Car wraps are a great way to give your car a new look. But if you aren’t careful, you could see your car wrap deteriorate quickly, resulting in a waste of money and possibly even damaging your car!
That’s why you need to read these tips to protect your car wrap. While vehicle wraps are extremely durable and can last for years, they need to be protected from the elements.
We polled vinyl wrap experts to find the best ways to protect your car wrap -and your investment. Read on for the best 15 ways to protect your car wraps from damage!
What materials are used in car wraps?
Car wraps are made from a variety of materials. Primarily, a blend of polyvinylchloride (PVC) polymer with various additives. These make it flexible, resistant to ultraviolet (UV) light and add color. There are also polyester films that can be used as car wraps and for window tinting.
These ingredients are blended together before being cast onto moving sheets to be baked and cured. Vinyl wraps are also often coated with a protectant layer that helps protect them from the elements.
What can damage a wrapped car?
Many things can damage a car wrap. The most common culprits are the sun, wind, rain, and dirt. Car wraps can also be damaged by sharp objects and chemicals.
While having a vinyl wrapped car can protect the paint underneath, you also want the vinyl itself to look great for as many years as possible!
What’s the best way to wash car wraps?
The best way to wash a car wrap is with soap and water. Avoid using harsh chemicals or solvents, as they can damage the wrap. Be sure to rinse off all the soap before drying the car wrap with a soft cloth.
It’s best to avoid automatic car washes. These places use high-pressure power sprays, brushes, and harsh chemicals. Each one individually could damage your vehicle wrap – but altogether this can spell disaster!
Regular washing will also help whatever debris from staining or damaging the vinyl surface. After each wash, you can apply a wax or protective coat to keep your vehicle safe until the next cleaning.
15 ways to protect car wraps
Here are 15 ways to protect your car wraps from damage:
- Park in the shade
Try to park in the shade as much as possible when you’re driving around town. And when you’re home, keep your wrapped vehicle under a carport, in a garage, or under shade trees.
*One note on trees, though – if you’re finding that parking under trees means a lot of sap or bird droppings, find a new spot!
- Install a stone and bug or hood deflector on your vehicle.
These acrylic additions are sleek and attractive, but also very functional! They typically use automotive adhesive tape or fasteners using existing holes to attach to the front of your vehicle.
They are aerodynamically designed to provide excellent protection against stone chips and bug stains. And the fewer bug stains and rock chips hitting your car wrap, the better.
- Cover your car wrap with a waterproof cover
If you are parking your vehicle outside and uncovered, you should purchase a waterproof, UV-rated car cover.
Although putting it on and off can get tedious, if you just use it when it rains or when it’s exceptionally sunny, you’ll still be doing something to combat the wear-down process of the elements.
It will also act as protection to keep your wrap from deteriorating as quickly as you need to spot clean and wash areas because of bugs or bird droppings.
- Keep your car clean and free of dirt and debris.
Instead of a full wash, take a soft wet rag and run it over the major areas like the hood and doors once in a while. Do a visual check every week to see if there are any areas with buildup, especially around edges, that need more attention. Wash your car about every two weeks.
This is where regular washes come into play. Keeping your car wrap clean and free of debris will help avoid discoloration and tearing. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend every weekend washing your car!
In fact, over-washing is bad for your car wrap. While the goal is to remove pollutants, contaminants, or debris, if you wash a vinyl wrap too frequently it can accelerate the breakdown of designs or colors on the vinyl.
- Avoid touching the vinyl surface with your hands.
Did you know that your hands -even when clean- contain oils and grease that can break down vinyl car wrapping?
Avoid touching your vinyl car wrap any more than necessary. If you notice any oil or grease from hands building up on the surface, wash it off with water and a soft rag.
- Use best practices -and soft materials- to wash and dry your vinyl wrap.
Hand washing is the choice of professional detailers and car wrap enthusiasts. It generally involves using two buckets: one filled with car soap and water, one filled with fresh water, and a grit guard.
The idea behind this method is to remove dirt and debris from the wash mitt before putting fresh soapy water on the vehicle. This helps to avoid scratching the vinyl vehicle wrap surface as you wash.
Keep in mind that a car wrap is not “hydrophobic” aka water-resistant. In fact, car wrap vinyl can soak water into the material, which can seep into the adhesive. Thus drying is an important part of the car washing process.
Serious detailers often prefer non-touch drying methods, such as using a leaf blower. However, this is really only best suited to cars with a ceramic coat on top of the wrap.
If you don’t have a ceramic coat on your wrapped vehicle, you can still use the leaf blower method. Just follow it up with a high-quality microfiber towel.
Otherwise, the best method of drying a glossy or matte vinyl wrap is to use a dedicated drying towel. A terry weave, microfiber blend is ideal. These drying towels can remove all water from your average sedan or SUV within a matter of minutes using a single drying towel!
- Avoid driving in extreme weather conditions.
Driving in extreme weather conditions can be unsafe for a variety of reasons. But it can also damage your car wrap! If you can avoid it, keep your car somewhere safe and covered -and off the road- when extreme weather events strike.
- Treat your vinyl wrap with the right kind of wax.
When washing your vinyl-wrapped car, you should avoid shampoos with wax agents. However, once the wrap is clean, you can add a layer of wax.
Whether you prefer paste wax or liquid options, the idea is the same. Apply a traditional carnauba wax, allow it to dry, then buff off with a microfiber cloth or buffing pad.
Once cured, car wax hardens to provide a layer of protection on your car wrap. It will help block UV rays and improve hydrophobic properties. Car wax holds up for a few months when applied to vinyl, so reapply as needed.
- Don’t use harsh chemicals or solvents when cleaning the car wrap.
The best cleaners are waterless wash products designed for vinyl cleaning or hot soapy water. Never use cleaning sprays on warm surfaces – wait until your car is cool. Spraying a cleaner on warm vinyl decals can cause damage to the wrap.
Always test new products on small areas of the wrap that can’t be easily seen. Check to see if the cleaner removes color so you don’t end up ruining your wrap.
- Cover the car wrap with a vinyl paint protectant film.
There are several options for covering your car wrap in a protective coating. One way to do that is by wrapping a layer of paint protection film over your vinyl car wrap. This is also known as a clear bra.
This is a great choice because it will last as long as your vinyl wrap does. However, it’s probably the most expensive protective layer option. The material itself is expensive, and installation requires a skilled professional.
- Use a ceramic coating on your vinyl wrap.
Ceramic coating, unlike paint protection film. Is a much less expensive option. It’s essentially a clear topcoat spread onto the vinyl wrap.
These coating offer protection against UV damage and water. They last about 3 years before needing to be reapplied.
- Frequently check for damage.
We all know the sports saying that the best offense is a good defense. This applies to protecting your vinyl wrap, as well!
Keep an eye on your vinyl wrap, making note of any scratches or tears. This way you can treat or repair small issues before they become bigger, more expensive problems.
- Repair the car wrap if it becomes severely damaged.
If you have an area of your vinyl wrap that is scratched, torn or badly damaged you can repair it. In fact, most vehicle wraps are made in panels instead of one big sheet of vinyl.
Thus it is fairly easy to fix a damaged vehicle wrap. Another option is to repair a small patch. Repairs and replacements are dependent on the size and location of the vinyl wrap damage.
- Start with a high-quality vinyl material.
One of the best ways to ensure your vinyl car wrap lasts a long time is to start with high-quality materials. Depending on the finish, color, or design you want, there are plenty of companies offering high-quality vinyl materials.
You can start by doing research online to find a reputable vinyl company, or you can reach out to your local car wrap installer. The pros will be able to help you find the right material for your vehicle wrap needs.
- Have a professional install your vinyl car wrap
Like the previous point, when you start with quality materials and expert installation, your wrap will last much longer. While you can always DIY your vinyl wrap installation, you might make a mistake that results in your wrap peeling or bubbling.
Professional car wrap installers have the tools, time, and expertise to do the job right the first time. Having a pro install the wrap is the best way to ensure the wrap adheres properly and doesn’t start bubbling up or peeling at the edges.
How long do car wraps last?
The lifespan of a car wrap varies depending on the type of material used and how well it is protected. Vinyl car wraps typically last for three to five years if they are properly cared for.
However, PVC car wraps may last up to seven years if they are well-maintained. And polyester car wraps can last for up to ten years. The key to longevity is simply how well it’s cared for.
There are many ways to protect your vinyl wraps from damage. By following these simple tips, you will be able to increase the longevity of your vehicle wrap!