The Prepping Process


After the Branding, Design, and Printing process is complete, a drop-off date is scheduled so that SPINAL Automotive Branding in Georgetown, TX can begin prepping the vehicle for its vinyl wrap, window tint, or PPF job.

Prepping the Vehicle

The first step in the wrapping process is prepping the vehicle. Depending on the state of the vehicle when it’s brought in, the necessary steps to complete prepping will vary.

In general, the steps to prep a vehicle include:

  1. Old wrap removal, if necessary.
  2. An overall wash with soap, water, and sometimes a pressure washer, only if necessary.
  3. Removal of any parts or pieces of the vehicle that may interfere with the wrap.
  4. A general wipe-down to remove all the excess water, grease, and grime.
  5. Alcohol spray to remove any last bits of dirt and grease.

Old Wrap Removal

Sometimes we’ll receive vehicles that include a previous wrap design for the business. Or, we’ve also seen business owners who acquire vehicles that came wrapped when they purchased it.

If a vehicle comes pre-wrapped over the area that’s included in the project, the first step is to remove it. Note that it’s also possible to leave different panels on a vehicle wrapped as-is so that only a few panels get replaced. For example, if a work truck gets into an accident, the business owner can replace only the panels of wrap that were damaged.

Removing wrap comes with an added fee because it’s a tedious and time-consuming service. And, depending on how long the wrap was left on the vehicle and how baked it is, this can certainly take up to a day of work.

Baked or Sun Baked is a term used in the wrapping industry to describe how dry and cracked a piece of vinyl is on the vehicle. With long-time UV and sun exposure, a wrap will eventually bake over time, this is especially true in the southern states like Texas. And, it’s usually worse on the panels that receive the most exposure like the roof and hood. The more baked the wrap is on a panel the more difficult it is to remove it.

Removing vinyl wrap, whether it’s baked or not, will require a lot of steam or heat and patience. In summary, the prep team will need to slowly peel away the vinyl material and use a steam gun to help loosen up the vinyl and make it easier to remove. In more extreme cases though, the use of a rubber eraser wheel may be necessary to spare the prep team’s fingertips.

Washing the Vehicle

Next, the wrapper or prep team will decide if the vehicle needs a wash with soap and water. We get a lot of work trucks from service-based businesses like asphalt pavers, or AC installers that tend to have dirtier trucks. Or, if a vehicle has been out on jobs for a few years, that also tends to need a deeper wash vs. a vehicle that came straight from the dealership.

In general, this step is mainly aimed at removing big cakes of dirt and grease that work trucks pick up either on the job or from all the driving they do. Anything like dirt under the wheel wells, or on bumpers could contaminate and ruin a vinyl panel when it comes down to the actual wrapping portion.

Before bringing in a vehicle, it wouldn’t hurt to pass it through the car wash. But, of course, if you don’t have time for that, our team can take care of that.

During the wash, we’ll spray a solution with mild soap all over the vehicle and let it sit there for a minute or two to help loosen up any dry dirt. After that, we’ll spray down the vehicle with a hose, or in tougher cases, we’ll take out the pressure washer.

Part Removal

Depending on the project there may be some vehicle parts that need to be removed. Common parts that we remove are door handles, rear-view mirrors, and bumpers.

During the prepping process, we make sure to remove all the parts before our next wipe-down step because smaller contaminants come out from underneath the parts.

Again this part is optional, for example, for small partial wraps on commercial vehicles, no parts likely need to be removed. But, for larger and full color-change wraps, this step is essential and crucial. The more coverage the wrap will take on, the more parts that will need to be removed from the vehicle.

For this step, we’ll carefully remove any necessary pieces from the vehicle and label them for easy re-assembly after we’re done wrapping.

General Wipe Down & Clay Bar

Whether the vehicle was washed or not, we’ll do a general wipe down to either dry it out or to do some last-detail cleaning. This will make sure that there aren’t any last little particles left in the crevices or seams of the vehicle that could come up during the wrap.

We’ll typically use micro-fiber cloths and a degreaser solution to remove any oily spots that would prevent the vinyl wrap from sticking. For example, from fingerprints or tree sap.

And, during this step, we’ll rub a clay bar across all the panel surfaces that’ll get wrapped. Clay Bars will pull any last small contaminants like water spots, dust, and grit from the clear coat. When used with a degreaser solution, the tiny contaminants come loose from the vehicle and get stuck safely in the clay.

Alcohol Wipe Down

Finally, the prep is concluded with a very thorough spray and wipe-down using 70% isopropyl alcohol. This is the most crucial part because, after all the degreaser and clay bar solution that we used, we want to make sure we wipe all of the last oils and sanitize the surface. The vehicle must be absolutely dry and oil-free for the vinyl wrap to adhere successfully.

This is done at least twice to make sure any last contamination on the vehicle is removed.

NEXT: The Wrapping Process

And after the prepping is complete, the SPINAL Automotive Branding team can continue to the next step: The Wrapping Process.