One of the most challenging and perplexing jobs you can have come through your shop is the removal of an old vinyl wrap. If the wrap is relatively new, then standard techniques typically can remove it quickly and you can take on the job profitably.

But what about a wrap that’s older, with unknown origin? Here you can find yourself with a headache. Older wrap/adhesive combinations can be very difficult to remove, causing you and your crew to spend numerous extra hours to get the old stuff off.

If you’ve estimated wrong, or if you threw in the removal with the installation of a new wrap, you could find yourself in trouble. Here’s how to avoid the dilemma:


  1. Before you bid, ask about the age of the wrap. Does the owner have any of the original paperwork from the installation?  A fleet manager may know details about the material and technique used, but an individual owner may not. Learn as much as you can. Was the wrap temporary? Is it laminated?

  2. Evaluate the condition of the old wrap.  Could you wrap over it? If the surface of the old wrap is still smooth and the edges still solidly adhered, you may be able to avoid removal altogether, and just put your new wrap over it.

  3. If the old wrap is starting to go, do you have the equipment needed to take it off?  For a relatively new wrap, you probably have the gear to remove it—heat guns and pressure cleaners. But what if you have to invest in new equipment or solvents, like Rapid Remover or Vinyl Off? This must be considered before you bid. If you have to use a different removal system or chemicals, you may also have to purchase protective gear or train your crew. All these things add significantly to the cost.

  4. Once you get the old wrap off, what’s underneath?  Certainly, there will be residue to remove, but what about rust or corrosion. Their presence may make it impossible to put a new wrap in place.  Would the owner be better off leaving the old wrap on until it’s time to invest in a new vehicle? Inspect carefully, and give the owner your best assessment. This not only helps avoid a dissatisfied customer, but it builds your credibility.

A customer who comes to you with an old wrap to remove has already been sold on the value of vehicle wraps as an advertising medium, so you don’t want to discourage this business. But you do need to be aware of pitfalls you might encounter with old wrap removal, and how to manage them to maintain your profitability.