16 November 2016
The rise of vinyl wraps and sprayable coatings has been a quick one. In the past few years, alternatives to paint have taken the automotive industry by storm, either because of time or cost efficiency. I have to admit, upon hearing the name Autodip for the first time, I was skeptical. I have always appreciated a fine paint job. Deep colors, glossy clear-coats, and vibrant fleck have always garnered impressed looks, as well as respect, from the tuner scene, whereas anything suffixed with "dip" has received a bit of a negative connotation. It's an unfortunate truth that the formula responsible for regular plasti-dip cannot finish with the same look as paint. I'm sure there's a scientific explanation for why the chemical and physical properties of plasti-dip can't match the depth of paint, but we don't even need one. You can see it in the finish every time. Even those who spend hours waxing and polishing their plasti-dipped rides have a hard time achieving a lustrous gloss. So, again, I was skeptical to say the least, but I consider myself to be fairly open minded. The company marketed their product as "sprayable vinyl wrap", noting that it was a vinyl-based product as opposed to a rubber-base. I figured I had to give them a chance.
The folks at Autodip sent us a box of their glossiest black product, and let us decide what to do with it from there. With the ball in our court, we soon realized that most of the PASMAG staff's cars and wheels were already their desired color, so the wheels of my daily driver (A 2012 Nissan Rogue) were now at the mercy of Autodip's product.
A little backyard-mechanic prep work involving a garbage bag and cardboard boxes from the previous week's snack foods would prove to be just enough to cover all but my wheel. Sure, I could have taken the tire off of the wheel, but in the spirit of using a product intended to reduce the time and money spent, I would take this forgivable shortcut. I laid the tire flat on the driveway, shook the can vigorously for one minute as instructed, and went to work. "Impress me, Autodip," I muttered to myself.
I should note at this point that if you're going to do this yourself with the rattle-can, a bandana or some form of nasal and mouth protection is highly recommended. A foolishly sharp inhale during the spraying process was nearly enough to knock me out cold in my own driveway, a sight I'm sure would have bemused my neighbors. Fighting off my own tear ducts and presumably blackened lungs (don't worry, it's vinyl-based. It should peel right off), I saw the wheel darken under my first coat. It didn't look like plasti-dip at all. So far, so good.
After a few more coats, with 20 minutes drying time between applications, it started to look pretty good. I have to admit I had likely applied my first few coats a little bit thin, which left some bare spots exposed until later coats. If you see this happening during your application, slow down and apply the coats slightly thicker while still ensuring an even coat each time.
Towards the end of the process, around my 6th or 7th coat, the quality of the product became evident. It wasn't like plasti-dip. It was glossy. It was shining under the sunlight like a gloss black paint. My skepticism began to fade, and I finished up the last few coats.
After 10 layers in all, the finished product looked great. It was such a picture perfect gloss black that it made my dirty tires look bad! Admitedly, if I looked very closely, I could tell it wasn't paint. The finish wasn't paper-smooth like I had seen Autodip projects turn out, so I gave the guys at Autodip a call and asked if there was any way I could improve the process. As expected, my less-than-perfect finish was a result of the first few coats being too light, as mentioned above.
A couple of days later I took another wheel off the car, cleaned and prepped it for work, and layered the Autodip coats on much thicker. Before I even made it halfway, I could tell this was the right way to go. The finish was buttery smooth, and the gloss looked better than ever. This showed me that technique is a part of the process with this product, just like paint. As my tires come off to make way for my winter tire setup, I intend to Autodip my remaining two wheels, experimenting with techniques along the way. From what I can tell, the artisans of paint and vinyl either have some stiff competition or a new skill to perfect. #pasmag