The most common challenge an applicator has when wrapping a commercial vehicle is vinyl lifting out of the deep channels. The reason they have trouble here is they are stretching and heating in the wrong places.

This is a standard deep channel found on many cargo vans. Deep channels like this are the most common cause of application failure. Normally applicators apply heat right here in this area, which means hot, stretched vinyl is applied here directly in the channel.

We will apply heat away from the channel so that the vinyl applied here is cold and unstretched. All of the stretched vinyl lays here where it is flat and can’t lift. This part of the video is to show you how most applicators apply deep channels and to explain why this method most often fails. All of the stretch has to happen in just one or two inches of vinyl. When the applicator finally reaches the bottom of the channel the vinyl is so stretched out that it discolors. All of the tension of the stretch is still locked in the vinyl which is the reason it pops up. This edge of the vinyl is straight until you get here. That’s where you see the stretch the most.

Testing the Deep Channel

Our channel test is to put a slice through the deepest part of the channel. If the vinyl opens up (and it has here) then we know for sure it will eventually lift. Now apply heat. Not only does it open up further but you can see the edge of the cut is wavy because there is so much tension in the vinyl. This application was guaranteed to pop up.

Now we will show you the proper way to install a deep channel. Start by applying all of the high points leaving the corners for last. Take a drinking straw and tuck about one half inch of the end under the vinyl in the corner. This will allow the air trapped in the channel of the escape easily. You can use the straw on either the top or bottom corner, whichever is easier for you. Notice that the center of the panel is not touching the vehicle.

Apply the Center of the Panel

Now apply the vinyl in the center of the panel working outward until you are six inches from the edges. At this point only the center is applied. Most applicators install the vinyl all the way up to here and then heat this area and stretch it in.The proper method is to heat this area instead while at the same time apply the cold vinyl up here. So, heat here with the heat gun pointing away from the channel and make the application here.

So again, this is the technique. Heat away from the area you apply. Continue applying into the channel one quarter inch at a time. Installing small incremental lines will make sure you don’t put any stretch in the channel.

The Bottom of the Deep Channel

Finally, you will reach the bottom of the channel. The six inches of vinyl previously uninstalled have absorbed 100% of the stretch now. Apply this part touching out any bubbles that may have developed.

The channel is done and there is no distortion or loss of color. This corner is sealed at this point and this point. I will only heat the vinyl in this area. Heat away from the corner and continue to push the trapped air towards the straw. Now apply the flat area here. Add a little bit of heat and push the final bit of air out through the straw. Gently remove the straw. With a little heat, Arlon’s DPF 6000XRP lays perfectly flat, ready to be applied.

Now we are completely finished the channel application. The color has not been stretched out of our graphic and the lines in the image are all straight. This method of application has not distorted the image at all. This other edge of the graphic of the graphic is very straight where it was applied cold. Here, where I used the heat, the edge is a little crooked showing the stretch…but it is a safe two inches away from the channel. In the channel the line is straight with no stretch in the vinyl.

I will perform the channel test again to show how stable the vinyl is in the channel. The cut was made and the vinyl didn’t open up. When we add heat, the channel is unchanged. This is proof that using this method of application in deep channels leaves no tension in the vinyl which means no pop ups down the road. With proper heat management, you can take all the tension out of wrapping deep channels.

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Ritchie Daize

Ritchie got his start 23 years ago working at a small sign shop weeding cut vinyl and building signs. When the shop got a contract for a large fleet, Ritchie became the lead applicator for the project. Soon after, he opened his own graphics installation company called RD Installations. Ritchie became a leading expert in wrap application and fleet graphics. In 2008, Ritchie sold RD Installations and began working for Arlon.

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Ritchie Daize

Ritchie got his start 23 years ago working at a small sign shop weeding cut vinyl and building signs. When the shop got a contract for a large fleet, Ritchie became the lead applicator for the project. Soon after, he opened his own graphics installation company called RD Installations. Ritchie became a leading expert in wrap application and fleet graphics. In 2008, Ritchie sold RD Installations and began working for Arlon.

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