Top tips for vehicle wrap aftercare

By Richard Clark on Jul 7, 2021 11:40:00 AM


8 min read
Hand washing sports car as part of vehicle wrap aftercare - credit Brad Starkey from Unsplash

A car or van that has been transformed professionally with a vinyl wrap is a joy to behold, and after making such an investment in your vehicle, you want it to look fabulous for as long as possible.  Without proper vehicle wrap after-care, the wrap will eventually deteriorate, but with the correct TLC, you can ensure the wrap stays firmly in place and looks pristine for up to five years.  

We understand that even with the best intentions, mistakes can happen without clear guidance.  Deciding on which products to use can be a minefield, as well as the dos and don’ts of using car washes and pressure washers.  But fear not!  Help is at hand with our useful guide on how to care for your new vehicle wrap where we’ll run through: 

How often should you wash a car wrap? 

It is essential to wash your vehicle whenever it appears dirty to protect the vinyl from degrading over time. It’s particularly important to take care of wraps that have been applied for the purpose of protecting the paintwork for resale, as any weakening of the wrap can then start to affect the paintwork. 

A vehicle that is kept inside, away from dust and particulate matter will need cleaning less frequently than a vehicle that is kept outside, exposed to pollution and other contaminants.   

Vehicle wrap aftercare: Handwashing sports car wrap - credit Andre Tan from Unsplash

Hand Washing 

The best way to clean a vehicle wrap is by hand.  Use a spray of water first to rinse off excess dirt, then wash with a soft, clean sponge.  Rinse the car thoroughly with cold water, then wipe with a chamois leather to prevent water spots. If your vehicle has been soiled by bugs, bird droppings or other hard-to-shift dirt, see “How to remove difficult contaminants” below. 

PLEASE NOTE: For best results, we recommend the use of a wet, non-abrasive detergent such as Meguiar’s NXT Generation® Car Wash or Deep Crystal® Car Wash when washing your vehicle by hand.

 

What About Automatic Car Washes? 

It is best to avoid taking your vehicle through a car wash that uses brushes as they can scratch the vinyl and make it dull over time.  Not only that, the brushes can get under the edges of the wrap, causing it to lift and peel away.  Touchless car washes that only use water spray should be safe for most wraps if you do not have time to hand wash. 

Pressure Washers  

We are sometimes asked the question “Can you pressure wash a wrapped car?”  as it’s often seen as a quick and easy way to remove dirt without the elbow grease of handwashing.

Unfortunately, pressure washing can also damage the vehicle wrap.  It is also not necessary, as dirt and grime will not stick to a good quality wrap that is protected by PVC-based-over-laminates, and will come off easily when washed by hand.  However, if time is of the essence and you have to use a pressure washer to clean your vehicle, here are some basic guidelines: 

  • Ensure the water pressure is kept below 2000 psi (14MPa). 
  • Keep water temperature below 180° F (80° C). 
  • Use a spray nozzle with a 40 degree wide-angle spray pattern. 
  • Keep the nozzle at least 1ft (300mm) away from and at 90 degrees to the wrap.   
PLEASE NOTE: Warning – holding the nozzle of a pressure washer too close and at an angle to the wrap may lift the edges of the film.

 

How to remove difficult contaminants 

Contaminants such as bird droppings, dead bugs, tree sap and tar should be soaked first with hot, soapy water and left for several minutes to loosen the dirt.  You can then hand-wash the vehicle.  Whatever you do, don’t scrub or use abrasive materials as this will damage the film. Any stubborn areas can be spot-cleaned with products such as Meguiar’s Gold Class™ Bug and Tar Remover or 3M™ Citrus Base Cleaner.  Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) (2 parts IPA to 1 part water) or denatured alcohol may also help.

Be sure to test the product on an inconspicuous area before applying to the rest of the vehicle. Wipe off any fuel spills immediately to avoid degrading the vinyl and adhesive, then wash, rinse and dry as in “Hand Washing” above. 

To wax or not to wax a premium wrap? 

If you have invested in a premium wrap for your vehicle you will want to keep it gleaming like new for as long as possible.  Therefore, you can wax if cleaning by hand, but check that the product you use does not contain petroleum distillates.  Do not select a wax option if you use a touch-free automated car wash, as the wax may be at a high temperature that can damage the graphic film. 

Cash and Rocket graphical luxury car wrap 

Caring for a special finish 

Matte vinyl wrap care

It is best to use a waterless wash on a matte finish as water will fill in the texture that gives the matte effect, and cause spotting.  If you have to hand wash with water, use as little soap as possible. 

Chrome and metallic wrap care

These require very delicate cleaning as they are easily damaged, so speak to the installer about the specific instructions. 

To read more about preparing a car for a vinyl wrap click here.

Storing your newly-wrapped vehicle 

Ideally, your vehicle should be stored under cover once it has been wrapped, especially if it is your personal pride and joy.  If you do not have a garage or anywhere else to keep your vehicle under cover, then a car cover or tarpaulin will offer protection.  When you are out on the road, be mindful of where you park.  For example, try to avoid parking underneath lime trees when they are shedding their sticky sap, or on roads that have been freshly resurfaced.  You do not want your beautiful new wrap to be damaged by grit thrown up by speeding traffic!  

How much does a vehicle wrap cost? 

The cost can vary depending on the type of wrapping service, such as:

  • Full van wraps - the cost will depend on the size of van and type of graphic used in the wrap and if a fleet of vehicles is being wrapped at the same time, the cost per vehicle will be cheaper.  

  • Smaller wrapping projects - branding work such as signwriting and graphics costs much less than a full vehicle wrap.

    Applying decals to a vehicle for FoodBusker project

  • Personal car wraps - wrapping a luxury car like a Porsche or Maserati is the most expensive type of wrap and other factors influence the cost, such as the materials used for the wrap.

For more detail about how much a vehicle wrap costs, click here

 

Conclusion 

Caring for a vehicle wrap isn’t difficult but it is important to get it right to get the best from your investment. Taking a little extra care of your vehicle’s bodywork will pay you dividends in the long run and will certainly have your vehicle turning heads, long after the initial “big reveal”!   

If you are considering a wrap for your luxury car or planning stand-out branding for your business vehicles, visit the Raccoon website for more information about our vehicle wrapping services. 

For more detail on the vehicle wrap process, download our Ultimate Guide to Vehicle Wrapping.

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Richard Clark

Written by Richard Clark

Founder of Raccoon, a graphics company launched in 1992. Still working hard to help businesses and brands connect with their target market!