Why Do Plastic Car Parts Fade?

Why do plastic car parts fade?
And can you fix it if they do?

When you are in the detailing business you start to notice certain things on many of the cars you see in town. One of the things that stands out is faded plastic moulding on vehicles of all types. It is most pronounced on bumpers that were originally painted the body colour of the vehicle, rear spoilers, and on black trim that frames the fenders, windows, and windshield. The fading or chalking you are observing on your plastic car parts is the inevitable result of the breakdown of the plastic, hastened by ultraviolet rays and atmospheric pollutants.

Auto makers use many plastic formulations, all with different abilities to withstand fading. Many plastic bumpers are a composition known as ABS or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. It’s the durable plastic that’s used in telephones and hundreds of other devices. No matter which formulation they use, though, the plastic will fade at a different rate than the metal body panels that surround it, creating a colour difference that is very noticeable to the naked eye.

Can You Prevent Faded Trim?

Parking your car in the shade should slow the aging of your plastic trim, as well as preserve your paint and interior fabrics. If you live in an area with high levels of pollutants, you should expect problems eventually.

Many people try using car wax on the bumpers, thinking it will create a barrier of protection, but it turns out that the opposite is true. Wax will get into the pores of the plastic and then turn chalky, further amplifying the effect of your greying trim. If you have already done that, you may want to buy a wax remover and start with a clean surface.

How Do You Restore Faded Trim?

A number of companies produce surface treatments for plastics, the best known being Armor All. Wiping the chalky surface with Armor All will help restore the black colour, but you will probably need to repeat the treatment frequently, but it does work as a stop gap solution.

To restore the vehicle to factory shine we have a few things we can do. A medium-term solution is to have us put a deep black tinted polish on the faded areas the next time you come in for an exterior detail. You can see an example of how it turns out here. It will last for months instead of days (compared to Armor All) and works wonders if you have an important event you need to take your vehicle to.

If you want something permanent, it will require a respray. It sounds drastic but it is actually really simple. For faded black trim you can do something like this, it is a quick and inexpensive re-painting of your plastic trim using the same paints they would have used in the factory. If your bumper or spoiler is fading, it requires a paint job closer to that of a hood or fender, which requires primer, colour matched paint, clear coating, and wet sanding. It is a bit more expensive, but it looks incredibly good. You can see that same bumper after a repaint right here. The results speak for themselves.

Are You Having a Fading Paint Problem?

Be in touch anytime, we would love to help.

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