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Auto Detailing Guide - Exterior Trim

Exterior Trim Auto Detailing Guide

Overview (Return to Top)

Your exterior trim is constantly exposed to the elements, but it often doesn't receive the same care you provide your exterior paint. We encourage you to make sure you do not neglect this area as it is very important to the end result. When the trim is cleaned and protected it helps create a sharp contrast with your paint for a stunning appearance when you are done. Paying attention to these areas is what helps separate a good detail from an outstanding detail.

Frequency (Return to Top)

If you maintain your vehicle on a regular basis the trim should be relatively clean to begin with. Every one to three months we recommend using a light degreaser to ensure it's thoroughly cleaned. For protection we normally recommend re-applying the protectant every one to two months. The cleaner will help remove stubborn build ups and the protectant will provide a beautiful finish with UV protection. If you haven't cared for the trim in a while spend a little extra time cleaning the surface with at least one to two passes. If the trim looks severely neglected you may want to consider using one of our products designed to restore the trim.

How-To Treat Trim (Return to Top)

Caring for the trim starts off with a cleaning and then you should assess the condition of the trim afterward. Most trim is vinyl, plastic or rubber so you can generally use the same type of cleaner on all three of these surfaces. Always clean the trim first while washing the vehicle with your shampoo and wash mitt. For a deeper cleaning spray a light degreasing solution on a microfiber towel and wipe the trim with medium pressure. The P21S Total Auto Wash is a popular choice because it's citrus based degreaser that is very gentle yet highly effective. When you are done the trim should look and feel much cleaner. If you still have stubborn build ups you can use a brush to work in the degreaser, but be careful you don't brush the surrounding paint.

If you have dried polish, sealant or wax on your trim (vinyl, plastic and rubber) try restoring it with the Poorboy's Trim Restorer. It's a deep cleaning formula that also dresses the trim with a dark and rich glow. Apply a few drops no larger than the size of a nickel to a microfiber towel or applicator and work it in to the surface with medium pressure back and forth. It will help remove the stubborn stains and leave a dark and shiny finish behind.

If your trim is clean but looks dull try using a product that will actually re-apply some of the lost color. The TUF SHINE Black Restore Kit or the Black WOW are both great options that will help restore the trim to like new. Each of them are powerful formulas that can help bring back that like new appearance that really lasts. They are both popular on vinyl, plastic and rubber surfaces.

For well maintained trim you will only need to use a protectant on it that you simply wipe on. A good protectant will provide strong UV protection and a fresh appearance to the trim. The 303 Aerospace Protectant offers superior UV protection and a nice dark finish that is not glossy or oily, so it's very popular amongst detailing enthusiasts. Spray a light coating on a clean applicator or towel and wipe the trim back and forth. A nice light coating provides the best results and within minutes it will be dry to the touch. The 303 Aerospace Protectant and most protectants can be applied to vinyl, rubber, plastic and more.

Facts and Tips (Return to Top)

  • Having properly cleaned and dressed trim creates more contrast with your paint
  • For best results, degrease your trim prior to applying a dressing
  • Make sure you are using a dressing that provides UV protection to prevent fading
  • Using a brush can help provide a deeper cleaning to your trim pieces
  • Old wax build ups can be removed with a degreaser

Here are a few articles related to Trim Care from our Ask-a-Pro Detailer Blog:

View all Trim Care articles

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