How to Vinyl Wrap a Car

by Robert Raphael

Vinyl car wrapping is considered an art form in many circles. You can completely change the color, design and trim of your car using vinyl self-adhering film. Once you have the vinyl that you want, consider your car to be an easel with a paintable surface ready to become anything from a dragon to a banner proclaiming your affiliations to a portrait of the love of your life. Using easy-to-find items, you too can become a Michelangelo of the auto world.

Remove the license plate(s), door handles and other hardware that will interfere with the application of the vinyl. Cover glass and other items that won't be vinyl covered with paper and masking tape.

Clean the entire car with a vinyl surface preparation liquid and a sponge. The surface should be completely free of any dust, dirt or grime for the vinyl to stick properly.

Lay a piece of the vinyl on the roof of the car so it hangs down on all sides. Make a small hole with a craft knife if an antenna is in the way but cut only enough vinyl to let the antenna through.

Peel the protective backing from the back edge of the vinyl and carefully lay the sticky side down onto the roof. Use your fingers to press out air bubbles.

Remove the entire backing gradually, pressing out any air bubble along the way with the plastic burnisher. Trim the excess vinyl away with the knife cutting as close to the edges of the roof as possible. Force the edges of the vinyl down once cut.

Cover the hood of the car in the same way, as well as any other flat surfaces, such as the trunk. Always smooth down the edges of the vinyl once you have cut off the extra.

Peel off the backing on a piece of vinyl and press it down along the top edge of one of the side mirrors. Pull the vinyl taut and apply heat from a heat gun to allow you to stretch vinyl smoothly around the curve of the mirror.

Use your hand to smooth down the vinyl around the mirror and trim off the excess. Repeat this process for the other mirror.

Cover all the curved surfaces the same way you did the mirrors, using the heat gun to make the vinyl stretchable. Keep the vinyl pulled tight as you heat it to avoid sagging material.

Use the tip of the craft knife to puncture any tiny bubbles that you can't remove. Apply heat to the pricked bubble and smooth it down with your hand.

Walk around the car and make sure all the parts that you want to cover are covered with vinyl. Trim off any vinyl that interferes with your lights and screw holes.

Replace the hardware you removed earlier and remove the paper and making tape. Pull the tape carefully to avoid pulling off vinyl that may be caught on it.


  • check Have a friend pull the vinyl for you while you heat it and smooth it down for an easier application.


  • close Do not pull the vinyl with your fingertips or you may tear it or stretch it out.

Items you will need

About the Author

Based in New Jersey, Robert Raphael has been writing health and technology articles since 1993. His work has appeared in “Natural Living” magazine and “Extreme PC” magazine. Raphael received the Jonathan Melman Literary Award in 1994. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Brandeis University.

More Articles

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Hemera Technologies/ Images