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Car Wrapping 101 - Your Guide To Stunning Vehicle Graphics

Ok, so you’ve had your interest piqued.

You’ve watched Yianni on TV and now you’ve got the itch to look at what it takes to vinyl wrap your car.

Image showing an Audi car in the car wrapping room at Autowrap Centre Liverpool and used in a blog post guide in car wrapping and vehicle graphics

Whether its a hot hatch, a souped up saloon or something a little more exotic, the principles of car wrapping are pretty much the same.

This guide will get you up to speed and on on your way towards making your machine really stand out from the crowd.

What is car wrap vinyl?

Image showing rolls of car wrapping cast vinyls used in a blog post by Autowrap Centre Liverpool about car wrapping and custom vehicle graphics. Autowrap Centre Liverpool are the Northwest's Premier car Wrapping Specialists.

The weapon of choice for car wrapping is cast vinyl. Its a self-adhesive, high performance film that is designed for applying over curves and contours. When used by a pro, it looks and feels like your car has grown a second skin.

There are many manufacturers of cast vinyl for vehicle graphics - 3M, Metamark, Oracal, Avery - and that’s just a selection of the popular brands here in the UK market. Each range may have exclusive colours or finishes. There are always colour cards available (we keep them all in our Wrap Room) to make sure you pick the right tone before going ahead.

There are gloss, matte and satin finishes along with finishes matching the look and texture of carbon fibre or metals. Some ranges include colour shift styles where the hues change as you move around the car.

The cast vinyl can also be printed before applying so if you’ve picked out a printed pattern or design, its all possible. If you’re looking to really show off your wheels, be different!

Getting your car wrap ready

I’ll write a longer post looking at the whole prep procedure but here are the basics we run through before every car wrap.

No brainer but make sure the car is clean. Wash the whole thing making sure any road dirt and previous wax is off. Don’t use any wax after the wash and make sure the car is completely dry.

We wipe down the panels where the wrap is going with alcohol as it removes any wax completely and makes sure the vinyl can grip with plenty of bite to the paint.

Image showing the deep cleaning process Auto Wrap Centre Liverpool complete before any custom car wrap or vehicle graphics work. Used in a blog post guide into what is car wrapping.

Any problem areas with road dirt, mud or squished bugs are going to need good old elbow grease but taking time now makes for a much better looking wrap in the end.

Mirrors, light fixtures, any emblems and badges - they all need to come off. Keep them to one side and make sure you know where everything goes after the vinyl is on.

How’s car wrapping vinyl applied?

Vinyl wrap is supplied on a roll up to 1500mm wide. Sections are cut off the roll roughly the size of each car panel.

Once the car is fully prepared and cleaned, the vinyl sections are carefully peeled off the backing sheet whilst applying heat to the face. They are stretched over the car panels, wrapping them totally, and the vinyl is trimmed once all looks spot on.

To give you an idea of the application of vehicle graphics - check out this video:

How long does it take to wrap a car?

Wrapping a car can take from a couple of hours to wrap sections through to a few days to do a proper job. Don’t rush it!

Can it all be wrapped or just parts?

Entirely up to you. We’ve wrapped just bumpers, wing mirrors or bonnets.

We’ve also wrapped just the chrome parts for that cool stealth look. There’s also been entire cars wrapped with a matte finish or colour shift film to turn it into a completely different vehicle.

It's not like spraying where it can be all or nothing - whatever adds that finishing touch to your motor can be done.

Image showing a car wing mirror wrapped in structured cast vinyl from a blog post by Autowrap Centre Liverpool about how to wrap a car.

How does a vinyl wrap look over an older car?

Any small blemishes will be nicely hidden but remember its only a thin film so rust spots, sinks or dents will still show.

We find that the overall effect and the fact that your car is all now one new colour really does take your eye off most issues that are under the film. Bear in mind though, its a vinyl wrap and not a full body makeover!

How do I wash a wrapped car?

We sell the Croftgate range here at Autowrap Centre Liverpool. There are other ranges available but we know for showing your vehicle a bit of love after it’s been wrapped, this stuff works a charm.

The Croftgate range contains no solvents so there is zero chance of anything scratching your new unique vinyl. In fact the Croftgate Aquanil range is waterless and works by sealing in the dirt as soon as its applied. There’s no chance of the dirt causing any swirls or marks. It’s simply wiped away and leave no residue behind.

All this would be fine but the best part? The shine we get after using them is awesome. You’ll need your shades on just to look over the bonnet!

How long does a car vinyl wrap last?

Depending on the vinyl film used the manufacturers usually give out warranties of up to 7 years.

For extra security, there are anti stone chip films that can be applied to some of the areas that really bear the brunt from road debris.

There’s more info on the manufacturer’s websites here and here.

Can vinyl wrap be removed?

Its a simple enough job involving heat and patience. Once warmed up to the right temperature, the adhesive on the back of the film becomes pliable and can be lifted back off carefully.

Image showing a matte wrapped Mercedes Benz outside Auto Wrap Centre Liverpool and featured in a blog post about how to wrap a car and custom vehicle graphics.

What is the cost of a car wrap?

It’s difficult to say exactly how much a car wrap can cost as there are so many choices in colours and product ranges.

You’re all welcome to pop over to our wrap room and have a chat over a coffee.

Got an idea to really show off your wheels?

Auto Wrap Centre Liverpool specialise in getting you moving in the right direction.

PS: If you're here because you've got a race car that needs to look as sharp as it drives, we've got another post looking at a Ginetta race car we recently wrapped.

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