How to avoid vehicle graphics fails begins with hiring professionals. As far as vehicle graphics go, there’s not much worse than hiring a provider to design, fabricate, and install fleet graphics only to have the work fall apart before its time. Fleet graphics not only identify and advertise an organization — they represent them. Graphics that fail, fade, rip, and shrink send a message about the company they represent, and it’s not good. Most of the reasons for graphic fails can be avoided. Here’s how:

Measure Twice Cut Once

Before finalizing any vehicle graphic, be sure these questions are answered.

Have the installers been certified?

3M and others offer certification. How to Find the Best Vehicle Graphics Installers. There are varying levels of training, for example, a lower level certification may not be qualified to wrap complex curves, which is a significant part of a complete vehicle wrap. Have the installers been properly trained on the special needs of your vehicles such as, covering rivets, working around equipment like mirrors, and wrapping various surfaces, for example, corrugated trailer bodies? Hiring qualified applicators is the first step in how to avoid vehicle graphics fails.

How will the vehicle be prepped? 

A complete cleaning using a citrus based solvent or another non-invasive cleaner with wet and dry rags is recommended.

“Surfaces must be finished, clean, and dry. Organics, such as, animal and insect remains, food particles, and plant material, in most cases, may be removed with mild soap and water. Solvents need to be removed such as petro-chemicals, for example, wax, oil, or diesel. Understanding how solvents affect the material and following directions on the label will help prevent surface preparation failures. All surfaces must be completely dry before applying graphics. Uncured finishes may hold and leach moisture, which will adversely affect vinyl graphics placed over the uncured surface.” – – Vehicle Graphics Surface Preparation for Various Substrates

Is the best material for the job being used? 

Some providers may use a cheaper material to offer a lower bid. There are hundreds of adhesive vinyl materials available. Some are recommended for flat surfaces, others may be stretched to conform to complex curves. Using the wrong material can lead to disaster.

How will the material be heated? 

Post heating of the material should only be done by experienced, qualified applicators. Heating the material beyond manufacturer limitations will cause bubbling and more.

What’s the condition of the substrate? 

Vinyl will not properly adhere to peeling paint, corrosion, or rust. These problems must be repaired before applying adhesive vinyl graphics. One of the keys of to how to avoid vehicle graphics fails is not to create them.

“Older vehicles that have dents, scratches, rust and other damage may be visible through the wrap. These defects may cause the wrap to look bad. 3M’s warranty only covers vehicles that have an excellent paint to substrate bond. Vehicles with clear coat issues, scratches and dents will need to be sanded and prepped before they are wrapped.”  – All about 3M 1080 Vehicle Wrap Film

How will the graphic be cured? 

Proper curing of a completed graphic before lamination should be 12-24 hours under a fan. If the graphic is laminated before it’s cured the solvent in the ink may diffuse and cause anything from fading to lack of adhesion.

How will the graphics be packed and shipped? 

The graphics should be rolled with the print out and packed in boxes using sufficient protective packing material.

How to Avoid Vehicle Graphics Fails

It’s so much easier to ask before the installation begins. We’ve been asked to “fix” fleet graphic problems when unqualified, uneducated, or unscrupulous providers have failed to properly design, manufacturer, or apply vehicle graphics. It would have been simpler for the customer to ask the provider these seven questions before entering into an agreement. If you’re considering fleet graphics take a little time and vet your provider. It could save a lot of worry and regret. If you’d like to learn more contact us … we know what to avoid.

Photo by Jim Handcock / CC BY-ND 2.0