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New Feature: "Ask the Expert" Tackles Questions from Customers

This is first installment of a new feature called "Ask the Expert," which will answer questions most frequently asked of 3M's technical service specialists. The first question is: "How can I be reasonably sure a vehicle's paint is cured enough for me to apply graphics?"

This depends on numerous factors, including the type of paint, the temperature catalyst, the temperature reducer and the type of drying method that was used. If a vehicle is not fully cured, but is put in an environment that is cooler than 55 degrees F, the curing process essentially stops and will not resume until the temperature goes above the 55 F mark. So it could be days, weeks or months, in some cases. If the paint is not fully cured, and film is applied, outgassing will occur under the film (see photo). We suggest you try this outgass test and always complete the inspection record that follows it below.

Outgass Test

  1. Cut a 5-inch by 5-inch square of 3M removable or changeable graphic film – or the same film as you will be using in your application.
  2. Select an inconspicuous location for the test area.
  3. Clean the surface as usual.
  4. Apply the film using firm squeegee pressure, making sure there are no air bubbles, and then resqueeging all edges.
  5. Leave the test in room temperature for about 12 hours and then inspect. Check for bubbles after 12 hours.
  6. If bubbles are present, the paint is not fully cured.

Use this Pre-Installation Inspection Record
3M also provides a 3M Auto and Van Graphic Pre-installation Inspection Record, located on the website under Instruction Bulletin 5.36. In order to be eligible for certain aspects of 3M’s finished graphics warranty, this form must be filled out for each vehicle before any graphics application takes place. If there is a concern about the paint not being fully cured, it should be addressed on this form, which is signed by the customer and the installer.

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If paint is not fully cured, and film is applied to a vehicle, outgassing will occur under the film.