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The Importance of Inspection

Inspecting a vehicle prior to installing vinyl is extremely important for your reputation as a wrapper, as well as the reputation of your wrap shop and the happiness of your client. If the vehicle has damage that would cause the paint to lift while removing the vinyl, it’s vital that both you and the client are aware of that before the wrap is installed. In addition, it is important to be aware of potential trouble spots, and to communicate any modifications based on these spots to the client. Our pre-install inspection sheet is available on our shop, and is a free download for TWI members. 


Beginning a pre-install inspection sheet

The first step to filling out a pre-install inspection sheet is to fill in the primary information, such as the client’s name, the make, model and year of the car, the license plate and VIN number and the date of the install. 

In addition, it’s recommended to have an index of damage that commonly occurs on vehicles such as scratches, dents, chips and rust. This will help you easily identify problem-areas, as well as make it easier for you to indicate problem spots on the inspection sheet. 

The inspection should take place after the hardware has been removed and the car has been thoroughly cleaned. This is due to the fact that paint damage could easily be hidden by hardware on the vehicle, and dirt could look like paint damage that doesn’t actually exist. In addition, removing hardware will make it easier for the installers to determine if the paint is OEM or not. 



Cleaning is one of the most important steps of the pre-install inspection process. It’s vital to begin this process by doing a thorough wipe-down with general cleaner such as soap and water, but that’s not all. Since oil and tar could still be on the car following this general clean, you may want to use a scratchless sponge or a clay bar. Finally, you’ll want to degrease the entire vehicle. This can be done using an Isopropyl alcohol and water mix. If you’re thorough, the inspection process, as well as the wrap process, will be a breeze.


The Inspection

The best way to start your inspection is to find and use a handheld light to ensure maximum visibility on any potential issues. Some areas could be dark, or have dark coloring, which makes this handheld light a must-have. Also, have a dry erase marker on hand with a color that has a good contrast to the color of the vehicle’s paint.

As you work around the car, do a complete 360-degree check. Do not skip any spots. The main surface area should be checked as well as the edges. Look at the surface from different areas, as trouble spots may only show from a certain point of view. Focus on looking for damage in high-contact areas such as door handles, mirrors, rocker panels, wheel wells and under bumpers. 

As an installer, you’re not only looking for major damage, but minor damage as well. This could be anything from paint imperfections to scratches and scrapes to body imperfections. Any paint imperfections are weak spots and should be noted in the form.

The key is to circle the damage with the dry erase marker.  This will make it easier to reference when you get to the photos.

Make sure to note the damage as you go around the car, instead of at the end. If you wait, there’s a higher likelihood that you’ll miss marking spots down. 

Use the index to note which type of damage is in certain spots on the inspection form, that way when the client asks you to specify the damage, you’ll be able to know exactly what it is quickly.

During the install, place the sheet in a safe place, such as the driver’s seat or the dashboard, as you’ll need the client, as well as the lead installer to sign it before you release the car. 



After you’ve finished your first 360-degree check and filled out the pre-install form, you’ll want to take photos of each damage spot you marked. This will provide photo evidence that the damage occurred before the install, and will help clients understand the possibilities of damage occurring while the wrap is being removed.

A clear reference point as to where the damage is on the vehicle is vital, and it’s highly recommended to circle the damage with a dry erase marker so that you do not lose the spot. 

After you’ve finished taking photos, put them in a dedicated folder for the client, and save these photos until the wrap is removed. It’s recommended to keep these photos in a cloud storage platform such as Google Photos, Dropbox, OneDrive, or Trello.



One of the most important things to do before you begin to install, is to determine whether or not the paint is OEM. If it is OEM, most manufacturers offer a guarantee that states the paint will not be damaged when the film is removed. Unfortunately, this is not the case if the paint is not OEM.

It can be difficult to tell if the paint is OEM or not, but luckily, there are some indicators to help determine the status of the paint.

Indicators the paint is not OEM:

  • There are sections on the vehicle where the paint color does not match

  • There are sections on the vehicle where the paint has an orange peel look to it.

  • Lines of paint on the molding. This is an indication that this was taped off and painted

  • Body lines that do not match up (e.g. one side of the hood has a wider gap by the front fenders)

  • Dirt in the paint

In addition to these indicators, you can also purchase tools to help you determine whether or not the paint is OEM. One option is a tool that determines the thickness of the paint by using magnetism, and another option is an electronic reader that can determine the thickness of the paint.

Make sure to discuss the protocol with the client, and explain the difference between OEM and non-OEM paint. Most vinyl manufacturers indicate (or should!) that warranties do not apply to non-OEM paint. This will need to be communicated with the client to avoid later confusion. 



This process is vital to your business, as you want to make sure to have proof of any existing damage, as well as the potential for lifting paint before you begin your install. This is the only way to ensure client trust and manage the client’s expectations. A happy client means a happy installer, which often is accompanied by an increase in profits.


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