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One of the primary problems with black plastic trim on your car or truck is that over time it begins to oxidize and develop a chalky haze on the surface. This is normal and to be expected. Plastic over time will oxidize, especially when it is exposed to the harsh environment that a car or truck exterior is exposed to daily.
Most cars these days have some black plastic trim on the exterior. Usually at least on the front around the grill area, windshield, and often on the rear. Some vehicles have lots more.
Figuring out how to rejuvenate exterior trim is a struggle I identify with. I drove a Volvo XC70 Wagon for a while and the exterior of that car was covered from front to back with textured black plastic trim.
Most people will apply a little tire dressing to their trim and quickly bring back that deep rich black plastic look. The results are amazing and easy to achieve.
Problem solved right? Well not exactly. Unfortunately tire dressings and similar products such as Armor All or our highly recommended Aerospace 303 Protectant just aren’t a match for sun and rain over any real length of time. They aren’t designed for this type of usage.
There are other products on the market that are designed for this however. Unfortunately most of those don’t really last long either. Some poor performers are Mothers Back-to-Black Trim Restorer (not to be confused with Mothers Back-to-Black Trim Cleaner) and Meguiar’s Ultimate Black Plastic Restorer.
What we need is a permanent solution. What I mean by permanent is something that won’t fade after a few days or even a few weeks or months. Something that has some real staying power.
You’re in luck! I have THE SOLUTION for tackling this problem and you’re going to be thrilled with the results.
Best product to restore black plastic trim - Cerakote Trim Coat
Cerakote Trim Coat is quite different from most other products on the market for dealing with oxidized black plastic trim. It’s actually a ceramic coating for plastic trim. It’s very impressive stuff.
Cerakote guarantees this product for 2 years and 200 washes. That’s one hell of a guarantee. A lot of other trim restores wouldn’t make it past 1 wash, let alone 200.
Another imprint note is that this product isn’t just for black trim. It will work on all sorts of colored plastic trim. If you want to provide a layer of ceramic protection to trim that is of a different color you’re good to go.
This stuff also doesn’t leave a greasy coating on your trim either. If I wanted a greasy look to my black trim I’d just go get some Vaseline and spread it around.
A single pack of Cerakote Trim Coat contains 10 wipes which they state is enough to cover the plastic trim on a large SUV. It also comes with 2 seats of gloves to protect your hands from the coating.
Cerakote recommends cleaning your plastic trim with Dawn dish soap since it is a degreaser and will remove any oils and other contaminants that may prevent the coating from adhering well.
You’ll probably want to also get a good soft bristle brush to work into the pores of the plastic as well. You want to lift up as much dirt and grime as you can to get the cleanest surface possible. The better the job you do in your prep work the better the results will be in the end.
Another VERY CRITICAL point to note when preparing your trim is to ensure that it is COMPLETELY DRY before applying the coating. This doesn’t simply mean wiping everything down really good with an absorbent microfiber towel. It means really ensuring there there isn’t any water hidden in a crack or crevice nearby that can run down and ruin all your hard work.
If you watch the Cerakote video they suggest using compressed air if you have it available to blow water out of any area that could be hiding it. They also suggest opening and closing doors, hatches, hoods, and anything else that opens multiple times to get water trapped in seals released. Take this step seriously to ensure you get a smooth and uniform finish that lasts.
How to Apply Cerakote Trim Coat
Step 1: Wash your vehicle thoroughly as you normally would
Step 2: Thoroughly clean your plastic trim using Dawn Dish Soap
Step 3: Thoroughly dry your entire vehicle
Step 4: Ensure that all of your plastic trim is completely and 100% dry
Step 5: Put on the provided gloves
Step 6: Wipe the product onto all plastic trim surfaces you intend to restore
Step 7: Double-check that all trim is coated evenly
Step 8: Allow to cure for 1 hour before exposing to rain or other source of water
Other options worth considering
Prior to Cerakote coming out with their Trim Coat product there were 2 go to options that I’d recommend. They are good performers so if you can’t get your hands on some Trim Coat then I’d recommend one of these products.
Gtechniq C4 Permanent Trim Restorer
Gtechniq describes how their C4 product works as chemically bonding with the surface of your black plastic trim. They say that it swaps molecules with the surface of the plastic. Its advertised lifespan is 1 to 2 years. Not quite as good as what Cerakote guarantees but certainly very good.
Solution Finish Trim Restorer
Solution Finish comes in 3rd place but is still a solid product. It should keep your black plastic trim black for 8 to 12 months. Not as good as Gtechniq C4 and far behind Cerakote Trim Coat but miles ahead of the typical big box store products that claim to restore your trim.
DIY car trim restorer
Some people prefer coming at a problem from a completely different angle. If you’re one of those people you may be interested in a unique approach that I came across. You’ll need a heat gun to make this work. You’ll also need a fair bit of patience as well as be very careful to not damage your trim.
The way this process works is you simply heat your plastic trim to a point that it brings the natural oils in the plastic back to the surface. This restores the plastic to a factory new-like finish. Like I mentioned though, this takes quite some time and you have to be very careful not to overdo it or you’re ruin your trim.
This isn’t a route that I suggest you try but for some people it’ll be preferable to using coatings to restore their trim. Cerakote Trim Coat is going to be much simpler to apply and will do an excellent job.
How to keep black plastic on a car from fading
Cerakote Trim Coat, Gtechniq C4, and Solution Finish Trim Restorer all solve the problem of oxidized trim but if you want to prevent oxidation from occurring, how do you prevent it? Oxidation occurs due to harmful UV rays from the sun breaking down the plastic.
The best way to interrupt this process is to keep your plastic out of direct sunlight as much as possible. This won’t always be possible obviously but parking in covered spots as often as you can is ideal. If you don’t have a garage or car port to park under when you’re home or at work you’ll definitely be challenged in this area.
The other key thing to do is to keep your plastic coated with a quality protectant. 303 Aerospace Protectant is an excellent protectant that we highly recommend. 303 Aerospace Protectant is specifically designed to block harmful UV rays. The downside of protectants like this one are that they will wear off quickly in rain and harsh weather. You’ll need to reapply often to keep the protective benefits at their best.
It’s surprising to me the vast number of so called trim restorers on the market that do little to actually restore trim back to a rich black luster for any real period of time. Most are pointless to bother with. Many of these products come from well-regarded brands such as Meguiar’s, Mothers, and others.
Do the job right the first time. Get Cerakote Trim Coat. With a 200 wash guarantee you know it’s no joke.
If you can’t find Cerakote Trim Coat for some reason, I highly recommend Gtechniq C4 Permanent Trim Restorer as an excellent alternative. It comes close to the longevity of Cerakote but not quite. It’s also a little more expensive. Another alternative is Solution Finish Trim Restorer. It’s substantially worse than the first 2 options but it’s also substantially better than almost anything else.
Try to keep your car or truck parked out of the sun and keep your trim coated with some 303 Aerospace Protectant and you should find that your black plastic trim will stay jet black much longer.
Thanks for reading and happy detailing.