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How to Restore and Protect Black Plastic Car Trim

Faded black plastic trim pieces ruin the look of a freshly washed or detailed car. What was once a deep black color fresh off the showroom floor, turns into an old and tired gray, or sometimes even white, color. As with any exterior feature of a vehicle, it’s exposed to all the elements and temperature changes. Unlike the paint work of your car which is protected by clear coat, plastic trim is fully exposed. This makes it prone to fading and oxidizing at some point in the vehicle's life cycle.

You could spend countless hours washing and detailing a car, but if all the black plastic and rubber bits are faded and oxidized, it will never look as good as it could. Deep blacks look smooth and clean, and it provides a nice contrast against painted panels, making the vehicle visually and aesthetically pleasing.

In this article, we’ll go over why the black plastic and rubber trim fades over time and give some tips on how to prevent, restore, and protect it.

Why Does Black Plastic Trim Fade?

If you didn’t know, plastic contains oils. The fading or chalking you see is caused by the plastic drying out over time. When UV rays are absorbed by plastic, the UV energy excites electrons, which can create free radicals. These free radicals cause the polymer structure to break down, which is what causes the plastic to degrade.

Your plastic trim pieces are more susceptible to this damage because they do not have a layer of UV-inhibiting clear coat like your paint, wheels, and headlights do. This means that every plastic piece will eventually fade, crack, and dry out unless it is protected. Additionally, harsh weather conditions, neglect, and road contaminants are also a cause for the black plastic trim to oxidize.

Similar logic can be applied to the black rubber weatherstripping and vinyl. The good news is that the same restoration process used on plastic works equally as well on rubber and vinyl trim.

How to Prevent Trim Oxidation

Before discussing how to restore black plastic trim, let’s go over how you can be proactive when it comes to car trim care. The best way to prevent plastic, rubber and vinyl trim oxidation is to protect the trim before it fades. Using a premium protectant, treat the plastic, rubber or vinyl areas of your vehicle while it’s still undamaged and unfaded. This ensures these pieces are protected from the elements and harsh ultraviolet rays emitted from the sun, which will keep them black for much longer.

By regularly applying a protectant or dressing to your vehicle’s exterior plastic, rubber and vinyl trim you can prevent future oxidation and fading. It’s much more efficient to apply trim protectant to these pieces while they're still new, rather than restoring old and neglected trim.

How to Restore Black Plastic Trim

There are several ways that exterior trim can be restored. You may have heard that using a heat gun, or to repaint the trim entirely. Although these techniques work, it’s not a practical solution. Additionally, if you’re not careful you can cause irreversible damage to the trim and the surrounding panels. The expert detailers at 3D Car Care recommend using a quality trim dressing to bring back the shine of your vehicle’s trim.

Step 1

The first step is to wash your car as you normally would. This removes any built-up dust, dirt and debris. Remember to always use a high-quality wash mitt and a pH balanced car wash soap.

Step 2

If the trim on your vehicle has oxidized and become dull and weather, give the trim another scrubbing with an all-purpose cleaner and a brush after washing the car. This will help remove surface impurities and acts as a surface prep which will allow the protectant to penetrate deeper and bond with the trim.

Step 3

Using a clean foam applicator pad and a trim protectant, apply the product to the trim. Be sure to massage the product over and into the pores and texture of the plastic trim surface. Once the entire trim has been treated with the protectant, allow it to set and dry for a few minutes. Once set, using a clean microfiber towel, wipe away any excess product.

how to restore black plastic trim

The Best Plastic Car Trim Restorer

If you’re looking for the best plastic car trim restorer on the market, then look no further than 3D Trim Care. Our plastic, rubber and vinyl trim restorer restores a rich dark look to faded plastic, vinyl and rubber trim. Using powerful UV blocking polymers helps prevent future oxidation, aging, and cracking. Additionally, our fast-drying, no-streak, water-resistant, and non-greasy formula maintains a fresh factory look.

3d trim care best black plastic trim restorer

Final Thoughts

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. However, if the trim is already oxidized and faded, following the steps outlined above and then repeating them on a regular basis (typically 3 to 4 months) will restore and maintain the beauty and factory appearance of exterior plastic trim and cladding.

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