Decals for Cars and Trucks – The Proper Ways to Install, Maintain, and Remove Them
Question: Will car wax affect the window decal on my car’s window?
Answer: Not unless it is a VERY poor quality sticker, or an interior paper sticker or label. The wax should actually protect the decal to a point, especially if it’s a good quality exterior window decal.
Because the decals are printed on a PVC vinyl material, usually an inexpensive but decent quality substrate, and combined with an acrylic adhesive to keep them on your window, the was will not affect the glue, and will add some shine and protection to the ink and the vinyl, thus helping it to last maybe just a little bit longer.
Question: How do I remove bubbles after installing vinyl graphics or decals on my vehicle?
Answer: The best way is not to have them there in the first place, but most amateur installers are prone to having bubbles trapped under the vinyl in the acrylic adhesive due to inexperience and not having the correct tools for the job.
However, if you’ve already installed the stickers, and it sounds like that may be the case, then there is one thing we do when we do, on a rare occasion, get a bubble under the vinyl. If you don’t have one, you should be able to purchase an Exacto knife with a 60º blade.
With this blade, carefully poke through the bubble, being careful not to push the tip deep enough to damage the paint on the vehicle. It is helpful at this point to apply heat from a hair dryer or heat gun over the knife prick to help the vinyl become supple and push the air out. Press the spot with your finger. Most of the bubble will have disappeared.
Question: Can I clear coat over the vinyl decals on my truck?
Answer: Contact the paint seller or manufacturer whose clear coat you intend to use. I am quite certain, without making that call myself, that it is not a problem, but I also don’t want to be liable for an issues this might cause, although I know I’ve seen clear coating over car decals in the past.
Question: If I remove a vinyl truck decal, will it damage the paint or clear coat on my truck?
Answer: This is a good question, and one we get asked frequently. The answer is no, if you do it correctly. Yes if you do it wrong.
The wrong way to remove an embedded vinyl sticker, one that’s been there for a long time, is with a scraper or another sharp object, like a screwdriver…unless you are going to repaint the vehicle anyway. Even then, I wouldn’t do it that way myself.
The proper way to remove a decal or sticker from your vehicle will be to use a heat gun or hair dryer on medium heat. Caution: Do NOT leave the heat in one spot too long, especially if you use high heat, which I’m advising amateurs NOT to do, but if you do, I warned you – it may damage the underlying paint.
Once the metal is warm-ish, maybe in the 120ºF to 140ºF degree range (that’s about 49ºC to 60ºC), use your fingernails to get under the vinyl and slowly pull the decal off. You can continuously but carefully apply heat during this process if needed. The older the decal, the tougher it is to get to release, and the more glue it’ll be likely to leave.
Once the vinyl is off, if there is glue remaining, there’s a couple ways to deal with it. You can use a glue remover with an orange peel oil as the base…this is the best way as far as I’m concerned, as you can simply spray the remover onto the glue, allow it to set, repeat if needed, then take a plastic scraper or an old credit card and scrape the glue off. I usually take a paper towel and spray it with the remover and wipe over the area again to make sure there’s no glue residue left.
If you’re reapplying new decals, you’ll want to use some isopropyl alcohol or warm soapy water to remove the oily film from the glue remover, or you may find that your new vinyl truck decals won’t stay on your truck for very long. Isopropyl alcohol is my recommendation over the warm, soapy water, in case you wondered.
Warning: If your truck was out in the sun a lot, and the decal was on for awhile, you may have a spot where the decal was that the paint looks much newer than the rest of your rig!