This blog was updated in April 2022

Adding car decals and other vehicle graphics to your personal and business cars is a great investment. It’s a very cost-effective way of passively advertising if you own a business. Even if you don’t, you can still give your car a facelift without having it repainted or add your own personal touch to your vehicle. By working with the right vinyl installer, you can make your car look amazing or use it to maximize brand visibility and grow your customer base.


If you’re thinking about adding some decals or getting your car wrapped in Santa Rosa, you may have some questions about how these graphics hold up during the hot California summers. Car maintenance is already a major concern in the summer. If your air conditioning goes out, for example, it can make for a few miserable days until you can get it fixed. Vehicles often overheat, too. Many people don’t want to add any additional work, so they are cautious of adding decals or wraps during the heat. The good news is that while decals and wraps do have some special care instructions, they aren’t that complicated or time-consuming. As long as you take some basic steps to protect your decals from the heat and bright sunlight, you’ll be fine.


Here are some tips for protecting your vehicle graphics in Santa Rosa during the summer.


Keep Your Car CleanKeeping Your Car Clean Is One Of The Best Ways To Protect Your Vehicle Graphics


How often do you take your car through the car wash? You may think the right answer here would be “frequently” because it means your car is always clean. However, if you’re going through a car wash that is not touch-free, you may be doing more damage to your wrap or car decals than dirt. That’s because car washes with rough brushes that scrub your car can damage the vinyl. Always opt for a touch-free car wash if you’re going to use one.


However, it’s better to hand wash your car so you can control how your decals are cleaned. You should use a mild detergent and a soft brush when at all possible. There are specific car wash products made to clean car wraps, so use one of those products if you can. Once you’ve soaped up the car and removed the dirt, rinse the vehicle off with clean water. Be sure to do a final wipe down with a microfiber cloth to finish the wash.


What happens if you don’t? If you leave dirt, mud, and other debris on your car, they can become much harder to remove. You may have to scrub really hard to get this dried-up mud off, and that can lead to ripping your vinyl. You want to avoid using hard, stiff-bristle brushes and high-power pressure washing machines on your car. Both can scratch other damage the vinyl.


How often should you wash your car? It depends on how often you drive it and how dirty it gets. If you’re mainly driving in the city and keep your car in the garage overnight, you may not need to wash it too often. Keep an eye on the lower parts of your vehicle, especially around the wheels, for signs of dust and dirt accumulation. Use this as a judge of when to wash your car.


Immediately Wash Away Sap, Gas, Oil, and Other Gunk From Your Vehicle Graphics


If you see other gunk get on your car wrap or on a decal, you want to wash it away as quickly as you can. If you allow tree sap, gas, oil, bugs, or bird dropping to remain on your car during really hot weather, they can become very difficult to get off. They can also damage the vinyl wrap or decal. You’ll want to spot clean the area with warm, soapy water. Go slow, and let the water soften or loosen up the gunk. Don’t try to scrap it off.


If warm water isn’t working, look for a cleaner that is citrus-based. The ingredients in these cleaners can help remove stuck-on gunk. Be sure to test the cleaner on a small spot first. It shouldn’t damage the wrap or decal, but if extra chemicals were added, it could. It’s always best to be safe.


Only Use Polish Safe for Vehicle Graphics, Wraps, and DecalsOnly Use Polish Safe for Vehicle Graphics, Wraps, and Decals


There are a lot of different car polishes out there. Some of these polishes will keep your decals and wraps looking great. Others, however, will damage them. Any polish that contains carnauba or wax of any type is going to be very bad to use on your vinyl graphics. Instead, look for polish that is marked safe for decals and provides UV ray protection. This polish is typically made from silicone or Teflon. It will help protect the inks in your decals as well as the paint on your car from bright, direct sunlight. It won’t damage the vinyl in any way. In fact, if you notice that the graphic is starting to look dull or lose its finish, applying one of these polishes can help protect the decal from damage.


If you’re uncertain what polish to use, you can always contact the company that installed your car wrap or printed the decals. They will be able to provide recommendations and also tell you what specific brands you may need to avoid.


Be Careful Where You Park


You may already try to keep your car out of direct sunlight during the summer in order to keep the interior cooler. This is especially important if you have decals or a vinyl wrap on your car because constant, direct exposure to sunlight can begin to damage the vibrancy of the ink. Do your best to always park in the shade if you can. This may mean that you have to clean bird droppings or tree resin droplets off of your care more often if the only shade available is from trees, but that’s an acceptable tradeoff for staying out of the sunlight.


When parking at home, try to keep your car in the garage if that’s an option. In addition to protecting your vinyl decals and wrap from the heat, you’ll also protect your car from any bad weather that blows in and prevent animals from getting up in the engine. If you don’t have a garage, parking under a carport will help. Even parking near your home may provide some relief from the direct sunlight during parts of the day.


If you have to park in the direct sunlight every now and then, it’s not going to destroy your graphics. The vinyl used in car decals and in wraps is very durable, and the inks will hold up for quite some time. Avoiding the bright sunlight will help extend the lifespan of the vinyl, though, so it’s a good idea to seek out the shade whenever you can. Since this also keeps the interior of your car from becoming an oven during the summer, it’s a win-win for you.


Watch for Signs of BrowningWhen Replacing Vinyl's Or Graphics Watch for Signs of Browning


If you see any brown spots on your car wrap, you need to have it inspected by a professional right away. This is a sign that the vinyl has been damaged by acid rain or acidic dew. When this dew remains on the vinyl for too long, it can damage it. This part of your wrap will need to be professionally removed and reapplied. If you leave it, the acid can get down under the wrap and damage your car.


Acidic vapor, which turns into acidic dew, is common in low areas in California, especially the valleys in the southern part of the state. Even if you don’t live in one of these lower areas, if you visit one, it could result in damage to your car’s wrap. Regularly washing your car will help prevent this type of damage.


Your Return on Investment is Still Very Positive


With all of the above taken into account, you may think getting your car wrapped or putting graphic decals on it just isn’t worth it. However, many of the things listed above are things you would do anything. Yes, you will have to double-check that the polish you buy for your car is approved for use on vinyl, and you may have to change car washes if the one you use isn’t touch-free. However, those aren’t huge changes.


Vinyl decals and wraps are a great way of personalizing your car and advertising your business. They essentially turn your vehicle into a mobile billboard, so you’re always promoting your company wherever you go. You don’t have to do a full wrap or large graphics, either. Many businesses simply have vinyl decals of their logo made to place on their company cars. This not only helps advertise, but it also allows customers and others to identify your employees.


TNT Signs and Graphics in Santa Rosa is one of the leading car wrap and vinyl decal printers and installers in the area. If you’re ready to add a little customization to your car or start advertising your business via decals, we can help you with everything from printing to repairs. Give us a call today to learn more or to get an estimate.