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Written by Trine Larsen

Tips for removing vinyl from your vehicle

Will the vinyl vehicle signage wrap be easy to remove from my car? This is a question we hear a lot, and if your car is wrapped in high quality 3M vinyl, then yes, it is easy. All you need is a bit of heat and some hard yakka. However, before you start ripping your graphics off your vehicle, it is important you follow certain steps to avoid damaging the vehicle. We will walk you through the pitfalls of removing vehicle vinyl and tell you how best to go about it. At Signarama Joondalup we recommend having your 3M Specialists doing the removal for the best possible outcome, but if you’ve decided to embark on a removal yourself here is what you need to know.

  • Don’t leave it too long.
    High quality vinyl will last for many years, but all vinyl degrades over time, and it’s important to remove the vinyl before it degrades too much. Make sure you regularly inspect your vehicle for damage and failure points. What you need to keep an eye out for is major colour degradation and hair line cracks in the vinyl. When this starts to happen, it is definitely time to remove the vinyl. If you continue to leave it on, there is a chance that the heavy sun exposure on your car will bake the vinyl onto the surface of your vehicle and cause damage to your paint. We do suggest removing the vinyl before the cracks start to appear for the best possible outcome. Not only can leaving the wrap on for too long damage the vehicle, but it can also make the removal of the vinyl a lot harder than if you’d decided to remove it earlier. Damaged vinyl will be hard to remove in big pieces and can take days of chipping away at small bits. Keep an eye on your wrap, and when the vinyl starts to look tired and the colours are fading, have it removed and save yourself the pain of removing it later.
  • Care for you wrap while it is on.
    If you care for the vinyl while it’s on the vehicle, your wrap will not only last a lot longer, but it will also be easier to remove. A lot of the degradation that will eventually happen to a vehicle wrap can be stalled by treating your wrap right. We have actually already done a post on how to care for your wrap, so have a look and make sure you get the most out of your wrap, and when it’s time to remove it, you know you’ve done all you can to make the process go smoothly.
  • Use heat.
    Using heat while removing your wrap will help make the vinyl malleable and soften the adhesive to allow for the vinyl to be pulled back slowly, but be careful, don’t heat the vinyl too much when removing. Too much heat can cause burning. We recommend heating your vinyl to approximately 50°-60° Celsius when removing for the best possible result. Continue to heat the vehicle in small areas at a time and work the vinyl off in increments working at a slow pace to avoid glue residue being left behind. We suggest pulling the vinyl in a 15-20° angle for the smoothest result. Use both hands with fingers spread while pulling back. DO NOT YANK the film. If your vehicle wrap is over 3 years old, there’s a good chance the adhesive is strong, but resist the urge to pull too hard. Yanking the vinyl can cause separation from the vehicle and laminate, making the removal process harder than it needs to be.
    For a visual example, please see the 3M video on how to remove vinyl from a bonnet.
  • Use ISO
    3M vehicle wrap vinyls are designed to not leave any glue residue behind when removing the vinyl, but on lower quality vinyls or if the vinyl has been on for too long there may be some residue left behind. If there is residue, don’t go full on with a scraper, and NEVER use a metal scraper. Our suggestion is to use Isopropanol to soften the residue. When using ISO, please be sure to use gloves to protect your skin. Wet a cloth with the ISO and rub it in circular motions over the glue. The glue will start to soften, making it easy to wipe off. For more ingrained glue residue, you might have to work a little harder at it, and at times a plastic scraper can be utitlised to great effect, but be careful when using a scraper, even a plastic one.
    ISO also works great when removing old and sun damaged vinyl where pulling it off in big strips simply isn’t an option. It’s especially useful on those areas where the vinyl has disintegrated the most and will soften it up before you go over it with a plastic scraper. Another option for older vinyl is to use a steamer, which we will touch upon further down.
  • Plastic scraper.
    On harder vehicle removals, we recommend using a plastic scraper to assist where the vinyl comes off in small bits, or to help remove glue residue. As we said in our previous point, never use a metal scraper on your vehicle. Using a metal scraper will most definitely damage the paint, so be careful. For the most part, a scraper is not necessary, and it should only be used on glue residue, or extra damaged pieces of vinyl. When using a scraper on vinyl, it’s still a good idea to apply heat to help soften the vinyl and making removal easier. Be careful when using a scraper, even a plastic one, as damage can occur.
  • Use a wallpaper steamer.
    A wallpaper steamer is especially useful for removing glue residue and older vinyl. It helps soften up even the driest glue and bit vinyl pieces and lets you wipe it off without much effort. If you’re interested in keeping your hands safe from ISO then this may be a good option for you.
    During removal of the wrap itself, a wallpaper steamer can also be used to help soften the vinyl for easy removal. So if you don’t have a heat gun, this is a great option.
  • Hard Yakka.
    Removing vinyl from a vehicle is hard work, and it can take a long time, depending on how damaged the vinyl is upon removal. If you’re removing your vinyl yourself, be prepared for having to sweat for it. Be patient with your vinyl removal; If you rush, you might risk damaging your vehicle.
  • Get a professionally removed.
    At Signarama Joondalup we recommend always enlisting professional help when removing vinyl. Vehicle installers are trained to do this type of work and will ensure your vinyl is removed without causing damage to your vehicle.

Warning: Some vehicles wraps are installed using what is called a primer to speed up installation. A primer is essentially a cheat to help cheaper vinyls adhere to the vehicle and to make wrapping the edges go smoother and faster. We believe that primers should not be used for installing vehicle wraps, and if the installer takes their time with the vehicle during installation, there is no need for it. The use of a primer will make removal of the vinyls a lot harder down the line, and if you’re removing a wrap that has primer used during installation, there is a higher chance you will damage the vehicle. To this point, it’s important to note that primers are necessary when installing boat graphics to ensure adhesion in water, but that is another post for another day. At Signarama Joondalup, we only use the best vinyls, so we never need to use primers to install vehicle graphics. For the best possible outcome, we recommend you not endeavour to remove the vinyl yourself, especially if you don’t know how it has been installed.

If you want a quote on vinyl removal, call our friendly sales staff today for a chat.

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