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The Worst Paint Conditions for the Perfect Vehicle Wrap

Here’s a common scenario we see at our shop: A person isn’t happy with the condition of the paint on their vehicle. A new paint job seems too expensive, and they’ve heard that a color change wrap is an option. They contact us to get an estimate, and we ask the normal questions about their vehicle – make, model, year, paint condition…STOP right there. A wrap won’t work. Here’s why…

The cast vinyl used for vehicle wraps will only adhere to paint that is in original (OEM) or like new/very good quality condition. Even if the problem area is small, installing a wrap over the damaged paint has the potential of creating more problems.

Most colors and finishes of wrap material will amplify the problem area. Since the vinyl is an extremely thin film, it just doesn’t hide flaws. We’ve found that matte black film is the only vinyl option that can sometimes possibly maybe camouflage certain areas of bad paint. Our team of expert installers can let you know if matte black is an option to hide the paint issues on your vehicle.

Maserati with a matte black custom wrap. 12-Point SignWorks - Franklin, TN

Matte black vinyl can be an option for bad paint. This vehicle did not have any flaws in the paint, but it offers
an example of a high quality matte black custom wrap by 12-Point SignWorks.

Even if the vinyl will adhere to (or around) the problem area, the removal of the vinyl may cause the damaged and/or surrounding paint to pull off. Remember, vinyl wraps don’t last forever, and they need to be removed at some point. Taking the vinyl off and bringing the paint with it is not good. Ever.

If you are looking at your vehicle, wondering if a wrap is the right choice for you, here are images of some paint conditions that just won’t work.

Paint Scratches

Paint scratch on a vehicle. 12-Point SignWorks - Franklin, TN

Scratches, chips and other defects in the paint will be magnified when the vinyl is installed. Removal of the vinyl also may cause the paint surrounding the damaged area to pull off.

‘Orange Peel’ Texture

The 'orange peel' effect on a vehicle. 12-Point SignWorks - Franklin, TN

Bad paint jobs with excess paint can cause an ‘orange peel’ effect that will not be hidden by a vinyl wrap. We recommend professional paint repair and proper cure time before a wrap should be applied to a vehicle. Even then, we cannot guarantee the condition of the paint once the wrap is removed.


Photo courtesy of Pinterest showing painted rust on a vehicle. 12-Point SignWorks - Franklin, TN

Ok, this is actually a paint job that looks like rust, but here’s the deal: Wraps don’t stick to rust.
(Photo courtesy of Pinterest.)

Peeling Clear Coat

Clear coat breakdown on a vehicle. 12-Point SignWorks - Franklin, TN

Clear coat failure is not a candidate for a vinyl wrap. The only option is new paint.

These images demonstrate the worst paint conditions that will keep you from getting a perfect vehicle wrap, but there are more situations that can prevent a wrap from looking it’s best. If you are still unsure if your vehicle is a candidate for a smooth, sleek, ‘gets mistaken as paint’ wrap, leave it to the experts. We invite you to our shop at any time to see our facility, meet our team, view product samples, and let our experienced installers take a look at your vehicle with you. We can offer you the best advice on how to prep your car for a vehicle wrap.

Still have questions? Contact us at (615) 595-6764, or click on the link below. We are happy to work with you to recommend the best options for your vehicle transformation. We are pleased to serve the Middle Tennessee area, including Franklin, Brentwood, Nashville, Spring Hill, Murfreesboro and Hendersonville.

Contact us today about your custom vehicle wrap.

22 thoughts on “The Worst Paint Conditions for the Perfect Vehicle Wrap”

  1. Neil says:

    Hi – I’m in Orange County CA. My vinyl wrap consultant told me I’d have to repaint my van if I want a full vinyl wrap because the van is over 7 years old (2006 Ford Econoline E350). However the paint is not damaged. No peeling or rust except for a 2 inch spot above the driver window door where an object struck it on the freeway last week. Why is it necessary for a new paint job? Would it not work to just repair the chipped paint at the window rather than painting the entire van ($$$$)?

    Thanks for any advice!

    1. Hi, Neil. Thank you for reaching out to us! While we’re not there in person to evaluate it, there might be some reason the wrap consultant is suggesting that you repaint your van. From your description, it sounds like the paint is in good enough condition to wrap, but if it is oxidized and “chalky,” that’s not a good surface for vinyl. That kind of condition could possibly be buffed out. We would suggest a 2nd (local) opinion to be sure! Let us know if you have any other questions.

  2. Brian Williamson says:

    I have a 96 GMC extended cab 1500 I’m restoring I would like to have it wrapped. I am going to have to do body work because I’m putting on a roll pan voiding the taillights,tailgate and door handles. If I wrap it how far do I have to get paint for wrap will primer be enough if not I’ll probably save money by painting right?

    1. Hi, Brian! Thank you for your message. We would highly recommend having your truck professionally painted prior to having it wrapped. Also, once it has been painted, our shop policy requires an additional eight weeks to give the paint time to cure. If you do choose to only have it primed, we would require it to be professionally finished to receive paint. That would mean having it sanded to the best quality possible. Otherwise, poorly sanded areas would be visible beneath the wrap. If you have additional questions, you can email photos of the truck to hello@12psw.com.

  3. Michael Bragg says:

    I have a 05 AMG that I wish to wrap. Paint is very good except for some small chips in the paint around the nose and hood… Small chips the largest about 1\16 ” can’t the chips be filled? With touch up? Or even sanded with fine paper. The car will one day be repainted but a wrap will allow me to hold off on that for a while… Ideas?

    1. Hi Michael! Thank you for your message. I’ve sent you an email to the address you provided.

  4. Nico says:

    I have the same problem…but I cannot see the solution You’d gave him…can You send It to me please?…thanks in advance for your support.

    1. Hello Nico! Thank you for your message. I have sent you an email to the address you provided. Once I know specifically what your question is, I will be sure to get you the correct answer!

  5. Don says:

    Wrapping a drum set with slight dents on some bodies from drum stick contact, setting up, transporting etc. I believe they will show through a glossy black wrap. I could use auto body glaze and then epoxy prime sanding to 800 grit or so and wrap but wondering if there was a less involved method. Maybe something like Cyanoacrylates (crazy glue)?

    1. Hi Don!
      Thank you so much for reaching out to us. Unfortunately there’s no shortcut if you want a great finish. Wrap vinyl shows almost as much as paint, especially if it has a gloss finish. A textured material, such as carbon fiber or leather, will hide a lot of small flaws. A “velvet” wrap vinyl is also available now if you’re willing to step outside the box a bit! Hope this helps. Best of luck to you on your wrap project!

  6. William hamler says:

    Hello guys.
    I have a harley Davidson trike an would like to wrap the bike. The only bad spot is on one fender, road chips the largest being about 1/8th inch in diameter.would love to do a complete color change. Please advise.


    1. Hi William!
      Thank you for your message. I’ve sent you an email to the address you provided.

  7. Kaleb says:

    I have a motorcycle that was painted within the last year but it is a matte finish. Will a wrap stick to it or would i have to strip it and paint it with a gloss smooth finish?

    1. Hi Kaleb,
      Thank you for your message. A vinyl wrap should stick to your newly painted matte finish with no issues, but we recommend a test piece of vinyl be applied to a small, inconspicuous area first just to be sure. Best of luck on your wrap project! We appreciate your interest!

  8. Daniel says:

    Thinking of wrapping My 2012 Cadillac CTS Coupe A Deep Blue Matte Chrome. Paint is Excellent Shape except For Small Rock Chips in Front Right Bumper.in one spot No bigger then 6-8 in section. Imagine a shotgun shell hit a 6 in spot. Also has two other possible prob. a nickel size ding on front hood/fender meeting point which is a hard 90• sharp body line point. And a door ding half a penny size chip on center passenger door

    1. Hi Daniel!
      Thank you for your message. I’ve sent an email to the address you provided. Thank you for your interest!

  9. Nicholas says:

    I have the same question as many on here but it looks like they received a direct email and not a posted answer. My question is : If I have a solid paint job but minor chips in the paint “here and there” (mostly front where tiny rocks hit car on freeway) – can’t I just repair and paint those small areas and then vinyl wrap? Instead of doing an entire new paint job? Thanks for your help! Also I am located in Southern Orange County, California. I’m restoring a 1967.5 Datsun Roadster 1600.

    1. Hi Nicholas,
      Thanks for your question! Yes, the minor chips you’ve mentioned are not a major issue. If left unattended, they might show a slight indention in the wrap, but otherwise should not be a problem unless they’ve started to rust. Either way, the problem can usually be solved by using a touch-up paint pen carefully applied to fill the chips. If they’re still unlevel or “domed”, tape the surrounding area and sand with 1,000 grit sand paper until level with the surrounding paint. Once the surface area is clean and level, your vehicle should be ready to wrap. Hope that answers your question! Best of luck with your restoration project!

  10. Bernard A Ramirez says:


    I have a E150 van that definitely needs some bodywork. If I get it prepped for paint but do a wrap instead, would that work? Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Bernard,
      We appreciate your question. As long as it has a good primer coat, it should be okay to apply a wrap. You never want to wrap over bare metal. The “slicker” the surface, the better the adhesion. Hope that helps!

  11. Paul says:

    I’m thinking of wrapping my boat rather than repainting. The paint is mostly in great condition, but there are a few areas where it has been touched up, which I’m sure will show through the vinyl. I think the solution is to sand the whole surface smooth again. To get the best adhesion, how fine a grit do I need to work down to?

    1. Hi Paul,
      Thanks so much for your question! We’re not big fans of wrapping on sanded surfaces EXCEPT when the surface is away from edges or obstacles where the vinyl might lift. When you have a nice “slick” finish to adhere to, it gives you a great seal to keep out water, dirt and anything that might work its way through the grooves that sanding leaves. If you do sand, we suggest using at least 1,000 or even 2,000 grit. We only sand where needed and with good transitions between the sanded and unsanded areas. Thanks again and best of luck with your boat restoration project!

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