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1. Preparing the surface
Clean the surface before applying the graphics. All dirt and adhesive residue from previous stickers should be removed as this ensures the adhesion of your new decals. Adhesive remover can be used to clean remaining adhesive residue. Common household cleaners can also be used to clean plastics but avoid using any detergents that leave the surface stain resistant or oily. Applying graphics to an oily surface weakens the adhesion of the decals.
NB! Make sure to clean even brand new plastics because there’s usually a thin silicone spray coating for a shiny finish.
If necessary, it is also possible to smooth and clean plastic parts with sandpaper or by gently scraping them with a craft knife. After sanding the surface, finish the smoothing with a heat gun. Let the surface cool down to room temperature before applying the graphics.
2. Getting ready: tools and alignment
Always wash your hands before you start applying graphics. Dirt and oil from your hands can weaken the adhesion of the decals.
Before you peel off the backing paper and start applying the decals, it is advisable to check where each part of the sticker kit goes.
It is useful to keep at hand some tools that make application easier. For cutting and fixing the edges of the stickers you can use a craft knife. You can also use a craft knife or a needle to burst any remaining air bubbles.
A squeegee is a useful tool for pushing out air so it doesn’t get trapped under the decals. You don’t necessarily need a professional application squeegee as any similar replacement tool can be used instead (e.g. an old credit card or a DIY squeegee). Simply push the air out starting from the middle and going towards the edges of the sticker. This way you can avoid air bubbles.
It is also useful to keep at hand a heat gun or a hair dryer and some masking tape.
3. Application: tips and tricks
There are many tips and tricks for applying decals.
Perhaps the easiest way to install graphics is to apply them first in half. Peel off and fold back one half of the backing paper and apply that half of the sticker first. Press the sticker in its place by pushing out air from the middle towards the edges in order to avoid air bubbles. Use a squeegee or a similar tool for this. Then peel off the rest of the backing paper and apply the rest of the decal using the same technique. This fifty-fifty application method is suited especially for applying decals to flat surfaces (e.g. dirt bike front plate decals or sled tunnel graphics).
Masking tape can also be useful for holding the sticker in its place when the backing paper is still partly attached. It can be used to secure the rest of the sticker out of the way when applying the first half of the decal. This method can prove to be useful when applying long decals to flat surfaces (e.g. sled tunnels).
Getting the decals in their right place can sometimes be tricky. Often it helps when you start the application from sections that are the hardest to get lined up neatly. For example, you can start applying the sticker around bolt holes and apply the rest after getting the hard part right. With this technique it again helps to keep some of the backing paper still attached, so the rest of the sticker does not attach while you’re still working on another section.
If the decal is hard to get in its place, use a heat gun or a hair dryer to warm it so it becomes more elastic. This way you can stretch the decal in its place. Make sure not to overheat and damage the decal though.
4. Finishing the project
Finish the project by bursting air bubbles with a knife or a needle. Simply prick a small hole at the base of the bubble and push the air out. You can also use a knife to fix the edges of the decals if they are on top of each other or go over the edges of the plastics.
Keep your bike or sled in room temperature and don’t go for a ride for 24 hours after applying graphics as this ensures maximum bonding.
5. Maintenance and wash
You can still wash your ride with a pressure washer after applying graphics. However, make sure to follow these instructions as they prolong the lifetime of your decals.
• Max pressure 80 bar
• Max water temperature 70 °C / 158 °F
• Spray from a distance of at least 75 cm / 2.5 ft
• Point the spray wand towards the bike at a 90° angle. If you point the wand at a sharp angle, the water can go under the edges of the decals and weaken the adhesion.
If there is sand and dirt under the edges of the decals, you can neatly cut away the parts that are no longer properly attached. This prevents more dirt going under the edges.
All detergents should be diluted according to respective manufacturer’s instructions. Do not use harsh chemicals because abrasive and solvent chemicals can damage the decals. Do not let the detergent sit for longer than necessary, and rinse off all chemicals properly.
Make sure your washing liquid is not:
• too acidic or alkaline (pH value should be between 3–11)
• solvent or alcohol