Bubble bubble bubble

There is nothing more unsightly than a bubble on the smooth finish of a freshly vinyl wrapped car. No matter how big or small, a bubble will stick out like an old rusted car in a showroom. It is just not right. Luckily, modern vinyl wrap makes removing bubbles a breeze.

Why do I have bubbles on my vinyl wrap?

There are a few reasons why you may have bubbles from your vinyl wrap. Some of these reasons can be avoided with correct installation, but some just pop out due to poor quality vinyl wrap. Some of the bubbles would appear to be unfixable, but there is good news. Even though some bubbles cannot be fixed perfectly, almost all bubbles can be made to look significantly better.

Types of bubbles

Gentle hill

This type of bubble is the most commmon and usually occurs as an accident. When you use a squeegee to adhere the vinyl wrap to the surface, you may have missed a small area. When the area around the bubble is adhered firmly onto the surface, the air is trapped inside the vinyl wrap that is not adhered to the surface. In most cases, you may not even notice the bubble as it is relatively flat. However, when you try to smooth out the vinyl wrap, it would adhere more vinyl wrap to the surface and forces the air into a smaller bubble making the bubble appear full. It is very important to detect such bubbles before you try to smooth it out. If detected early, you can usually smooth out the bubble easily using the divide and conquer method. Otherwise, with the full bubble, you will need to use the Release with a pin method.

Mountain range

When a gentle hill bubble is smooth out on purpose or by accident, sometimes the uneven pressure causes the air release channel to direct the trapped air into several smaller bubbles. This usually happens on poor quality vinyl wrap with insufficient air channels or if the vinyl wrap has been heated before. The heat affects the air channels making the air release uneven. This is the most difficult bubbles to remove as the bubbles are usually very full and small, making it difficult to remove the excess vinyl wrap when you try to smooth out the bubble.

The snake

These bubbles are very rare and usually happens on poor quality vinyl wrap. These vinyl wrap are usually heavy gauge and comes with weak glue. When you heat the vinyl, usually for curing purposes, the tiny amount of air in the air release channel aggregates and expands. As you heat the vinyl wrap further, you will notice a snake or worm like bubble appear on the vinyl wrap. If you see this type of bubble, stop heating immediately. You will need to use the Release with a pin method to remove the bubble effectively. If you heat this type of bubble too much, the bubble would lengthen. As the bubble lengthens, the height of the side shrinks as the air is distributed through the lengthened bubble. The heat also causes the glue to cure. The result is a sharp top snake. This type of bubble is unrepairable unless you can access the edge of the vinyl wrap and use the lift and redo method.

Ways to remove bubbles from your vinyl wrap

Depending on the size of the bubbles, you can use one or more of the following methods to remove the bubbles for good.

Release with a pin

  1. Pin prick the bubble on the edge of the bubble
  2. Make sure you don’t prick the centre of the bubble as you will have a hard time removing all the air
  3. If you are an experienced installer, you can use a heat gun and heat the bubble until it smoothes out and looks completely flat. Smooth out the area with a cotton glove. Do not use a squeegee as there may still be air trapped in the bubble and using a squeegee would apply too much force to the area and damage the vinyl wrap. (Warning! This method is extremely risky if you are not familiar with the wrap as you can permanently damage the wrap and it is irreversible unless you remove the wrap until that point and reinstall.)

Divide and conquer

The snake

Removing bubbles during installation

Pull the vinyl taut, but not too hard because you don’t want to stretch or tear the vinyl wrap.

Use a squeegee or your hands and smooth down the area that is already adhered to the surface and move outwards to apply more vinyl wrap to the surface.

Lift and redo

Most important take home point

If you have not gathered the most important point from the tips in this post. Let me point it out to you now. Be mindful of the bubbles. Most bubbles that are relatively flat can be easily fixed, however, bubbles that are full and taut can be difficult to remove perfectly.

Can I spray window cleaner on the car and apply the vinyl wrap like tinting windows?

  1. ammonia based window cleaners can cause damage to the paint
  2. you can use water
    1. concept is to use water as a lubricant so that you can position the vinyl wrap before setting it
    2. Not necessarily easier to install. eg, curved edges that require stretching will be easier using dry installation method
    3. Will cause bubbles due to the bubble free channels trapping water. Once the water is evaporated, air takes the place of water and bubble will arise. You will then need to smooth out the bubbles which means extra work and if your job is for a customer, it would look unprofessional