Who Should Wrap Your Food Truck in Vinyl? - dummies

Who Should Wrap Your Food Truck in Vinyl?

By Richard Myrick

When your truck is ready to get dressed and be wrapped in vinyl (featuring your logo and branding), you have two options at your disposal: (1) finding a company to help and (2) doing the decorating yourself.

Find a quality graphics company to wrap your food truck

Don’t overlook the importance of your vehicle’s wrap installation. Why? Your food truck’s wrap is one of the most effective methods you have to get your marketing message to your customers. Simply said, by installing a vehicle wrap, you transform your truck into a mobile billboard. You can target your favorite locations and take your message to your targeted audience by merely driving down the street or parking on it.

When searching for a company to perform this task, you need to select one that can meet your needs. Here are issues you should consider when searching for the right vehicle graphics company:

  • Specialization: Just as you wouldn’t let a general practice doctor perform your brain surgery, you shouldn’t trust a sign shop to handle the specialized creation and installation of your truck wrap. You need to hire a professional and qualified company that specializes in designing and installing vehicle wraps.

    You can search your area for these professionals in the yellow pages or online. Speak with food truck builders in your area to get referrals for the companies they use to wrap the trucks they produce. One such company that’s started specializing in food truck wrapping is Custom Vehicle Wraps.

  • Design: The most important aspect of your truck wrap installation is its overall design, including your logo; it portrays your brand in the eyes of your audience. The old adage “you get what you pay for” still holds when it comes to vehicle wraps. Avoid a company that offers to “throw in the design for free.”

    Before contracting any company, ask to see a portfolio of other food truck designs the company has done. Also make sure the company you contract provides you with a custom design.

  • Materials: Using poor materials can cause you to waste a lot of money. Ensure that a company uses a good-quality material, including a film laminate on top of your graphic project, in order to protect your investment. Also look for companies that offer you a warranty on their work.

  • Legal knowledge: Almost every state and local municipality has its own specific laws and regulations that govern the use of imagery in any form of advertisement. These laws also govern what you can display on your truck. You need to be sure that the company you select to wrap your truck has a full understanding of these laws.

Wrap your food truck yourself

If you have experience in applying vinyl graphics, you may choose to attempt wrapping your truck yourself. However, you shouldn’t do a full vehicle wrap yourself unless you have years of experience and enough friends to help you install the wrap properly.

If you do decide to wrap the truck yourself, be sure your graphics are no larger than 4 or 5 feet across — if they’re larger, hand over the reins to a professional. You don’t want to spend money on printing out a graphic if there’s a chance you may incorrectly install it and have to pay for a professional to do it in the long run.

To install a wrap on your food truck yourself, you’ll need the following basic tools:

  • A tape measure: For accurately positioning your wrap.

  • Masking tape: For positioning the wrap before you install it.

  • An air-release tool: For removing air bubbles.

    Inexperienced installers often use razor blades to pop bubbles. This practice is dangerous because it creates a slit in the film that leads to a stress point, which can cause the film to lose its strength or integrity.

  • A squeegee: For applying the wrap.

    Some installers actually use two different squeegees: a standard hard squeegee for the general work and a felt squeegee for the detailed areas. Felt squeegees help you avoid scratching the vinyl in hard-to-wrap areas.

  • A razor knife (with break-off blades): For trimming away excess vinyl.

  • A heat gun: For heating the vinyl on more complicated applications.

Install your wrap in temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit — 70 to 80 degrees is the optimum range. Whenever possible, apply wraps indoors, which helps control the temperature and reduces the amount of wind and dust you have to deal with.

When you’re ready to install your food truck graphics, follow these steps to apply them like a pro:

  1. Clean and dry your truck thoroughly.

    Preparing your vehicle for wrapping isn’t just a matter of driving it through the car wash. All dirt and oil must be removed from the vehicle’s surface to ensure a proper bond of the vinyl’s adhesive. Any lingering dirt, even the minutest of dirt particles, will show through the graphic installation.

    Any oil residue can lead to poor adhesion and bubbling of the wrap material. Use warm soapy water to hand-wash your truck, and use a grease remover to get rid of those tough spots.

    A common mistake during the preparation process is failing to allow the vehicle to dry fully. It can take up to 24 hours for your vehicle to dry completely, especially in humid or cold areas.

  2. Touch up your truck’s paint job.

    Any paint imperfections and stone chips need to be touched up; otherwise, they’ll show through the vinyl and may cause it to wear, tear, or prematurely peel.

  3. Remove any elements, such as mirrors or wiper blades, that will force you to make extra cuts or unnecessary marks in the vinyl.

  4. Tape the design to the exterior to make sure everything is positioned correctly.

  5. Remove the backing of the film and apply the wrap.

    You can use a heat gun to help remove bubbles and allow the vinyl to flex and bend over curved surfaces. All movements over the vinyl should be firm and in a sweeping motion to avoid the formation of bubbles in the first place. If bubbles do appear, remove the vinyl in that area and try again. Using a firm — but not sharp — plastic squeegee can help avoid bubbles.

After you’ve completely installed your graphics, caring for vinyl is similar to caring for paint work. Use a standard car soap to wash the vehicle and apply a wax polish (unless you have a matte finish). Avoid the use of caustic cleaners such as tar remover.