Caring for and Washing your Vinyl-Wrapped Vehicle

If you’ve made the investment in a vinyl wrap — you’ll want it to last as long as possible. A vinyl wrap has the potential to last for over 5 years when care is taken when washing, and sun exposure is reduced.

A wrapped vehicle doesn’t require much extra work to maintain, but there are a couple things to be aware of.

Try to Limit Excess Sun Exposure when possible

While the point of a wrap is to get it seen out on the road, if you can limit the hours that it gets exposure from the hot midday sun then it will last longer and resist fading. While hard to avoid, this is probably the biggest factor in how many years you will get out of the wrap.

It’s also better to keep the vehicle garaged when not in use if possible.

cars in shade

Regular washing for Vinyl Wrapped Vehicles

It is okay to use your regular car wash detergent and plain soap and water to clean off dirt and grime. You should be especially careful when using any kind of pressure washing spray wand and always hold back the wand at least 18 inches from the surface at a 90° angle — getting too close with a spray wand can peel vinyl away from seams. Always make sure whoever washes the vehicle is aware of this, as damage takes only seconds.

car wash wand vinyl wrap

If the vehicle is not washed for a long period and dirt is allowed to cake on, it can result in surface wear from light abrasions, especially on a work vehicle. This can make colors look muddled in appearance or appear white. Wet the vehicle down thoroughly for 5-10 minutes first to let embedded dirt loosen from the vinyl, then use only soft brushes or sponges with light pressure. Automated car washes may wear out the vinyl faster and are unpredictable – so we usually tell people to avoid them.

hand wash car vinyl

Avoid Waxes and Petroleum Products

Vinyl wrap material is especially sensitive to petroleum products and can result in fading, discoloration or worse. It is important to immediately wipe away any gasoline or oil that might get spilled, and rinse with water.

This also goes for Waxes, Bug & Sap Remover or Tar Remover. If something needs to be removed and regular soap & water won’t do the job, rubbing alcohol is usually your best bet — to gently buff away the contaminant from the vinyl. A common mixture is 2 parts ISO Alcohol to 1 part water. Always spot test a product or cleaning method you are trying on an inconspicuous area first, and do not rub too hard.

Window Films and Scraping Ice

If you live in a cold climate and your windows regularly need scraped in the winter, you may want to reconsider translucent window films. Not much of an issue here in Texas, but be aware of it anyways. The surface of this kind of vinyl has many tiny perforations so you can see through it from inside the vehicle, and it doesn’t hold up to hard scraping to remove ice and frost. You may want to keep your vehicle covered overnight to limit the formation of ice on the windows, or allow for the heater in the vehicle to defrost the windows.

scrape ice

When to remove the vinyl

If your vinyl severely discolors or turns brown, it might be a sign of exposure to acid rain due to pollution that can happen in certain parts of the world. If this browning occurs it can signal that the vinyl needs to be removed before damages to the underlying paint are seen.

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