Everything Auto: Adding a Camo Wrap
The Beauty of a Full Vinyl Wrap Finish
It’s a good thing I had a keyless entry remote for our project truck. I wouldn’t have found it without the flashing lights, with it being all camoed up and all. Tell you what, the full vinyl wrap finish on this truck turns heads wherever it goes.
The advantages of a vinyl wrap finish are many. The body and paint don’t have to be perfect, detailed graphics and patterns are available, and it can be removed at anytime you change your mind and want to go back to the stock color.
The key to making this technology work is the self-adhesive vinyl material, which can be printed with very detailed artwork. The vinyl that Camoclad used to wrap our project truck was a 4-mil film made by 3M called Controltac Graphic Film. Air release channels keep it bubble-free, and it can be slid and repositioned. The pressure activated, built-in Comply™ adhesive is released from tiny pockets with a squeegee once the material is positioned.
“A camo kit for a full-size SUV or a pickup with a bed shell runs about $1,000,” says Joe Warner, president of Camoclad Inc. Do-it-yourself and labor savings can be pretty significant. Professional installation starts at about $1,500 and can go as high as $3,500 depending on vehicle size, the extent of the details to be wrapped (racks, bumpers, mirrors, etc.) and touches like pattern cut-outs on the glass.
Pro installer Richard Trahan of Advanced Sign & Graphics gave us some great tips. He started the install on our project truck by removing the badging using 60-pound test braided fishing line, but Trahan said he often uses a heat gun to loosen the glue and remove the badging. However, care must be taken not to overheat and damage the paint.
With the emblems removed, Trahan stripped the remaining adhesive with an automotive eraser wheel mounted on a cordless drill. He also recommends wiping down the entire vehicle with a prep solvent to remove anything that may interfere with the vinyl adhesives.
With the painted surfaces of the vehicle prepared, here’s what it takes to wrap up the wrap-up.
Position a full sheet of vinyl so it extends to the edge of a body panel and tack it in place with masking tape.
Secure a temporary fold point with masking tape and let the upper portion fold and drape back over the lower so the finish sides are face to face.
Peel the backing off the upper portion down to the fold.
Trim the backing off just above the fold.
Lift the exposed section above the fold and lay it over the area to be covered.
Begin smoothing the vinyl onto the vehicle just above the fold and work upward using a felt squeegee.
Pull the vinyl back off the vehicle as needed to remove wrinkles and air pockets as you smooth it onto the vehicle surface.
Lift the bottom portion of the vinyl to reach the point where the backing is still in place. Start peeling it downward to expose the adhesive side just below the fold line.
Start smoothing the lower portion of the sheet onto the vehicle surface from the fold downward. Note how the backing paper is only partially removed to keep the adhesive surface clean and off of the vehicle.
Cut around elements in the pattern and overlap on areas too large for one sheet, such as the hood and the tailgate.
You can bridge over gaps between body panels to keep the pattern flowing, but cut the material so it ends at the panel edges.
Cut along the body panel by inserting the knife blade in the seam between the door and body panel.
Make several horizontal cuts in the gap between the cab and pickup bed so the vinyl will wrap without wrinkling.
Trim along the fender openings by extending the knife blade into the opening.
Use the more rigid, nylon squeegee to tuck edges, and also over the entire surface to release and activate the adhesive.
Vinyl Wrap Quick Tips:
- Install only on a factory paint job if you plan to remove it later.
- Properly prepare the paint.
- Avoid direct sun and hot temperatures during install.
- On the vehicle, start at the bottom and work up, but on each individual sheet, start at the top and work down.
- Avoid wrapping the vinyl around the relatively sharp edges of doors or body panels where it won’t stay flat.
- Use a stainless steel or snap-off style knife to keep a very sharp edge.
- Braided 60-lb. fish line, heat gun or blow dryer
- Eraser wheel
- Prep solvent
- Vinyl install squeegees
- Masking tape
- Razor knife