Over time, plastic trim on the interior and exterior of cars can become scratched and dirty. If you want to renew your car's trim, all you have to do is apply a few coats of paint. Before applying the paint, remove and clean the trim so that the paint will adhere to the plastic. Once you're done, the trim on your vehicle will look fresh from the dealership.
Part 1 of 3: Clean the trim
Step 1. Remove the plastic trim from the car, if possible
It is easier to apply an even coat of paint to the trim if the trim is removed from the vehicle. Find the screws that hold the trim in place, and use a screwdriver to carefully remove them so that the trim will loosen from the vehicle. Check that there are no electrical components attached to the trim when you remove it.
- Place the screws in an area where you won't lose sight of them. If you are removing all the trim at once, keep the screws in each part separate from each other so you don't accidentally mix them up.
- It is best not to paint the plastic trim inside the car if it cannot be removed.
Step 2. Mix soapy water in the sink or in a bucket
Fill a sink with hot water and pour in a tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Mix the soap well into the water with your hands until it is foamy. If you have large pieces of trim or trim that you haven't been able to remove, like a bumper, then fill a bucket with soapy water instead of the sink.
Step 3. Clean the trim with soapy water and a scouring pad
Dip a scouring pad in the soapy water and scrub the car trim with a little pressure. This will help remove dirt and grease from the trim, as well as create small abrasions that will help the paint adhere better. Make sure to rinse all the soap off the trim after scrubbing it off.
- You can also use a commercial degreaser to clean the trim on your vehicle.
- If you use an abrasive pad, you won't have to sand the trim.
Step 4. Dry the trim with a lint-free towel before letting it air dry
Shake the excess water off the trim, then use a lint-free microfiber towel to dry it. Make sure to dry all the corners and areas where water can collect or the paint won't adhere well. Once you've towel-dried the trim, let it air dry for 1-2 hours so it's not damp when you start painting.
Depending on the weather conditions, the molding may take a little longer or a little less to dry
If the trim is not scratched enough once dry, use 200-grit sandpaper to sand with a little pressure to help the paint adhere.
Part 2 of 3: Prepare the workspace
Step 1. Spread a rag to collect paint on the ground outdoors
Find a flat, hard surface outside to place the rag to prevent paint from falling to the ground. Put something heavy in each corner so that the cloth is firmly in place. Lay the trim pieces on the rag so that you can paint all the sides of each piece.
You can buy paint pickup rags or tarps at any hardware or paint store
If you don't have a rag, you can tear open a cardboard box and use it to protect the surface from paint spills.
Step 2. Cover the area around the trim with masking tape if you couldn't remove it
If you have not been able to remove the mount from the vehicle, cover the areas near the mount with painter's tape to avoid ruining the car. Apply a coat of painter's tape around the edges of the trim to create an airtight seal that cannot be penetrated by paint.
- You can buy masking paper and painter's tape at home supply stores or online.
- Do not spray paint any trim on the interior of the car that you have not been able to remove.
Step 3. Spray a coat of adhesion promoter on the trim
Shake the can of binder to mix and hold it about 6 inches (15 cm) from the trim. Apply a thin coat of adhesion promoter, working slowly across the trim. Once you've finished one side, flip the trim over and spray the other side.
You can buy an adhesion promoter at a paint store or hardware store
Part 3 of 3: Apply the paint
Step 1. Apply a coat of spray paint made for plastic for added adhesion
Hold the spray paint can about 6 inches from the trim and press the trigger to apply the paint. Work the surface of the trim from side to side to apply a thin, even coat of paint. When you're done spraying on one side, apply the paint to the other side of the trim.
You only need to paint the side of the trim that is visible when it's on the car. However, you can paint the back of the trim if you wish
If you are painting on a hard plastic, such as ABS or PVC, start spraying while the adhesion promoter is still wet. If you are painting a flexible plastic, such as TPO or PP, wait until the adhesion promoter is completely dry.
Step 2. Let the first coat dry for 10 minutes before applying a second
Let the first coat of paint dry for 10 minutes so it has time to set. When you apply the second coat, spray the paint in the opposite direction of the first coat. For example, if you applied the first coat from left to right, spray from top to bottom for the second. Make sure the paint is evenly covering the trim so that the plastic underneath doesn't show through.
If you can still see the plastic under the paint after the second coat, apply a third coat once the trim is dry again
Step 3. Allow the trim to dry for an hour after applying all coats of paint
After all coats have been applied, allow an hour to allow time to fully set. Keep the trim in a well-ventilated area so paint fumes don't build up. Test an inconspicuous area of the trim with your finger to see if the paint is still sticky. If so, let it dry longer.
The paint may take a longer or shorter time to dry, depending on the climate you are in
Step 4. Apply a clear polish once the trim is dry for a glossy finish
The clear enamel hardens the surface of the trim to protect it from future damage and also adds a glossy finish. Hold the can of clear enamel about 6 inches (15 cm) from the trim and apply a thin coat to the entire surface. Once you've applied the clear coat, let it dry for 2-3 hours.
- You can buy clear nail polish at a paint store or hardware store.
- This is an optional step, it is not necessary to apply a coat of clear polish if you do not want it.