If you’re reading an article called How To Clean A Car Before Wrapping, you could be mistaken for thinking that I’m a car wrapping enthusiast. But I’m not, or should I say, I wasn’t.
Just last week, in town was a massive car wrapping conference. A friend of mine had booked both of our tickets well in advance, even though I wasn’t keen. I didn’t have the time and I knew my wife would say “if you have time for that, you have time to come and see my parents…”
You’ve been there, right?
Was I into car wrapping that much that it was worth enduring my in laws?
Hmmm…Even though, I’m not entirely convinced that I’d ever get my car wrapped, I must say, it’s phenomenal. Both online and in person, I’ve seen some of the most stunning designs on cars.
How To Clean A Car Before Wrapping
- Grab a bucket and some dish washing detergent. Mix with warm water and wash the car.
- Take a lint free towel and dry the car. The car must be totally dry, no water mark, streaks or spots.
- Spray on a solvent base cleaner and work into the paintwork, wiping the surface in a side to side motion.
- Once the car is clean, mix a solution of 7 parts Isopropyl alcohol to 3 parts water. Clean the car once again. Dry thoroughly, paying special attention to all the gaps, crevices on the car (e.g. between doors, etc.) with a paper towel.
- Finally, the car is in its optimum condition for the wrap to remain in place. Ready to be wrapped.
A good car wrap can totally transform a car. I mean that – regular car to BatMobile transformation (in design, not like magical gadgets and turbo jets).
So there I was, contemplating what to do. Was I into car wrapping that much that I’d spend a whole day at a conference? It was more aimed at people like my friend – professional detailers, car wrappers, valeters, business owners . Anyone but me.
I can barely wrap a Christmas present.
Don’t laugh – you know you’ve been there haven’t you?
Whilst I was deliberating if the day would be worth bartering for a day at the in laws, my wife happened to text me saying that on that particular day, her sister was in town and that they were going to paint the town red.
Woo! I was in the free and clear. I could go, learn, enjoy and come home late and she would be none the wiser.
And yes, that’s how a healthy marriage works. Save the fights for the big stuff…like who’s holding the remote control.
Car Wrapping Exhibition
The day had finally arrived and for some reason I was a little excited. Going to something like this was completely outside of the norm for my regular life and I just couldn’t wait to go. I had even spent the evening before on Instagram looking at all the car wraps that people could do.
When applied well, some of the wraps look very much like paint. They just looked like Banksy had come along and blessed your car.
We walked into this massive center and there were about a dozen cars that were already wrapped in the most amazing designs. Some of them had dragons with half clad women wrapped around them. Some had roses, guns, indescribable beautiful / symmetrical graphics.
Words can’t express how Wow some of the cars looked. And throughout the day there were 2 demonstrations going on.
- How to clean a car before a wrap
- How to apply a wrap like a pro
The idea was to start at talk 1 and then go to talk 2. But at this stage you know me. Anything to do with cleaning a car, any new tip / trick / hack and I’m all over it.
So we decided to split. My pal impatiently rushed over to join the demonstration on how to wrap a car and I went over to learn how to clean a car before applying the wrap.
Cleaning A Car Before Vinyl Wrapping
I rushed over to the other side of the conference center where a crowd had gathered to watch the cleaning techniques of the demonstrator.
What was so interesting, is that the first thing he mentioned was that whether or not you were going to apply the wrap or it was going to be someone else, you had to wash the car 24 hours before. Under no circumstances was it advisable to wash the car on the day.
There were some things that you did indeed have to do on the day, however, which were a bit involved, and didn’t necessarily include your power hose or your new foam gun.
For the demo car, they had rolled out a Ford Mustang (of course). I mean this company really wanted to make an impression and a car like that does exactly that. The Mustang had been washed the day before and now he was getting ready to demonstrate how to clean the car before applying the wrap.
Once he was finished, it was going to be wheeled over to the other area of the center for the wrap to actually be applied. All very clever stuff.
Washing Before Wrapping
- The first thing he did was grab his handy bucket. For some reason he had opted to go with a bright pink one. I’m not sure if he was trying to tell us something or just keep our attention. He then made some stupid joke about how he hates washing up and whipped out some detergent. Now whilst you are probably thinking – errr gross – I’ve seen this used before. It’s a good hack for cleaning your car when prepared properly, which is what he did next. He then mixed it with warm water, and gave it a little mix. Wash the car simply by using your hands. Quite the opposite from washing a car without touching it.
- He then grabbed his lint free towel and started drying the car. He wanted it totally, totally dry. No water marks, streaks or spots. It had to be as dry as the Sahara. The reason for the lint free paper towel as he put it, was to avoid any risk of scratching the car, and lint free towels were notorious for never leaving any fluff marks on the paint of the car. This was absolutely essential. A dry, fluff free car!
- Next it was time to use a proper cleaner. He sprayed on a solvent base cleaner and began cleaning it into the car. During the demonstration of this stage, he was keen to point out that circular motions were not going to help. He wiped the surface in a side to side motion. And before the solvent had a chance to dry, he quickly grabbed another one of his lint free towels and began drying the car very quickly.
- After the car was once again clean, he started making up another mixture of 7 parts of Isopropyl alcohol to 3 parts water and began cleaning the car again, once again using only sideways, east to west cleaning movements. He was very conscious the whole time of all the gaps and crevices on the car (e.g. between doors, etc.), and went over all of those with a paper towel.
- Finally, he was done. It was all over. And the car was ready to be wrapped. The importance of getting a car cleaned was of course not for the aesthetic (because it was about to be wrapped imminently), but because the car had to be at its optimum condition for the wrap to adhere to the car. Luckily the car wasn’t a soft top. Otherwise cleaning and wrapping a soft top would be another headache and pointless.
A dirty, wet or waxy surface overtime can start to affect the wrap, causing it to crease, fold or even start to peel. So cleaning and drying it this way was apparently the best way to prepare the car for wrapping.
Now when it comes to wraps, do I think I would get one? I’m not sure. I think they are a bit like tattoos. I think sometimes, they just look better on other people, so I can admire from afar. A bit like having a purple mowhawk.
But suddenly, after having seen all of these cars, I must say, I was actually starting to get tempted…..
And whilst I’m not 100% sure if I ever would have my car wrapped, I most definitely learnt some incredible techniques, which can of course be used irrespective of any intentions of wrapping.
But when it comes to wrapping your car, I can’t emphasise how much you have to wash it the day before. On the day, you will be cleaning it in a different way – and let’s be honest, you want to make darned sure that car is shiny and gleaming, free from spots and smears before applying that wrap.
And why? Why does the car have to be so clean? Does it even matter?
Well, there used to be some people out there who would think you can just go and buy a roll of wrap, not prepare or clean the car, take off the film and just slap it on….After a while those same guys, began to realise that the wrap didn’t stick properly, or would crease, or worse still begin to come off….
Wrapping is not just about design and application. It’s about making sure that your car is clean and ready for the wrap. If you can’t be bothered to clean it before wrapping it, then why bother?