I get a lot of questions from customers faced with the sobering prospect of having to get their graphics from the box to the bike – you know, the actual “hands-on” part. Some go along just fine, needing little if any supervision, while others seem stymied from the beginning. One misconception that seems universal is the notion of when to apply heat and how much heat to use. The answer is – seldom and slightly. Most of the application needs NO heat, and trying to use it in excess or at the wrong time can cause as many problems as it fixes. Once the vinyl has been heated, even a little, it changes to a far more pliant, stretchy state and stays that way till it cools. If you’ve already stuck a piece and warmed it, be very careful trying to lift it back up for repositioning – it will stretch a lot and may even rip if it’s too hot. This special wrap vinyl has the wonderful ability to return to it’s original, smooth state when heated, but you must LET IT COOL before attempting to lift.
A good practice if you’re planning to use heat is keeping it low, and only use it on parts that have already been lifted. If you get your whole piece applied perfectly except for that one bunched-up spot in the middle, you can’t add heat to that spot and expect to push it away. You’ll have to release the tension on it first by lifting it off the surface, even if this means removing half your piece to do it. No amount of heat will make a puckered area retract when it’s adhesive is in contact with the surface. You must lift it first, and if you’ve already applied heat, you must let it cool before you lift it. Only when the distorted area is freed from the surface should you apply heat, and then only enough to allow the pucker to reconstitute itself back to its original smooth state.
Here is a very short video I borrowed from another website which illustrates very nicely how heat makes the vinyl go back to its original state.