If you’ve decided on vehicle graphics to promote your brand. Using the recommended adhesive vinyl for your application may be the difference between an attractive graphic that lasts for years. Or a disappointment.

Not All Adhesive Vinyl is Created the Same

Last week, TKO Graphix National Account Manager, Glenn Burris, received an inquiry about installing full wraps on a fleet of vehicles. The graphics had already been produced by another printer, not by TKO. The company wanted certified experienced installers who would stand by their work. We offer this, but there was a problem. There are hundreds of adhesive vinyl materials available for vehicle graphics. The material on which the graphics were printed were not recommended for a full wrap.

“Vinyl begins as Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC), then additives create the vinyl film used to wrap vehicles. Plasticizers are added for flexibility, pigment is added for color, then UV absorbers and heat stabilizers are added to create a vinyl that will conform to a vehicle’s shape and withstand the elements. Cast, or “premium vinyl,” is a process similar to making a cake. Ingredients are mixed and solvents are added, then poured into a casting sheet, which is baked, allowing the solvents to evaporate. This process makes a very flexible, thin, shrink-resistant material. Another manufacturing option is the calendar or economy process. In this method, ingredients are mixed, but solvents aren’t added. Like pizza dough, the vinyl is rolled and stretched into the desired shape. This material is thicker and having been stretched, it tends to shrink.” — FAQ: Are There Different Vinyl Graphics Materials?

It’s Not the First Time We’ve Heard this Story

“It’s story was something I’ve heard often in my eight years with TKO Graphix; Another customer shared that the provider they hired had wrapped his fleet vehicles with an inferior product and it was coming off. Not only was it bubbling, ripping, and pulling away, but adhesive and pieces of vinyl were stuck to the trailers. It was difficult to remove without damaging the vehicle’s finish. (They found a citrus-based cleaning product that helped.)

The Wrong Material

He told me the provider had previously installed decals, and they were fine. However, although the wraps looked good, they started coming apart at the seams. I took an educated guess that a noncompliant material designed for flat decals was used on the wrap. A full wrap requires compliant material that can be heated and formed around curves. Noncompliant material is less expensive, but if used for the wrong application costs the customer more in the long run.” — How to Avoid Costly Vehicle Graphics Mistakes


Use the Right Material for the Job

It was non-conformable, which means it’s not designed to stretch around complex curves. When the producer of the graphics was questioned about the choice of vinyl, they said they’ve done hundreds of law enforcement decals without a problem. Besides, the material was less expensive than compliant vinyls. The material they chose was designed for decals, like a police shield, which lay flat on the surface of a vehicle, but was never intended to be stretched around a curve. This material, if used on the complex contoured areas of the wrap, would almost certainly lead to lifting, come loose, bubble, and peel away. We recommended reprinting on a 2ml cast-compliant vinyl, as endorsed in this 3M video.

If you’d like to avoid this scenario, we recommend working with established certified vehicle graphics providers that offer expertise and warranty. If you’d like to learn what adhesive vinyls work best for any application,Contact Us. And remember, the lowest price isn’t always the least expensive in the long run.