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How to Vinyl Wrap a Race Car

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Making Sure a Race Car Wrap is Done Right

When you are at the races do you ever look at the cars and wonder what it takes to put on those crazy-looking designs and to change the color of the body? In this segment I will be talking to you about how those wraps are applied to race cars and what to do to make sure they don’t come off.

What You Need to Apply a Race Car Wrap
Titan Tools 22400 Heat Gun

First off, you will want to gather some supplies, I like to use at least 70 to 90 percent isopropyl alcohol to assure a clean finish. You will also need an extremely sharp razor blade, I recommend using 30-degree blades, a microfiber cloth, a squeegee with felt tips, and a heat gun to activate the adhesive for that final stick. Speedway Motors sells an excellent heat gun by Titan Tools, part number 728-22400. This is a 12.5 Amp 120V heat gun with 2 heat settings, low setting: 572 degrees at 750W, high setting: 932 degrees at 1500W.

Choosing and Preparing Your Race Car's Wrap

Your next step will be to get your wrap. This is when you will decide if you are looking for a bunch of designs or if you want a plain basic look. In this article, I used Avery Dennison Gun Metal Grey to wrap the body panels on a midget sprint car. Once you decide on that, your next step is to cut out the wrap to match the size of the body panel you are applying it to. I like to leave at least 1-2 inches of excess on each side of the panels. This way if you need to maneuver the wrap, you can use your fingers to stretch it from the outside without getting oil from your hands on the underside of the wrap. Doing so will make the adhesive much less sticky and you won't risk the chance of the wrap peeling back once applied.

Body Prep and Application

After you have the wrap cut out to match the body panel, it is very important to clean the body panel of all contaminants. This is where you take your isopropyl alcohol and a microfiber rag to assure your panels are spotless. Once clean it is time to apply your wrap. You can choose whether you want to leave the panels on the car or take them off.

In this demonstration, since the panels are so small I decided it would be best to take them off the car. You will then take the backing off the wrap and begin installation. With this, it is easiest if you have another person there to help hold one side. Here you will pull from each side while applying the wrap on the panel. If you have creases, you will work from each corner until all creases are laid flat. Once the wrap is laid down flat with no creases this is referred to as being “glassed.” After your wrap is glassed it is time to squeegee over the entire wrap. Starting from the middle, begin firmly squeegeeing from up to down to assure the wrap is free of all air bubbles.

Cleaning Up Your Race Car's Wrap

Now you have a wrapped panel. Your final step will be to heat the wrap and cut the excess off. You can use the heat gun on the high setting keeping the heat gun 6 to 12 inches away from the wrap. Here you will go across the entire wrap and remember to never stay in one spot for any more than 1 to 2 seconds. Applying the heat gun in the same spot for an excessive amount of time may result in burning of the wrap. Once heated this will bring out any small air bubbles you did not get before, you should be able to run your finger over these small bubbles and they will disappear due to the micro small holes in the wrap that release the air. When you get to the edges it is important to run your finger across the very edge right after applying heat as shown in the picture below, which was a previous wrap job on my vehicle.

This will give you a good cutting edge to remove the excess wrap. With your sharp blade you can very lightly cut across the edges of the film, and as long as your blade is sharp enough this will not scratch the service underneath. You will be lightly cutting across the top of the wrap. Once you lightly slice the wrap across all the edges the excess will be ready to take off. For the final step take your heat gun around the edges one more time while running your finger along to edges to assure a final stick.

The vinyl wrapped panels
More Than Just For Race Cars

I hope this helps those of you who are looking to wrap something yourself. This same technique can apply to almost anything you wrap such as a pedal car, laptop, or that old desk in your garage. The possibilities are endless.

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