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Mistakes Wraps companies make and why


As a veteran of the sign and vehicle graphics business for 20 years we have been fortunate to see our vehicle graphics industry change and progress forward, this has helped us to have a great overall understanding of what is really going on in the wrap arena and why. Finding a good wrap provider can be like finding a needle in a haystack, that is of course if you are seeking a quality wrap. Why, you ask. Isn’t it as easy as 1,2,3.  NO, we wish it were so. The main underlying issue here is “craftsmanship”.  First, everyone has a different idea of what quality is and what it takes to make something durable. Second, if they do know what quality is do they really want to go through the necessary steps involved? Remember, the necessary steps involved take time and time is money.  If you are charging minimum dollar I can tell you the steps are not performed; nobody works for free.  Vehicle wrapping is a manual, labor intensive, detail oriented process, at least for now, until new technologies allow for machines or robots to wrap your vehicle (if that ever comes in the near future). Let this article take some of the burden off your shoulders and may it be an easy way to help you decide which company to choose and how to spot a true wrap veteran from, well, “A Poser” as we call them.

Let’s take a closer look at the 2 typical scenarios we see today when viewing a completed vehicle wrap and try to explain the exact root of the problems and why.

It would be safe to say 75% of all wraps will fall into 1 of the 2 general categories below. Worse yet, 40% of all vehicle wraps will fall into both categories.

1. Poor quality Vehicle Wrap Installation 2. Poor quality Vehicle Wrap Design

Lets try to explain how these scenarios happen most of the time. We are not going to dive very deep into this for the sake of keeping this lesson simple and easy to understand. We have done the technical work for you through years of experience, so lets get to the meat and potatoes here.

Where does the problem originate from?   Most wrap installers are not veterans of our industry but rather see it as a niche market to make a quick buck. Today you will see other industries hopping on the bandwagon offering up all sorts of misleading marketing schemes, trying to do something for nothing.  At times it can be amusing to see some of the things people will conjure up as if there running Walmart Specials and other times it is just downright misleading.  Vehicle wrapping is an art which requires much skill and a lifetime to master, we are selling a service not something you buy off the shelf.  Vehicle wraps need to be done by a full service sign company; afterall, we started the vinyl graphics market in the early 90’s. Experienced vehicle wrap installers have a better understanding on what makes a better vehicle wrap and the pitfalls to stay away from.  Most of these “Posers” we see today know nothing about installing traditional vinyl graphics which is the basic foundation for understanding how to install vehicle wraps; we can’t stress this enough.

So why are the originators of the industry much better?  A lot of this could be due to the fact that we started wrapping before it went main stream.  At this time vinyl wrapping films were not what they are today. You had to be exceptionally good with the films due to the fact they were not as forgiving (easy to use) as what we have today.  If you worked with vinyl graphic films then, you will most likely be a Pro with the new films out today, not to mention you will appreciate what the new technology has done.  Appreciation for something makes for a better installer, trust me.   “You must walk before you run” as the saying goes and the same holds true with applying vinyl films.  This is exactly what is going on today with the quality in the vehicle wrap market as everyone is hopping aboard.  Below are some of the most common mistakes we see in the vehicle wrapping industry today

1. Lack of climate controlled environment for Vehicle Wraps “We Come to You”  Well, i wonder why..?  Could it mean they have no climate controlled vehicle wrap facility. You hear this advertised much and 50% of the time it is true. Many times there is more behind this then you may think, hence the heading line.  Stay away from outside vehicle wrap installations if at all possible, too much can happen.

2. Over stretch vinyl beyond its limitations Like a bull in a china shop, many vehicle wrap providers just can’t handle vinyl with finesse.  Motor skills & hand-eye coordination go a long way in the vehicle wrap industry.

3. FREE DESIGN = BAD DESIGN (huge red flag) A good design is never free. Many vehicle wrap providers will try to throw out as many designs in a day as possible.  Trust us, this kind of approach does not work in the vehicle wrap market.  Occasionally,  we will see a client who thinks he may be making out good.  What happens?  Well, they know a guy studying design in college, you see, who has some time off on spring break.  Little Tommy designs this vehicle wrap but he realizes after we receive the file/design that nothing is scaled right and it will not work.  In fact everything is wrong from resolution quality to fundamental vehicle wrap design concepts.   “Time for an overhaul” use a vehicle wrap design expert next time.  Use Tommy for designing some business cards, not for your investment on a vehicle wrap.

4. Below average market prices Many times this usually indicates a new sign company in town offering ridiculously low prices on vehicle wraps.   This is how they buy market share. These trends never last long; we see most close up in about year, sometimes 2 years.. Generally, the national average on vehicle wraps is $15/sq.ft. + design.  Let this be some guidance when pricing wraps.

5. No measuring or aligning techniques This is a BIG problem in our industry.  It goes back to being an experienced vehicle wrap installer.  I guess it’s not their fault they weren’t taught correctly, but now its your problem.  You shouldn’t have let that flashy little website fool you.

6. Surface prep not taken seriously enough and/or wrong chemicals used Why does this happen? Well, prepping on average takes 1 hour to complete.  Most don’t waste their time.  It’s all about the bottom line and the final dollar. Get it in and get it out as fast as possible or the boss gets upset.

7. Post heating not taken seriously enough What is post heating? After the wrap material is applied to the vehicle a heatgun is used to help set the vinyl assuring good adhesion.  This is a critical step to ensuring longevity to a vehicle wrap.  Good post heating takes time, another spot we see vehicle wrap installers skimp on to get the job done faster, impress the boss, hopefully get that raise they wanted.

8. Poor seaming techniques Why do so many wrap specialists, as they call themselves, insist on little ¼” to ½” dinky seams?  If your vinyl was stretched just a fair amount it will stretch back leaving your vehicle color showing.  We like to overkill this principle just a little, 1.5” is suggested.  The famous last words, “it will be alright” is what they tell you..  yes, for a year then it’s your problem.

9. Vehicle Wrapping in 1 day and out the door Aren’t they going to let it sit at the shop for a day to see how it cures?  Of course not.  They want to please you with fast turnaround and get the next wrap in.  Vehicle wraps can be a big investment so don’t rush the installation or it’s going to end up costing you, the consumer.    7 out of 10 times the next day we will find little sections here or there that need some extra heat put to it.   This is due to the vinyl curing and shrinking a bit on the edges; this is normal.

Instasigns has been serving the Maryland & Carroll County surrounding areas with signs & vehicle graphics for over 15 years. Our experience speaks for itself as we are not many of the few originators left today.  Instasigns is very passionate about our industry,  we continue to serve with leading customer service and quality products.

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