How to Install Vinyl Racing Stripes and Apply Car Decals

Basic Vinyl Racing Stripe Installation Video

This video provides a quick overview of the decal application process. Our in depth installation guide continues below. 

Vinyl Decal Terminology

The top layer of your graphic is the application tape (premask). The middle layer is the vinyl decal. The adhesive side of the vinyl faces downward. The bottom layer is the release liner (backing paper). 

Diagram of terminology used in decal application

Tools Needed to Apply Your Racing Stripes

You will need a squeegee, masking tape, plain white paper towels, scissors, exacto knife, pin, measuring tape, pencil, Rapid Tac (or soapy water) and Rapid Prep (or alcohol). Note: if you choose to use soapy water it should be made with 8 drops of Dawn Original Formula Dish Soap per 32 oz of water (large sprayer size). 

Supplies needed for installation

Vehicle Surface Preparation

The application surface should be between 50-90 degrees fahrenheit. If possible, application should be done in a garage or controlled environment to avoid contaminants that can be present outdoors. 

Begin by washing your vehicle as you normally would, but do not wax afterward. Then spray the application surface with Rapid Prep (or alcohol). Using a plain white household paper towel thoroughly wipe the surface from center outward until dry. Repeat with Rapid Prep (or alcohol) one more time.

Washing the application surface

Decal Preparation

Unroll your decals on a clean flat surface and allow them to stretch out for a few minutes. Either measure your vehicle or lay the graphics on your automobile and mark where excess material will need to be trimmed off. Once marked, trim your decals with pair of scissors or an exacto knife. 

Decal Application

Wipe away any residue or streaks on your vehicle left from step one using Rapid Tac (or soap and water). Determine the location you'd like to apply the decals to by carefully measuring each into place and then secure them down with a piece of masking tape on each corner. 

Now apply strips of masking tape vertically over the center of the decal. This creates a hinge allowing the graphic to be applied one section at a time.

Placing the decal on vehicle

Remove the positioning tape you placed on the corners and hold down the release liner while slowly peeling the premask away back towards the hinge. The vinyl will remain on the premask. Temporarily tape the peeled section to the surface of your car and cut away the release liner with scissors or an exacto knife. Save the release liner, you'll need it again in a minute.

Peeling the decal back   

Caution: During this step do not get the backing paper wet, it will ruin your decal. You can spray your vehicle, the vinyl, and the premask, but never the backing paper.  

Lightly spray the vehicle surface with Rapid Tac (or soap and water). Be sure not to get any fluid on the remaining release liner on the other side of the hinge. Hold the end of the decal several inches away from the surface and slowly lay the vinyl down from the hinge outward and firmly squeegee over the premask with short overlapping strokes. 

Now remove the tape hinge and peel away the release liner on the other side of the decal. Spray and apply this section just as you did the other. 

Applying the Decal

Wait up to 10 minutes to remove the premask. Starting from a corner slowly peel away the premask directly across itself at a 180 degree angle. Carefully re-squeegee any areas that seem to lift. If too much lifting occurs let the decal dry for another 10 minutes. 

Removing the pre-mask tape

After the premask is off cover the decal with the piece of release liner that you saved. Place it with the shiny side toward you. Now firmly re-squeegee the entire decal while it is covered. This will prevent any scratches that might occur if you were to squeegee the decal directly. 

Finally look for any bubbles that are remaining from your application. If you find any first squeegee them again while covering them with the release liner. If they persist, poke them on a corner with a pin or exacto knife and gently release any trapped water.