Removing Fairing Decals: What a pain in the…

Decals off one piece...

We don’t work on a lot of modern bikes here in the garage, so this procedure was new to me, because it seems all modern bikes have decals of some sort, and if you are looking to paint your bike, their removal is necessary.  I had read a few tricks-N-tips articles online about the removal of these vinyl pieces, and all of them made it seem like a fairly easy, routine procedure.  Boy, were they wrong!

Gather your gear...

When I got the Yamaha FZR600, I was given a set of extra rear fairings along with it.  After seeing some great looking mods to the rear end, making the bike look cleaner and younger, I was set to chop the plastics, and get down to painting.  The problem is, all the color on the bike is made up of vinyl decals.  These are adhered to the plastics at the factory with glue.  The following procedure is how I got them clean and decal free, and ready for chopping and paint….

1. The first step is to get a heat gun (used for electrical wiring jobs) or a hair dryer.  Also, have a plastic scraper on-hand.  This will allow you to warm and loosen the glue, and pull up the decals.  The goal is to pull it up as one piece, but this proved difficult.  I heated the decal, making sure not to keep the heat gun on the plastic for very long.  If you do, you run the risk of melting the plastic, requiring touch up with filler.  I found that I could keep the heat on the piece for a maximum of 5 seconds, and that would loosen it sufficiently to start to pull it off.  Something to keep in mind: you don’t need to heat the entire sticker.  If you concentrate the heat on the edge of the decal, you can begin to pull it up, until it becomes tough, and then use the gun to heat the part directly in front of your hand.  I found that I would pull up about 2 inches before needing to reheat.  Do not heat too close to the joint between the freed decal and the part still glued, or the decal will melt enough to rip.  Avoiding this allowed the decal to come off as a whole.

2. Once you have all the decals off the pieces you want to paint, you will see that there is a bit of glue residue left behind.  This is where things get to be a real pain in the ass.  I had read that using Goo-Gone or some type of ‘wax and grease remover’ would make removing the glue easy.  I chose Goo-Gone, because it seemed like the least harsh of all the products, and hopefully would not damage the plastic or under-paint.  This product did not work AT ALL.  Not one bit!  So I had to pull out the big (and more harsh) guns, using Denatured Alcohol as my solvent, which got the glue off with a little elbow grease.  I tried the abrasive side of a sponge at first, but I found that the best cloth to use was a cheap paper towel, making sure to keep it fresh so that you are not scrubbing with the old glue residue on a fresh spot.


3. After about an hour, I had the 2 panels free of glue.  The last step is to clean the entire area with water and dish soap to remove any of the solvent left behind.

There you have it.  A fairly simple, completely annoying procedure to prep fairing plastics for new paint.  I will doing the larger front fairings sometime soon – and will try a technique involving heating the back side of the plastic, which is supposed to loosen the glue enough to allow you to pull it off, leaving no glue behind.  Happy painting…

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