You’ve given your car a thorough clean, washed all the paint work and windows so that it’s super shiny, and maybe even treated it to a wax.
It looks good as new in almost all aspects, but you notice just one thing that’s letting it down: the plastic trim.
This includes the black edges around where the wheels go, underneath your windshield, the plastic bumpers, and even the dashboard plastic inside your car; basically all of your exterior trim, as well as any plastic item in the interior.
Unfortunately, it can fade relatively quickly, despite the rest of the car staying in great condition.
There are, however, ways you can restore your plastic trim and get it back to the way it was when you first bought the car.
You can even learn to do it by yourself so you don’t have to take it to a specialist valeting center (although please do if you’re worried that you’ll damage your car in any way otherwise).
Using the advice we’re about to give you, your black plastic trims will be just that once more, rather than gray and worn out.
Table of Contents
Why Does Black Trim Fade?
Before you start to restore your discolored plastic, it is important to understand the variety of reasons why it can fade in the first place.
This will help you realize that sometimes there’s not necessarily anything you could have done differently, and it’s just one of those things that happens.
Many cars are left outside for long periods at a time, which exposes them to powerful UV rays.
This is especially the case in places with hot climates, where the sun is shining for most of the day.
The UV in sunlight affects the trim color over time and can even alter the molecular structure of the plastic to make it look deformed.
Trim can also become damaged by debris that sticks to it or bumps into it on the road.
This may cause scratches or other imperfections, and of course discolor it too.
A series of scratches across black plastic can make it look gray, which doesn’t help when you want to achieve a uniform color across the whole thing.
What Can I Do About It?
Don’t worry, because there are various ways of restoring your trim coat that you can carry out from the comfort of your own home.
The products and methods you use will depend on the type of plastic on your car, as well as other factors to do with the paint job, for example.
It is good to think about sticking to green cleaning practices to help the environment, which will affect how you treat your car.
The plastic trim on your car is made to be removable, so you can take it off and replace it with a new piece.
But it’s equally easy to treat it with a black plastic trim restorer if it’s not too old and worn out. Here are some suggestions for things you can try.
The best way to prevent fading on your car’s trim is by applying a clear coat or sealant.
The best thing about this type of product is that it will not only protect your trim from fading but also help keep it looking new longer.
This means that it will essentially give your trim a layer of extra protection against harmful chemicals and UV rays, so that your car can look shinier for longer.
Many dealerships will apply the coat for you as part of a package when you first get the car, but you can get your car coated at any time, and you can ask them to pay particular attention to your trim.
Most ceramic coatings are straightforward enough to apply yourself if you’d rather.
Make sure you read the instructions carefully first, and refer back to them during the process.
Be aware that, while some coatings are suitable for both the factory paint work and the unpainted plastic trim, you may have to purchase separate products for each of these sections.
If you want to use an automotive paint stripper instead, then make sure you choose one specifically designed for plastic trim.
While you can remove paint in other ways from a metal body panel, for example, you should only use chemical paint stripper to get paint off plastic.
If there is old bumper trim paint that you need to take off, gently apply the stripper to do so.
After all, you don’t want to build up several layers of paint on top of one another, because that will just make your black trim look messy.
Once you’ve done this, you can then go over the trim using spray paint or your preferred painting method.
You may also consider using a spray-on wax to protect your trim from fading.
However, if you do decide to use this method, make sure you don’t apply too much as it could cause damage to your finish.
Wax sealants may be simpler to use than other light coats, so they are more accessible to the general population regardless of auto detailing experience.
Bear in mind that a wax finish is less durable than your other finish options, so it is likely that you will have to apply it fairly regularly for best results.
Depending on the type you go for, it may last as little as 4 weeks, or it could stay on brilliantly for up to 5 months.
The longevity of your wax will also be affected by external factors such as how often you drive your car, where you keep it, and how well you look after it.
You can also try sanding down any scratches or dents on your trim.
The aim is to simply sand away the marks or scratches that you see, so that you’re left with just a smooth layer of black plastic.
We realize this is easier said than done, however, especially if you’ve never tried anything like this before.
If you’re unsure about what to do, you might want to speak to a professional who has experience with vehicle repairs – they can guide you through it or offer to do it themselves.
Best Method For Great Results
Now we’ve talked you through some of the various stages you can use to help achieve your goals, it would be good to know what a step by step process entails.
You may be confused about what to do when, for example, as some things should definitely come before others, and some you won’t even need to do at all.
- The best way to ensure that your plastic trim looks great again is to start by removing any dirt and grime that’s stuck to it. You’d be surprised at the amount of debris that can attach itself to your trim while you’re driving, so these need to be dealt with before you go any further.
- Next, use a combination of paint remover and a fine grit paper to clean your trim thoroughly. This will give you a nice shine and eliminate any surface imperfections that you won’t necessarily have been able to pick up during the cleansing stage.
- Then you’ll want to prime your trim. Primer is used to prepare surfaces for paint application. It creates a base for the new color to adhere to, so that it will hold effectively like you want it to. For most people, primer is applied directly after cleaning. Apply two or three thin layers until the entire area is covered.
- Once your trim is primed, you can begin applying your base coat of paint. Paint is used to cover the primer and create a protective barrier against moisture and weather elements. When choosing a paint, you’ll want to select something that matches your existing paint color. Some paints come pre-mixed, but others will require a little bit of experimenting so that you can color match properly.
- When you’ve added a couple more light coats and are satisfied with your paint job, you’ll need to ensure that you leave your car to dry for a while. This may be a whole 24 hour period, depending on the specific coating and paint that you’ve used. It’s best to leave it at least this long anyway, if only to be on the safe side. Try and plan your applications accordingly, so they don’t disrupt your everyday life.
Problems You Might Encounter
It’s always helpful to be aware of certain issues that might arise, so that you can be prepared for when they do.
Restoring trim can be a fiddly process that involves several separate steps to follow, and that increases the chances of you coming into difficulties.
Unfortunately, a trim restorer sometimes won’t be able to color match exactly with what you were expecting.
This happens when your plastic trim has been damaged too much and lost most of its color over time.
Be careful of advertising that says things like ‘trim restorer – guaranteed restoration’, since we know that it is not always possible and you may end up disappointed.
In such cases, you’ll probably need to buy new trim pieces, although you could try a darker paint to give you a deeper color.
You can check if your trim coat will work by doing a water test.
This involves wetting a microfiber cloth or clean microfiber towel with water and then running it over an area of trim.
The color of the damp trim panel indicates the color you will achieve by using a black plastic trim restorer on it.
The product will not be able to lift and deepen the color any more than that, regardless of how much you apply.
Certain types of trim coat actually have an amount of black dye in them, which can boost the black color on your trim.
If the color doesn’t seem quite right, you can also try adding a few drops of food coloring to these brands of black plastic trim restorer.
This will allow you to adjust the shade slightly in order to get the exact color you are looking for.
If you are painting your trim and having trouble getting the paint to stick to it, you should consider increasing the thickness of the paint.
A thicker paint will help the trim stand out better from the background, and this will make it easier for you to see where you’ve painted.
You don’t want to make it too thick either, as you will probably end up with a lumpy, uneven finish that takes ages to dry.
Another way to make sure the paint sticks properly is by using a high quality brush that is specifically designed for trim.
These brushes are usually made of nylon bristles and have a rounded tip at one end, allowing the paint to glide smoothly onto the surface.
They are usually more expensive than regular paint brushes, but we promise you will be able to notice the difference just by making this small change.
What Are The Best Products To Use?
There are many types of black plastic trim restorer on the market that can help you do a great job on your car.
It’s no good trying to use cheap products that are no better than water – you may end up spending way more than you saved on them just to undo the messy results they leave you with.
We understand that it can be tricky to see through the false claims and misleading information some companies give you in order to sell their wares.
That’s why we’ve tried and tested a myriad of the products on offer for this purpose, and we now want to share with you our top brands of black plastic trim restorer that actually work.
These are all highly rated, well-priced products that will have your black trim looking perfect in a flash – you needn’t waste any more of your precious time and money!
This is a company that’s based in the UK, but they have distributors all over the world including the US.
The C4 Permanent Trim Restorer has been perfectly formulated to bring the black color back to your exterior plastic and dash.
It adds a deep trim coat, whether you have a shiny or a matte color (although there is a separate product, C6 Matte Dash AB, specifically for matte trim coat and dashwork).
While slightly pricier than some other brands that offer a medium coat for your trim, Gtechniq is high-end and worth every cent.
You won’t see their products in general auto stores like you would with big names such as Autoglym, but they’re perfectly easy to find online.
The ethos of Gtechniq is ‘Smart Surface Science’, which is what every product they make is based on.
Along with the C4 and the C6 for coating trim and dash, there is also a product called T6 Tyre and Trim.
This is a decontaminant that gets rid of any particles and dirt that might be trapped in these places, so you can cleanse them before coating.
This means you can pamper your car with a handful of treatments designed to give your trim a fresh coat and look its best.
Right off the bat, Cerakote Trim Coat offers a 2 year guarantee on cars coated with it.
This means that they expect it to keep your trim looking fabulous for at least 2 years, otherwise you’ll get your money back.
No other company – or certainly not out of the big industry players – places this much trust in their products, so you can be sure that you are getting a high quality coating.
This black plastic trim restorer doesn’t wash off, no matter how many times you clean your car after applying it.
Therefore, it is secured whether you wash it every week or every few months. It bonds to the plastic on a molecular level, rather than just sitting on the surface.
What’s more, Cerakote Trim Coat promises no grease on application, unlike some other products made for this purpose.
Hopefully, you will have learned that it’s not the end of the world if your unpainted plastic trim fades to a lighter color than it was initially.
There are several fixes that we have described, each of which is perfectly achievable by the average car enthusiast – you don’t need to be specially trained in the techniques above to be successful.
The most complex one is probably the sanding, so it wouldn’t hurt to chat to a professional if you want to go down this route.
In the current market, there are hundreds of black plastic trim restorer products designed to make your life easier when it comes to trim maintenance.
We’ve put some of our favorites here to give you somewhere to start, but we recommend reading online reviews and forums to find out what will be best for your needs.
If you follow the instructions and take your time, you should be able to restore your trim coat to its glory days when it was sitting in the dealership, waiting to be bought for the first time!