Vinyl graphics and your paint job. Removing vehicle decals from auto-body paint, and your car or truck’s window glass.
Here at Full Intensity Grafx we’ve been creating and applying vinyl decals for over 20 years. The following are accounts from OUR experience, which may or may not be typical.
First, will vinyl graphics applied to the body of your car or truck affect your vehicle’s paint job? Possibly, but why? The normal painted surface of a vehicle does in fact fade over time. Because time is a juggernaut; it does its thing. Underneath the decal, the paint will fade at a lesser rate, if at all, and after several years—more time being more of a factor (as well as sunlight, temps, and other variables your paint job has been exposed to)—might allow a difference in color intensity between where the decal had been applied, and where it had not.
Please also note, most vinyl decal material has an outdoor durability rating based on the angle of which the decal is applied. For example, a 6-year vinyl material (we use mostly Oracal 6-year proven, commercial-grade vinyl) is rated at up to 6 years outdoor durable, or longer, when applied at a 90-degree angle, plus or minus 10 degrees. Sunlight and heat will affect hood decals more than vinyl graphics that are applied to the sides of a vehicle, car, truck, boat, etc.
Examples based on my experience:
- decals applied to the sides of a car for a month or so… There’s a 99% chance no signs of a decal ever being applied, will remain on your paint job.
- vinyl graphics applied to paint for a couple years… There may be the slightest chance you will see some fading, e.g. where the decal had been, and the paint that had no decals applied to it. Sunlight fades every paint job—time is the juggernaut and does its thing!
- graphics, decals, or stickers have been left on a vehicle for ten years… They will be more difficult—and could be quite difficult—to remove, and depending on how much sunlight (as well at other variables: temp, extreme exposure, etc.) there may likely be signs that some decals have been applied to the paint. Rubbing compound and polish can help with this, or consider replacing your vinyl graphics with a fresh set that are the same size. Perhaps try a different color to add some spice! (I have many clients do this!)
- vinyl graphics have been left on a vehicle sitting in a junkyard for 30 years… Get a new paint job if you intend to restore it!
What can I expect after removing my graphics? What problems might I run into?
Will it remove my paint?
Well, do you have a cheap aftermarket paint job? Perhaps the auto-body shop didn’t prepare or sand the surface as well as they could have. Yeah, there are many places that offer these super fast, super cheap paint jobs—and this is how they are able to do such a thing. They cut time to save the money, in order to pass the savings on to you.
If the above is true, then yes, vinyl decals—which can have a very strong adhesive—could possibly remove the paint when peeled off. And, I have seen just this happen with my own paint job. Yeah, I once got one of those quick “cheap” paint jobs. It was from Earl Shieb. After letting the paint cure, I then put some flame graphics on the sides of my truck. The graphics were no bigger than about the truck’s doors, and when I eventually attempted to remove the decals, I did it too quickly and didn’t peel them off at a sharp enough angle (before I had all lthis experience… hee, hee). And you guessed it. The paint came off with the stickers! Oh, no! And underneath, there was that un-prepped surface.
So, to prevent this from happening to you… you may want to heat the graphic a little. Peel off extremely, even anally, slowly, and at a very sharp angle, away and flat against the paint of the vehicle. If you have a cheap paint job, and you remove your graphics slowly enough, and carefully enough, then you should—cross your fingers—be okay.
As for most factory paint jobs, or paint jobs where the surface has been prepped correctly, you shouldn’t have to worry about vinyl decals removing the paint of your vehicle, but I would still use caution when removing your vinyl graphics.
NOTE: Have you seen those factory paint jobs where the paint seems to be cracking off, as if, even the automobile manufacturer didn’t prep the surface correctly? I have seen this happen on older Dodge Neons, some Ford vans and Ford Mustangs (white). What vehicles have you seen this on?
Removing vinyl decals from glass.
Actually, removing vinyl decals from a car window is pretty easy. I like to use a flat razor and some water. Lightly heating the decal may help, too. NOTE: If using a heat gun, never apply too much heat. Heat guns get VERY HOT and can damage just about anything they fire at, be it glass or paint—anything!
Slowly use your flat razor-blade at a sharp angle to the glass, to get under decal. Spray some water on your window at the same time. The decal should come right off, as well as the glue!
TIP: Here’s a page on our main website with application videos for removing and applying vinyl decals.
NOTE: I have noticed—again, this depends on time, amount of sunlight the decal has received—that the glass can keep a slight variation in appearance to where a decal had been applied to it. This seems to vary depending on many factors, and I’m not sure at the moment if it is permanent. Something to consider…
Removing decals from the painted surface of a vehicle, car, truck, etc…
Removing decals from paint takes more time. It takes more time even, than applying the graphics, which can be rather simple depending on the application. To remove vinyl graphics, you’ll want to attempt to peel them off slowly, as not to remove any paint (very rare—read the above, if you haven’t) and if it leaves some glue you can remove the remaining adhesive with adhesive and glue remover. There is a really good 3M brand of this sold at most auto parts stores, and of course, Walmart. I have tried the GOO GONE, which can be found at the Dollar Tree, and it did not work well at all.
NOTE: You may want to test a small inconspicuous area on your paint job, using whatever glue and adhesive remover you purchase.
To remove your graphics, you also might try heating your vinyl graphics a little bit with a heat gun. Blow dryers don’t work well, they just don’t make enough heat. Putting your vehicle, car, truck, boat, in the sun on a warm day helps too.
WARNING: Be careful with heat guns! They’re HOTTER THAN FIRE and can damage your paint job if too much heat is applied.
Decals left on for many years will be much harder to remove. Time and patience is key. One final tip for removing vinyl graphics, and I see many people do this… DON”T use metal razor blades on your paint. It will scratch it. You can order plastic razor blades, which will not scratch your paint job. These can probably be found easiest online.
How hard is it to remove vinyl graphics from my the paint of my car, truck, boat…
- My decals have been applied for a few months… It should be quite easy, and might not even leave any glue. Still, using patience is recommended.
- My vinyl graphics have been on the sides of my truck for ten years… It could be a task, but can be done. Use all the advice above.
- Graphics have been applied to the hood of a car that has been sitting in a junk yard for thirty years… Ah, forget it!
That’s it for today’s post. I hope the above information was helpful. If you have a question, or would like to suggest other pertinent information that could be added to today’s blog post, please feel free to contact Full Intensity Grafx.