Some car body customization can be boiled down to temporary fads, but vinyl graphics have become a long-standing trend. This week, our “Your Drive” expert Dan Maffett shows us how to get the cleanest look from this now time-tested medium.

DAN MAFFETT: When it comes to graphics for a car, there’s one medium that most builders use across the board, and that’s vinyl. Vinyl is very versatile; you can use it for decals down the side or completely encase the car in a different color, like a wrap. Now, wraps are a little more hard to do. You want to have a professional shop do it, because they have all kinds of specialty tools and experience, and then takes a whole team of guys to stretch a panel of vinyl across an entire hood, down the side of a car. They do it in as little sheets as possible so they can wrap the whole vehicle in one big sheet, trim it out, heat it with a blowtorch so it shrinks to the car and then they finish it out. Whereas, graphics or decals down the side, are something you can do at your home garage or in your driveway. 

When it comes to graphics like this across a windshield, you can use something like this knifeless tape. And what this does, it has a steel braid in the middle and you can lay it down first to get your shape, put your vinyl over top, and peel it just like this.

The best thing about this tape, is you lay down your line that you want to cut on, then you press it down so it’s nice and firm, put your vinyl medium over top, then you take the vinyl, you get this lined up. You want to pull this green part of the tape really hard, and what does is it breaks the seal against this– this braid right here. Then, just wrap a finger around it and you give it a nice tug. And as you see as I go across, it is actually cutting the vinyl right on my line that I put there. Go all the way across, nice and slow, you don’t want to go too fast, and then just like that you’ve got a nice clean cut. Then, you’re able to just pull it, just like that, and get– look how crisp that is. Nice and clean edge right across it.

Now where this knifeless tape really shines is when you’re trying to contour a body panel. You can lay this tape out, following the body line you want to contour, put your vinyl out over top of it like this, and then just like you cut the tape earlier, you just pull this out and it automatically just contours right there, the body line that you want to accent, just like that. And then, when you peel this back you’re left with that nice, clean edge.

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