Can you fix scratches on a wrapped car?
How to Care for a Wrapped Car
Caring for your wrap is crucial for ensuring you get the most life out of your wrap, and justifying the cost of your vehicle wrap. While we usually suggest a wrap lifetime of around 4-5 years, a properly cared for wrap can last up to 12 years! For those of you experienced detailing pros, you’ll notice some similarities between paint care and wrap care, but there’s a few key differences.
We’ll be sharing some of our tried-and-true practices that we share with our customers in this wrapped car care guide, and learn how you can care for your wrapped car.
How do you wash a wrapped car?
You’ll want to wash your wrapped car like any other car, using a wash mitt and car washing soap. You don’t need any crazy soaps, the cheap soap you can pick up in a gallon works just fine. When washing try to wash in a line from top to bottom, as opposed to circular motions which can scratch your car’s wrap. Rinse, wash, then dry. Simple as that.
But, don’t use dish soap! It can strip the vinyl and damage protective films on top.
What you’ll need to wash your wrapped car at home:
- Microfiber towels
- All-purpose car washing liquid
- Cleaning mitt
- One to two buckets
Unlike paint, vinyl is a bit more flexible when it comes to swirls and light scratches that can come from washing. If left in the sun and heat, your vinyl should self-repair itself and leave a smooth surface.
If you wan’t to be extra particular, you can wash your car using the “two bucket method.” Detailers swear by this method to prevent scratches to your car’s surface from debris picked up on your microfiber or towel mitt. You’ll need a soapy bucket and a rinse bucket. After you lather up and wipe your car, you just rinse your soapy mitt in the rinse bucket, then re-lather your clean mitt in the soapy bucket. Rinse and repeat!
Chemical guys has a great detailing breakdown you can watch below:
Can I use drive-thru car washes on my wrapped car?
We don’t recommend using drive-thru quick service car washes you may find at a gas station. Brushes can be too harsh for your vinyl wrap and can scratch or damage the film. We recommend going to a full service car wash, like Autopia here in the Bay Area, that is more likely to regularly maintain and update their brushes.
Can I use pressure washers on my wrapped car?
Yes, but be careful of excess water pressure. As long as you’re following the same guidelines you would for a painted car, you should be fine. Here’s some things to watch out for when using a pressure washer to wash your wrapped car:
- 1200 — 1900 PSI
- Use an electric power washer if possible
- 6-12 rule: 6 inches away from paint, 12 inches away from trim
- Avoid using pressure washer near wrap edges
Extra things to avoid when washing your wrapped car
- Don’t use degreasers around the edges of your vinyl wrap
- Don’t use alcohol based cleaning products
- Don’t user any dry waxes or wax products in general
- Don’t use any polishing compounds
- We don’t recommend trying to DIY protective coatings on your vinyl wrap
How to Repair Your Vehicle Wrap
We get it, accidents happen. Even though vinyl wraps protect your vehicles from the elements, a fender-bender or run-in with a high curb can even gouge or scratch high quality Avery Dennison or 3M vinyl wraps . Don’t worry – Prima Graphics makes it simple for you to make your car wrap look like new again.
If you need one of your wrapped company vehicles repaired, you’ve come to the right place. This guide shows you how to repair a vehicle wrap using the process Prima Graphics’ wrap experts use to repair our clients’ vehicles.
1. Clean up the area
Chances are that the damage came with some dirt and shrapnel (especially with Greater Vancouver’s rainy weather). Before you fix your car wrap scratch or gouge, it’s important to make sure the surface is clean so the new wrap film can adhere properly. Grab a microfiber towel, mix some soap and water, and clean off any debris, wax, or grease in the damaged area.
2. Remove the damaged sections
Now that the area around the wrap damage is clean, it’s time to remove the wounded vinyl. To get started with this wrap removal, apply some wet sandpaper to a sanding block. With the area still wet, sand the area in light, horizontal motions.
3. Clean again and dry
Once the old wrap is removed from the affected section(s), clean the area again using the same technique as before. Once all the sanded material is gone, dry it with a clean microfiber towel.
4. Apply the vinyl patch
Using the same vinyl as before, measure a section that will cover the hole and overlap the existing wrap around it. Cut the vinyl, remove the backing, and use your hands to apply it to the vehicle. We find it works best to start in the middle and smooth it on with up-and-down motions. This will help to remove any air bubbles so the repaired and replaced wrap looks seamless.
5. Seal the vinyl patch
To complete the surgery, the last step is to bond the vinyl to the vehicle. Using a heat gun (or a hair dryer alternatively), heat the replacement wrap to make sure it adheres fully to vehicle. It might require a little extra heat for curved or creased surfaces.
And that’s it! Your wrap might show minor scarring, but it will look significantly better than before and come at a far lower cost than replacing the entire wrap.
If a more serious collision has damaged the painted surface of your vehicle, the job might require some extra work at the auto repair shop. Once the original paint has been touched up, you will want to find out how long it takes for the paint to cure . (Note that this is different than the paint drying on the surface and refers to the paint hardening and bonding to the vehicle.) When the new paint is fully cured, the vinyl vehicle wrap can then be prepared.
In any case, Prima Graphics’ team of professionals is ready to help you restore your damaged vinyl vehicle wraps. We will assess the damage, give you a free quote, and get the job done quickly and effectively.
Prima Graphics is a Vancouver, BC based company with 16 years of experience in custom vehicle fleet wraps. We help brands to maximize the impact of vehicle advertising, leaving a lasting impression on potential customers. Along with our eye-catching custom graphic designs and attention to detail, we also pride ourselves in our knowledge of branding and marketing.
To uphold our promise of high quality, Prima Graphics uses industry-leading 3M and Avery Dennison vinyl wraps, guaranteed to last at least 9 years. Always putting our customers first, we offer budget flexibility through partial wraps, full wraps and vehicle decals.
Want to learn how your business can advertise with fleet wraps? Contact us today to get a free quote!
Can I Polish Vinyl Wrap?
We all want our vehicles to look clean and bright. This is especially true if your vehicle is wrapped. An ideal vinyl wrap is clean, readable, and bright enough to catch the attention of people passing by. With a traditional vehicle keeping things bright and shiny means a solid wash and polish, but can you polish vinyl wrap?
You can polish a vehicle wrap, but not in the traditional way you’re thinking. Let’s figure out what you need to know about vinyl wrap cleaner, vinyl wrap polish, and how to make your vinyl wrap the cleanest and brightest around.
Can I Polish Vinyl Wrap?
Vinyl Wrap Cleaning Basics
Before you attempt to clean or polish your wrap there’s a fundamental rule you should consider. A vinyl wrap is vinyl – not metal. Vinyl and metal are two completely different surfaces and what cleaners and polishes work for one will not necessarily work for the other. Non-vinyl products could even damage your wrap. Once you understand your cleaning concerns vinyl and not automotive metal you can start the cleaning and polishing process the right way.
Vinyl Wrap Cleaner
Vinyl wrap cleaners are formulated specifically to remove dirt, grease, and road gunk from vinyl wrap material without damaging it. You can find vinyl wrap cleaner at your local auto parts store, most big box retailers, and online.
Though it’s recommended, vinyl specific cleaner isn’t a must and most vinyl wraps can be cleaned with a mild dish detergent. Only use a microfiber cloth or sponge while cleaning your wrap to avoid scratches and rips.
Vinyl Wrap Polish
Let’s get a refresher on our first rule – vinyl is not metal. Any conventional car polish or wax is made to be applied to automotive metal. While conventional polish will make a normal car look great, they can damage vinyl wraps. This includes any protectants or sealants found at automatic car washes.
Instead of conventional turtle wax or clearcoat polish, use vinyl wrap specific polish to give your wrap the proper shine it needs. If possible, choose a brand-specific polish to match the brand of your wrap like a 3M polish for your 3M wrap. If you’re not sure of your brand, look at your installation paperwork or call the company who installed your wrap. They’ll inform you what brand your vinyl was produced by, and recommended steps to polish your vinyl.
Vinyl wrap polish is applied the same methodical way as conventional polish through a series of applications and buffing. Aim for the thinnest layer possible to avoid buildup and odd reflections.
What to Avoid When Polishing Your Wrap
By this point you know conventional polish is a no-go for vinyl, but there are other cleaning and polishing agents that are harmless to metal but damaging to vinyl. While maintaining your wrap avoid:
Citrus-based cleaners – The acidity will eat away at the wrap causing damage and discoloration.
Oil-based cleaning agents and polish – Oil and grease prematurely age vinyl
Engine degreaser – Great for bare metal but too corrosive for vinyl wraps.
Overdoing it – Use the minimal amount of polish necessary to achieve your desired result.
Vinyl Wraps and Automatic Car Washes
If you’re in a pinch and need to clean your wrap quickly, an occasional run through the automatic car wash is not likely to damage your wrap, but you shouldn’t make a habit of it. Car wash soap formulas are much harsher than dish detergent or vinyl-specific cleaners. Aim for touchless car washes that avoid scrubbing and always say no to any aftermarket protectants or coatings.
How Often Should I Polish my Wrap?
Vinyl likes being clean. Road gunk and grease can prematurely age vinyl so the best way to make your last wrap longer is to wash frequently. If possible, you should wash your wrap at least twice a month, but more is always better.
As far as polishing your wrap, that’s really your decision. By design vinyl is reflective and bright by itself without the use of polish or further protection. Polish and vinyl specific protectant might help your vinyl last slightly longer but you’re unlikely to get several more months out of your wrap from polishing compared to leaving it alone.
Polishing is recommended when you really want your wrap to stand out like brining your vehicle to a local festival to advertise your business or pulling up to an important meeting in a great-looking brightly wrapped vehicle. When you want your wrap to look its absolute best is when you should polish your vinyl.
Making Your Wrap Sparkle
You can wash and polish your vinyl wrap just like you would any other vehicle, but the trick is to use vinyl-specific cleaning and polishing agents. Using conventional solutions can damage your wrap so always take care when cleaning to keep your wrap looking great for years. When in doubt, call the wrap installer but for the best instructions on maintaining your vinyl wrap.