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driving concerns

Why do dealers still put those stickers with their names on the backs of cars? Am I the only guy who hates them? I don't mind the license plate frames so much, at least you can take them off. Is there a reason for these things, other than free advertising? Is there a way to get rid of those stickers myself without leaving an ugly mess?

-- Jim, Calgary

Yep, those decals are free advertising. Dealers stick with them because they work.

"Placing license brackets on vehicles, stencils on rear windows and decals on the trunk lids is all about advertising," says Stuart Kasperski, with the Hyatt Automotive Group, a group of dealerships, in Calgary. "It's one of the oldest and strongest forms of inexpensive advertising."

You can ask the dealer not to put the decals on your new car, or to take them off if they're already there, Kasperski says.

"I can't expect any dealership would give anyone grief for removing those, but you never know," he says.

Denis Ducharme, president of the Motor Dealers' Association of Alberta, says he's personally had only a single customer ever ask to keep the dealership's name off his new car.

"That was in 1970, when I was starting out on the wash rack," says Ducharme. "Way back then, we used to screw a metal identification plate onto the trunk."

That customer was buying a 1970 Cougar and didn't want the dealership to screw a metal nameplate into his trunk, Ducharme says.

"We didn't put it on because we didn't want to lose the deal," he says. "But that was once in all these years – I think most people don't mind telling the world where they bought their car."

If you want to take off the decal yourself, all you need is a hair dryer and your fingernails, says Darryl Roberts, professor at Centennial College's School of Transportation.

"Just use a heat gun or hair dyer to warm up the sticker and use your finger nail to pull off the sticker," Roberts says. "Then use paint thinner or Goo Gone to remove the glue with a rag."

"A bit of ordinary paint thinner (the kind you can buy at a hardware store) won't take the paint or clear coat off your car, as long the paint had hardener and was cured," Roberts says.

If it's a plastic nameplate instead of a decal, use dental floss to cut the two sided tape behind the plastic and then wipe off the glue, Roberts says.

"There are special tools you can buy, but they're for that one purpose only," he says.

If you do lose the nameplate, you might miss a perk or two when you take your car to the dealer for service, Ducharme says.

"When you go to get service, that sticker identifies that you bought the car there, and they might go a little extra way to reward your loyalty," he says. "You'll get good service either way, but maybe they'll do a little extra."

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