Most vehicle graphics providers have a pre-installation plan. Some keep it in their heads; others use a checklist to ensure uniform preparation on all applications. Regardless, it isn’t only the provider who needs to be aware of the pre-installation procedure; the customer needs to know as well. Because not adhering to industry standards may lead to graphics failure. When this happens, more often than not, the end user is left holding the bag. So, here are the basics every fleet manager should know.

The Five Basics of Vehicle Graphics Pre-installation

1. What Material should be used?

There are hundreds of materials designed for specific applications. Some are warrantied for two years others up to seven. Never put a short term adhesive vinyl on a long term lease or vice versa. Some materials are designed to conform and adhere to complex curves others not. Knowing the difference is important. Here’s more on types of adhesive vinyl, FAQ: Are There Different Vinyl Graphics Materials?

2. Where should it be installed?

In the best case scenario graphics should be installed inside in a temperature controlled environment. “For installation‚ the ultimate temperature-controlled environment is 70° F (21° C) with 50 percent humidity. For best results with films recommended for vehicle wrapping‚ always apply when the air and vehicle surface are both above 60° F (16° C).” —

“Graphics installation requires a clean and warm environment. When temperatures drop too low, vehicle graphics fail. Installing adhesive vinyl graphics below 60 degrees Fahrenheit leads to problems.” — FAQ: Can Vehicle Graphics be installed in the Cold?

3. What should be removed from the vehicle?

Everything that may interfere with the installation that can be removed and reinstalled without possible damage should be removed. This includes antenna, mirrors, license plates, and some types of trim. “Similar to painting a room, where the best practice is to remove the outlets and fixtures rather than trying to paint around them.  However, check the condition of the equipment before attempting to remove it – some pieces shouldn’t be taken off.” — FAQ: Can I Wrap a Vehicle Myself?

4. What needs to be inspected before installation?

To avoid potential adhesive failure, paint condition, damage such as dents or rust, and the condition of seals and gaskets should be inspected. Adhesive vinyl graphics will not adhere to worn out or damaged substrates nor will it “hide” or camouflage pre-existing damage. “Decals and wraps aren’t an alternative to surface repair. When anyone tries to sweep surface damage under the rug by hiding it behind a wrap, they’re not solving the problem, and they might make it worse.” —  When Vehicle Graphics Won’t Help Your Car or Truck.

5. How clean does it have to be?

The vehicle should be spotless. Any debris remaining on the vehicle before the application may show through. Oils and films may cause adhesive failure. Use isopropyl alcohol for the he final wipe down. Thoroughly dry the vehicle before installation. “So, what’s the number one vehicle graphics installation mistake? It’s improper surface preparation, which is usually incomplete or improper cleaning. It’s often not that someone didn’t try to clean the vehicle before applying adhesive vinyl graphics – it’s that they didn’t follow best practices. And that can lead to graphic failure. Don’t make this vehicle graphics installation mistake.” — The Number One Vehicle Graphics Installation Mistake! And How to Avoid it

Why Knowing this is Important

Does a fleet manager need to know the answer to every pre-installation question? Do you need to know the warranty on 3M 180 series or how compliant the vinyl is? No, you don’t, but you need to know the five basics to be able to ask the right questions.

  • What material are you using, what’s the warranty, and why did you choose it for this application?
  • How will climate be controlled during installation?
  • How will equipment be removed and reinstalled?
  • Who pre-inspects the vehicle and what are they looking for?
  • How will the vehicle be cleaned? How will old graphics be removed?

By following these basics and asking these questions you’ll improve the chances of a professional installation that will last for years. So, if you’d like to learn more about our process, we’d be happy to preview any questions you have because it’s best to be prepared. Contact Us.