Are the faded bits of previously black plastic trim bringing down the overall look of your car? John Simister explains how you can remedy the all too common situation
Black plastic bumpers. They have the great advantage over chrome ones of not rusting and of being usefully bash-resistant. Their crisp blackness also matched a new 1980s mood of stark, sporty functionality, especially when the visual mass of black continued along a car’s flanks and around its wheelarches.
But when the moody, soft-sheen darkness has been subjected to a couple of decades of ultra-violet-laden sunlight, it transmutes into a blotchy, faded morass of dirty grey that shouts of neglect. Even worse, it might start to go powdery. New plastic trim pieces for early examples of plastic-clad cars are often hard to get, so what can you do?
Some swear by peanut butter, preferably smooth. That’s not a fetish; what you’re doing is replenishing the plastic’s slight oiliness. A more scientific, and less hunger-inducing, approach is to rub in an unguent such as Autoglym’s Bumper Care, working it in with a soft toothbrush on the really stubbornly bleached-out parts – or areas ingrained with polish residue.
In bad cases of fading, though, the restoration will be short-lived and more drastic action is necessary. Careful use of a heat gun can sometimes cause the more mobile molecules in the plastics to come to the surface and restore the dark sheen, but there’s a danger of melting the plastic out of shape or losing the surface texture. A better approach can be to re-dye the plastic with a substance such as Autobright trim dye (available in black or grey), applied with a cloth or a sponge after cleaning the plastic thoroughly with white spirit.
When harder plastics, often found in interior components, lose their surface integrity they can be spray-painted. That sounds a bodge, but if you use the right paint it works very well. Indasa black textured trim paint, available from the Frost restoration products company, is the stuff to use. It mimics the old surface very convincingly.
Words: John Simister