghini Aventador on a city street

Full disclosure, I used to be an automotive paint engineer. So, believe me when I say that matte car paint is a pain to work with. And that has to do with what makes it matte.

All car paint has three basic layers: a primer for the surface metal, a mid-coat that provides the color, and a protective clear coat. Normally, the clear coat fills in any minor surface imperfections, creating a smooth surface for light to reflect off. Hence why most cars are so shiny. A matte-painted car’s clear coat, though, emphasizes the bumpiness of the primed-and-mid-coated surface. This creates interference, kind of like oil in a puddle, which creates that cool, hazy look. And that’s where the headaches start.

For one, you can’t wax or polish a car with matte paint. That would fill in or remove the surface imperfections and thus the matte appearance. Secondly, a matte clear coat isn’t formulated exactly like a regular clear coat. Thus, you can’t run a car with matte paint through an automated car wash.

Furthermore, you can’t use conventional cleaners to wash your car, as they can also ruin the clear coat’s effect. And unless they’re the wash-off kind, tire shine/cleaning products are a no-go for the same reason.

If all this sounds like matte paint, er, clear coat, is way delicate, that’s not entirely accurate. Like other car paints, it will protect your car’s metal body from minor damage. And it arguably hides minor scratches better because of its appearance. However, once a car with matte paint gets scratched or dinged, it’s more difficult to fix. Remember, you can’t polish or buff out the scratches, because that would remove the matte effect. And if the damage is deep or severe enough, a pro will have to replace the entire damaged panel.

How do you keep a car with matte paint clean?

Although matte paint makes a car harder to clean, it’s not an impossible task. It just requires some additional tools and care.

Firstly, always hand-wash a matte-painted car, Kelley Blue Book reports. Secondly, use cleaning solutions specifically formulated for matte paint. And thirdly, always use clean microfiber cloths to clean and dry your car. Also, if your clean matte car suddenly gets splattered with random grime or bird poop, don’t despair. But if you don’t have any matte-specific detail spray on hand, at least soak the contaminated area with some clean water.

In addition, matte cars truly benefit from paint protection techniques. Because of the matte effect, you can’t use paste wax or a similar product. But there are matte-specific protective sealants that do the same job, though you need to re-apply them every few months. However, there is a longer-lasting form of protection: a ceramic coating. It’s more expensive, but it lasts for several years and won’t ruin the matte look.

Also, don’t try to use a clay bar to clean a car with matte paint. Because the matte surface isn’t smooth, the bar won’t work properly.

Is maintaining and cleaning a matte vinyl wrap just as hard?


Related

If you don’t want to deal with the matte paint headache, you might think giving your car a vinyl wrap is a better option. But that’s only partially true.

On one hand, vinyl-wrapped cars can go through automatic car washes if they’re brushless. Also, you can clean a vinyl wrap with gentle automotive detergents, though wrap-specific ones are preferable. Just avoid solvents, oil-based solutions, as well as kitchen and bathroom cleaners. And in a pinch, you can pressure-wash a car with a vinyl wrap, but again, gently.

However, vinyl car wraps have their own maintenance quirks. Firstly, they’re more sensitive to heat, UV light, and environmental pollutants. Also, even if you keep a vinyl-wrapped car covered properly, the wrap simply doesn’t last as long as a paint job. And if you don’t replace degraded vinyl quickly, it can damage the paint underneath it.

In short, maintaining your matte car’s appearance isn’t as easy as keeping a glossy car clean. But for some, the style is worth the pain.

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