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Dressing Trim, Rubber, & Plastics | Autoblog Details | Complete Detail Ep. 8

Autoblog Staff

The goal when dressing your trim, rubber, and plastics is to create contrast between these black areas and whatever color your paint and wheels may be. This is what creates the "pop factor" to any detail. It also helps protect the trim from future UV damage. Find out how to apply it for the longest lasting shine and protection on this episode of Autoblog Details.

Watch all of our Autoblog Details videos for more tips on car cleaning and maintenance by professional detailer Larry Kosilla. While you're at it, check out Larry's other video series on how to diagnose, fix, and modify cars, Autoblog Wrenched!

Show full video transcript text

[00:00:00] The goal when dressing your trim, rubber, and plastics is to create contrast between these black areas and color your paints and wheels may be. This is what creates the pop factor to any detail. It also helps protect the trim from future UV damage. Find out how to apply it for the longest lasing shine and protection on this episode of Auto Blog Details. First put on a pair of gloves.

[00:00:30] These products tend to make your hands oily and slippery, and keep in mind that the next step is cleaning windows so if your hands are oily, touching clean window towels will cause them to streak and for you to waste a ton of time. There are a few different style products that achieve similar results, however where and how they're used is different based on location of the trim or rubber. The first up is aerosols. When we think of aerosols we think of the can itself, which is understandable, but technically an aerosol is a combination of a liquid and a gas in the form of a cloud or a fine mist.

[00:01:00] Or said another way, an aerosol is a fine mist of liquid or lots of solid particles evenly dispersed throughout a gas propellant. When the trigger is pulled the pressurized can releases the propellant and the dressing or the air freshener, or the paint, or the hairspray, you get the idea. So with this in mind, aerosols are fantastic for tight and intricate areas where your applicator pad can't fit, because the propellant pushes the product into these uneven surfaces, like plastic honeycomb grills or hidden plastic engine components.

[00:01:30] Keep the sprayer at least eight to 10 inches away from the plastic and quickly move the can back and forth as you spray. Holding on one spot too long will cause the product to build up, run, or drip, similar to using a spray paint can. Even coverage is super-important, otherwise some areas will look shinier than others, which can be distracting to the eye. Give the product a few minutes to dry, then lightly wipe the hard plastic to avoid any dust attraction or build-up if you plan to drive immediately afterwards. Next up is rubber, as tire dressings can be very tricky.

[00:02:00] There are two main categories for tire dressings, water-based and solvent-based. Solvent-based dressings tend to be liquidy and by default have more tire sling, but they're very glossy. Water-based dressings tend to be thicker, have less tire sling, and a satin finish. In my experience the typical solvents used in tire dressings will over time dry out the rubber, causing them to become hard and brittle.

[00:02:30] As more manufacturers have become aware of this, what was once considered solvent tire dressing has been relabeled as undercarriage shine, because the solvents won't harm hard plastics, because, well, they're already hard. So stick with water-based dressings for rubber. Apply two beads of tire dressing to your designated applicator. A good rule of thumb is that when any product is used with an applicator, it will only ever be used for that product and that product only. That goes for waxes, sealants, and even towels.

[00:03:00] Next, squeeze and prime the pad for even distribution. Spread the dressing on 1/3 of the tire at a time. Work the applicator from side to side, them up and down to get into the tire's designs and the letters or numbers of the model tire you're working on. Repeat this same process for the remaining 2/3 of the tire. I store my applicator in a plastic baggie to avoid a mess when I'm done, but even moreso because the foam has a ton of residual tire shine remaining, that allows me to only add a quick squirt of my favorite dressing to reactivate the pad.

[00:03:30] This saves me a ton of time and money, especially when you're doing a lot of tires every single day. In fact, this applicator pad is almost a year old. When you're done with the tires move to the wheel wells, as this is a perfect place for tire dressing for many reasons. First, you want the wheel to pop out of the wheel well, or in other words, you want it to have contrast. Having dirty or faded plastic in this area only distracts the eye from the car, sort of like having a mustard stain on a tuxedo, it's hard to look away from it.

[00:04:00] So once you're done with the rubber reach into the wheel well and quickly coat the plastic fender liner before you move to the next tire. Applying dressing to the wheel wells can be helpful in winter by creating a hydrophobic surface as a deterrent to snow and slush build-up. On more modern cars manufacturers installed a carpet-type material instead of the plastic to absorb road noise for a quieter drive, and although you can't use an applicator pad here the aerosols can be used for some hydrophobic properties.

[00:04:30] Black trim has been used for years to accentuate the lines of any vehicle, but most trim is without clear coat and can fade quicker than the paint itself, causing an ugly eye-sore. There are three commonly-used products for faded trim. First is to continue using your tire shine after completing the rubber and wheel wells. This is quick and easy and will last a decent amount of time with a satin finish. The second is trim gels.

[00:05:00] These are a bit thicker and are great for anyone looking for a more glossy shine, or a pop to their trim. You apply it with an applicator, similar to tire dressing. The third is with trim dyes. Black dyes are not as popular but they can be helpful when the trim is completely faded or it's your last chance before replacing them altogether. These products tend to be more liquidy and should be applied with a paint brush. Keep in mind that this is a dye and it can get messy really quick, so tape off the surrounding areas.

[00:05:30] Afterwards, lightly wipe the excess dye, remove the tape, and allow it to dry. Properly detailing your car is really a combination of the sum of different techniques coming together. In our previous episode we perfected the paint. In this one we rejuvenated the trim. The contrast between the bright paint and the deep black is what separates an average detail from a ridiculously great one. If the trim is too far faded, you may be able to Plasti Dip it as we did on the grill. To watch that episode, visit AutoBlog.com/Details.

[00:06:00] As always, if you found this video helpful, please share and keep up with all the latest detail videos by liking or subscribing to the Auto Blog page. I'm Larry Kosilla from AmmoNYC.com, see ya next time.