They are quickly applied and can be a real pain to
remove. Getting rid of adhesive stickers applied to car paintwork
calls for care - otherwise the finish underneath may suffer.
Countless cars bear decals with supposedly witty slogans like "It may be old but it's paid for" while others simply remind one of holidays past.
After a while these plastic mementoes start to fade and the witticisms which seemed funny at the time are a burden, regardless of whether the car is to be kept or sold. Unfortunately, removing car stickers is usually not straightforward, at least not without causing harm to the surface beneath.
The most common place for decals is on the boot lid or near the rear of the car. These are best tackled using a proprietary hair dryer, Thomas Schuster from the German vehicle assessment organization KUES suggests.
The idea is to warm up the surface in order to make the sticker soft. This enables it to be peeled off. The heat generated by the hair dryer or a heater gun can easily exceed 100 degrees Celsius and that is enough to damage car paintwork so it is as well to only run the dryer a few inches above across the paint surface in order to avoid blistering.
Arnulf Thiemel who works for Germany's largest car club, the ADAC, is sceptical about the hot air method. "You cannot gauge just how hot the paintwork is getting," he warns and suggests another solution.
Motorists should park the car in full sunlight on a warm day for several hours. This should make the sticker soft enough to enable easy removal. Stickers often do not come away from the paint surface in one piece but leave a sticky residue. This can be removed using solvents available from good car repair shops or most DIY stores.
Schuster advises using only acetone-free products which are specifically recommended for use on paintwork. It is a good idea to try a little of the solution on a hidden surface before proceeding. Never use paint thinners to remove decals since it will soften the surface to such a degree than severe damage can occur.
Before hitting the sticker with chemicals, car owners might like to soak it beforehand using water, car shampoo or washing-up liquid. These can loosen up the sticker, breaking the bond with the surface and make it easier to remove. "Aggressive household cleaners are not recommended since these can attack nearby plastic components and also damage the paint," said Thiemel.
Once the sticker has been removed motorists are often dismayed at the result. If a decal has been in place for many years the paintwork underneath will often be noticeably brighter than the surrounding surface. This is because the sticker has protected that spot from ultraviolet light, which causes fading, and other environmental influences.
According to Michael Mueller of the GTUE technical inspection organisation in Germany, there is a way around this. The freshly-revealed surface should be treated with good quality rubbing compound in order to buff up the areas where the old and new paint join. Afterwards, the whole area should be given a wax polish. It is unrealistic though to expect that the area once covered by a sticker will blend in completely with the rest of the car's paintwork.
Removing a sticker from glass surfaces is a little easier, as Thiemel explains. Standing the car in sunlight for several hours is the soften-up method of choice here and not the hair dryer since there is a risk that the heat could crack the glass.
Apply a solvent to soften up the sticker before teasing it off the surface using a thin wooden spatula. A single-edged razor blade might also do the trick but care should be taken not to scratch the glass. One of the hardest jobs is to remove stickers from the plastic surfaces which abound in modern cars.
Thiemel again recommends prolonged exposure to sunlight in order to warm up the car interior. If the sticker does not yield immediately to a wooden scraper he advises owners to visit a dealer or car repair workshop. This may sound drastic but many damaged plastic surfaces are simply not repairable. The component will almost certainly have to be replaced and that calls for expertise and special removal tools.
Decals applied to fascia and other surfaces containing airbags are a problem in themselves. Thiemel says such areas of the car should be left sticker-free. The heat and scraping movements necessary when a sticker mounted here proves stubborn might even trigger the airbag with potentially disasterous results.
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