How to Restore Plastic Trim on a Car or Truck
Posted on August 15 2022
Of the things that can really make a car or truck look tired is scratched, peeling and faded plastic trim. Unpainted black plastic rub scrips, bumper inserts and mirrors can turn a grayish color. The paint on interior bits can become nicked or start to peel. You might be experiencing this with your vehicle; It could look great otherwise, yet the darn plastic trim looks horrible. However, fret not as help is on the way! By taking the correct steps, plastic can be returned to its former self. Here we’ll cover the best ways how to restore plastic trim as a do-it-yourself project.
Oxidized Exterior Trim
Unpainted plastic can morph from black to gray due to oxidation caused by exposure to sunlight. This is also known as photo-oxidation, which is the disintegration of the surface of the plastic due to the combination of ultraviolet (UV) light and oxygen. Photo-oxidation breaks down the molecular bonds that hold plastic together. Causing it to become increasingly dry, brittle, and discolored. In time it can adversely affect the strength and malleability of the plastic.
Oxidized plastic trim
To minimize oxidation, the car or truck should be shielded from the sun as much as possible. This can be done by parking in a garage or carport, or by using a car cover that will block UV rays. Spray on UV protectants designed for automotive plastic trim can also help. While it's good to know how to minimize oxidation, you’re most likely reading this article to fix oxidation that has already occurred. So, let’s move on to see how to restore plastic trim that is oxidized.
- Linseed Oil – Using boiled linseed oil is one way how to restore plastic trim. It’s an easy homemade remedy that just may do the trick. Pour the linseed oil on a clean white cloth, rub it on the plastic, and allow it to dry. This will “moisturize” the surface and hide the whitish/gray oxidation. This procedure will need to be repeated over time to renew the appearance as the linseed oil wears off.
- Heat Gun – Bringing oils in the plastic to the surface can reduce the appearance of oxidation and restore plastic trim. This can be done with a heat gun; simply heat the plastic until the surface sheen is acceptable. However, great caution should be taken. Keep in mind that this method lightly (very lightly) melts the plastic surface to bring the oils up. Too much heat can warp plastic and damage surrounding paint and rubber. So, don’t stay in one area for too long. It’s best to test this way how to restore plastic trim on an inconspicuous area before moving onto the rest of the trim.
- Off the Shelf Chemical Solutions – There are many preparations available from your local auto parts store for restoration of the appearance of oxidized plastic. These are simple wipe on-wipe off chemicals that will bring back the black color but are temporary in nature and will need to be reapplied over time.
- ColorBond Pro Tech Trim Color – Painting is how to restore plastic trim with a permanent solution. ColorBond Pro Tech Trim Color paint is designed specifically for bonding to automotive trim to provide a beautiful, durable, and long-lasting finish. It’s economical and easy to use. Clean the component with soap & water, mask surrounding areas with tape, then lightly sand with 1200 grit wet dry sandpaper. For best durability spray on ColorBond Clear Adhesion Promoter before applying ColorBond ProTech Trim Color Paint in light mist coats. Apply additional coats as necessary.
Of note, ColorBond Pro Tech Trim Color in Black #622 is most often used since it’s a great match for plastic mirror, door bumper trim. However, the paint is also available in seven other colors including silver, charcoal, titanium and white.
Restored plastic trim
Scratched Interior Trim
Interior plastic gets a lot of wear and tear, so it’s only a matter of time before scratches and peeling paint will need to be dealt with. In this case, painting with auto interior trim paint is the best way how to restore plastic trim. ColorBond offers two products that can be used, ColorBond Pro Tech Trim Color or ColorBond LVP Refinisher. Pro Tech is offered in popular automotive interior and exterior plastic trim colors and ColorBond LVP Refinisher adds 205 OEM factory colors to the palette. ColorBond LVP Refinisher molecularly bonds to plastic (as well as leather and vinyl) and provides a beautiful and durable finish to match the original plastic color and sheen. The paint has excellent coverage, yet its thin film thickness allows the surface texture of the plastic to show through.
After removing any loose paint, cleaning the surface with ColorBond Prep Cleaner, and masking any areas you don’t want painted, apply LVP Refinisher in light mist coats with application of additional coats as necessary to restore plastic trim color. LVP Refinisher is designed to be flexible to stay bonded to soft plastic and adheres best to hard plastic after application of ColorBond Adhesion Promoter.
Check out this Porsche console, shifter, and emergency brake handle. It was thrashed from years of wear, and replacement would have been expensive.
Instead, the owner repaired the damage with ColorBond LVP Refinisher. This is a beautiful example of the original appearance that can be achieved with ColorBond OEM certified colors.
Oxidation may fade your plastic trim, but don’t let it fade the love you have for your car or truck. ColorBond products are the best way how to restore plastic trim to a like new appearance.