Washing a Wrapped Vehicle: Are You Doing It Right?
You finally bought your dream. It’s white, which is pretty vanilla for a sports car, but it looks impressive with the new wrap you just purchased and sounds even better. It’s been a few weeks now, and the dirt and dust are starting to collect. You know you should wash it, but what about that expensive wrap? Can you still take it through the car wash?
Vinyl car wraps are a durable alternative to a custom paint job for your car. They allow you to add text, graphics, and visual textures at a lower price than custom paint jobs. These wraps are not bulletproof, but if you take the time to care for your wrap the right way, it will last a lot longer.
Car wraps are printed on thin but durable vinyl. Vinyl works well for printing and conforms well to the shape of a car. However, it has a couple of distinct weaknesses you should know about if you want yours to last.
UV Radiation – Vehicle wraps will discolor over time. We recommend that you park your wrapped vehicle in a garage or carport if possible. Alternatively, parking in a shady spot out of the hot afternoon sun will help protect the vinyl.
Heat – When the vinyl reaches temperatures above 140°F, it becomes more pliable, causing the material to distort. It is best to park your vehicle out of direct sunlight and allowing it to cool before cleaning or wiping down the outside of the car.
Cleaning Best Practices
Keeping your new wrap in top condition starts with keeping it clean. Dust, dirt, and chemicals in the air get kicked up by passing cars, people, and passing storms. These substances will settle on vehicles parked nearby and can be harmful to your new wrap.
Wash Often – The best thing you can do to protect your wrap is to clean the outer surface regularly. We recommend you wash it every week or every other week, depending on how much exposure your wrap has to the outdoors. The key is to clean it before the dirt settles and becomes ingrained in the surface of your wrap.
Avoid the Heat – Washing your car when it is hot or with hot water is likely to have disastrous consequences for your wrap. If your car has been in the sun, find a shady place to allow it to cool off before you wash it. Avoid using hot water. Cool or room temperature water will clean your car just as well as hot water, and it won’t disfigure your graphics.
Hand Wash – With a car wash at every gas station, fewer people now wash their cars at home. However, an automatic car wash is not a good idea if you have a vehicle wrap. The brushes could pull up the edges of the wrap. The powerful spray on a brushless wash could do the same thing. Washing your wrapped vehicle by hand using a soft sponge is the best option. You can pay special attention to the corners and edges of the wrap, getting them clean without pulling them up.
Use Mild Soap – Harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners can damage a vinyl wrap. Do not use cleaners that are petroleum-based or contain silicone emulsions. Instead, look for a gentle automotive cleanser, and follow the manufacturer’s diluting instructions.
Rinse and Dry – To avoid developing water spots, give your car a good, gentle rinse to remove all the soap and dry it with a chamois or light microfiber towel.
If you own a pressure washer, you know how tempting it is to pressure wash everything you own. If the house looks dirty, pressure wash it. If the pavers are mossy, pressure wash them too. Cars are a no-brainer. Pressure washing is almost like taking them to the car wash, right? It even gets your tires looking as clean as the day your bought them from the tire shop in Sandy.
If you have a vehicle wrap installed on your car, we don’t recommend using a pressure washer on it anymore. However, for those rebels who are unhindered by rules, here are some guidelines to help you avoid causing damage.
Turn Down the Pressure – Choose a nozzle with a wide-angle spray pattern (40° or more) that provides less than 1300psi.
Check the Water Temperature – Test the water temperature before you begin. Anything above 140°F will harm the wrap, so keep it cool.
Keep Your Distance – Stand back from the car to avoid gouging the wrap. Maintain five feet of distance between the tip of the pressure washer and your vehicle.
Watch the Angle – Spraying high-pressure water at a sharp angle to the car can force water up behind the edges of the wrap. Aim the water so that the spray is roughly perpendicular to the vehicle’s surface, especially when you approach the edges of the wrap.
Rinse, Dry, and Repeat – No matter how you choose to wash your wrapped car, you should finish with a clean rinse and a gentle hand dry each and every time. The spot-free shine will be worth the effort.
Muscle cars, sports cars, and convertibles are all a thrill to drive, especially when you know they look great on the road. If you choose a wrap to take your car to the next level visually, be prepared to go the extra mile to protect that wrap. Washing and drying your car the right way will keep you the envy of your friends.
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