How to Apply a Vehicle Decal in 5 Easy Steps

Vehicle decals are a great way to customize your car, advertise your business, or express your personality. They can be applied to any flat and non-porous surface, such as windows, doors, bumpers, or hoods. However, applying a vehicle decal can be tricky if you don’t follow the right steps. Here are some tips on how to apply a vehicle decal successfully and avoid common mistakes.

Step 1: Clean the surface of your car

The surface where you will apply your decal must be clean and dry for it to stick properly. Use a soft cloth and a mild cleaner, such as rubbing alcohol or dish soap, to wipe down the area. Avoid using any cleaner that leaves a film or oil on the car. Let the surface dry completely before proceeding.

Step 2: Choose a location for your decal

Before you peel off the backing of your decal, you need to decide where you want it to go on your car. Hold it up against the surface and move it around until you find the best spot. You can use a tape measure and a level to make sure it is centered and straight. You can also use masking tape to secure the corners of where your decal will go.

Step 3: Peel off and apply half of your decal

Carefully peel off the top half of the backing layer of your decal, leaving only the bottom half of the vinyl layer and the transfer layer attached. Fold back the peeled-off backing layer and cut it off with scissors. Be gentle and avoid touching or stretching the vinyl layer as much as possible. If your decal is large or complex, you may want to cut it into smaller sections for easier application.
Start from the middle of your decal and work your way to the top. Use one hand to hold up the transfer layer and use another hand to press down on the vinyl layer with a squeegee or a credit card. Make sure there are no air bubbles or wrinkles under the vinyl layer as you go along. If there are any gaps between body components where your decal extends over them, use scissors or a knife to cut them out. Once you have applied half of your decal, repeat the same process for the bottom half by peeling off the remaining backing layer and applying it to your car.

Step 4: Remove the transfer layer of your decal

Once you have applied all parts of your decal, gently peel off the transfer layer from one corner and pull it back at an angle. The vinyl layer should stay on your car while the transfer layer comes off easily. If any part of the vinyl layer comes off with the transfer layer, press it back down with your squeegee or credit card and try again.

Step 5: Post-heat your decal for a secure bond

Post-heating is an important step to ensure that your decal stays on your car and does not lift or peel off over time. Post-heating helps to break or reset the memory of the film, so it conforms to the shape of your car better. You should post-heat any area where you have stretched or applied pressure on the film, especially on recessed areas, channels, edges, and curves. To post-heat your decal, you will need a heat gun and preferably an infrared thermometer. The recommended post-heating temperature for most vehicle decals is between 175°F and 195°F. Do not use a torch as it may burn or damage the film. Start from one end of your decal and work your way to the other end. Use the heat gun to heat a small area of about 8 to 10 inches at a time. Move the heat gun over the film in a sweeping motion and keep a distance of about 6 inches from the surface. Use the infrared thermometer to check the temperature of the film as you go along. Make sure you reach at least 175°F on each area before moving on. Once you have post-heated all parts of your decal, let it cool down and cure for at least 24 hours in a garage or a shaded area before exposing it to direct sunlight or washing your car.