Can my vehicle rust if it’s wrapped? – good question. Although a full wrap can protect the surface of your vehicle to some extent. The answer is yes, your car or truck can rust even when wrapped. However, there are several ways to avoid corrosion.

How to Avoid Rust on Your Wrapped Vehicle

Last week I noticed a spot on the hood of my wife’s 2007 Mustang convertible GT. She babies this car. It’s spotless, garaged, and well maintained. It’s also 13 years old. The spot I saw is corrosion coming from below the paint. It hasn’t broken the surface yet, but if left unattended, it will. So, what has this got to do with a wrap? It’s the most common way that rust appears on a wrapped vehicle – from underneath the wrap. To answer your question, can my vehicle rust if it’s wrapped? Yep, just like paint.

Don’t try to hide rust with a wrap

We’ve seen too many times where someone has tried to hide rust under a wrap. It doesn’t work. The rust is still there, and what’s worse, the adhesive will not stick to the rusted surface. So, the wrap loosens, bubbles, and tears allowing moisture below the wrap, which leads to more rust.

It seems like a quick fix to wrap over bad paint, corrosion, or minor damage. Part of that statement is correct. It’s quick, but it’s not a fix. A vehicle wrap will not hide a damaged substrate.

“On paper, applying adhesive vinyl over rust spots sounds like an instant remedy. Got rust? Cover it with a stripe or a decal, but it doesn’t work that way. Adhesive vinyl graphics will not adhere to rust for very long. It’s not a solution.” — When Vehicle Graphics Won’t Help Your Car or Truck

The bottom line is, don’t try to hide rust with a wrap. Can my vehicle rust if it’s wrapped? If you attempt to wrap a damaged or rusted vehicle, yes, absolutely.

Start with proper pre-installation prep 

Improper surface preparation may be the biggest and most common adhesive vinyl installation mistake. Unfortunately, poor prep leads to adhesive vinyl failure. When the surface has foreign matter, the adhesive sticks to the matter, not the surface of the vehicle. This leads to separation, which allows moisture behind the wrap, and potentially to rust.

“The biggest mistake is not prepping the surface,” says Jeff Stadelman. It’s so important to have a clean surface to put the adhesives down on. That’s the number one error. No matter the substrate,­ glass or paint,­ and no matter the installation method, ­wet or dry – if you do not clean the substrate properly, then you will end up with a contaminated surface that hinders the performance of the adhesive.” — Preparing the surface.

“The surface of any vehicle must be completely cleaned and dried before graphic installation. Surface dirt, grime, solvents, or petroleum products residue can cause the adhesive to fail and the Vinyl to bubble or come loose. The surface must be completely clean and dry. It can’t have any grease, oil, or chemicals. Some solvents may be unseen by the naked eye yet will adversely affect how the adhesive Vinyl sticks to the substrate.” — How Not to Install Vehicle Graphics Part One So, to answer the question can my vehicle rust if it’s wrapped? Yes, it can if it’s not properly prepped.

Use the best material for the job

There are different types of adhesive vinyl materials. For example, there are materials designed to conform to curves and others that are only for flat surface applications such as a decal logo on a door. There are lower-quality materials, short term adhesive vinyl’s, and top-shelf vinyl wrap material. Choosing the wrong material for the job can lead to failure of the adhesive Vinyl.

“Vinyl begins as Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC), then additives create the vinyl film used to wrap vehicles. Adding plasticizers adds flexibility. The next step is to add UV absorbers and heat stabilizers to create a vinyl that will conform to a vehicle’s shape, withstand the elements, and then pigment for color.

Another manufacturing option is the calendar or economy process. Like pizza dough, the Vinyl is rolled and stretched into the desired shape. This material is thicker, and it tends to shrink.” — FAQ: Are There Different Vinyl Graphics Materials?

Hire professional installers

We’re often asked to fix an improperly installed wrap. Here’s one example. “I met Terry Wells, the transportation manager for Knott’s Fine Foods, in the installation bay at TKO Graphix. He was there to pick up a 53-foot trailer we wrapped for his company. I introduced myself and asked him what he thought of the wrap. He was more than pleased. He was delighted. You see, he came to us after he’d had a less than positive experience with another provider. We know how to wrap rivets. The other provider didn’t.

Terry pointed to the rivets on the side of the trailer (there were hundreds of rivets) and said, “We choose TKO Graphix for our trailer wraps because the work another provider did three years ago is coming apart. See these rivets; the other people didn’t do a professional job like this (TKO Graphix work)” Here’s a video of what Terry had to say,” — Knott’s Wholesale Foods Trailer Wrap

Keep it Clean

A dirty vehicle wrap not only looks terrible and reflects poorly on your organization, but it can also lead to damage. When left to fester on adhesive vinyl surfaces, organics such as insects, bird droppings, and tree sap can compromise the vinyl. Environmental toxins like diesel fuel, acid rain, and smog can lead to adhesive failure. And climate conditions such as excess heat and sea salt can take their toll.

When the vinyl is damaged even slightly, such as a small bubble, loosening of a seam, or even the most minor rip, it will let moisture in. In cold climates, it will freeze, thaw, expand, and contract and become a more significant problem. However, even in warm climates, moisture behind the warp isn’t a good condition and can lead to rust.

Don’t wait to clean it

“Soften difficult contaminants such as bug splatter, bird droppings, tree sap, and similar contaminants by soaking them for several minutes with hot, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and dry. If further cleaning is needed, test one of these products in an inconspicuous area to ensure no damage to the graphics: Meguiar’s Gold Class™ Bug and Tar Remover or 3M™ Citrus Base Cleaner. Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) (two parts IPA to 1-part water) or denatured alcohol may also help. Spot clean the contaminants. Do not use rough scrubbing or abrasive tools, which will scratch the film. Wash and rinse off all residue immediately.” — 3M Caring for your Vehicle Graphics.

Avoid Corrosives

Corrosives are everywhere, but vehicles are especially susceptible to corrosives where they’re parked. Avoid parking on grass, dirt, or snow. And be sure to clean salt from your vehicle immediately.

“Don’t let salt accumulate on your vehicle. Adhesive Vinyl resists salt. However, when exposed to salt over a long period, damage could occur. Salt is extremely corrosive, and even Vinyl protected with clear coat could eventually show signs of wear from extended exposure to salt.” — FAQ: Will Road Salt Damage my Vehicle Graphics?

Hire a pro

The best answer we can share to avoid rust on your wrapped car or truck is hire a pro. A professional can tell you if your vehicle’s surface will hold the adhesive or needs repaired before installation. They’ll know how to properly prep your vehicle and what materials to use.

And the best providers have the best installers. “We are proud to be a 3M™ MCS™ Certified Warranty Manufacturerwhich means our customers receive consistent, outstanding products backed by 3M’s most comprehensive warranties. We are members of the United Application Standards Group (UASG), and master certified through the PDAA (Professional Decal Application Alliance), delivering the best installation services possible.” — About TKO Graphix

Can my Vehicle Rust if it’s Wrapped?

Can my vehicle rust if it’s wrapped? You already know the answer. So, if you want to avoid corrosion leading to adhesive vinyl failure just follow our advice. If we can be of any service or answer any questions, please let us know, Contact Us, or you can request a quote today!