What happens to Vinyl car wraps after their lifespan?
September 10, 2019 1:31 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in wrapping my 90's Toyota in 3M vinyl, but I'm put off by the idea of a "lifespan" and 3M's lack of information on what this actually means.

I love my 90's Toyota Carina and I plan on keeping it for a long time (with things like an engine swap in my long term plans) but the paint is a major let down and seriously impacts my enjoyment of the car. It's painted in Toyota's "Super Red" paint and, after nearly 30 years) it's covered in the predictable predictable white haze and fading.

I'm tempted to wrap it in 3M's "Dark Rose" wrap, but I'm put off by the idea of something with a "lifespan".

I've tried asking 3M what their lifespan means, and if that's the point when the vinyl fails/fades, or if that's the point when it starts to do weird things to the paint, but I can't get a straight answer out of them. Does anyone know?

As a bonus question, does anyone know roughly how much a full body wrap would cost in the UK? I'm assuming about a grand but, again, I can't get a simple answer out of anyone.
posted by sodium lights the horizon to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Apologies if you already saw this link, but it has a table of estimated prices for full wraps - the range seems to be about £1,500-£3,000 depending on the size of the car and type of wrap.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:05 AM on September 10, 2019

I don't think they can tell you exactly what's going to happen, could be any or all of those things depending on how you treat the car, how it's stored, the environment, etc.

Vinyl isn't going to last like a paint job. If you're committed to a vehicle and expect you'll have it more than the expected life of a wrap, I'd look into just having it repainted.
posted by jzb at 2:49 AM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've thought about a respray, but I've always assumed it's not worth doing without stripping it back to a rolling chassis, and it's currently my daily driver...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 4:30 AM on September 10, 2019

According to this "up to 7 years to stay adhered" but later it says can be removed within 3 years after which it may become difficult and require heat ans chemicals.
posted by chasles at 4:51 AM on September 10, 2019

Polyvinyl production is pretty toxic, and given the state of your existing paint you'll probably require quite a bit of prep time regardless - I'd really just go with a respray.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:02 AM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

As you’ve discovered, your paint had a “lifespan” too.

Wrapping can really do cool things for a tired old paint job. But if you really love the car enough to plan a motor swap, I’d invest in a respray. It will protect the underlying sheet metal (which is likely no better quality than the paint if I know my old Yotas) much better in the long run, certainly if you live where rust is an issue.

Vinyl ends up in a landfill, bits of your paint are distributed across thousands of miles of road and in the atmosphere, where volatile compounds from the paint booth go. But yeah vinyl is a particularly toxic product to produce.
posted by spitbull at 5:04 AM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

The adhesive in a wrap ages and deteriorates over time. How much time varies according to the environment. How well the wrap was applied affects lifespan, too. And, as chasles points out, after three or so years, the wrap becomes problematic to remove. Overall, a wrap has a far shorter lifespan than does paint.

Given all that, I'm not sure it makes any financial sense to spend the money to wrap a '90s Toyota.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:06 AM on September 10, 2019

Best answer: You probably don’t need to strip to the chassis to respray this car effectively. Paint in non-exposed areas is probably ok, unless rust has set in. And you don’t care if it’s perfect, do you?

Everything has a lifespan. Even old Toyotas.
posted by spitbull at 5:06 AM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Rubbing compound removes a microscopicly thin layer of paint, eliminating haze. Can also be overdone and damage paint. There are different compounds. Use the correct one the correct way or pay a body shop to do it.
posted by Homer42 at 5:13 AM on September 10, 2019

Best answer: I've always assumed it's not worth doing without stripping it back to a rolling chassis

This is only true if you are changing the colour. Strictly speaking, this is only true if you are changing the colour and give a shit if people can tell when they open the bonnet. But if it is the same colour or similar then you only need to respray the bits the sun can see (in simplistic terms) because that's the bit that is pooched. Obviously there will be some removal of panels (bonnet, boot, doors, rubber trim) but it's not as major a job as you are thinking. It will be a couple of days though.

I'd go with respray. Go with wrap if you want to change the colour and just deal with it having a (maybe) 5 year life span. You may have changed your mind about keeping the car by then anyway. However, wraps only look good for a year or two, in my opinion. They aren't as hardy as paint with resistance to dust at 70mph and lose their sheen. They have got a LOT better but to my eye it is easy to tell a wrapped car from a painted one so that says something about the quality level.
posted by Brockles at 7:53 AM on September 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

Seconding Homer42. Have you taken the car to an experienced detailer for a paint correction estimate yet? It may be too far gone if the clear coat has given up the ghost. But it is amazing what some guys can do with compound and a buffer. It’s an art.
posted by spitbull at 9:17 AM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also matte finishes are in these days, big time. Maybe a sander is the solution.
posted by spitbull at 9:19 AM on September 10, 2019

Best answer: Wraps only make sense if you want something that is difficult/expensive/impossible to paint or you want to change often. So if you want a carbon fiber looking body go with a wrap but for a plain colour paint will be better.
posted by Mitheral at 10:33 AM on September 10, 2019

Response by poster: "Everything has a lifespan. Even old Toyotas."

You take that back! :)
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 10:39 AM on September 10, 2019 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Based on a very recent experience with 3M vinyl on an older boat, I agree with the idea that after a few years it will become difficult to remove. I've removed plenty of vinyl decals and the like with a little bit of heat before, but not so much this time. I have no idea how old the stripe on our boat was, but it refused to come off for anything. It had become brittle and tough, and we finally gave up and just put a new stripe over it. If I couldn't manage to get a 1/2" stripe off a 24' boat, I can't imagine trying to remove old vinyl from an entire car. I vote for a repaint.
posted by thejanna at 11:04 AM on September 10, 2019

I’ve put my foot through the floorboards of more old Toyotas that have a definite lifespan-defining moment pending than I could count, going back to a 70s Tercel.

If they don’t rust out, they are indeed sometimes invincible. Good paint is a key to that.
posted by spitbull at 3:21 PM on September 10, 2019

« Older I'm a 42-year-old male spinster – is there hope? :...   |   Propagation on easy mode Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.