DIY – Automotive decal installation


June 20, 2013 by quirkyuncle

Installing decals on your car is a great way to make your ride look better and increase its value. Decals are available for most vehicles in a variety of styles to match your individual taste. They aren’t expensive and installing them is a breeze, if you use care and take your time.

Please read all instructions before proceeding with installation. Proceed only when you fully understand the decal installation process.

Tools and materials:

  • Decal of your choice
  • Scissors
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Paper towel
  • Squirt bottle of soapy water (4-drops of dish soap in a bottle of water)
  • Masking tape (optional)
  • Small rubber squeegee (window tint film squeegee used here)
  • Razor knife

Time: 1 hour
Difficulty: Easy

The procedure that follows shows installing a hood decal on a 2000 Ford Mustang. The process is fairly generic and can be applied in a variety of automotive decal installation situations.

Where to get a Decal

Automotive decals are available everywhere: auto parts stores, local retailers, and online. Decal quality levels vary. Purchasing a decal that is of heavier material with its color molded all the way through will help keep your installation looking good for a longer period of time.

Installing the Decal

  1. Wash the hood with car wash or mild soap to remove dirt. Do not use harsh cleaners containing ammonia, such as window cleaner, as these can cause the decal to peel. Dry the area thoroughly.
    Clean and ready
  2. Leaving some backing paper around the edge, trim around the perimeter of the decal. This will make it easier to test fit and decide exactly where you will place the decal on the hood.
    Trim backing paper
  3. Test fit the decal. If desired, you can place reference marks on the hood using pieces of masking tape to assist with the final placement.
  4. The area where you install the decal must be clean and wax free. After deciding where the decal is to be placed, clean the area using a paper towel and rubbing alcohol.
  5. Place the backing paper with the decal side up on the hood near the installation area. Starting at one end, carefully peel the decal from the backing paper. Do not let the adhesive on the decal touch anything.
    Peel backing paper
  6. Lay the decal, adhesive side up, on the hood; then, mist the entire adhesive surface of the decal with soapy water.
    Apply soap solution to decal
  7. Mist the area of the hood where the decal is to be installed with soapy water.
    Apply soap solution to car
  8. Lift the decal and place it, adhesive side down, in the installation area. Slide the decal into position using gentle pressure.
    • For GT models, slide the decal into the hood scoop opening until it is just in front of the scoop grill filler.
    • For non-GT models (shown), slide the decal over the front edge of the scoop grill filler, to the desired position.

    Place decal in position

  9. Mist the surface of the decal with soapy water; then, squeegee the entire surface, working from the center to the edges. Squeegee until all the air bubbles are gone. Use care not to move the decal when you squeegee it. Spray additional soapy water on the surface of the decal, as needed, so that the squeegee slides smoothly.
    Apply soap solution to top of decal
    Decal installation for GT models is complete! Wait a day or two before waxing the area to let the adhesive fully dry. For non-GT models, the following two additional steps are required.
  10. (Non-GT models only) Press the corners of the decal into place with your fingers, so that the decal fully contacts the hood.
    Press corners
  11. (Non-GT models only) Trim the back edge and corners of the decal to match the contours of the body using a razor knife. Use care not to cut into the paint when trimming. Carefully peel and remove the trimmings, lifting the corners with the tip of the razor knife to pick the trimmings up. Press down on all edges after trimming to make sure that the decal has good contact with the hood surface and that there are no air bubbles.
    Trim corners
    Detail showing left side of the decal trimmed to match body contour.
    Trim detail
    Installation for non-GT models is complete!

Installation complete!
Wait a day or two before waxing the area to let the adhesive fully dry.
Installation complete!


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