Sunday, March 2, 2014

Anatomy of a Wrap: 2013 Audi A5

This 2013 Audi A5 was a job I had scheduled on my calender back in August, but had been delayed due to time constraints with my work out in Southeast Asia. I knew a full vinyl wrap was going to take at least a week, so both my client and myself decided it was best to schedule it in around Christmas when he did not need to use the vehicle. I also usually always have a second pair of hands helping on the vinyl wraps, but for this job I was going to install alone and was expecting some major challenges, especially with larger pieces. 

The Prep Work: 

The client has decided he wanted to go with a full Satin black wrap for the entire vehicle. Simple, understated, and menacing, the satin black ended up being a great choice for the A5 body shape consisting of flat panels and small creases. The satin also gives off a nice soft reflection that represents a fresher look than the simple matte black look that has become much too overused as of late in my humble opinion. Since we had already discussed all the details about the job, I had the vinyl ready for install as soon as the car arrived.

3M 1080C satin black ready to be installed...
 

The first step was to wash and clean the Audi as much as possible. This involved a thorough washing off the car, wheels, undercarriage, and wheel wells along with a full klay bar cleaning of all surfaces. After about 3 hours of washing the car, it is fully dried and then waxed with Optimum Car Wax to ensure some protection on all surfaces before the adhesive touches it. The nice thing about these newer Audi's is that there is not much disassembly required outside of the usual lights and door handles, as Audi has wide gaps that work well with vinyl and less logos than your normal car. The bad thing about Audi's is they tend to use awful variations of torx and allen head nuts to hold together trim pieces that add a lot of time to disassembly. After a full day of cleaning and disassembly, I headed in to take a shower and wrap some gifts for Christmas.


 
2013 Audi A5 2.0T all ready to become black...

The next morning I got into the shop around 06:30am to start with the wrap. I had already decided that my first panel would be the hood as it was a simple shaped panel where I could get into the "zone" on for the harder panels to come. Even though the car had already been cleaned, I like to clean each panel again with some prepsol around the edges and spray wax again before applying the vinyl. After taking measurements, I cut the vinyl piece for install and got to work. Working alone obviously made the install harder than usual, so I used tape and magnets to help hold one side of the hood on while I set up and laid down half the hood. One thing that became very clear to me was how easily this satin black material was to scuff using normal vinyl tools. So the job basically had to be done with bare hands and special "shop made" suede applicators. 


hood wrap process...

The one thing you quickly come to realize when you start wrapping is that the time consuming parts come from the trimming tidying up around the edges more so than the actual laying down of the vinyl. The vinyl is a great product to work with and very forgiving once you understand how it contorts to the cars body panels. Because of this, I decided to continue on the front end of the car by attacking the front fenders next as they were small and would require quite a bit of trimming time. All fenders require extra special care to remove all the dirt in the wheel wells with prepsol to avoid dirt trapped under the vinyl upon application.


fender cleaned and ready for vinyl application...
vinyl laid down and secured onto panel...

oh the wrinkles...

main section laid down, ready for trimming...

finished...

right side completed as well...

Cutting the Vinyl:

One of the many questions I get is how do you not scratch the paint when trimming the vinyl? The answer depends on the car and the panel. Sometimes there is no option but to cut with a blade on the car, but whenever possible we like to use knifeless cutting tape. This tape creates a very clean cut while ensuring nothing is harmed in the process. While it cannot be used on every panel, it lends itself extremely helpful on roofs, trunks and other panels that require long cuts to install. This Audi was no different and I was able to use the tape to trim the roof panel which I documented with some photos below...

step 1: lay down the tape and install vinyl over it...

step 2: apply vinyl and secure on both sides of the tape

step 3: pull string off tape to cut through vinyl in one smooth motion

step 4: remove tape lines left behind to create clean cut 

step 5: a perfectly cut line without even touching the paint underneath

 As you can see I used tape to cut the side lines of this piece where it meets the side pillar, but for the front section on the windscreen and section near the moon roof, I trimmed with a super sharp Olfa blade and tucked. The cutting tape would not work well in such situations.

Daily Grind:

After a long first day, I called it a day and decided to attack the doors the next morning I had already removed the door handles utilizing a long thin 1/4 drive torx bit to remove the handle bolt and then the whole lock assembly itself. While this is time consuming, it ensures a smooth vinyl application over the door handle region to provide a factory look.


door handles removed...

 prepped and ready for install...

vinyl applied, time to trim...

door panel complete...

seamless door handle recesses provide factory finish...

The other benefit of removing the door handles is the ability to gain full access to wrap the handles themselves. With them out of the car, an installer can wrap the inside of the handle to ensure the vinyl wrap looks like factory paint in terms of details. It also allows the installer to have clean cuts and be sure all vinyl is crimped properly not to lift...

door handles also full wrapped to look like factory finish...

front side...

handles installed and looking stock...

no silver left to see even under the door handle...

The next panel to wrap was the quarter panel. While these are always large on every car, the A5 made it particularly intimidating as its quarter panel went fro the rear all the way to the front wheel on both the a-pillar and side skirt. This made it exceptionally hard to install the piece in one go as we were asking over 11 feet of vinyl to grab the panel enough to allow me to go back and start applying it properly. Magnets and tape were not strong enough to we had to call in some extra hands to hold the piece up while I worked my way around it every witch way for about 4 hours. The photos speak from themselves...

huge piece of vinyl to be applied...

vinyl laid down and ready to be trimmed...

quarter panel finished...

rear view showing quarter panel...

 driver side next up...



The bumpers remained the last large panels to attack and as all bumpers are, proved to be a pain in the butt. Another large piece of vinyl that needs to be stretched in numerous directions at the same time. It requires a lot of patience and coercing to get it into place. 

lot of vinyl being asked to go in numerous directions...

looks fun eh?

rear bumper complete...

front bumper installed and ready to hit the road...


The other panels that always give any installer nightmares remain the side mirrors. They are so small and shaped in such an aerodynamic way that it makes it near impossible to get a solid one piece vinyl wrap to them without lifting or overstretching. The worst part when dealing with these Audi side mirrors wasn't so much the shape of the mirror but the rain channel grooved into the top section. It pretty much meant there had to be cuts in the mirror pieces to retain the groove. 


the joys of mirrors...

wrapped all around...

Don't Forget the Little Details:

Once completely wrapped, it was time to reattach all badges and vinyl all chrome trim to gloss black per the owners requests. So up early on Christmas Day, I headed out to the shop around 05:45am to finish her up before the Christmas Festivities started later on...


badges measured to the mm for proper installation...

badge of approval...

After finishing up the trim and details, I headed in for a fantastic Christmas of stuffing myself and watching a Christmas Story about 5 times. The next day it was out to finalize the last part of this Audi job; painting the brake red. This required removing all the brake calipers; sanding, prepsol, clean, paint, reinstall. To avoid having to re bleed the brake system, (which is near impossible with the modern ABS systems unless you hack into the ecu system to pulse it) I decided to paint the calipers on the car.  This required a lot of taping up and careful aiming. All told, I laid about 4-5 coats of paint on the calipers and the result was quite attractive and subtle.

front brakes in their factory finish...

watching paint dry...

calipers removed off car and painted on bench...

front brakes all painted and reinstalled...

retaining the factory ID stickers...

And here after a week of long hours is the outcome. As stated earlier, the satin black came out very well and really put a sleek and classy finish on a fantastic body line and a large transformation from the basic Audi silver.














1 comment:

  1. Technician Maintenance Perth, Certified Logbook Support. Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Small, Porsche &amplifier; VW Professionals. Maintenance German vehicles in Perth since 1999.
    Audi specialist

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