An Experience Wrapped in Vinyl

This is not an instructional post.

Vinyl can seemingly provide big bang for your buck when it comes to changing the color of your car, truck, or refrigerator. it may also be a great way to safeguard your vehicles finish, but Is it worth all the headache for, essentially, a temporary effect? I applied 3M gloss blue metallic to my car exactly 24 months ago and now that I’m almost finished removing it, I thought it might be a good time to reflect on my love/hate relationship with this shit.


Its not hard to work with MOST of the time.

I applied the film in my garage with the help of my wife. My first tip is to find anyone other than Your wife to help you. The only tools used were a felt edge squeegee, a razor knife, and a heat gun. Also, having a clean sheltered work area with plenty of space was key. At first dealing with big sheets of the material was intimidating, but after realizing how forgiving the stuff is, I quickly became confident working with it. The vinyl really surprises with the amount of user error it can spring back from. It can be stuck and re-stuck during application, creases can be erased with a little heat, and bubbles disappear with minimal effort thanks to micro perforations designed to release air. It’s amazing stuff! After about a week of wrapping one or two panels daily after work I was happy with the completed result.

Maintenance is easy, but necessary. 

Freshly applied
2 years later. notice the gloss layer getting spotty.

I washed my vinyl wrapped sedan just like I would have before. Frequently and with soap. I didn’t however use carnauba wax. Instead I used spray waxes after washing, and detailer spray for regular spot cleaning. Speaking of spot cleaning, bird shit, tree sap, berries, etcetera need to be removed immediately because the material will stain. By keeping my car clean, the 3M 1080 series vinyl continued to look deep, glossy, and brilliant up to about the 20 month mark, at which point the gloss started failing on the hood and roof. The vertical surfaces like the fenders and doors still looked great, and I likely could have redone the problemed areas and stretched the wrap job another 2 years, but it was time to bite the bullet.


Its kind of like pulling off a band-aide.


If your car has ever been re-sprayed, I recommend that you don’t wrap it, or at minimum, count on a percentage of its paint lifting off with the vinyl. My car was painted about 3 years before I wrapped it and although most of my paint survived largely unscathed, the clear coat on my side skirts came off in large sheets with the wrap. Removing the vinyl wasn’t nearly as fun as applying it and heat is your best friend at this stage. Don’t sit in your 60-degree garage heating 6 inches at a time and cursing as the film tears at the edge of your warm spot like I did for much of the removal, instead, wait for a warm, sunny day. This could be the difference between a job taking hours to remove, and a job lasting several unmotivated weeks.

In Conclusion.

Do I recommend you wrap your vehicle? Not if you have a resprayed finish that your happy with. Otherwise, yes! Its cheap if you do it yourself, and the results can be stretched 4-5 years. you can experiment with colors you’d never otherwise choose, and your paint will either look as good as the day you covered it up or be completely ruined!

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