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Wrapping A Model 3

July 2022

In August 2020 I moved to my sister's house in Baltimore after the pandemic caused in-person classes at Maryland to be cancelled. Like any other E-List Internet nerd on his computer most of the day, I really wanted to get a Tesla.

In September 2020 I picked up my own Model 3.

It was a fantastic ownership experience, everything about the car felt right:

  • It was as fun to ride as a go-kart, acceleration was instant and melted you to your seat

  • It had autopilot which was great for easy driving on the highway (especially going long distances) and stop-and-go traffic

  • The center control screen offered a large map display for easy navigation

  • The interior and exterior aesthetics were sleek and simple

  • Remote app control opened up a wide range of remote operations for the user

  • Home-charging meant a full "tank" every morning

  • Many options (like steering firmness, autopilot follow distance) were configurable as if the car was an iPhone

It was the car of a technologist's dreams. Every problem with modern cars had been addressed from the ground-up in the way a technologist would address them.

Near December 2020 when I was taking winter term finals, I decided that I wanted to wrap my car. Doing research I found out that the prices for a matte black wrap (over white paint) would cost $4,000-$6,000.

To me this was just not a good use of resources for something so petty and cosmetic. So I decided that I'd give doing it myself a shot. The goal was something roughly like this:

I did the cost estimate and I figured the project would cost ~$500 all-in for raw materials and tools. I ordered the first roll of vinyl and prepared to begin:

I started with the mirrors and the driverside door. I immediately realized how hard this was going to be. Working with the vinyl material was like nothing I had ever done before.

You had to heat it, stretch it quickly (before it cooled), remove creases, not over-thin or over-stretch the material, tuck the edges, and make long, precise cuts.

After a lot of struggle and missteps, I reached this point:

The easiest part to wrap was the hood, it was all one flat section with no ridges or contours to navigate carefully:

After 2 weeks of putting ~4-6 hours into wrapping in my sister's cold garage, I eventually neared finishing. I had to go visit some friends so I had to leave home with the car not finished, it probably looked ridiculous:

After recleaning and prepping the remaining panels, I eventually finished wrapping the car:

Later, I drove cross-country to Colorado with the wrap still on:

I would eventually remove the wrap there. Before moving back to Maryland I sold the car as I expected to move to the city shortly.