How to remove vinyl car wraps (the right way and the wrong way) - Housecall Pro (2022)

A vinyl car wrap is a great way to temporarily change a vehicle’s appearance. If you’re a savvy small business owner, you can use a vinyl car wrap for custom advertising to attract new customers and increase your brand visibility in a crowded marketplace.

How long do vehicle wraps last?

The lifespan of a wrap runs from 5 to 7 years—depending on how well you take care of it and variables like weather and where the vehicle is stored. Maybe you inherited a car with a vinyl wrap or you already have a wrap on your work truck but it’s starting to look a little sad with abrasions, lifted edges, and weathering. If that’s the case, it’s time to start thinking about car wrap removal. After all, the longer you leave it on, the harder the wrap will be to remove.

Below, we’ll go into the DIY steps for how to remove car wrap as well as how to make your new vinyl wrap stand out from the competition. Keep reading for a comprehensive overview or skip to the section you want to know more about.

How to remove vinyl car wraps (the right way and the wrong way) - Housecall Pro (2)
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Vinyl car wrap general information and tips

Before we deep dive into the steps of vinyl removal, you should be aware of the factors that impact removal difficulty.

For example, the longer vinyl wrap has been on, the harder it will be to remove. By the same token, it’s more likely there will be adhesive residue left behind the longer the wrap has been on the car.

Vinyl becomes brittle over time so if a vinyl wrap has been on a vehicle for say, 10 years, it’s going to be a labor-intensive process to remove all of the chips and pieces.

On the other hand, if the vinyl wrap is under four years old, there’s a good chance you can make it a weekend DIY project instead of taking it to a car wrap removal service. More than anything, the removal process will demand a lot of patience.

Another element that will affect removal is the actual type of vinyl used. Calendared or off-brand vinyl will make the wrap removal process more unpredictable and possibly more expensive. It’s definitely a case of “you get what you pay for.”

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The big-name vinyl companies charge a premium because their research and development processes are much more robust. These companies have an incentive to protect both their brand name reputation as well as perceived and actual value in the marketplace. Companies that hawk cheaper vinyl are more concerned about selling high volume.

Before you commit to removing the entire vinyl yourself, try to remove a small portion first with a vinyl wrap removal solvent. If it chips off in small flakes, it might be best to leave the job up to professionals. But if you find that the vinyl comes off relatively easily once heat is applied, you’re in good shape to do it yourself.

What not to do when removing a vinyl car wrap

Don’t remove your car wrap when it’s cold out, in direct sunlight, or during other adverse weather conditions. Not only will this make you miserable, but it’ll also complicate the removal process unnecessarily.

How to remove car wrap

Okay, now with all this information in mind, it’s time to get down to it. Here are the steps you should take to remove your vinyl car wrap.

Step 1: heat

Heat the vinyl according to vinyl manufacturer specifications (generally 65 degrees and up) using a heat gun or another heat source. Make sure the heat gun isn’t in one spot for too long—you don’t want the vinyl to bubble or start to burn.

Tools and materials:

  • Heat gun: the heat needed to remove the vinyl will depend on the vinyl manufacturer.

Step 2: Start with a corner

Peel a corner or edge of the material and slowly pull at a 45-degree angle. This ensures that the vinyl doesn’t tear or break apart. Whatever you do, don’t yank at the vinyl. Yanking could cause the vinyl to pull up with the laminate left behind, which is incredibly difficult to remove. The hood is a good place to start but if you want to tackle the harder stuff first, go for the vinyl around the bumpers.

  • Note: Primer isn’t needed to properly install a vinyl wrap but some companies use it to speed up the process. If a primer has been used, you’ll have a harder time removing the adhesive left behind. Unfortunately, a primer can also mean that paint may be scratched or partially damaged during the removal process. You can try using plastic razor blades, which are designed to slide under vinyl and decals to pry them up.

Step 3: Stay consistent

Keep your pulling pressure, angle, and speed consistent while you’re peeling off the vinyl. Take extra care around deeply contoured areas of your car.

Step 4: Use vinyl wrap removal solvent to remove adhesive residue

There may be some leftover vinyl adhesive residue. If this is the case, you can use a vinyl wrap removal solvent that’ll help break it down. You may want to check with the vinyl manufacturer to find out brands that are safe to use with your particular vinyl wrap.

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Here are some tools and professional-grade vinyl wrap removal solvents that can safely and more effectively speed up the process. Other tools and materials:

Tools and materials:

  • Crystaltek 10-4 Biodegradable vinyl remover: Wipe it on, wait for a few minutes, and then peel off the vinyl and adhesive in one fell swoop.
  • Rapid Remover: This is another great option you can use to break down the adhesive. Simply let it soak into the remnants of the adhesive and squeegee or gently scrape it off.
  • Power tools: You may want to bring out the big guns if you’re trying to remove vinyl from an entire fleet of vehicles. Consider investing in a power strip eliminator which features a urethane rubber wheel to remove vinyl.

Step 5: Start your next design

Plan out your next wrap paying special attention to legibility and brand visibility.

How to care for a new vinyl car wrap

The company 3M, one of the largest vinyl companies in the business, offers a few tips for the after-care of your new vinyl car wrap…

Frequent washing

This isn’t the time to neglect your car simply because it now has a protective layer. Just like paint, a vinyl wrap can degrade if it’s not taken care of properly. Whenever there is apparent dirt or other debris on the vinyl, make sure that you clean it off immediately. Where possible, use a spray of water to rinse dirt and road particles. For spot cleaning stains, use a wet, gentle detergent and a microfiber towel.

It’s recommended you avoid wax and other finishing products on top of the vinyl.

Automated car washes

Although you can take a vinyl-wrapped car through a car wash, it’s best if it’s touched less. The scrub brushes can be too abrasive on the wrap and cause it to tear or peel at the edges. Be mindful of this before pulling into any old car wash. The safest option is to simply handwash your vehicle so you can clean it without the risk of scratches and lifting.

Storage

If you leave your new vinyl wrapped vehicle in the sun, they can quickly degrade in quality. You’ll see weathering in the hood, trunk lid, and roof if left out in the elements for too long. If you can, the ideal place to store a vinyl wrapped car is a garage or a shaded area. Dew or rain can contain acidic pollutants so make sure it’s covered during adverse weather.

If you don’t have a garage, you might want to protect your car wrap with a cover.

Final thoughts

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The car wrap removal process requires patience, the right tools, and a little elbow grease. Before committing to a new vinyl wrap design, make sure to upload the before and after of your wrap in our Housecall Pro Facebook Group to show off and maybe get some good advice on what to do next!

How to remove vinyl car wraps (the right way and the wrong way) - Housecall Pro (4)

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FAQs

How do you remove stubborn vinyl wrap? ›

Vinyl Wrap Removal Tools
  1. Heat Gun or Blowtorch. Heated vinyl graphics are more pliable. ...
  2. Residue or Adhesive Removers. ...
  3. Plastic Razor. ...
  4. #1 Heat the surface with a heat gun or blowtorch. ...
  5. #2 Start peeling off the vinyl. ...
  6. #3 Remove the remaining adhesives. ...
  7. #4 Give your vehicle a good wash!

How do you unwrap a car wrap? ›

The removal process of a vehicle wrap is also important. The wrap needs to be heated to reach a certain degree and pulled back slowly in a 45 degree angle. Using both hands with the fingers spread open so contact is made to the most of the surface of the film while pulling back. Do not yank the film.

Can car wraps be removed easily? ›

Removing a vinyl wrap is quite easy with a few simple tools. You may want to heat the vinyl first to melt the adhesive, especially on a cold day, and a quick pass of a blowtorch can be enough to achieve this.

Can you remove vinyl transfer? ›

The common and best way to remove the vinyl from your shirt is to use heat or steam. You can do this by using a hot iron, clothes dryer, or hairdryer. You may also consider using acetone, commercial vinyl removers, and Goo Gone to remove vinyl. These chemicals can be effective in removing HTV and vinyl residue.

Will rubbing alcohol damage vinyl wrap? ›

Alcohol can degrease but will burn a matte surface

When talking about aftercare for vinyl wrap film, it is typical for some people to use alcohol indiscriminately, despite the type of the material. However, although alcohol can help degrease the matte surface, it will burn the coating.

Can you use magic eraser on vinyl wrap? ›

The fact is that a sponge might scratch the surface as you go over the vehicle wrap film, which might lead to a costly result. So take your time with the magic eraser, as long as the scratches are not too deep and they come off, your vehicle wrap film would look brand new again as you wipe down.

How do you remove vinyl wrap without a heat gun? ›

Pull the wrap off at a 15- to 20-degree angle from the vehicle. Slide both of your thumbs underneath the edge of your wrap and spread your fingers out on top of it. Lift the wrap so it's at a 15-degree angle to the vehicle's body and slowly pull up the wrap.

What should you not do when wrapping your car? ›

Here, we'll give you the common mistakes people get trapped into while installing new vinyl graphics for their vehicles.
  1. Poor Cleaning and Preparation. The first step while making a vehicle wrap is making sure the surface is squeaky clean. ...
  2. Improper Measuring. ...
  3. Using The Heat Gun In The Wrong Way.
19 Mar 2021

Is wrapping a car reversible? ›

Reversible: Car wraps are completely reversible! Unlike a custom paint job which requires sanding your factory paint and applying new paint over the top, vinyl wraps are removable with little risk of damaging the paint underneath.

Can you remove car wrap without damaging paint? ›

Although a car wrap may appear to be difficult to remove, the process will not damage your car as long as the wrap is not left on too long (5 years in most cases). Also, if you want to remove a car wrap right after your car is painted, you should wait at least three weeks.

How much does it cost to have wrap removed? ›

How Much Does It Cost To Remove A Vinyl Wrap? If you choose a professional to do the job, it would be around the $500-$1000 range. It is a bit higher end of the price scale as you get your car detailed and wrapped at the same time.

What happens if you leave a car wrap on too long? ›

If you leave a wrap on your vehicle too long, you will greatly increase the chances of paint damage. As the adhesive bonds with the surface of the vehicle body, it gets stronger with time. Thus, you should stay within your wraps' lifespan to ensure that you don't damage your paint job.

Does vinegar remove vinyl adhesive? ›

Distilled White Vinegar

Learning how to remove sticker residue with household items can save you money. Soak a rag or paper towel in vinegar and lay across the sticky area. Let it soak for a few minutes to soften the residue, then wipe or scrape to remove.

What's the best way to remove vinyl decals? ›

Heat the surface of the decal with a heat gun. Then take a plastic removal squeegee or a decal lift stick and scrape vinyl from the surface. If the vinyl is old and brittle it will most likely come off in small pieces. For best results most customers find the Glass Scraper to be the best and easiest tool to use.

How do you remove vinyl without damaging? ›

Warm the vinyl with a hairdryer

Turn your hairdryer on low power and gently run it back and forth over the wall decal. The heat from the hairdryer weakens the adhesive on the vinyl. This makes it much less likely to remove any paint when you take your decal off.

Does heat transfer vinyl peel off? ›

Temperature Irregularities

Another reason your heat transfer vinyl is peeling involves your pressing temperature. When you inadvertently set your heat press to the wrong temperature, you either don't melt the vinyl onto the fabric appropriately, or you damage the adhesive.

Is vinyl hard to remove? ›

In most cases, vinyl and linoleum are only glued down along the perimeter of the room. This makes the majority of your removal pretty simple. Measure 10 inches from the wall and cut through the vinyl or linoleum with your utility knife, moving parallel to the wall around the perimeter of the room.

Can you remove vinyl with a steamer? ›

Steam softens vinyl and dissolves adhesives making it easy to peel off without damage or leftover residue. Usually, a short 5-second steam exposure is enough for quick and easy removal. The process is very simple. Use the plastic blade to lift one of the corners, then slowly peel the vinyl off while applying steam.

Can hairdryer be used instead of heat gun? ›

Saul, yes you can. A hair dryer on high should get hot enough to loosen the adhesive and it is a bit safer than a heat gun.

What should you not use on a vinyl wrap? ›

How to Wash and Maintain Your New Vehicle Wrap
  • Do no use any abrasive polishes or cutting compounds.
  • Do not use any polishing or wax products on matte or textured films.
  • Use all purpose cleaner if there is wax or wax residue on the surface.
  • Only use Isopropyl alcohol and water (2:1) on Matte or Satin vinyls.

Does Vaseline dissolve vinyl? ›

The reason why petroleum jelly works to remove vinyl is that jelly is good at removing any sort of adhesive residues. Whether it's glue, tape marks, or the adhesive used on vinyl enough petroleum jelly can break its bonds and make it easy to wash away those residues.

What will acetone do to vinyl? ›

Certain rubber compounds can permanently stain vinyl. Never use vinegar, acetone or lacquer thinner to clean these floors. For extreme staining like nail polish , paint, dye and permanent markers try applying fingernail polish remover that contains acetone, but is not pure acetone with a soft cloth and gently rub.

Can I pressure wash a wrapped car? ›

Can I Pressure Wash my Vehicle Wrap? If you want to pressure wash your vehicle wrap, keep it below 2,000 psi. Use a spray nozzle with a 40 degree wide angle spray pattern and keep water temperature below 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the spray nozzle at least 12 inches away from the car edges.

Does wax damage vinyl wrap? ›

Vinyl Wrap Polish

Any conventional car polish or wax is made to be applied to automotive metal. While conventional polish will make a normal car look great, they can damage vinyl wraps. This includes any protectants or sealants found at automatic car washes.

What should you not use magic eraser on? ›

7 Things You Should Never Do With a Magic Eraser
  • Don't Use Them Dry. ...
  • Don't Use Them to Polish Your Car (Or Any Delicately Painted Surface) ...
  • Don't Use Them Without Gloves. ...
  • Don't Use Them to Clean Delicate Countertops. ...
  • Don't Use Them to Wipe Down Nonstick Pots and Pans. ...
  • Don't Try to Brighten Stainless Steel.
30 Sept 2018

Should you wax a vinyl wrap? ›

3M does not recommend using wax or other similar coatings on vehicle graphics. Vinyl wraps may be run through car washes. Touch less car washes are the best for graphic care. Use of brush car washes (depending upon the frequency and quality of brush) may cause dulling/scratching/lifting edge of the graphics.

Can I use a hair dryer instead of a heat gun for vinyl wrap? ›

Can I Use a Hair Dryer? This is a frequently asked question and the answer is yes! It doesn't take much heat for the vinyl to become malleable. As a matter of fact, we recommend using a low setting if possible.

How do you remove baked on vinyl wrap? ›

If you have neglected your vinyl and it has gotten sun baked, it can be and should be removed immediately. The best way to remove the vinyl wrapping is by peeling it off from the edges, better if the ends are heated up a bit using a heat gun or any other heat emitting device.

What temperature removes decals? ›

The best time to remove or apply decals is when it's warm outside. The temperature must be at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit, though 60 degrees or warmer is preferred. Ideally, humidity should be below 90%. The easiest way to remove an old decal is with a plastic squeegee or an old credit card.

Does wrapping car reduce value? ›

Increased Resale Value

When a car is wrapped, the resale value is considerably greater than for a car that has been repainted. This is primarily because the wrapper can be removed without damaging the car. Since the wrap preserved the paint, the value of your car is higher because it still looks new.

Does wrapping a car affect value? ›

Does car wrapping affect the resale value of a car? When done properly, car wrapping shouldn't damage the paint underneath, even when it is being removed, so it should not negatively affect the resale value of a car.

Does wrapping your car affect your insurance? ›

A wrap may increase the cost of your insurance, but it doesn't have to. It depends on the overall risk of the vehicle being insured and which insurance company you speak to.

How long does it take for a car wrap to settle? ›

Due to the nature of the adhesive of the vinyl and the complex curves to which it's applied, there is a 12 to 24 hour “rest period” after the application to allow the film to fully adhere to the vehicle.

Does car wrap damage original paint? ›

Although they've been around for quite some time, many vehicle owners often ask us, does a car wrap damage paint? The truth is that a vinyl wrap or car wrap as some call it, is completely safe to be applied to any type of paint – whether it's gloss or a matte finish.

Is it cheaper to repaint a car or wrap it? ›

Cost is a likely factor in a wrapping vs painting decision: is it cheaper to wrap or paint a car? Paint jobs run from $500 (low quality) or anywhere between $1,000-$5,000 (high-quality). A professional wrap runs between $2,500 to $5,000. There is also a labor cost to remove the wrap that may range between $500-$600.

How do you remove wrap adhesive from car paint? ›

How to get decal glue off cars without damage
  1. Reactivate the glue. Use your hair dryer to soften up the glue but be careful not to overheat and damage the paint.
  2. Use a plastic scraper. Remove any loosened glue with a plastic scraper being careful not to scratch the surface. ...
  3. Rewash and wax.

How long does it take to take a wrap off a car? ›

Removing a car wrap properly usually takes about 1 to 2 days in best-case scenarios. However, the process may take longer based on factors including: Length of time car wrap has been on: The longer a war wrap has been on a vehicle, the harder it will be to remove. The lifespan of car wraps is usually around 5 years.

Can you use a hair dryer as a heat gun for vinyl wrap? ›

Can I Use a Hair Dryer? This is a frequently asked question and the answer is yes! It doesn't take much heat for the vinyl to become malleable. As a matter of fact, we recommend using a low setting if possible.

Will a heat gun remove vinyl? ›

Another method of removing vinyl is using heat guns. Start by turning on the heat gun on low, wait for it to adequately heat up. The next step is to wave it around the junctions between the flooring and subflooring. Try to heat the top side of the floor in a small section and then pull the section back.

Do you use a steamer to remove vinyl wrap? ›

There is no need to use and expose yourself to harsh chemicals. A steam cleaner is the best solution. A steam cleaner has the capability to effectively and efficiently remove almost any vinyl sticker and the adhesive that bonded it to the surface.

How do you remove vinyl mistakes? ›

Petroleum jelly helps loosen up the adhesive. Just apply a small amount of jelly to the adhesive stain. Then take a sensitive detergent (like "ALL") and rub it in a circular motion into the jelly. The adhesive should start to clump up.

Can you use a hair dryer to remove car decals? ›

The next step is to heat the decal with a hair dryer. The heat will cause the decal to lose its adhesion to the paint, making it easier to pull off. The edges and corners may even start to furl as the decal's sticking compound begins to “let go” of the vehicle body.

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