How to Care for a Wrapped Car
Caring for your wrap is crucial for ensuring you get the most life out of your wrap, and justifying the cost of your vehicle wrap. While we usually suggest a wrap lifetime of around 4-5 years, a properly cared for wrap can last up to 12 years! For those of you experienced detailing pros, you’ll notice some similarities between paint care and wrap care, but there’s a few key differences.
We’ll be sharing some of our tried-and-true practices that we share with our customers in this wrapped car care guide, and learn how you can care for your wrapped car.
How do you wash a wrapped car?
You’ll want to wash your wrapped car like any other car, using a wash mitt and car washing soap. You don’t need any crazy soaps, the cheap soap you can pick up in a gallon works just fine. When washing try to wash in a line from top to bottom, as opposed to circular motions which can scratch your car’s wrap. Rinse, wash, then dry. Simple as that.
But, don’t use dish soap! It can strip the vinyl and damage protective films on top.
What you'll need to wash your wrapped car at home:
- Microfiber towels
- All-purpose car washing liquid
- Cleaning mitt
- One to two buckets
Unlike paint, vinyl is a bit more flexible when it comes to swirls and light scratches that can come from washing. If left in the sun and heat, your vinyl should self-repair itself and leave a smooth surface.
If you wan’t to be extra particular, you can wash your car using the “two bucket method.” Detailers swear by this method to prevent scratches to your car’s surface from debris picked up on your microfiber or towel mitt. You’ll need a soapy bucket and a rinse bucket. After you lather up and wipe your car, you just rinse your soapy mitt in the rinse bucket, then re-lather your clean mitt in the soapy bucket. Rinse and repeat!
Chemical guys has a great detailing breakdown you can watch below:
How often should you wash a wrapped vehicle?
Garage-stored wrapped cars: Once every two weeks - once a month.
Outdoor-stored wrapped cars: Once a week.
This will largely depend on your location, and where you primarily store your vehicle. We recommend storing wrapped cars in a garage if possible. If a garage isn’t accessible a protective cover, with vents, is your next best bet. Harsh outdoor elements like UV rays, dirt, and roadway pollutants can all impact your wrap’s lifespan. This is the largest contributing factor to the duration of a wraps life, and can extend your wrap’s life by years.
Since these are dependent on a few factors, we’re listing some of the most common pollutants that affect wraps. The more of these that apply to you, the more often you should wash your wrapped car:
- Acid rain
- Road salt
- Tree sap
- Bird droppings
- Air pollutants (wildfire smoke, smog)
- Salt air (coastal roads & towns)
- Reclaimed water (used in sprinklers)
How should I spot treat my wrapped car?
If you’re looking for a quick pickup, most automotive detailing sprays found at O'Riellys, Walmart, or AutoZone can be used to keep your wrap clean on the go. Just be sure to double-check labels to ensure the product doesn’t say “not safe for plastic or vinyl.”
DIY Wrap Spot Cleaner:
If you’re looking for a DIY solution in a pinch, you can make a spot cleaner with rubbing alcohol for extra hard-to-get-out stains using the following recipe:
- 70% Water
- 30% Rubbing Alcohol (70% concentration or less)
Alcohol removes protective films on your wrap, so we only recommend using this solution as a last-resort. If you do use it, be sure to apply a detail spray over the area after spot treating with alcohol.
If you’re looking for something specially formulated for wraps we recommend Chemical Guys Wrap Detailer. It’s a little pricier than some of the more generic quick detailing sprays, but Chemical Guys Wrap Detailer packs a punch, and’ll keep your wrap looking extra fresh! You can save an extra 15% on your first order using this link.
When detailing your wrap, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Detail your wrap when your car is cool
- Use a clean microfiber towel
- Wipe in one direction
Can I use touchless car washes on my wrapped car?
Yes, you can use touchless car washes with a wrapped car. If your wrap isn’t super obvious, it’s always a good idea to let your detailers know that you have a wrap on your car. The only thing to look out for with touchless car washes is very strong pressure washers, but if you let your detailers know your car is wrapped, they should be able to adjust water pressure to a suitable level.
Can I use drive-thru car washes on my wrapped car?
We don’t recommend using drive-thru quick service car washes you may find at a gas station. Brushes can be too harsh for your vinyl wrap and can scratch or damage the film. We recommend going to a full service car wash, like Autopia here in the Bay Area, that is more likely to regularly maintain and update their brushes.
Can I use pressure washers on my wrapped car?
Yes, but be careful of excess water pressure. As long as you’re following the same guidelines you would for a painted car, you should be fine. Here’s some things to watch out for when using a pressure washer to wash your wrapped car:
- 1200 - 1900 PSI
- Use an electric power washer if possible
- 6-12 rule: 6 inches away from paint, 12 inches away from trim
- Avoid using pressure washer near wrap edges
Extra things to avoid when washing your wrapped car
- Don't use degreasers around the edges of your vinyl wrap
- Don't use alcohol based cleaning products
- Don't user any dry waxes or wax products in general
- Don't use any polishing compounds
- We don't recommend trying to DIY protective coatings on your vinyl wrap