Vehicle Graphics

How to Remove Signwriting From a Van

Author: Rebecca Terry

Keeping the vehicle graphics on your van up to date is all part of successful branding. After all, it’s probably the hardest-working advert for your business. It’s there 24/7, seen by everyone you drive by or who walks past.

van decals

The vinyl lettering and designs themselves are exceptionally tough, designed to withstand weather, road dirt and several washes. However, that means they can also be tricky to remove when you want to refresh them.

Here’s the best way to go about removing the old vehicle graphics from your vehicle, without damaging the paint:

You will need:

  • Normal car washing equipment

  • Heat gun or hair dryer

  • Thin plastic scraper

  • Glue or tar remover

  • Microfibre cloth

  • T-cut or polish — optional

Step 1 — get it clean

It might be a bit surprising, but the importance of this will become obvious once you start. Being able to see exactly where the edges of the graphics are is crucial, as this is where you need to start from.

Not every piece of vinyl design or lettering is necessarily a solid colour — the very edges may be the same colour as your van’s paint, or even transparent.

Step 2 — heat

Heating up the vinyl makes it pliable and loosens the glue bonding it to the bodywork. You need to start work on the corner of a design or letter, as this is its weakest point. Heat only a small area of the piece at a time, rather than a large one.

Don’t go overboard with the heating. Too much and you either won’t be able to hold the material firmly, or it will become too soft and tear. This isn’t the end of the world, but it means it’ll take much longer to complete the job.

In the worst case scenario, you can burn and blister the paintwork of your van. Remember: just heat a little at a time.

Step 3— peel

Work up the corner of the design with your thin plastic scraper — being very careful not to scratch the paintwork. Try to peel the vinyl away from the bodywork by hand at first, as this is both the easiest and least risky method.

Whether this will work depends on the lettering and glue used, how thoroughly it was originally applied and how long it has been there. If it’s too stubborn, use your plastic scraper to evenly prise it away, heating the vinyl in small sections at a time.

Work slowly and patiently — this isn’t like ripping off a plaster. The vinyl will either tear or, in the worst case, take some paint with it.

Repeat until all the vinyl is gone.

Step 4 — remove the glue

There will almost always be glue residue left on the paintwork, once you’ve removed the vinyl. To get rid of this, buff the area with some glue remover on a microfibre cloth. If you don’t have any, tar remover can also work. Each product is different, so always follow the instructions on the bottle.

Step 5 — ghosting

This might appear if you’ve removed the lettering from an older van that’s had it for a long time. Ghosting is when vinyl is removed, revealing a more vibrant original paint colour underneath in the outline of the letters.

This is because, as sunlight and weather fades the van’s paint, the vinyl protects the surface underneath it. So you’re left with paint of the original colour when the van was new.

Although it isn’t possible to remove this completely, you can use T-cut to blend together the lines where different shades meet, making it less obvious. Alternatively, make sure any new designs and lettering that you’re adding cover up the marks.

If you’re unsure about how to remove vinyl signwriting safely, a valeter will professionally do the job for you. Depending on the size of the van and the job, expect it to cost between £100 and £200.

To see the range of new signwriting that we can install on your van, take a look at the types of vehicle graphics that we can produce.