Easing the Wrap-Removal Blues

When your crew can professionally, quickly, and efficiently handle removals, your shop will be much more attractive to potential clients.

A lot of energy and resources are spent on developing the best methods to sell, produce, and install vehicle graphics – which makes sense, being that wraps are fun for us and money makers for our clients. But after the glamorous run with a vehicle graphic comes to an end, the not-so-fun part arrives: the removal. Taking a decal off of anything has never been described as fun, but it is a necessary evil. If done correctly, however, those pain-in-the-neck removals can turn out to not be so bad after all.

There are a variety of reasons for wrap removals, but despite the differing reasons for removal requests, all have one thing in common: time and expense. I see many shops that seem to display a lack of confidence when quoting removals. While they can be tricky to estimate, it’s important to implement a standardized process when determining the price. At bluemedia, we take five factors into consideration when quoting a removal: vinyl, age of wrap, size and shape, labor costs, and the total purchase by the client. Let’s break down each factor.

Five factors for quoting removals
First up: type of vinyl, the most important factor. We would rather remove an “old wrap” with “good vinyl” than remove a one-year-old wrap made of low-performance vinyl. High-performance cast vinyl with air-release channels laminated with a hard laminate will take much less time to remove than a low-performance, off-brand vinyl with a liquid laminate or clear coat.

The second factor is the easiest to judge by a mere glance: the age of the wrap. Look for fading, discoloration, and cracking. All of these are signs that the vinyl is past its expiration date. You can assume this wrap will take copious effort to remove, will come off in little pieces, and will most likely cause paint damage. Make sure to inform your clients of this risk before you even begin.

The size and shape of the vehicle: This third factor is where the square footage comes in, just as when quoting a new wrap. The bigger the vehicle, the longer it will take to remove – and the higher you should quote the price. Don’t forget to look for aspects of the job that will require extra labor time. These additional time-consuming items include areas of the vehicles that have been slit into many sections, such as wrapped grills or roll-up doors on fire trucks.

The fourth factor to consider is labor cost. Whenever possible, get an estimate of how long this removal should take by the actual staff that will be doing the removal. Far too often, zealous sales staff will speak for the removal crew and misjudge by 10 hours or more. Instead, let the experts help you here and involve them before committing to a price.

Our shop has finally been able to make the jump to a specialized crew completely dedicated to wrap removal, allowing the installers to focus fully on installation. There is generally a financial advantage to this – because we can typically pay removers an entry-level wage, as opposed to a more experienced installer. But this doesn’t mean you should simply employ unqualified staff to remove a wrap, possibly doing so incorrectly and damaging the vehicle. Take the easy way out and you will do the exact opposite of making extra profit, and probably cost your shop a substantial chunk of additional change.

Finally, consider the fifth factor: total client purchase. This is simple quantity pricing: If the client has purchased a lot from you, then you might consider offering a discounted rate. When quoting an unwrap with the purchase of a new wrap, or contracting to unwrap 20 plus cars, keep the higher revenue opportunity in mind for developing the final price.

Implementing best practices
We schedule removals much like we schedule our installs. We offer the client a few openings in our schedule to choose from, and once the date is locked in, we make sure we are 100-percent ready for them. Because removals have a tendency to vary from completing much faster to completing much slower than anticipated, we prefer to jump right on them first thing in the morning. The crews are identified and prepared before the client ever arrives. This entails having empty trash cans parked at the scene and all the necessary tools ready and waiting to get the job done. Preparation is key to giving you the highest probability of a happy customer.

When it comes time to actually begin the removal, we like to make sure the vinyl is nice and warm, preferably 90 degrees or higher. Just placing the vehicle in the sun for an hour or so usually does the trick. When we need to hurry along the process, we use flame-throwing weed burners attached to propane tanks and only heat up what we can remove in 10-minute intervals. If the coverage area is small, we’ll stick to our small hand-held torches.

As another best practice, we teach our crews to pull down and away as opposed to just away. Pulling warm vinyl down and away at a 45-degree (or less) angle will reduce the risk of pulling paint or leaving adhesive. And we have found that citrus-based removers work best at removing adhesives left behind. The trick is to spray these removers on and let them sit for 10 to 20 minutes before using a plastic razor blade or Little Chiseler to wipe the residue clean. Remember that while the citrus-based removers are more environmentally friendly and less harsh on the skin, they are extremely flammable. Most shops utilize heat or open flame at some point throughout each day, which can be extremely dangerous when mixed with these chemicals. The lesson here: Be completely done with heat sources before applying or spraying any type of remover liquids.

The last money- and time-saving technique we’ve learned is to ensure that each crew member has his own trash can and chair. We prefer trash cans with wheels that can easily follow the staff member and make for much less cleanup after the job is done. Our crew members use short mechanic’s stools or retired office chairs with the backs removed; our using chairs can help to ease back pain when working on the lower portions of the removal.

Finding efficiencies in removals is no less important than other areas in your wrap business. When your crew can professionally, quickly, and efficiently handle removals, your shop will be much more attractive to potential clients. 

Jared Smith is president of bluemedia (, a leading provider of design and printing for use in vehicle, large-format, and environmental applications, in Tempe, Arizona.

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