Have you been thinking of a graphics kit or maybe some numbers for you bike? If you have ever tried to put a sticker on and then made a mistake you know what a nightmare it can be. When it comes to installing your own graphics it doesn't have to be like that. Even though they can be a little intimidating, graphics are not all that hard to install if you have the right tools and take your time. Here are some tips to help you get started.
First off, have your tools and supplies ready.
- A can of brake cleaner (non-chlorinated)
-Clean paper towels (I prefer the heavy duty shop type)
-Windex or similar glass cleaner
-Hair dryer or heat gun
-Plastic spreader (bondo spreaders work well), no sharp edges!
-Comfortable place to work, a stool to sit on, etc.
-Plenty of time
Before you begin here are some things to consider; first make sure you have a clean work area, plenty of time and limited distractions. The key to being successful is being able to focus on the task at hand and keeping your area clean, dirt on your graphics glue can be fixed but it is a huge pain. Also, be very careful to NOT allow the graphic to fold on itself, the adhesive used on these is very strong and it likes sticking to itself more than anything else.
Work on one panel at a time, I recommend you start with the most flat panel (like the number plate) so you can get a feel for it before you take on lots of curves.
1) Clean the panel thoroughly, be sure there is no dirt, oil, etc. If you have any serious scratches or "pokies", smooth them out with some sand-paper.
2) Spray the panel with non-chlorinated brake cleaner and wipe off, do this as many times as it takes until the towel does not show any dirt. Don't worry if the panel itself still looks stained.
3) Completely cover the area where the graphic will be applied with window cleaner.
4) While the panel is still wet from the window cleaner, peel the backing off the graphic and start placing it, don't worry the window cleaner will not wash off the adhesive.
5) Using the bondo spreader and your fingers start smoothing out the graphic working from the center out (if you can). The window cleaner will allow you to move the graphic around as you work so it's okay if you don't get it in the exact right spot the first time.
6) At this point I like to start applying a little heat to the area that I am working. This helps to dry the window cleaner as you work and it keeps the adhesive pliable. Be careful not to burn the vinyl (or yourself) and carefully start working the graphic into position. You can mold the vinyl quite a bit with heat so don't get to worked up if it's not looking like it's going to fit. The heat will allow you to both stretch an compress the vinyl. This is the part that you have be patient and take your time. It's important that you don't leave any air bubbles as you go.
If you find that you are way off on your placement use heat and slowly pull up the section that you are having trouble with (don't pull of the entire thing if you can help it) apply a little more window cleaner to that area and keep going.
7) Keep in mind that graphics often do not fit exactly. Once you have all the air bubbles out and the graphic in position for the various holes you might find that it is over hanging here and there. You can either use heat and try to get the graphic to go around, but my experience has been that it won't stay, which will allow dirt and water to start working it's way in at those edges. I prefer to use an exacto knife and very carefully trim the vinyl so it lays flat and does not need to make a sharp bend at the edge.
The real key to this process is to take your time, try to work in a comfortable position and relax. The first time you put graphics on it can be frustrating. It's generally a good idea to do it when your kids are not in the garage, mainly so you can expel your frustration and use colorful language freely if the need arises.