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Paint protection film: What is vinyl wrapping for cars?

The uses and pitfalls of paint protection film

At ChipsAway, we understand the desire to keep cars looking brand new and untarnished for as long as possible.  It’s this desire which leads many car owners to turn to paint protection film, a.k.a. vinyl wrapping. We thought we would weigh in on the issue with some information on this product, along with our opinion on it.

Mirror Vinyl Wrap On A Mini Car

Image credit: http://www.executiveautocare.co.uk/vehicle_wrapping.htm

What is vinyl wrapping?

Put simply, vinyl wrapping is a way of protecting your paint finish with a plastic layer, rather than a chemical topcoat which we recently discussed in our paint protection post from a few weeks ago. Technicians will (or should) properly prepare the surface of your car, and then apply the plastic layer to all panels, cutting it to fit and blend in seamlessly by hand. Somewhat amusingly, this product is sometimes called a “car bra” when just applied to the front of the vehicle.

Types of vinyl wrapping you may come across:

  • Clear vinyl wrapping – the most common kind of paint protection film. The purpose of this is to preserve the look of your original paintwork by preventing minor scratches and chips from reaching the paint, whilst still keeping the original colour and finish in all its glory.
  • Coloured vinyl wrapping – most commonly used to revitalize older cars and change colour or finish for considerably less than the cost of a re-spray. It allows people to try fashionable styles like pearlescent or matt, or just to re-colour areas like the wing mirrors, roof or door panels for a new look. Some companies also offer stencil cut-outs, which can be used to add patterns and designs to cars.
  • Advertising wraps – If your car is used for business, including your logo, contact details and relevant imagery is a way of advertising whenever you drive around. In this case, vinyl wraps are added to cars by professional sign writers.

Benefits of vinyl wrapping paint protection film

If you are the kind of person who likes to put a personal stamp on their car through modifications, or your vehicle is your passion, there are several reasons why you might want to try this approach to car care, including:

  • The fact that it is so much cheaper than a re-spray of your car. Quality vinyl wrapping should cost at least £1,000, whereas a good, full body re-spray may cost three times as much
  • It adds a fresh, modern style to even the oldest of cars and can look fashionable
  • It will protect against stone chips and light scratches
  • When the vinyl begins to look worn, you can simply replace it

Disadvantages

As with any car modification, in some cases the results can look fantastic, but it’s extremely easy to ruin the look of your car with vinyl wrapping, rather than improving it. This is why:

  • It’s very easy for it to be done badly. If you are tempted to use cheap services or unlucky enough to be duped by a cowboy garage, the vinyl will appear cheap, thin, bubbled, ragged at the edges or worse. The PistonHeads forum has some examples of vinyl wrapping gone bad!
  • Once the wrapping is in place, you need to inform your insurance and it can be difficult and expensive to arrange this
  • Bird poo becomes even more of an issue, as it corrodes the soft plastic more easily than the pain underneath
  • Vinyl car wrapping will get spider webbing more easily (the swirl marks that appear on the surface) which means no more petrol station car washes!
  • If not fitted correctly, water can become trapped underneath the wrapping, leading to rust. Similarly, when removed, the paint that you were trying to protect can be removed along with the plastic!
  • Most upsettingly, many people find that when they come to remove the plastic, there are deep scratches in the paint underneath, from the knives used by fitters to cut the vinyl to size! Which means that you have essentially paid to have your car keyed
  • Should you sustain more serious scrapes or dents in your car, the vinyl would need to be removed in order to be repaired anyway

Our advice

If you intend to have your car vinyl wrapped, we would advise that you shop around to find the most reputable fitter you can and avoid being tempted by low costs. A quality fitter will take pride in their work and should have plenty of cars and testimonials in their portfolio. It should cost at least £2,000; be suspicious if the garage is offering under £1,000.

However, in our view, vinyl wrapping is best left alone unless you have a luxury car. Investing in hand washing and occasional, professional waxing is a safer way to take care of your pride and joy.

If your car has been left looking worse for wear after a dodgy vinyl wrap, with rust or cut marks, ChipsAway can repair the damage and leave it looking good as new, with a lifetime guarantee.  Get in touch today for your no-obligation quote.

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