How To: Installing Graphics on Your ATV

Dec. 20, 2013 By Rick Sosebee

From time to time our ATV may need a fresh look to keep us excited, and there is no better way than to slap on a fresh set of graphics. The problem is that graphics can vary in patterns and shapes, which can cause many first timers headaches during the installation process. I can tell you from experience that it takes great patience and a good eye to get the proper alignment for a great looking result. Preparing for the install is also very important, so we have put together a few pointers as we installed our G-4 Graphics on our Honda TRX450R, amateur experiment quad owned by Anna Byrd. So follow along as we prep the machine and install these cool looking graphics!

Begin by laying out the graphics on the quad to find the proper location for each decal. We used small pieces of masking tape to temporarily stick the decals in place.
Before we even start thinking about ripping the cover from the sticky background of our decals, we need to get the plastics in shape. The 2007 TRX450R has seen many good rides in the woods and has suffered from branches and briars scraping the white plastic relentlessly. Look over the plastics for any possible gouges or feathered plastic cuts because fixing this is priority one. Using a razor blade or pocketknife to trim up these areas will make for a cleaner install. These small areas can also be gently wet sanded with a 400 or higher grit wet sand paper to smooth over the rough spots and prevent bubbles in those areas. Be sure to only sand on sections that may be covered by the decals, as you will dull the finish of the plastics.

We also trimmed up the backing that stuck out from the decal so we could see the actual lines of the graphics. This helps line up the decals with the bodylines of the plastics.

Make sure the surface is clean of any dirt, debris or grease.

Using glass cleaner or semi soapy water can help with the alignment as it allows the graphics to slide around before permanently adhering to the plastics.

Once the rough areas are smoothed out you can then wash the plastics or wipe them down with a wet rag to get all of the debris off of the quad. Be sure to use a degreasing cleaner or soap to get rid of any oily residue from the plastics as well so the graphics have a clean surface in which to mate. You will also want to be sure and wash your hands before the installation, as oil from your fingers can prevent the decals from sticking. This is when the real fun begins.

Getting the easy sections out of the way, we started with the front plastic sides of the nose sections. These have contours that may need the help of a heat gun or hair dryer.

Move slowly using your thumbs or a squeegee across the decal and push out any pockets of air bubbles. Be sure to understand that the surface of the decal CAN be scratched, so gently squeegee the areas where this process is needed or you will be hating yourself later.

Larger pieces such as our rear fender number plate graphics needed a little extra attention, as the decal covered an area once occupied by a factory warning label that could not be covered correctly by the decal. Using a little heat from our heat gun we worked towards this area pushing the air bubbles out at this point. I would caution to only heat the sections mildly, as too much heat can distort the graphic and render it useless, not to mention that if you stretch the decal too much during install it could come back off after it cools. With the edge of the squeegee, we pressed the decal down against the edge of the factory indent.

Using a little artistic touch we then gently cut the decal to fit the edge of this area.

Perhaps the toughest section for any machine is going to be the Gas tank. If the tank does not have its own separate plastic cover then there is a little preparation to be done before installing the graphics. You will need to remove all fuel in the tank and allow it to “air” out for a couple of days before installing the decals. The fuel in the tank seeps into the plastic and can prevent the decals from adhering to it, even if the decals are perforated like ours! Do what you will, but if they come off because you were in a hurry, you were warned. Lay out the graphics onto the prepped tank and look closely at where each section will lay before starting the install.

The tank on our TRX450R has a rounded back and concave sides, which can be a pain if you go too fast. We used absolutely no heat on our tank install! You can use a heat gun or hair dryer here but in very mild amounts.

The finished product looks great, providing our machine with new life.

So we have a finished look that is amazing, and the G4 Graphics decals will bring a newness to our machine for at least a couple of years. The nose of our TRX450R was prepared just a little differently and we will post another short “how to” using a great new automotive product soon! Newsletter
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