There are times when vehicle graphics won’t help you. Eight years ago, when I was brand spanking new to the vehicle graphics industry, an acquaintance sent me to talk to an organization that had imported an old double-decker bus from London. I went to look it over and take photos. It was unique; however, it had seen better days. I took a few photos and sent them to one of the experts at TKO. But, he couldn’t tell from the photos, so he went to inspect it.

While he was there he did a tape test, which is to apply a piece of tape or adhesive vinyl to an out of view spot on the vehicle, let it sit a few minutes, and then pull it off. When he did this on the double-decker bus paint came off  onto the tape. It wouldn’t hold adhesive vinyl graphics, at least not very well or for very long. We advised the owners not to attempt to apply vinyl graphics and politely turned down the installation. It was an example of when vehicle graphics won’t help.

5 Circumstances When Vehicle Graphics Won’t Help

when vehicle graphics won't help

Photo by Meghan Hessler on Unsplash

Unfortunately too many owners of vehicles believe adhesive vinyl graphics will fix or hide substrate damage and worse yet; there are unscrupulous graphics providers and body shops who will install vinyl graphics when they know they shouldn’t. However, there are times that vehicles graphics won’t help.


In most cases, adhesive vinyl graphics will not fix damage to a vehicle. It’s a case when vehicle graphics won’t help. It doesn’t hide it. Minor damage such as a scratch might be able to be covered with graphics. However, if the scratch has gone into the metal, it may still show. Can Vehicle Graphic be applied Over Body Damage?


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. Just like the double-decker bus, a rusted vehicle will not pass the tape test. Adhesive vinyl graphics will not adhere to rust for very long. It’s not a solution.

New Paint

Adhesive vinyl graphics shouldn’t be applied to new paint until completely cured. Some paints can take as long as two months before they stop outgassing, while others may be ready in a short time. It depends on the paint and how it was applied. Always check with the paint provider before applying vinyl over new paint.


Modern automobiles contain a lot of plastic. Some plastics are perfectly fine for applying adhesive vinyl while others aren’t. It’s important to know the difference. Here are six types of plastic and how applied adhesive vinyl performs on each, FAQ: Can Adhesive Vinyl Be Applied to Plastic?

Oxidized Surface, Peeling Clear Coat, and Flaking Paint

Flaking paint, peeling clear coat, and oxidized finishes are all examples of vehicle surfaces that will not accept adhesive vinyl graphics without surface repair and preparation. It’s another example of when vehicle graphics won’t help.

Vinyl Won’t Hide the Problem

The take away from this post should be that adhesive vinyl graphics will not hide the problem, in some circumstances vehicle graphics won’t help. Decals and wraps aren’t an alternative to surface repair. When anyone tries to sweep surface damage under the rug by hiding it behind a wrap, they’re not solving the problem, and they might make it worse. If you’d like our advice on whether your fleet vehicles qualify for adhesive vinyl graphics Contact Us. We won’t try to cover it up by hiding the truth from you.

If you’d like a free estimate for your fleet or vehicle graphics; you can Request A Quote.

TKO Graphix is a national fleet and vehicle graphics company helping customers since 1985. We provide full-service graphic design, digital printing, screen printing, graphics installation, and removal of large format graphics.

We’re a fleet and vehicle graphics company and since 1985, we’ve been helping businesses, large and small, brand their fleet of tractor-trailers, service trucks and company vehicles. Whether you have a fleet of thousands or a few vehicles, we are here to lead you through the vehicle branding process.

TKO Graphix is a Certified 3M™ MCS™ Warranty graphics manufacturer. Our installation crews are 3M Certified and are employees of TKO Graphix, not sub-contractors.