The Complete Guide to Vinyl Wrapping

I can do it, you can do it! DIY ‘Do It Yourself’ – for the Bike

For detailed how to instructions on how to do vinyl wrapping please see my article How to vinyl wrap a motorcycle. This article will talk you through the pros, cons and tips on vinyl wrapping motorcycle fuel tanks and fairings.

How it started

Vinyl wrapped Harley-Davidson motorcycle matt metallic blue
Vinyl wrapped Harley-Davidson StreetBob motorcycle Shot by Steph Sweeney

Vinyl wrapping, for me, started when we bought our first camper van, a Mercedes-Benz Viano. I stood back looking at it and decided that a dark grey just wasn’t the visual impact we were looking for. So I looked into getting a spay job or a professional wrap, but after falling off my chair in shock at the cost…I decided that vinyl wrapping…well, it can’t be that hard…right?

This was when YouTube came into its element, a few hours later I’d watched a bunch of videos and read countless articles, and I vaguely felt ready to go. I committed, ordered the wrap and eagerly awaited its arrival.

Having taken on the challenge there was no way I was going to give up, and yes, vinyl wrapping does take some skill and a lot of time and patience. However, it’s easily achievable as a home job. I started with the van going matt black and 4 years later changing it to matt metallic blue [I fancied a change]. It was at this point I stood looking at the leftovers and eyeing up my Harley-Davidson Street Bob…it was happening! The bike was definitely harder than the van due to the contours of the tank, but it can’t have been that bad as I’ve most recently done a matt metallic red job on the Forty-Eight too.

I would encourage everyone to give it a go, and I hope the below

Vinyl wrapping a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in matt metallic blue
Vinyl wrapped Harley-Davidson Street Bob motorcycle Shot by Lewis Baker

helps arm you with all the information you need to successful wrap your bike or car!

Make sure you follow me on Instagram @thegirlonabike

Pros of Wrapping

  • It’s a completely reversible process so if you get bored, you can simply pull it off and start again, or go back to the original colour
  • If it becomes damaged simply redo it [although the wrap will last for years if you want it to]
  • Acts as a protective layer, keeping your paintwork in perfect condition underneath
  • If you scratch a panel, you can literally just rewrap it, much cheaper than a paint job
  • Provides cost-effective customisation options for texture, colours and materials that would normally be very expensive
  • At a glance, you can’t tell its wrap and not a paint finish
  • Wrap gives the high-end quality of paint at a fraction of the cost

Cons of Wrapping

  • There aren’t many…
  • It takes time and patience
  • If done poorly it can bubble and wrinkle
  • You need to notify your insurance that the vehicle colour has changed but that’s a quick phone call

Tools Needed

  • 3M vinyl wrap [don’t buy a cheaper alternative]
  • 3M primer [for complex areas]
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Felt pad [or soft flat edged item roughly credit card sized]
  • Stanley knife blade
  • Heat gun or decent hair dryer
  • Large picture frame [for wrapping tanks]The tools you need to do vinyl wrapping on a motorcycle tank

Why only 3M?

From my experience, 3M is the leader in high-performance film.   As a product developed with 3M’s vast experience, it really is like the Ferrari of wraps.   No other product comes near.

  • It comes ready to use right out of the box as a self-adhesive vinyl
  • It handles easily, with a perfect balance between flex and rigidity
  • It’s semi-permeable allowing air to escape, preventing and eliminating bubbles
  • It is a pressure-activated adhesive, which enables you to apply and reposition until you have the perfect finish.

Yes, there are cheaper competitor brands out there, but ultimately wrapping is a tricky game so why make it harder with inferior materials.  Buy the best and make life easier for yourself!

If you’ve read this and feel ready, then please check out my how to wrap a motorcycle article for all the steps needed for a home-professional job!

Ease of Completion

Honest answer. It’s tricky. It takes patience and a steady hand. But! It is achievable without being a professional. The pro’s will tell you it’s not a home job, but I’m proof it can be!

Crowd Reaction

Mega! The bragging right of being able to say you wrapped it yourself is awesome. If you pick the right colour, the light will pop like no paintwork and draw attention. Vinyl wrapping, and the ability to simply change colour when you fancy it means you can trick people with your new ride [which is simply a new wrap].

People are genuinely fascinated by the wrap finish.

£££

For a motorcycle like a Sportster or DYNA if you buy 3 metres x 1.5 metres of wrap you’ll have more than enough [just in case you have to restart a piece]. Alcohol will be a few quid, along with a foam pad. As you’re doing it yourself, it’s a labour of love so no more costs other than time.

I estimate vinyl wrapping your bike to cost about £120 / €150 / $170

Highlights

  1. New look for a fraction of the cost
  2. Satisfaction of doing it yourself
  3. Totally achievable as an amateur

Tips from Experience

  • Have a friend help, 4 hands make it a lot easier than 2
  • Start with an easier item with the least amount of contour, leave the tank to last!
  • Avoid wrapping in cold weather
  • Leave plenty of time – don’t try and do it in a rush
  • Don’t start if you’re tired; you need patience and energy
  • Have some snacks and a kettle for tea/coffee nearby to keep you fuelled
  • If the heat gun burns your fingers it will burn the wrap
  • Be prepared to write off some wrap and start again if it goes wrong

Overall Rating

Vinyl wrapping gives your ride a totally new look for a fraction of the cost and also protects your paintwork. It does take time and patience, but it’s so worth it for the finish and bragging rights.