HOW-TO: Install a graphics kit on your ATV
Have you noticed that quads are covered in plastic, but we ride them in hard, scratchy dirt and mud? If you have, then no doubt you know what happens to that shiny plastic over time. What used to be smooth and glossy eventually looks more like a weird, motorized Chia Pet. That is where a graphics kit can do the trick. A complete kit like this one for a Suzuki LTZ400 from Invision Artworks covers nearly all of that abused plastic with cool, tough, new sticker material. Naturally, the stickers won’t erase bent, spindled or folded plastic, and it is best to smooth deep scratches as well as you can. Follow along as Pit Pros’ graphic master RJ Wageman gives the Dirt Wheels LTZ400 the full treatment.
Graphics kit: $168–$188
Contact: (619) 749-0355,
The first step is to clean the quad, obtain your graphics kit, and find a nice place to work. Our subject LTZ hasn’t seen a lot of mud, so we just had to make sure that all the dust was washed off. We still had enough heat that we were looking for air conditioning to install the graphics, but if you live where it is cold, a heated workspace is a huge bonus. Warm graphics are far easier to apply correctly.
Sort through the graphics to make sure you have everything that is supposed to be included. Some kits have various parts taped to the cardboard backing. You will need to carefully peel the tape, but try to leave no tape adhesive behind.
Test-fit the kit’s parts to the corresponding plastic surfaces. This will give you an idea of the accuracy of the die-lines that the company uses and perhaps, more important, show where you need to clean and prep the plastic for the new graphics.
The most difficult part of the installation can be removing the old graphics. Peel up from the corner, then pull smoothly and slowly at a steep angle from the remaining sticker surface. Ideally, you want the adhesive to stay on the sticker and none to remain on the plastic. Alas, we don’t live in an ideal world. You want to soak a pad of paper towel or a shop rag in contact cleaner or other solvent and let it sit over the glue to soften it. Then you can rub it off. This is annoying, gooey work, but it must be done.
You must thoroughly clean and degrease the plastic with contact cleaner. For this job you must use clean, white paper towels. You cannot use cloth shop towels. They can leave a residue that will sabotage the job and compromise the adhesive.
Some kits recommend that you spray the plastic with window cleaner, then peel the backing and position the graphic on the wet plastic. With that method you can move the graphic around safely, but you must squeegee the excess liquid out and wait 24 hours for it to dry before you can ride. We prefer to peel back one corner, then position the graphic and stick that corner down first. If you are a newbie, start by peeling a smaller section back.
After you stick the corner down, you should work away from the stuck corner. Smooth the material down a bit at a time. Make sure the graphic is laying down in the right place and avoid air bubbles. If the plastic and the graphic are warm, you can usually pull a small portion back up and stick it back down without damaging the adhesive. If you have difficult curves to deal with, a heat gun or hair dryer can help, but too much heat will just stretch the graphic out of shape.
Follow the same method for each piece. Make sure you have lighting that will allow you to see if you have any bubbles. Make sure that each piece is rubbed completely down. If you have done a good job cleaning the plastic and rubbed the graphic down for the best adhesion, most modern graphics will stay looking good far longer than the original plastic did.
After the full kit is installed, the quad has a whole new and clean look that is distinctive from the stock appearance. For an install to look this good, the graphic cannot be applied over plastic that is deeply scratched or scarred. Deep scratches must be smoothed with a scraper and sometimes even sand paper to ensure a smooth surface for the graphic to bond with.
If you have edges that protrude over the edge of the plastic, trim them back with a sharp razor knife. Edges that are exposed like that will allow water under the graphic, and then they won’t last as long.