Eye Candy: Drag Truck Vinyl Wrap Install With Sign Effx Graphics

Individuals and even companies are constantly searching for a way to stand out. There is only so much a fresh set of wheels or a sticker-covered window can do. Then it hit us – why not go with a vinyl wrap of our own custom design? In this piece, we are covering what went into our install with Sign Effx Graphics in Marshfield, Missouri.

What is a wrap? A wrap goes over the exterior and consists of a thin, adhesive-backed vinyl material. It can be printed with almost endless design ideas. On our truck, we wanted a full coverage wrap with multi-colors of black and red, transitioning into digital camouflage print towards the back.

Don’t worry, we had a friend swing by during our photo shoot and we are glad he did. The shot turned out great.

Pros And Cons

After everything, and we mean everything, it was time for the preparation phase of our wrap. We removed all of the door handles, light lenses, plastics, badges, and moldings.

We observed the pros and cons of the vinyl wrap with vinyl expert Trevor Cantrell, the owner and operator of Sign Effix Graphics. “Some of the pros include low cost, minimal downtime, a variety of options, a bit of protection for the paint, and it’s removable,” he said. 

When painting a car, it’s a big job and it could take up some serious time. The preparation work and drying time in between coats of paint all adds up. Realistically, it could take up to several days – or even weeks – to complete, depending on the difficulty of the job. A wrap, however, can be done in a day or two. 

To make the wrap work, we had to remove our Cummins emblems, along with some other exterior pieces. Once this was done, though, we had a perfectly clean and smooth surface for the vinyl to bond to.

Vinyl offers a larger variety of color and finish options than paint. You can utilize a matte, gloss, textured or a mixture of any of them. “Any color you can paint a car, you can wrap in the same color,” said Cantrell. “Wrapping vehicles is just a much more affordable option.”

Even for trucks that utilize cab lights, vinyl wraps are still an option. You only need to remove the lenses until the wrap is covering the mounting and wiring holes, and then just make the necessary holes for them to be reinstalled.

Each color can also be given different finishes such as gloss, semi-gloss, matte, or satin. You can even use vinyl to mimic other materials such as carbon fiber, chrome, stainless steel, or even leather. Also, the vinyl is 100-percent removable. If you were to decide you want to go back to the original paint or try another color of wrap, the vinyl can be torn off and replaced with a new vinyl. If you have the extra coin, this allows you to change the look of your truck frequently.

After the design was printed out on film, it showed a dull color; it obviously wasn't ready for install. The fix was to run our roll of designs through the lamination machine. This laid a shiny coat over the print, creating a thicker and stronger product. Once laminated, it was ready for installation and gave off the gloss look we were after.

Not only is vinyl affordable, customizable, and removable, it is also a protector of paint. The 180C 3M 8518 laminate covers every inch of the vehicle in vinyl, and defends the factory paint from all natural hazards, including weathering and sun exposure. “The vinyl is very durable,” said Cantrell. “It’s three millimeters thick and will act as a shield.”   

"Hopefully you won't, but with a wrap, you can pull the wrap off to expose that perfect paint underneath," said Cantrell.

The cost of vinyl wrapping a truck is nearly a fraction of the price compared to painting it in the same design. Vinyl can be customized in any way you choose. The number of design ideas you can use are nearly endless, and if you’re looking to do some exterior work on your truck, vinyl is more cost-effective.

Before wrapping the side of the truck, Cantrell used wire tape. This allowed him to cut through the vinyl wherever needed from underneath.

Although there are many pros to a wrap, there are a few cons. “Providing a great look and durability is what vinyl can do,” said Cantrell. “Avery and 3M offer a high-quality vinyl that will not damage your paint.” In a way, this means that you get what you pay for when it comes to vinyl; just because it’s cheaper, doesn’t mean it’s as good. Something as important as protecting your paint needs to be done with the quality product.

This was a group effort. Here in the beginning of day two, we were making headway.

One potential con that isn’t necessarily applicable to everyone is the location of a business that does it. The market for vinyl is growing, but it hasn’t expanded to every town out there. If you consider this even a con, you may have to travel, like we did, to get this done. Honestly, though, the last thing you will be thinking about is your travels back knowing your new beauty is on its way home.

With our removable fiberglass bedsides, we had an easier time installing the wrap off of the truck. At this point, the only things left to finish were the hood, grill, and bumper.

Finishing Up

With the majority of the bedsides wrapped, we remounted them to finish off the cutting off excess and making sure all spots were covered.

On curved surfaces, we saw folds or creases in the film. When necessary, we heated the film to soften and force it into shape. It’s important not to overheat the film because it can cause it to lose its texture or destroy the looks of the wrap. “Every piece of vinyl has its tolerance to heat,” said Cantrell. “We think it’s best to test its tolerance on a piece of material before applying it to the project.”

With the super bright colors of our wrap, we're ready to get this thing racing under the lights.

Unfortunately for us, the front bumper and grill of the truck had so many bends and curves. This made these pieces unwrappable. “With all of the bends and changes in the material, it’s not going to turn out well,” said Cantrell. “What will happen is the wrap will start to peel because we’ve stretched the vinyl so much.” Not only would it peel, but we would need to stretch it so much that it would discolor the black hue.

We were pleased with the outcome of the entire project, and this photo shoot turned out great. Note how the lining of the red lined up perfectly with our new exhaust. There was a six-inch area of red between the black, and our exhaust lined right up.

Although we were unable to wrap the grille and front bumper, we were glad we went ahead with doing a complete repaint of the parts. This way, the front end parts will last much longer and won’t deteriorate due to unsatisfactory wrapping surface. The big bedside decals were provided by BD Diesel Performance and really complemented the red and black.

We are grateful for Sign Effx Graphics taking time out of their busy schedule to be a part of the build. The wrap turned out absolutely amazing, and it’s definitely going to grab some attention as we head out across the country in the biggest events possible. Also, we’d like to extend our thanks to Images by Dave Willingham for taking the time out of their busy schedule to shoot these awesome shots of our new look.

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About the author

Artie Maupin

Artie Maupin is from Southeast Missouri and has an extreme passion for anything diesel. He loves drag racing of all kinds, as well as sled pulling competitions.
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