Car Doctor Q&A: Fade to Black

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Black plastic trim eventually fades to a chalky gray in a few years. Car Doctor John Paul has a few conventional, and less conventional, methods of getting it back to black.

Q. I have a Jeep with rubber fender flares and now that the Jeep is 8 years old the black rubber is chalky white.

I have tried all of the vinyl beautifiers and some work better than other but the result doesn’t seem to last for more than a week or two. I even tried black shoe polish but that only lasted until the first hard rain.

Any suggestion other than new fender flares?

A. The black vinyl trim ages due to weather exposure, heat, sunlight and ozone. There are a couple of things to try:

Start with a thorough cleaning of the trim with soap and water, followed up with a wipe-down with denatured alcohol. Once everything is clean then try a quality black trim restorer and protectant. There are insanely expensive products — like $75 for a 15ml bottle — that claim to completely restore and protect black plastic trim, but for $14, the detailers in the forums at AutoGeek like 303 Aerospace protectant.

Find a Clean Jeep Wrangler at BestRide.com

You may need to do it a couple of times to get the results you want.

For a slightly unconventional approach you could try a heat gun. Recently a reader sent me some before and after pictures of the faded/oxidized flares on his vehicle and he only used a heat gun.

I tried this on my own vehicle and to my amazement slowly moving the heat gun over the faded rear scuff plate at the rear hatch of my car brought the black color back. It took a little bit of time but no real physical effort. As always, try it on an inconspicuous area first.

Once you’re finished, look for a good vinyl protectant.

John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. A certified mechanic, Paul tests dozens of new cars each year and also hosts a radio show on AM 950 and 550.

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John Paul