A Clean To Make Car Decals Stick! A Clean To Make Car Decals Stick!

Recently we had a call from a concerned customer. He had purchased a 1/8" single line stripe roll to accent his billet wheels and had trouble with adhesion, even after multiple surface cleanings.

So, in this article, I would like to talk about proper surface preparation. We have a tendency to use our eyes to make the distinction between clean and dirty, but when it comes to adhesives, contamination is the word to be concerned with. In the automotive aftermarket realm, the two most contaminated surfaces would probably be tires/wheels and interior trim due to "shine" products used on them. Usually these products have a large amount of silicone-like ingredients that are great to shine a tire or dash but crazy hard to stick anything to. Another area that is often overlooked is the paint surface around the wheel opening. A heavily dressed tire will spray a fine mist of product onto the body of the car during highway driving and affect overall adhesive performance.

All that being said, if you want proper adhesion of your pinstripes and vehicle graphics, you must get the surface clean.

Isopropyl alcohol will lift these shine products but will not destroy them. What I mean here is that you can take a clean shop rag and soak it with alcohol, and wipe the surface and the silicone will collect in the cloth. Unfortunately, it only takes a few wipes to saturate the material with silicone and you eventually start putting it back on the surface. The only way to get it all off is to use multiple rags, turning them frequently during the process.

Once you feel that your work surface is clean, do it all over again.

Then check adhesion using masking tape or a section of the stripe tape that you intend to use. If there is still silicone contaminating the surface, the pinstripe tape will not stick. A good way to quickly test a surface for stripe application is the old "squeaky clean" method. After wiping the surface the last time, wash your hands and the drag your fingers across the surface and feel for the squeak. Surface contaminants such as silicones or waxes will reduce friction and kill the squeak, thus causing difficulty during install as well as premature product failure. If you've followed all of these steps and still have a slick surface, you may have a Teflon type of paint protection that alcohol will not break through. At this point you will need to take the cleaner to the next level. Denatured alcohol is much more potent and still safe on factory paint, although it is always recommended that you try any cleaner on an out of the way location to make sure it's safe for your application surface.

That's a lot of information to digest on a seemingly simple subject but it will make the difference between success and failure when applying auto graphics and stripes. 

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