Will Vehicle Graphics Removal Damage Paint?
That’s a great question and we’re glad you asked!
Businesses considering vehicle graphics for their fleet should know the answer to this question to prevent surprises down the road when graphics want to be taken off. When a professional graphics provider completes the vehicle graphics installation properly, the paint will not be damaged when removed. However, when best practices are not followed, short cuts are taken, and cost outranks doing it the right way, it can become a problem. If you take nothing else away from this post, let it be this…
Here are four critical questions to keep in mind before you have adhesive vinyl graphics installed on your vehicles.
1. How Long will it be on the Vehicle?
The longer the graphics remain on the vehicle, the more chance of paint or substrate damage. If it’s left on longer than recommended by the manufacturer, it may be difficult to remove, leading to surface damage. So, what is the warranty on adhesive vinyl? The short answer — it depends on the material, but usually 3 to 7 years. One of the more common materials is 3M™ Controltac™ Graphic Film w/Comply™ Adhesive v3 IJ180Cv3-10, but even the warranty on this material varies depending on usage, color, inks, and how it’s installed.
Your best bet is to discuss this with your graphics provider. Let them know how long you plan to use the graphics, and then ask their advice for the best material for the longevity you are wanting. Just choosing the cheapest vinyl or quote, and not understanding the differences in material and their intended uses, may end up in damage to your paint when it comes time to remove it.
2. How will the Graphics be Removed?
There’s a right way and a wrong way to remove adhesive vinyl. Here’s a video showing the right way, to remove vehicle graphics which includes:
- Heating the vinyl with a propane torch
- Using a poker to loosen the vinyl
- Reheating the vinyl
- The best way to pull off the graphic
- What to use to remove residual adhesive
Adhesive vinyl manufacturer 3M offers this advice, “Test for removability by grasping a corner of the film and pulling from the surface at an angle of less than 90° with gentle / moderate force. The film should stretch like rubber while being removed; if it is brittle, stop, apply a pH-neutral film/adhesive remover system…” — Graphic Removal with 3MTM Graphic Remover System
For more in depth information, also see our blog, How to Remove Adhesive Vinyl Graphics without Damaging Your Vehicle.
3. What’s the Condition of the Vehicle’s Surface?
Before installing adhesive vinyl graphics, you should examine the condition of the paint surface. A vehicle should have a proper paint finish, such as automotive grade paint, not primer. They should also be clean, without rust or corrosion, before graphics are applied.
If there are doubts about the condition of the surface, performing a snap test is recommended. According to the 3M Bulletin, Select and Prepare Substrates for Graphic Application, “This test can be used to help determine if a substrate appears to have sufficient integrity to remain intact during eventual graphic removal.” Although the snap test doesn’t guarantee the adhesive vinyl won’t cause damage five years from now upon removal, it does warn you if the surface is unsuitable for vinyl application.