How to wrap a car in Chrome vinyl

This article will break down the steps necessary from beginning to end to wrap a vehicle in Vvivid Chrome and achieving the highest standard car wrap.

Important Facts

Installation of chrome is not recommended for beginners!

  • Even at a professional, expert level, chrome wraps are very difficult and installers make mistakes during install.
  • Make sure you get plenty of extra material when purchasing material for your vehicle.

Chrome vinyl films behave differently and are more sensitive than regular gloss or matte wrap films!

  • Chrome vinyl films stretch less than other vinyl styles. If you over-stretch the film, it will “haze-over” thus becoming more of a matte whitish finish, destroying the chrome effect.
  • Chrome finishes can easily burn/melt and haze-over from the same heat that you would use for gloss or matte films. Use lower, slow heat. Don’t use a torch, only heat gun!
  • Chrome finishes scratch easier and their lifetime (before the color start to fade) is about half of that of gloss and matte films.

Tools needed for installation:

Step 1 – Preparation of vehicle to get wrapped

Prepare the surface area and all edges which are to be wrapped. Before using alcohol, make sure the surface is free from wax, grime, dirt particles and surface contaminants. I like to use VViViD Grime contaminant wash or Chemical Guys “Clean slate” for a clean surface. You may need to clay bar certain areas of the vehicle as chrome shows every blemish of the surface!

Once the surface has been generally cleaned, use a clean microfiber cloth and 70% Isopropyl Alcohol to target specific areas to clean. ( between panels, seams and behind rubber seals etc…)

A product I can’t live without for chrome is the VViViD Tack Reducer. I’ve used it on every chrome wrap I’ve done. Vvivid Tack Reducer works extremely well in allowing the repositioning of film on large panels with little to no blemishes. Chrome is sensitive, the tack reducer gives us the time to reposition and handle the film for a perfect mirror finish. [Do not apply Tack Reducer directly on the surface!] Apply tack reducer to a clear microfiber cloth. Wipe the tack reducer on the entire panel but not in recessed areas and leaving 2 inches from all edges. The Tack Reducer will dry to a haze and that is what you want. The haze is what creates the barrier between the film and the paint. It will leave enough tack to install the film properly. If tack reducer is applied to an unwanted surface area by mistake, use isopropyl alcohol to wipe away.

​Step 2 to 8 – Application of Chrome vinyl wrap film to your vehicle

Step 2 – cutting/preparing a vinyl piece to install on a panel

Cut out a piece of film which is roughly 4-6 inches larger than the panel on all sides. This will allow you to pull on the film and reposition it without putting your fingers/hands under the areas which are going to be laid down on the panel. The temperature of the surface area should not exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is higher than 80 degrees there is an increased chance of over-stretching and damaging the film. Also, the adhesive is heat activated and this will add complications when repositioning chrome.

Step 3 – positioning the piece on the panel

Once the panel is ready to be wrapped, place the film against the panel (colour side facing out) and use your magnets to hold and reposition the film until you’ve got it in place. Make sure you have full coverage of the panel before proceeding to remove the backing paper.

Step 4 – removing the protective layer & backing paper from the film

Remove the clear protective shipping liner, this is a clear non-conformable film which is put over the chrome to protect it during transportation and handling. Do not attempt to install the chrome with this liner on!

Unlike other finishes, chrome is not forgiving, handling defects (creases, fingers etc…) will not heal with heat, they are permanent.
Remove mounting magnet on desired end you choose to start with, lift the film gently and peel some of the backing paper off. Note: when removing backing paper, be extremely gentle as this is usually where mistakes happen which will lead to permanent crease marks in the chrome. Roll off the backing paper evenly to ensure that the film is not being damaged and to ensure that the backing paper doesn’t tear.

Step 5 – glassing the piece on the panel

Now that we have the backing paper and protective liner off we can now “glass” the film on the panel. Glass simply means “create a surface free of wrinkles”, the films should look “flat” before applying it. This is easier with help but can be done alone using magnets on the opposing sides to hold the film down flat with tension.

Step 6 – handling the film during install, stretching & heating

Chrome is extremely delicate and very sensitive to heat. Over heating the film will haze and crack the finish. Over stretching the film will also cause hazing and cracking. Creasing the film will cause permanents marks. If you’ve caused any of this to happen to the film you will see it right away.

When adding heat, we want to add it over as large of an area as possible, this is especially true when we wrap bumpers in chrome, getting it right the first time is paramount. When lifting the film you need to pull the film up and off very quickly in one smooth motion, this motion combined with Tack Reducer will reduce your chances of causing blemishes greatly.

When heating do not use a torch, use a heat gun or infrared heater. There is no specific temperature for heating chrome due to it’s sensitivity and environment. The best way to describe how much heat is used to “conform” is once you feel the film soften. If the vinyl stiffens, soften it gently with heat. When wrapping bumpers be sure to do your inlays prior to installation of the larger surface. The film can handle some deep recesses but it is up to you to find out how far you can push the film without damage, testing the film in recessed areas would be a benefit (we have stretched this film 35-40% without causing damage to it).

Step 7 – squeegeeing the vinyl

Time to squeegee the air out. Before we ever put our squeegee over chrome we always mist the area using some kind of lubrication, I religiously use the Vvivid Shield Guard. This solution will help protect the film and will also allow the squeegee to glide across the surface without scratching the chrome. If you’re installing chrome, you should have basic squeegee techniques and principles down (so we are not getting into this).

Step 8 – trimming, post heating and corners

After the film has been applied to a surface, trim off the excess. We leave about 3mm of excess film to be rolled around edges. When rolling excess around edges, we tend to use our fingers mostly but sometimes a squeegee is required to get into crevices we can’t reach with fingers. This is where the wrap glove shines. Gloves will help protect your hand from heat and also allow your fingers to glide over vinyl without friction. Friction can cause the vinyl to bunch up and ruin an entire panel. Once edges are rolled, use the heat gun and your gloved finger and seal the edges with firm pressure.

When it comes to corners, we use a generous amount of heat, which is concentrated on the backside or underside of the corner. Heating from the opposite side will reduce your chances haze on the visible side. Trim-off any excess that’s left on corners as this is a key place for peel-back and lifting. Once all of the edges and corners have been secured we go over everything with a gentle post heating – which is crucial to avert lifting!

Article based on one written by Christian Kungl with minor changes/additions.
Owner and master trainer at CK Wraps.


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