Tire shine is a great way to help spruce up the appearance of your vehicle. It is easy to apply, easy to find in automotive and regular stores and it is pretty cheap when you consider the benefits and ease of use. Tire shine is also a product that is normally sold with enough quantity that you can use it on multiple sets of tires or multiple times on the same set. This combined with the price means that most people who care about their cars most likely have some tire shine sitting around. This means that it can be a great way to clean plastic trims, but special care must be taken when cleaning plastic trim and we must look at what exactly that means.
Types of Plastic Trim
The first thing to remember is that not all plastic is of the same quality, durability or even finish. For example the plastic fender trim pieces on a 2022 WRX are different than the interior door panel on a 20 year old Silverado. Outside plastic pieces are more likely to be more durable and rugged, thus being less susceptible to damage but it is important to be careful with first application. Generally because of this tire shine is better applied to exterior plastic trim but interior pieces should be ok.
Oil Based vs Water Based
Generally tire shines are either water based or oil based. If a tire shine is oil based then it is more likely to last longer and keep the tire shinier for longer. On the downside oil based means that the tires can pick up more dirt and debris but this should be minimal with most quality shines. On the other side water based is not as strong and because of this will not be as shiny. In trade off this means that it is better for the environment and will most likely be better for use on plastic trim. Water based tire shine can do a great job of restoring plastic trim pieces.
Using Tire Shine on Plastic Trim
When using tire shine the first step is to thoroughly clean the surface that you are appling to, wether that be tire or plastic trim. Often using warm water mixed with dish soap will do the job. The main goal is to give the tire shine a clean surface to mate to and ensure that there is nothing nasty trapped underneath the coat of shine.
If you haven’t used the brand of shine you are using on the same type of plastic then first try on a small and preferably hidden part. Allow the product to set and dry over a few hours and check the results. If the trim looks better and does not feel off if it is a part you will be touching often then proceed and apply to the rest of the trim. This allows you to safely try the tire shine without risk of ruining the plastic trim.
This is not a long term solution to faded plastic trim pieces. If you are using a low quality water based tire shine than the plastic could return to its dull and greyed look as soon as your next car wash. A quality water based shine should last for longer, around a month at a time. An oil based quality tire shine could last even longer. A friend of mine uses it every three months and is happy.
A more permanent fix
The best way to properly fix faded black plastic trim is to replace it. While you can definitely fix it with different methods this will easily return the best results. Especially because often old faded trim is cracked or scratched. This is easily the most expensive way and does not make sense if you do not plan on keeping the vehicle a long time.
If the trim is black then another cheaper solution can be to remove the trim, strip it by sanding it down, and then using spraypaint to give it a fresh and clean coat. This method is the longest but can yield good strong results for not to much money. The biggest downside is making sure the paint you use matches the original look.
You can also use plasti dip but it will not be nearly as permanent but will still require as much work for proper application. Finally that leaves us with the focus of this article, using tire shine on plastic trim. Because of the ease of application and price this makes it my main recommendation 9 times out of 10.
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