Five Tips to Tackle Unique Projects

By Tyler O’Hara

With Paint Protection Film’s (PPF) popularity increasing it’s no surprise owners of new and restored classic vehicles are using it to protect the finish of their rides. With more than 11 years in the automotive wrap industry, our team at American Wrap Company has come up with five tips and tricks for tackling unique and out of the box projects.

1 Always Prep

Prepping prior to installing is the single most important step. We always start with a very thorough wash, decontamination and final panel wipe down. During our wash process we emphasize blasting out every crack and crevice that could hold dirt. We always clean the wheels and fender liners. Secondly, we use a liquid chemical iron remover to break down any break dust, rail dust or other iron particles embedded into the clear coat. We follow this with a well-lubed clay bar treatment for all of the paint surfaces to be wrapped.

Lastly we highly recommend blasting all of the washed areas off with  compressed air while drying. If you’re unable to get a vehicle wet, we recommend mixing a waterless wash in a compressed tank. With this you can blast out all of the cracks and crevices followed with compressed air.

2 Disassemble

Disassembly seems to be the new cool trend on social media and the Internet. I feel it’s necessary sometimes but not in others. It really comes down to how handy you are with a wrench, the type of car you’re working on, and the budget for that job. Certain projects such as the 68’ Camaro we did, required minimal disassembly.

We simply removed the windshield wipers from the cowl, door handles and side mirrors. To the contrary, the 2019 Jeep Rubicon required a ton of disassembly. The door handles, flares, vents, spare tire, roof panels, badges, hood latches, hood vents, antennas, rock guards, tail lights, fuel door and even the rear bumper all had to come off to be able to wrap it properly.

My rule of thumb is this, if an object is sticking out of the car then it’s easier to wrap with it off of the car. Just exercise common sense and be honest and responsible if you break clips or parts.

3 Trimming Skills

Trimming is something that gets botched easily. I really want to emphasize the usage of plastic blade carriers—you can find them for 50 cents. Your Olfa and red dot blade carriers are dulling your blade. For unique bulk installations our blades need to be sharp all the way to the last click every time we pulled it out. For this, we used Harbor Freight’s plastic blade carriers and Olfa black carbon steel blades.

Trimming takes practice, and you must practice doing circles for PDS sensors, edge trimming for shaving down edges to the appropriate size for wrapping, trimming on body panel surfaces, corner notches. Practice makes perfect and it is as fundamental as how to hold a squeegee.

4 Stubborn Seams

Seams are another taboo thing I commonly see on the Internet. Honestly I would rather have a seam on a mirror than to stretch the film so hard it fails and curls back in a week. One piece bumpers are another widely debated topic. Sure, there are instances when you can one piece a bumper safely and achieve good coverage or cleaner coverage without a seam. Sometimes, though, seams are unavoidable. For instance on the 68 Camaro we had to run a really tight seam on the 1/4 panel in the C-pillar area. This was because the 1/4 and roof are one piece of steel.

When we have to install with seams, we always do three things. We keep the seam on a body line or in a recessed area to reduce its visibility to the naked eye. We keep these as tight as possible so that it almost disappears when the two pieces are butted up against each other. This is especially possible with machine cut pieces. Lastly, when hand cutting seams we use a 150 lumen flashlight to illuminate the underlying edge of film in order to trim the top piece of film perfectly.

5 Wrapping Edges

Old or new, full front or full car, we wrap every single edge we can access with our fingertips. We never use edge prep or adhesion promoter. After a piece is installed, we flush the slip solution out with our IPA tack solution. Then we let the edge dry completely. Once it’s fully dry, we warm the adhesive side with a heat gun and make long passes back and forth slowly rolling it around the body panels’ edge. This works great with many types of films. If you’re in a hurry, you can expedite the drying process by lightly blowing the edges with compressed air or a dust-off can when mobile.

Remember to exercise caution if you ever find yourself trying to wrap edges where two body panels will be bolted together. This area is where a front bumper meets the front  fender. Tightening the body panels together over time will push the wrapped PPF out and create an unsightly pucker.

My rule of thumb for areas like this is to take the film as close as possible into the crack then heat lock it down nicely. This will yield a long lasting safe “tucked” edge appearance.

Wrapping edges is also as much for aesthetics as it is for functionality. I have seen installations that don’t even wrap the leading edge of the hood and the hood edge was severely chipped. I also feel it’s important to get maximum coverage into all wheel wells. Always make sure you extend your patterns enough to get full coverage of all painted wheel well surfaces.

I hope this column finds you well and helps you improve your PPF installs on any unique new or old project you have in your shop! Thank you for reading and Wrap On!

Tyler O’Hara is the owner of American Wrap Co. in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He won gold in the 2016 and 2018 International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ PPF competitions and placed in the 2015 and 2017 PPF competitions.

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