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How to Add Custom Car Decals to a Car

Solid State Inspections

How to Add Custom Decals to a Car

There are many reasons to have custom car decals added to your vehicle. For many it will be to advertise their business, for others it will be to display their sponsor’s advertising, and for some it may even to show their appreciation for a particular politician or rock band. Whatever the reason, there are many sign shops in the business of providing such decals, and they are also available for purchase online. Once you are in possession of your custom decals you have a choice to make regarding their application to your vehicle. You can pay someone to apply them for you, or you can opt to do the job yourself. It is certainly true that money can be saved by applying them yourself, and this cost saving will multiply if you plan to change them often.

To effectively apply your custom car decals yourself, you will need to do the following:

1. Ensure the exterior of your car is clean.

Hand wash your car in a carport or other shaded area to avoid the soap forming a scum when the sun causes it to dry on the car’s surface before you can rinse it off. Using a sponge with a typical automotive cleaner will be sufficient to get your car adequately clean. Carefully inspect the car for any residue that may have been missed, paying particular attention to the surface that the decals will be applied to. The decals will not apply smoothly to any surface where residue remains, and will peel off over time.

If you intend to apply decals to your car windows, clean them with isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) to ensure they are oil-free. Soak a cloth with the alcohol and wipe the window surface thoroughly, paying close attention to the area the decals will be applied. When you can no longer see any streaks on the windows when looking at them from a distance, you will know that the glass is thoroughly clean and free of oil.

2. Allow the car to become thoroughly dry

Due to the smoothness of the car’s surface it is susceptible to temperature changes. Dry the car with a good quality chamois while keeping it out of direct sunlight to achieve the best results. A lint-free cloth will be a suitable alternative to a chamois if one is not available.

3. Polish the car.

The purpose of polishing the car is to ensure that the smoothest surface possible is available. To achieve this use an electric buffer and a mild abrasive polish should be used. This will remove any hard water stains, paint impurities and mild scratches. Apply the polish directly onto the buffer pad and working in a circular motion, gently polish the car. Work on small areas at a time until the entire car is completely polished.

If an electric bugger is not available, you can still effect a good polishing of your car with a soft sponge and some car wax. Much as you would with the electric buffer, apply a small amount of wax to the sponge and using a firm, circular motion apply to a small area of the car. Allow a couple of minutes to pass to give the wax time to form a haze, and then using a soft, lint-free cloth buff the car’s surface until all signs of wax residue have been removed and you are left with a high gloss shine. Continue working on small areas at a time until the entire car is waxed. Avoid all glass, mirrors, rubber door seals and any areas that may be made of plastic.

4. Plan the location of the custom decals.

Take time to carefully consider where you plan to apply your custom decals. If you are aiming for a uniform look you will need to ensure the decals are applied to the same area on both sides of the car. This may require taken measurement to get the match as precise as possible.

5. Position the decals on the car.

Position the decals on the areas you have chosen for them, and using painters tape, temporarily secure them in place. Painters tape is best used for this as many other tapes will either leave a residue when removed or worse still may cause your paint to peel off. If possible, get the assistance of another person to help you position larger decals on the car. This will help you prevent them from tearing or bending.

6. Permanently apply the decals.

Lift up the upper edge of the decal and peel away a small portion of the backing. Pressing firmly, affix the exposed section of decal to the car’s surface. Slowly and gently peel the backing away from the decal, ensuring you peel in a downward motion. As the adhesive is exposed, use your hand to smooth the decal onto the car’s surface. Pay special attention to ensure the decal applies smoothly over the body cuts in the car, including the door frame. Once the backing has been completely removed and the decal is applied to your satisfaction, the painters tape can be carefully removed.

7. Trim the decal

Carefully trim the decal away from the body cuts of the car and ensure the loose edges are firmly wrapped around the frame. It can be easy to damage the decal doing this, so take particular care to use a steady hand and a sharp razor knife.

8. Smooth the decal

A rubber spatula is a good tool to use to smooth the decal out. Gently, smoothly and slowly press the bubbles out, driving them towards the edge of the decal until the air is able to escape and the bubble no longer exists. Do not use any tools with sharp edges that are likely to cause damage to either the car or the decal.

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Speedpro Imaging Coquitlam helps you make an impressive visual impact on your customers. We create "photo-realistic" imagery at up to 1440 dpi with stunning clarity and amazing image depth. We make trade show displays, promotions, signage, events, decals and vehicles come alive. Have a look at our work and give us a call, we want to help you tell your story! Visit us at
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About Speedpro Imaging (Coquitlam)

We specialize in Signs, Banners, Trade Shows, Vehicle Graphics and Decals. From solutions for the small business, to vehicle marketing for those on the road, we are dedicated to giving you the best visual bang for your buck.

  • 51A Fawcett Road, Coquitlam, BC V3K 6V2
  • (604) 540-6385

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Have questions or need some assistance with the design of your graphics, logo or signs? Perhaps you have some ideas but are not sure what your options are. Give us a call for some “no obligation” support. No question is too big or too small.