There are many ways a vehicle graphic can go wrong. Poor design, using the wrong material, or not following print guidelines by matching inks and over-laminates to the adhesive vinyl. All can ruin a vehicle wrap. But even when design, materials, and print are in order, an untrained, incompetent applicator can tear it all down.

What not to do

Don’t install when it’s too hot, too cold, or too humid. “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? Most adhesive vinyl suppliers recommend installation at a minimum of 70 degrees and no more than 50 % humidity. “Bringing an installation crew, tools, and materials to an outdoor lot in winter can be a costly mistake.” — Graphics Mistakes Fleet Managers Learn to Avoid.

Don’t ignore the substrate. I saw a blog post the other day comparing painting a vehicle to wrapping a car or truck. The image on the post showed a severely rusted van being wrapped to look brand new. This is misleading. False promises such as this could give the vehicle graphics industry a bad name. Covering damage with vinyl doesn’t repair the damage; it only hides it for a short time. It won’t be long before the adhesive vinyl will not adhere to the rust. Surface damage should be repaired before applying graphics. Graphics don’t hide dents or adhere to rust. Can Vehicle Graphics be applied over Body Damage?

Don’t forget to prep the surface. The surface of any vehicle must be completely cleaned and dried before graphic installation. Surface dirt, grime, solvents, or petroleum product residue can cause the adhesive to fail and the vinyl to bubble or come loose. Vehicle Graphics Surface Preparation. 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.

Do remove equipment. If you’ve ever painted the interior of a home you’ve most likely removed light switches, socket covers, and wall hangings. You learned that painting around them left something to be desired. It’s the same with vehicle graphics, equipment that can be removed such as, mirrors and license plates should be removed.

Know what tools to use and how to use them. Using tools improperly can lead to disaster. Anyone can use a squeegee to apply adhesive vinyl to a surface, but there’s a right way and a wrong way. The wrong way will cause problems. Same goes for using heat or working around rivets, windows, doors, and equipment. We recommend using providers that are certified by PDAA (Professional Decal Application Alliance), which is administered by SGIA (Specialty Graphics Imaging Association), or UASG (United Application Standards Group), through 3M. TKO Graphix has both. You may be able to get away with using a credit card instead of a squeegee on a small decal. Very small. But not on a full or partial wrap. Use the right tools for the job.

What to do

Don’t let just anyone install vehicle graphics on your fleet. It’s not as easy as it looks. Check provider’s certifications, review their work, and ask for testimonials. Taking your time to find the best vehicle graphics installers can save you money and headaches in the long run.