How to Make Your Car Trim Shine

How to Make Your Car Trim Shine

Exterior Auto Trim

Modern cars use a lot of exterior plastic trim and cladding as part of the aesthetics and design.  Before the 1980s, car manufacturers used primarily chrome for trim accents, but the expense of using chrome compared to plastic became excessive and thus one of the reasons car manufactures switched over to plastic trim.  Another reason car manufactures switched over from chrome to plastic is because plastic weighs less than chromed metal components.

The problem with exterior plastic trim

Unlike plastic trim and other parts used for the interior of the car, including the passenger areas, the trunk and cargo area of sports utility vehicles and also under the hood in the engine compartment, plastic used on the outside of the car is exposed to the ultraviolet rays from the sun and moisture in the form of rain, due and repeated washings.  This exposure to the elements is harsh and over time causes the trim to oxidize and this shows up trim that looks faded and aged.

Best Practice

Years ago, I taught a dedicated class on how to restore exterior plastic auto trim that has been neglected and lost its beauty.  In the first part of this class instead of teaching how to restore plastic trim and plastic cladding, I stressed the importance of being PRO ACTIVE.  By this I mean, when you buy a newer car, right now while the trim still looks factory new, start treating the trim with the best car trim protectant.  The best auto trim protectant is the one you’ll use not let sit on a shelf in your garage and gather dust.

Regular maintenance

By regularly applying a trim shine to your car’s exterior plastic, vinyl and rubber trim and cladding, you prevent future oxidation and fading.  Plus, it’s faster and easier to apply an auto trim protectant to plastic, vinyl and rubber trim and cladding that’s in new condition than it is to try to restore old, neglected, and faded trim to look new again.

Mike’s recommendation

If you own a car, truck or sports utility vehicle and the exterior auto car trim still looks new and factory original – then right now add applying a trim shine and protectant to your regular car washing and car detailing regimen.  It’s fast and painless and the dividends really pay-off to keep your car looking new and also to maintain the resell and/or trade-in value. 

pH balanced car wash soap

Besides regularly applying a trim shine protectant, another good practice is to always wash your car with a pH balanced car wash soap that is specifically formulated to wash and safely clean the outside of cars, trucks and suvs.  3D Pink Car Soap is pH balanced and our chemists take into consideration all the different types of surfaces and materials like exterior plastic trim when they create the formula.

How to clean and protect your car's trim

 The good news is, unlike some of the other more complicated car detailing procedures, cleaning and protecting exterior trim is fast and easy.

Step 1:  Wash car

Wash your car as you normally would, this will remove any built-up traffic film and loose dirt.  Always use a clean, quality wash mitt to help avoid accidentally putting swirls and scratches into the paint.

Step 2: Scrub plastic trim as an extra step while washing the car

If the plastic, vinyl, or rubber trim or cladding on your car has faded and become dull and weathered looking, then after washing to remove loose dirt, give the trim an extra scrubbing using a quality scrub brush and an all-purpose cleaner like 3d All Purpose Cleaner

Scrubbing faded, aged plastic trim with a quality all-purpose-cleaner will help to remove surface impurities and oxidation to make it easier for the trim shine to penetrate into the plastic and also to bond to the plastic for maximum beauty, longevity and protection from the inclement weather, UV rays and all the other airborne industrial pollution your vehicle is exposed to day-to-day.

After scrubbing with an all-purpose-cleaner, rinse thoroughly.

After rinsing your car, dry as you normally would using your favorite drying towel.

Here’s how the plastic trim looks after a thorough washing and cleaning.

Step 3:  Apply a quality exterior auto trim protectant

There are a lot of options for trim protectants on the market today but the one I like, use, and recommend is the 3D Ultra Protectant.  To apply 3D Ultra Protectant, use a clean microfiber applicator pad or a foam applicator pad and as you apply the product, massage over and into the pores and surface texture of the plastic trim surface.

Massage the trim shine over and into the pores of the plastic.

Allow the 3D Ultra Protectant trim shine to dry and set for a few minutes and then using a clean microfiber towel, wipe off any excess.

3D Ultra Protectant dries to the touch

Besides protecting, preserving, and restoring a dark, black finish to exterior plastic trim and cladding, it also dries to the touch, so it won’t wash off in the rain or become a dust magnet down the road.

That’s it!  You’re done!

That’s all there is to preserving or restoring a beautiful, deep black shine to the trim on your car, truck or suv.  After the initial application, re-apply every 3-4 months to maintain a factory new appearance.  The best practice is to proactively treat all exterior plastic surfaces when your vehicle is brand new as this will greatly reduce the problem of oxidation.  But if the trim is already oxidized and faded, following the steps outlined here and then repeating them on a regular basis will restore and maintain the beauty and factory appearance of exterior plastic trim and cladding.

If you have any questions about protecting your car’s auto trim with the best car trim protectant, just shoot me an email, I always happy to help.


Mike Phillips

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