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The best car vinyl wraps are specifically engineered to stand the test of time. Better yet, they’re more flexible and can withstand scratches and environmental factors better than paint.
Nonetheless, after years of offering protection to the paint underneath, they start to degrade and lose their luster due to their constant exposure to weather elements.
Luckily, if that’s the case with your car vinyl wrap, you can easily replace it with a new one. However, before you do that, you need to remove the existing one first. Something that should be done with utmost care to avoid damaging the paint job underneath.
Don’t worry though!
In this guide, I’ll show you how to remove car vinyl wrap to make the process hassle-free for you! First, let’s look at some of the factors that might impact your car’s vinyl wrap removal process.
Important Factors to consider before removing vinyl wrap from your car
First of all, it’s important to work in the right environment as it will determine whether the vinyl removal process will be effective or not. For instance, removing vinyl wrap from a car that has been wrapped throughout the winter season will be more difficult because of longer exposure.
Similarly, it’s much harder to remove car vinyl wrap and adhesive residues from the car surface when it’s cold outside.
On the other hand, working in direct sunlight will make the adhesive strongly adhere to the car, making it difficult to remove. For that, it’s recommended that you work in a shaded area or garage and avoid severe weather conditions.
Quality of the vinyl wrap
While it’s good to buy a vinyl wrap from a reputable brand/ manufacturer, it isn’t as important as buying a high-quality product. This is because high-quality car wraps are much easier to remove compared to other ‘low-budget’ options.
Best of all, high-quality vinyl wraps usually peel off in one clean sheet.
How easy and smooth the vinyl removal process is depends on how long you leave it on your car. On average, a quality car vinyl wrap lasts about 5 to 7 years. However, if you leave the vinyl wrap on the car for longer, it will become tougher to remove as it becomes brittle over time.
More importantly, if the vinyl wrap has been on the car surface for a long time, you need to be extra cautious. Otherwise, you’ll end up damaging the original car paint, especially if you use too much force.
Methods of car Vinyl Wrap Removal
Method 1: The Hair dryer or Heat gun Approach
Step 1: Gather your tools and supplies
Like with any other project, the first thing you need to do before removing car vinyl wrap is to gather all the tools and materials you’ll need for the task. This includes;
- Plastic scraper. A scraper will go underneath the car vinyl wrap and pry it up. However, avoid using a metal scraper as it may damage the car’s paint job
- Hair dryer/heat gun for the vinyl wrap. You’ll need a heating tool to heat the edges of the vinyl wrap to loosen its adhesive and make it easy to remove.
- Spray bottle
- A clean microfiber cloth
- Rubbing alcohol/ mild detergent solution. Rubbing alcohol helps you clean the car surface after removing the vinyl wrap
- Adhesive remover
Step 2: Lift the edges of the vinyl wrap
Look for edges of the vinyl wrap along the seams in your car’s bodywork such as around the hood, trunk, and doors. Slide the plastic scraper under these edges and lift the vinyl wrap.
Next, try to slightly peel the edges with your fingernail. However, if you’re unable to peel the edges with your fingernails, use the plastic scraper.
Step 3: Heat the vinyl wrap edges
Heating the vinyl wrap edges softens the adhesive underneath it, thus allowing you to remove it with ease. However, you should be very cautious as applying too much heat can make the adhesive delaminate.
This can cause the vinyl wrap to leave hard-to-clean adhesive residues behind or make it tear and come off in small pieces.
Bearing that in mind, heat the edges of the vinyl wrap to a maximum of 120 deg F, while maintaining a distance of about 15 cm away from the car.
Also, move the hair dryer or heat gun back and forth and aim to apply the heat uniformly until the edges start to come off. Gently peel the vinyl edges with a plastic scraper as you heat the edges.
Step 4: Remove the vinyl wrap from your car
Slide your thumbs underneath the edge of the vinyl wrap and spread the fingers out on top of it. Lift the vinyl wrap and slowly pull it off the car at an angle of 15 – 20 deg.
Try to keep the vinyl wrap in one piece while removing it as it’s much easier to take off that way. Also, avoid peeling the wrap at a 90-degree angle as it will cause the adhesive to stick to the car surface.
If the vinyl wrap becomes difficult to remove, reheat it near the edge you’re peeling with a heat gun/ hair dryer to soften the adhesive. And continue pulling off the wrap once the adhesive lifts off the car surface.
Step 5: Remove the adhesive residues
After removing the vinyl wraps, check to see if there are adhesive residues on your car’s surface. Spray some adhesive remover over the leftover glue and let it sit for about 2 minutes to soak in the residues.
Afterward, use a clean rag to wipe the adhesive residues off your car. Alternatively, you can use a plastic scraper to scratch the residues and then wipe them off the surface with a clean cloth.
Step 6: Clean the car surface
Most adhesive removers tend to leave a cloudy residue or unsightly streaks on the car’s surface. For that, it’s good to wash your car after removing the vinyl wrap to get rid of these streaks and cloudy residues.
To accomplish that, soak a soft cloth in soapy water or rubbing alcohol, and use it to rub over the car’s body to eliminate any visible streaks. Alternatively, you can rub a clay bar on the car surface in a circular motion for about 2- 3 minutes to remove all the contaminants.
Method 2: Using Hot Water to remove the vinyl wrap from your car
Although the heat gun/ hair dryer method is effective at removing vinyl wrap from your car, it’s time-consuming. Specifically, removing the vinyl wrap with a heat gun/ hair dryer can take up to 15 or 16 minutes.
In comparison, the hot water method only takes about 2 – 3 minutes.
So, if you want a technique that will save you a lot of time, you should go with the hot water method. Besides, hot water is safe to use on car paint. However, this approach has its share of drawbacks as well.
For instance, it’s messier and may even end up burning your skin if you’re not cautious. In addition, you should not apply hot water on any glass or plastic surface as it will damage it.
Other than that, here are some of the tools and materials you’ll need to remove the vinyl wrap from your car with this method;
- Plastic scraper
- Safety gloves
- Hot water jug
- Clay bar kit
- Microfiber towels
After gathering the supplies and materials above, follow these steps:
- Heat water to 100 degrees F (don’t use boiling water) and pour it into a hot water jug
- Pour the hot water on the vinyl wrap you want to remove at an area of about 30 cm wide
- Gently apply the plastic scraper to one edge of the vinyl wrap and start peeling it off
- Once the wrap stops peeling off, reapply the hot water on that area and continue with the peeling process.
- Use the clay bar kit to clean the car after removing the vinyl wrap to get rid of the adhesive residues.
With patience and the right tools, removing vinyl wrap from your car is a relatively simple task. However, as I mentioned earlier, the actual vinyl removal process will depend on various factors like the quality of the wrap, how you installed it, and how long it has been on the car surface!