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A guide on car wrapping

Written By Andrew Brady

car being wrapped
  • What exactly is car wrapping? 
  • Find out whether a wrap is better than a respray
  • How much does car wrapping cost?

Fancy giving your motor an entirely new look as well as protecting its existing paint job? You could be looking at a car wrap, a vinyl film that is professionally applied to all its panels, curves and corners to give a new colour, design or finish.

What is car wrapping?

Whether it’s called a car wrap or a paint protection film, they do the same job: they cover your car in a sticky vinyl coat. These can be a completely different colour to your car, feature a matte rather than gloss finish, or even have a design on it - perhaps to advertise your business. The only limit is your imagination.

How do car wraps work?

Car wrapping and making it look good is a real skill. You could try it yourself, but you’ll probably end up in tears and then go to a professional anyway - so you might as well cut out the middle man.

If you look closely at your car you’ll see it’s a mass of subtle and intricate curves and lines with gaps between various panels, around grilles and lights. The wrap must allow for all these while following the car’s contours as closely as possible.

If it’s a one-off design, the wrap has to be bespoke to your car or it won’t work.

How do you get your car wrapped?

Once you’ve decided on a design and who’s going to do it, the hard work begins. Your car will be measured thoroughly. This enables the vinyl to be produced to fit your car with any graphics or patterns in the right place.

When the graphic has been printed, it’s then laminated. This provides protection against the sun’s UV rays that can cause it to fade over time.

The car must then be thoroughly cleaned. It needs to be free of any dirt, dust, grit and even products such as car wax that might prevent the vinyl sticking.

As with painting and decorating a house, preparation is everything. A company that knows what it’s doing may need the best part of a day to prepare it for wrapping. It will then take about a day to wrap a car or van.

Will there be any wrinkles after wrapping?

During the wrapping process, technicians use squeegees to smooth the vinyl and remove air bubbles. There definitely shouldn’t be any lumps or imperfections on flat panels such as doors, roofs or bonnets.

On parts that are curved such as bumpers or door mirrors, they will use a heat gun (think industrial hair dryer) to shrink the vinyl wrap to fit.

On intricately curved panels, even the most skilled technician might struggle not to get some wrinkles. It’s how they hide these that counts and the better the wrapping technician, the less likely you are to see any imperfections.

Car respray or wrap?

There are a couple of big advantages wraps have over resprays. First, the cost. A wrap is an awful lot less complex and therefore cheaper than a full respray. It will also protect your paintwork from chips, road dirt and corrosives like bird poo and the salt in spray. If done properly it could help preserve the resale value of your car.

And then there’s the permanence. Having a wrap done is easily reversible. If you decide your favourite footballer no longer deserves being plastered over your car, simply have them removed. Much cheaper than terminating their contrac\t!

You can also use a wrap to freshen the appearance of a tired looking motor without resorting to a respray. And after five or so years when the vinyl is starting to look a bit tatty, or if you want to sell the car, you simply have the wrap removed. But it’s best to have it taken off professionally so you don’t damage the paintwork underneath.

You can also test the water with a partial wrap. Fancy wrapping your mirrors or roof as a taster? Do it.

The disadvantages of wrapping

The main disadvantage happens if you have a wrap badly done. Put simply: it’ll look dreadful. Even the most skilled wrapping technician will struggle to make cheap vinyl look good. So if you’re going to have it done, pay for a proper job.

If your technician’s wrapping skills aren’t quite what they should be, they could damage your car’s paintwork when cutting the vinyl to size.

There are some things that you can’t do if you’ve had your car wrapped. Automated car washes with brushes are a no-no. You’re best off washing the car by hand. And you can’t use abrasive polishes such as T-Cut or those with acid or solvents in them.

How much does a car wrap cost?

Pinning down the cost of a wrap is like hitting a moving target. And because the majority of wraps are bespoke, it makes it even trickier.

There are a handful of factors it depends on. These include the size of the car, the complexity of its curves, the quality of the vinyl, how professional the company doing the wrap is, what sort of design you have, the finish, and the length of guarantee it comes with.

Bearing all this in mind, having a car wrapped can cost anywhere between £1000 and £7000.

See also: 

Best coupes for £15,000

Best sports cars for £40,000

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