In this video I take you through the simple steps required to permanently restore your faded plastic trim.
To start with you want to give all exterior surfaces a good clean to rid them of any loose dirt that may be contaminating, or in the case of this disgustingly dirty car completely obscuring the faded plastic trim but to be fair this was actually a great example of the kind of crap that contributes to trim degradation and represented exactly the kind of thing you’d be be protecting it from by permanently coating it.
The limited daylight hours and lack of a garage to complete the latter stages of the process in meant I didn’t have time to fully film myself both washing the car and tending to the plastics but rest assured if I encounter any more heavy road salt like this I’ll be certain to get some high definition footage of it being methodically washed away.
One aspect of the wash process I did make sure to capture though was the degreasing of the trim with a diluted all purpose cleaner and soft bristled detailing brush. Even if it looks clean it’s still worth this doing as it will lift out any unseen deeply ingrained dirt as well as cut through any waxy residue the wash product may leave behind, both of which could serve to compromise the adherence of the coating once applied.
With a little off camera Guru “magic” then, the car was now completely crud free and the plastics ready to soak up some of that Gtechniq good stuff!
Prior to any satisfying restorative work taking place though the trim was treated to a final once-over with some panel wipe to completely strip the surface back and ensure a proper bond between plastic and product. Straight rubbing alcohol (which is what this is primarily made of anyway) can also be used for this and there’s no need to worry about excess overspray contaminating surrounding areas as it quickly flashes off to leave a completely smear and spot-free finish.
Once washed, degreased and wiped down then the hideous naked trim was clear for all to see. Pretty unsightly if you ask me but it’s necessary to take it back to bare plastic to see exactly what you’ve got to work with.
With plenty of trim to cover on this old estate it was time to crack on before the damp autumnal air moved in and spoiled things. The Gtechniq C4 product chosen for the job isn’t particularly cheap at over £20 for 15 millilitres however it should save time and money in the long run if you’re no longer having to repeatedly apply different dressing products that last no more than a few weeks.
The coating comes complete with a few small cotton applicator pads which, once the bottle has been dabbed onto are used to work the product over the affected trim. Be warned though they don’t last long so if you have plenty of it to coat it might be worth persuading the missus to donate some of her makeup remover pads to ensure you don’t get caught short.
Once the trim has been adequately coated it should be buffed over with a clean dry microfibre towel to remove any excess product and leave a uniform finish that dries to the touch and isn’t too glossy due to its incredibly shallow depth of of just 30 nanometers once cured.
It’s advisable to wear protective gloves of some sort when applying a coating like this as it is an irritant and with it being so durable if you do get it on your mitts you’ll likely be peeling it off for days – a bit like super glue!
You also want to try and avoid cross-contamination of the paintwork for the same reasons; unless you wipe away any excess immediately you could be left with light smearing that on a well kept car could look messy so just be mindful when working around the edges.
That being said I wasn’t too fussed about some areas of slight overlap here as this was far from a fully detailed masterpiece plus with parts of the trim being contaminated with stubborn old polish and wax residue from previous owner’s careless cleaning jobs I wanted to make sure it was liberally worked into the edges to eliminate or at least conceal the white staining which it tends to do very well.
You can of course mask off all the trim to ensure the coating doesn’t come into contact with the paintwork but a lack of time and tape meant I largely went without plus I was prepared to polish off any smears at a later date when the paintwork gets a proper going over anyway.
With the door handles being so washed out and made from that dreadful porus type of plastic I applied the coating and let it soak in without buffing to give the tacky material the best chance of taking hold of the product.
The main window mouldings were another problem area but once treated with the C4 they looked a whole lot better. Again with them being so faded and of an untextured finish I simply applied and let sit without any initial buffing while I worked my way around the remainder of the car.
After running out of cotton pads and with no missus to steal any from I had to switch to a microfibre towel for the final few sections of trim but to be honest this gives just as good if not a better finish as it serves to simultaneously apply and buff the product in one go. Yes, you’ll end up using slightly more of it working this way but I intended to use the entire bottle on this car anyway and so wasn’t too concerned about being economical with it.
Likewise on larger areas of trim where ‘colouring in’ with a farty little cotton pad is going to take some time you can use a clean microfibre applicator instead to cover the surface more swiftly although the sponge material inside will soak up some of the product up so again, just be prepared to use a bit more of it.
Once all areas of faded trim had seen a sufficient coating of the C4 they were given one final buff off before being left to bask in their freshly rejuvenated glory. Admittedly, with the cool temperature and damp air it was far from the perfect setting to be doing this kind of thing in but it was either this or nothing at all.
Ideally after the cleaning you’d move the car indoors to treat the trim in a more controlled environment, perhaps introducing a little heat to increase the ambient temperature a few degrees to aid the molecular bonding process. I unfortunately didn’t have that luxury and so the freshly applied C4 had to sit out through the night which most likely diminished its durability somewhat but for the sake of the video I think it worked out pretty well.
The previously unattractive trim now looked comparatively factory fresh and you’d be hard pushed to tell it was ever badly faded or that it had just been coated with a synthetic protectant which in my eyes is exactly what you want.
Faded trim like this can often be written off as “too far gone” for traditional dressings but these semi-permanent coatings, if applied properly and allowed to cure adequately can help to knock years off the visual age of an older car.
There were still certain areas that could have done with a second application but putting things into perspective, for a thirteen year old car thats neglected plastics have only ever seen a bit of Back to Black I think they looked alright and what’s more they’ll now be thoroughly protected from the harsh winter elements with any future grime coming into contact with them being nice and easy to remove.
If you own an older vehicle with tired looking exterior plastic (or a newer car thats trim you want to keep looking new for that matter) then I’d highly recommend looking into treating them with a permanent coating like this Gtechniq C4 to save you the hassle and heartache of having to repeatedly deal with hideous faded trim!