If you're like me, you love a good short cut: the secret way home from work to avoid traffic, baking a cookie in a microwave so it's done in five minutes instead of 30. Tips and tricks are great time-savers, but there are some things you don't want sped up. If I ever need surgery, I don't want to hear the surgeon say, "Guys, I just learned this great new way to cut 15 minutes off this procedure!" There are some things that you're willing to pay for the craftsman's skill, and the time it takes to do that skill well. (Any Parks & Rec fans? Nick Offerman talks at length in his books about the lost art of craftsmen. Highly recommend both his books.) Vehicle wrap installation is one of those crafts, with three specific reasons why it's so tricky.
1. Convex curves, like bumpers
When you're stretching vinyl over a convex surface, you have more surface area than vinyl to cover it. In order to make it lay flat, our installers start stretching it from as big of an area as possible and as early as possible. Most vinyl comes with a 30-50% allowed stretch, and we try to stretch as little as possible in order to make the vehicle wrap last longer.
Fun fact: vinyl has "memory" because of the way molecules bond to each other. Check out a cool video here. This is called thermal setting capability.
2. Concave curves, like behind door handles
When you're stretching in a concave surface, you have more vinyl than surface area you need to cover. This can make wrinkles if it isn't done right. To make sure the vinyl lays flat, it needs to be per-stretched.
3. Heat setting
The adhesive needs to fully set before you drive the vehicle, or the wrap might get damaged in the elements. You can do this one of two ways. You can park the vehicle in a 70-degree room for two or three days, or you can use heat. Our installers use heat to activate the adhesive faster to get your vehicle back to you and drivable right away.
Forming the vinyl around the curves of a vehicle makes it a tricky task. It can't be picked up in a few days, which is why our installers hold certification from PDAA. Oftentimes when I take a customer through the install bay to pick up their finished wrap, they'll stop and watch our installation team. It's pretty fascinating.
I hope you have a bit more of an appreciation for what happens behind the scenes to make your wrap look pretty and last for years.