DIY Vinyl Stripes – Have you ever wanted to add roof or stinger stripes on your car but didn’t want to pay the exorbitant dealer fees – or even the lower (but still high) prices for non-OEM vinyl stripes and then have to pay someone else over a hundred bucks to install them?
I mean, the stripes do look pretty damned good, but is a piece of vinyl really worth $500+?
Not to me, it doesn’t.
So, instead of paying $500+ for vinyl stripes and installation, why don’t you do it yourself? All you need are a few cheap tools, a small roll of Car Wrap Vinyl Film, and a few hours of your day (which, between you and me, you know you’d rather spend time with your car than with most other things anyways).
And what do you get in return? $450 back in your pocket, a beautiful mod, and the satisfaction of knowing that you did the work all by yourself.
Now, I bet you’re wondering how to do it – so here are some step-by-step instructions.
How to install Vinyl Stripes on your car:
Step 1: Buy the correct materials
You’re going to need just a few cheap tools (a couple you probably don’t have and a couple you do), and a little rubbing alcohol (which you ought to have in your medicine cabinet) to get the job done right.
Let’s start with the tools you probably don’t have, so you can go out and buy them ASAP!
1) Vinyl – Duh! If you’re going to be adding a roof or hood stripe, you’re obviously going to need the key material for your vinyl stripe. Getting a high quality vinyl is key… buy the cheap stuff and it’ll fade and peel in a year or two. Better material like VViViD or 3M will last over 5 years before showing signs of wear.
2) 4″ Vinyl Squeegee – What is this going to be used for, you might ask? Well, you’re going to need the squeegee to flatten the vinyl against the car to ensure that the vinyl stripes are firmly attached to it, and to ensure it lays flat with no air bubbles.
3) Knifeless Tape – Unless you trust yourself with a razor blade against your car (which I DON’T recommend), you’ll need to be able to cut the vinyl into the perfect shape. Knifeless tape is an amazing tool that I had never heard of until I started researching DIY vinyl stripes.
With this nifty product, all you do is adhere the tape onto your car wherever you want the edge of the stripe to be, and then after you place the vinyl material on top, you lift it up – and voila, a small wire cuts through your material perfectly, resulting in perfect vinyl stripes. And it’s perfectly safe on your car!
Now, don’t cheap out on the tape. Get a good quality one – the difference in price between the cheap kind and the good kind is only a buck or two, but it’ll be worth it. (I’ll have links to some proper products here in the entry so that you can pick them up if you don’t have them already.)
4) Rubbing Alcohol – You probably have this already in your medicine cabinet – you’re going to need a bit of it to clean your roof (or hood) as best as you can so that you won’t see any imperfections after you apply the vinyl stripe.
6) Measuring Tape – If the area that you want to cover in vinyl doesn’t have a natural edge already, you may want to measure how wide you want the vinyl stripe to be (so measure each side of your car from the outside so that your stripe is evenly in the middle of the car). Oh, you want a flexible tape (like the one here), not one you use for measuring wood.
Step 2: Prep your area
Wash down the area you want to apply the vinyl stripes to, just like you would when you wash your car. Then, as an added step, wipe down that area with some rubbing alcohol just to make sure there’s no dirt left. If your car’s paint is in rough shape, you’ll want to buff out any imperfections, as you’ll want the vinyl stripe to lay as flat as possible – otherwise you might see the bumps under the vinyl when you’re done.
Step 3: Mark off the design on your roof (or hood)
Marking off the design on your roof/hood is super easy. Just outline the surface area you want your vinyl stripe to cover with the painter’s tape. If you’re worried about doing it evenly, use your measuring tape to measure the width between your marked off section. It should be the same width in the front and back of the car.
Step 4: Apply knifeless tape
Once you’ve got the section marked off, apply the knifeless tape along the inside edge of your painter’s tape. (The knifeless tape is the green line running along the inside edge of the painter’s tape in the photo below)
Step 5: Remove the painter’s tape (or not)
If you want to double check the measurements of your work, remove the painter’s tape and then re-measure the width of the knifeless tape. Again, check in the front, middle, and back of the car to ensure it’s even all over.
Step 6: Apply vinyl
At this point, everything is prepped and ready to go. Lay out your vinyl on the roof (or hood). Make sure that it extends over the knifeless tape a bit (so that you have something to actually cut!). Flatten it out as best you can by hand, and then use the squeegee to scrape down across the vinyl until it adheres firmly to your car.
You should continue scraping with the squeegee until it lies flat and has no bubbles or imperfections. Once that’s complete, you’re ready for the final step….
Step 7: Cut the vinylGrab the edge of the knifeless tape, and slowly but firmly, lift the wire. It should cut through the vinyl easily, leaving a perfectly smooth edge to the vinyl – resulting in a perfectly applied vinyl stripe.
Step 8: Admire your work (this is not an official step… because it’s not required… but you should do it anyways!)
And here’s the final result!
And that’s it! Expect to spend a few hours on this project, but buy applying the vinyl stripe yourself, you’ll save 90% – spending about $50 for all the materials instead of about $500 for it to be applied by a professional.
The best thing is, if you hate the vinyl stripe, you can pull it up at any time without damaging your car – so even if you screw up your first attempt, you can always try again!
So get at it – and make sure to post your results in my Reader’s Rides Forum.