Let’s say you want to have the option of applying graphics to otherwise plain ol’ black tires. Or maybe you want classic-style tires with white lettering. Here’s an option you might want to look into. Tire decals by Tire Stickers.
Long time RallyWays readers will remember that I had tire printing done to the tires of my Miata with #RallyWays logos. The tire prints actually worked really well. They are still holding up more than a year later and I haven’t been specially careful with them. I can still totally vouch for the system. However, printing tire sidewalls does have a couple of downsides.
I think the biggest downside of printing on tires is the fact that the tire needs to be where the printing machine is. Meaning, if you live in Sydney and the tire printing machine is in Los Angeles, you’re in a bit if pickle. Shipping car tires or shipping a printing machine is almost always out of the question. This means the only way the tire sidewall printing system is going to work is if it’s local.
This is where tire decals come in. Recently I had the folks from TireStickers.com cut out some tire stickers for the HG Motorsports cars that were participating in the Targa Trophy Megarun. Since I had the tire printing thing in the back of my head for #RallyFist (my Fiesta ST), I thought it might be a good idea to try those out for my car as well.
As it turns out, Tire Stickers makes tire decals of two main types – Short Term and Permanent. The ones that I had made for the HGMS cars for Targa Trophy were the short term tire stickers. This doesn’t mean they’ll last just one day. They do last considerably longer than that. Under normal driving conditions they should last a good thousand miles or so – You know, like a month.
Not surprisingly, the ones on the HG Motorsports GT-R where rightfully abused. What I’m saying is that the car was even driven on dirt roads during the rally. Interestingly enough, while the tire stickers were as black as dirt and a few chunks were missing, they held incredibly well for being the short term type and for having been abused so badly. This means that under normal driving conditions they would remain nice and white and stuck to the tires as they are supposed to.
By the way, these short term tire decals by Tire Stickers are made of a really thin and stretchy type of material. They are also self-adhesive. So long as you clean the tires well — and I mean REALLY clean them well with acetone or brake cleaner — they’ll go on easily and stick on well.
Then, we have the permanent type. These are the ones I ordered for #RallyFist to put on the Falken RT615K tires that the car was going to attend with as a SEMA Featured Vehicle. Now, these permanent ones are a lot different than the thin short term type. The permanent tire decals are made of a thicker raised rubber. They are not as stretchy but they are very flexible. They are also harder to accidentally tear while installing as compared to the short term tire decals. They are also not as forgiving mind you. You really need to take your time. If you take your time and do the job right they come out amazingly well.
Just like for the short term tire stickers, the tires need to be cleaned thoroughly before you apply the permanent decals. The permanent tire decals are not self-adhesive. Tire Stickers provide a glue which they call FleXement. The glue is basically a type of flexible cyanoacrylate or CA glue (super glue). It doesn’t bond as quickly as typical cyanoacrylate glue does, making it easier to work with. The only issue is that wherever CA glue gets, it’ll stick.
You have to make sure not to use too much glue. You need just enough so that the entire surface area of each letter will have glue when you press it down on the tire, but not so much that it runs (ask me how I know, haha). You also have to be very patient and press and hold each letter down for a few minutes to let the glue set. If you are too impatient, the stickers will come out OK, but maybe a little lifted in some areas. You really need to make sure to hold them down. I found that applying a bit of heat with a heatgun really helped mine set a bit quicker.
Regardless, there are always a few corners that will not have enough glue and will lift up a little. Those you can touch up later with a bit of the same CA glue since the nozzle of the glue bottle is narrow enough to allow it.
Also, take my advice and use latex or nitrile gloves when installing the tire decals. CA glue is really good at bonding to skin. Anyone who has watched American Pie 2 knows exactly what I’m talking about.
If you manage to get a bit of glue on top of the letters themselves they will leave a pretty dark and ugly stain. However, it’s not a problem. Use the same acetone that you used to clean the tires as well as a clean cotton rag and wipe the white tire letters carefully. The tire letters will again be perfectly white. Be careful with colored tire stickers though. On mine, only the little line in the F of the Falken logo is red. The ink started running when I wiped it with acetone. Luckily, I didn’t have to wipe that part much so I didn’t have to test whether or not the acetone would actually ruin it. You’ve been warned. That said, over white letters the acetone seems perfectly fine.
As a way of applying logos or graphics to tires or as a solution for creating white tire lettering, Tire Stickers definitely has a great product here. Tire stickers are as good, if not better than tire printing. There a benefits to both, but the tire stickers are definitely more versatile. They also look brighter and more white than the printed sidewalls do. The printed sidewalls also develop stress cracks where the tire stickers don’t. More importantly, you can have tire stickers shipped to you anywhere in the world. So unless somebody has a tire printing machine close to you, your only real option are tire stickers anyway. I’m pretty happy with mine.