As detailers we are always striving to remove imperfections within our paintwork for optimal clarity and maximum gloss, but a huge part of the overall look of modern vehicles is exterior trim pieces. These areas are often black or dark grey in color, so keeping the dark color increases contrast when paired with perfected paintwork, allowing your vehicle to stand out from the pack. Take a step back to start and really look at your vehicle as you might be surprised at exactly how much trim there actually is and the variety in which these trim pieces are made up of. Before detailing I tend to look for two different types of trim surfaces:
1. Plastic & Vinyl
- Coated – Smooth
- Uncoated – Textured
These different materials will change the way you care for and protect your trim. For plastic and vinyl areas, anything that is smooth or coated, you can protect with many of the same items you are using on your paint (coating, sealant or wax).
However, if you have any uncoated (textured) plastic pieces or even rubber areas, you are going to want to use a dedicated trim product. Traditional waxes and sealant can stain or streak these areas with an ugly white mark, so be sure that you are using trim specific coating or sealant to safely protect these pieces.
After identifying the material, you want to figure out what type of protection is desired. If it is coated trim like headlights and you have a 50ml bottle of paint coating, maybe you save some cash and apply the paint coating over the top of these areas. If you are targeting rubber and say want to skip a coating, a sealant or nice dressing that lasts a few weeks or months might be better suited for your situation. I recommend finding a balance between application effort and durability, but find what works best for your specific situation and needs. Below are a few of my favorite products that are safe for each of these specific trim areas.
Coated – Smooth Plastic
Uncoated – Textured Plastic
- Gtechniq C4 Permanent Trim Restorer
- Gyeon Trim
- CarPro PERL Plastic Engine Rubber Leather Protectant
- Solution Finish Trim Restorer
These products are not the only items you can use on these specific trim areas, just some of my favorites that are fairly easy to apply and have provided a great look and good durability in the northeast overall. The sealants or dressings (i.e. PERL) will last a few months, while coatings (i.e. Gtechniq C4) will last at least a year. If you have faded trim, a restoration product like the Solution Finish Trim Restorer topped with protection like the C4 can bring trim back to life, while leaving it looking its best for a long time. All of these options are valid protection options, just find what meets your needs the best!
For visual reference, here is our warehouse manager Charlie’s Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro. Each photo will show the different trim areas around this vehicle, which provides you with a good idea of different trim areas you will find on many modern vehicles. Some vehicles might have more, or less, trim overall, but this article should help you pinpoint what protection products are best for your specific situation.
Headlights & Taillights
Wheel Wells & Fenders
Fog Light & Side Markers