How to Easily Remove Decal From Your Vehicle - Two Methods

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Video tutorial on the two different methods on how to remove decals from your vehicle’s paint. No specialty tools are required and these methods won’t damage your paint either. I’m using the tailgate from my Tacoma as an example, it is getting a couple of spots touched up and the decals are in the way. I won’t be reinstalling these decals as I think it looks cleaner without them anyway. These methods can be used on all forms of decals such as signage, lettering, pin stripping, etc. And it can even be used on the polyurethane stone guard film.

Supplies:

  • heat gun
  • wax and grease remover or isopropyl alcohol
  • drill
  • eraser wheel
  • machine polisher
  • microfiber cloth
  • wax
  • polishing compound

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Step 1:

It’s always important to have a clean surface so we don’t risk damaging the paint, so make sure it’s washed before removing those decals. Starting first with a heat gun. This kit comes with various attachments to help evenly heat the surface or work in tighter spaces, making the decal removal easy. There is also a high and low setting so the heat can be controlled on the surface and there is minimal risk damaging the paint.

Step 2:

Try to pick a tip which is suited for your decal, here I have the tip which widens the air output. You may be required to move the tip around the area to even heat the decal depending on its side, I am also used the lowest heat setting which is plenty.

The surface should be hot to the touch, enough where it’s still comfortable to touch with your hand. The paint can take quite a bit of heat but don’t get too carried away as you can damage it. If you are working on a plastic panel, then it won’t take the heat as well as compared to a metal panel. Pick at the one corner of the decal and then remove. The heated air should still be blowing on the decal so the adhesive stays pliable.

Once one letter is removed, while the surface is still warm, move onto the next letter.

As you can see the adhesive is left behind and this will need to be cleaned. Using isopropyl alcohol or a wax and grease remover, something which isn’t overly harsh on paint, apply it to a soft cloth and then wipe the surface. While the surface is still warm, the adhesive should be easier to remove.

Step 3:

As for the second method, here I’m using a special rubber wheel which is used with a drill. These do have various names such as a stripe remover, decal remover, pin strip eraser, and eraser wheel. These can be purchased at your local auto parts store, they’re not overly expensive and mine also required an arbor for the drill too.

Step 4:

The speed isn’t overly critical when using these wheels, light to medium pressure is needed. Start at the edge of the decal, then slowly work your way around the decal, basically erasing it off the surface. This will not only remove the decal but also the adhesive too. These wheels don’t create much either, it’s less than a heat gun and it won’t damage the paint. The material will come off the wheel which is normal, they will wear out and evenly require a replacement. They are made of a soft, pliable rubber material.

And as you can see the decal is eventually gone. If any adhesive is left, either uses the rubber wheel or you can use a solvent just like before with a soft cloth.

Step 5:

To keep that eraser wheel in good condition, I like to clean mine with isopropyl alcohol which isn’t harsh on the rubber. Once it’s clean and dry, it then gets put away in a zip lock bag so it’s not affected by any dust or dirt.

Step 6:

Depending on how long those decals were on the vehicle, you’ll most likely have ghosting from where the decal was. This was original paint on the tailgate, the truck is a 2001 so there’s only a light outline. This can be done by hand or to save a bit of time I’m using a machine polisher. With a finer polishing or finishing pad and a polishing compound. Apply the compound to a pad and dab the surface to reduce the change of sling.

Then work the surface, applying light to medium pressure, this is the same process as removing light oxidation or paint swirl marks. After polishing the surface, there will no longer be a protective layer on the paint so a wax or sealant should be applied.

Once done, it's as if the decal was never there.

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