Care and Maintenance of Vinyl Decals and Stripes

Discussion in 'Viper Detailing Tips & Tricks' started by Junkman2008, Aug 15, 2013.

  1. Junkman2008

    Junkman2008 Enthusiast

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    This is a question that often comes up on a lot of car care forums so I decided to dig into the vinyl strip industry and get the scoop straight from the manufactures. First, a little background on the industry.

    There are 3 major manufactures, 3M, Oracal and Avery. There are plenty of smaller manufactures but they do not do the volume, nor provide the size of raw materials that these three manufactures do. One thing to note. The companies that actually manufacture the sheets that the stripes are cut from do not sell directly to the public. Thus, if you do not know where the raw material was purchased from which your stripes were cut, there's no way to tell who manufactured your stripes. Your car manufacturers are definitely not going to let you in on this information and your local dealerships don't have a clue.

    Just like in any business today, you also have your Chinese knockoffs. They have flooded the market with their usual sub par quality junk and you can usually spot them by their low prices. Of course, a lot of consumers only see the dollar signs and are easily manipulated out of their money for low grade materials.

    The secret to finding out who manufactured your stripes lies in the adhesive backing that is peeled away during the installation of these stripes. Sometimes, the company who buys the materials in order to cut your stripes will request that the backing be left blank in order to conceal that information. That way, you always have to go to that installer to get the exact same quality stripes, unless you go with something different.

    Vinyl stripes are NOT all the same. They are created to be used in specific situations. From outdoor to indoor, from cars to signs, the vinyl industry creates decals that cater to specific applications. You would not believe how many different blends of vinyl that one company can create. In vehicle lettering alone, Oracal has over 20 different "blends" to choose from. That's over 20 blends, from 1 of 10 categories that cater strictly to outdoor use! Indoor graphics consist of 6 more categories, each with their own set of blends. Talk about the secret recipe vault, I'd like to know who is guarding that thing!

    So as you can see, the vinyl industry is very complex in what they put out. Thus, care for your vinyl stripes can be very specific, depending on what you have. However, Oracal made me privy to their care and maintenance information, which I am going to share with you all. In a nutshell, the ONLY thing you should be doing is washing your stripes with soap and water. They suggest a mild car wash soap. In their information that they gave to me, they suggested Dawn, Joy or Ivory. Now although those product are safe for your car and paint, they will wipe out any wax or glaze on your car. Thus, you want to use something safe for the products that are protecting your paint.


    Care for Your Stripes

    I spoke with Dean Strohmenger who is the Sr. Product Support Specialist for Oracal. First, he directed me to this document, which outlines specifically the care of vinyl stripes. Here's the deal. Oracal and other companies like them do not sell directly to the public, they sell to distributors. The distributors either cut the patterns from the sheets that they purchase, or sell to the people who cut the patterns and/or install the cut materials on your car or sign.

    The vinyl material for lettering and stripes vary in quality due to their plasticizer content. This plasticizer content consist of various materials/chemicals and determines how long the stripes will last. This also determines how long of a warranty you will get with your stripes/lettering. Each company has their own "secret recipe" that makes up their platicizer content but I'm sure that the maintenance procedures are going to be similar for all of the various manufactured stripes/lettering.

    One very interesting thing about the warranty of these vinyl stripes. They are warrantied based on a sliding scale, depending on where you are located. In other words, a 10 year warranty is not 10 years in Arizona or Texas, like it would be in New York or North Dakota. Also, and this was the most shocking point that he made, the warranty is based on the vertical plane. That means the stripes on the side of your car is where the warranty is applied, not the horizontal parts. The horizontal parts are NOT warrantied because the elements of weather are too brutal to warranty that part! Wow, I never knew that!

    So there you are. A document that definitively instructs you on how to care for your stripes. One thing that he said to definitely not do is wax your stripes. He said that waxing the stripes will dry up the plasticizing content in the vinyl and cause them to fail well before their supposed lifetime. he also said that waxing the stripes will have adverse affects to their appearance like causing them to turn white. I've seen plenty of car owners who have found that out the hard way.

    So there it is folks, straight from the Junkman's research desk. You learn something new everyday if you go off looking. :)




    The Junkman
     
  2. slysnake

    slysnake Viper Owner

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    Thanks for the info and the work you did on the research.
     
  3. Junkman2008

    Junkman2008 Enthusiast

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    Thanks for reading. :)
     

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