Auto Decals

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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Auto decals have emerged as the successor to custom paint jobs and, to some extent, have assumed even more popularity than their predecessor. Many racers, drivers of custom cars, and truckers use decals to brand, customize, and enhance their vehicles. Though many auto decals are just large enough to act as identification on a vehicle, some (particularly with racecars and government vehicles) are large enough that they cover the entire side of the car.

Installing Auto Decals

Most auto decals are cut from self-adhesive vinyl. The vinyl is sticky on one side, and backed with a protective film during preparation. After the vinyl is cut to the desired size and shape, it is covered with transfer paper. The transfer paper allows the graphic to stay whole (particularly useful with graphic lettering) while the backing paper is removed.

Once complete, the installation technician must align the auto decal on the side of the vehicle, and attach the decal with a hinge of masking tape along the top edge. Though there are many different installation techniques, most people recommend spraying the surface of the vehicle with soapy water before removing the backing paper to reduce the initial tackiness of the vinyl. This may not be a problem with pressure sensitive adhesives of newer adhesives that allow some adjustments to be made before final adhesion.

In the past, installation was a much more complicated process. The adhesives often contained some kind of chemical agent, or were reactive to heat, necessitating heat guns or propane torches to install a simple vinyl graphic. Part of the popularity boom of vinyl decals can no doubt be attributed to modern graphics' ease of installation.


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