How to Choose a Car Trim Cleaner

How to Choose a Car Trim Cleaner

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Exterior car detailing involves many tasks:

With the paint finish covering most of a car, washing and waxing makes for a factory-fresh shine and protects it against harmful contaminants.

Cleaning the windows ensures optimal visibility as you drive across different roads and conditions.

And using a wheel and tire cleaner provides some extra flair to your vehicle's overall appearance.

But what about cleaning the exterior trim? While exterior trim pieces might seem insignificant compared to other parts of a vehicle, keeping them clean not only looks good but also protects them from discoloration.

Knowing how to clean your car requires understanding your car’s materials. Today's cars use many matte-black plastic trim pieces, from the bumpers to the lower side panels.

Who makes the best trim and plastic restorer products? How can you restore black trim on a car?

Let's look at car trim cleaners and why exterior maintenance is fundamental to keeping your car looking its best.

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The importance of exterior maintenance

Keeping your vehicle's mechanical components in good working condition is an essential part of owning a car. Following an automaker's recommended service intervals for changing oil, filters, spark plugs, and more ensures dependable performance over time. 

While that may be true, your car's exterior also requires attention, not only to look good but also to protect it from the elements. 

As time goes by, oxidation and harmful particles accumulate on the paint finish, which can mar the surface and make it less attractive. 

When you wash a car, it's essential to use specifically formulated products designed to go easy on the paint and remove built-up contaminants. 

It wouldn't make sense to do the dishes with laundry detergent, and the same logic applies when washing a car. Specialty manufacturers create car wash soaps that are pH-balanced for gentle cleaning, removing dirt and grime while not affecting previous wax jobs. Other cleaners, like dish liquid or laundry detergent, are for grease and oil and may damage a vehicle's paint. 

After washing with the proper soap, applying a thin coat of wax provides a like-new gloss and protects the paint from the elements.

Cleaning and conditioning the black plastic trim on the bumpers, fenders, door handles, and side panels not only enhances their deep color but also stops them from drying out or breaking. 

For the best results when washing a vehicle, microfiber towels are extra easy on the paint while still offering plenty of cleaning and drying power. And when it's time to wax, foam applicator pads massage the wax into the finish before you wipe it away with a towel. 

And voila! With a bit of know-how and elbow grease, you can have your car (no matter how used) looking as good as new.

Speaking of used cars, buying a used car can save you thousands versus purchasing or leasing a new vehicle. But finding one that's been well-cared for, inside and out, can be a hassle. Even if an advertisement looks nice, how can you know a vehicle isn't hiding mechanical issues? But Shift takes the worry out of buying a used car. Shift's certified mechanics perform extensive 150-point inspections on every car and have complete vehicle history reports, so you know your used car feels as good as new. Shift's website has a large selection of fully inspected vehicles located across the country that are ready to go. The website is user-friendly, and you'll be able to find various makes and models to suit your needs and budget. You can buy any of Shift's cars from the comfort of your own home for a streamlined shopping experience. With Shift's expertise and experience selling used vehicles, you can rest assured your used car purchase will be good to go from the moment you take delivery.

How to clean plastic exterior trim

As the black trim on your car's bumpers ages, it loses its dark tone and may become dry and weak. What were once popping black accents that complimented the paint finish can fade and appear chalky, diminishing your vehicle’s visual flair.

The typical cause of faded black exterior trim is direct sunlight. Over time, UV rays break down the plastic, causing it to fade and possibly turn brittle. 

But by using specially formulated products, like car plastic cleaner and black trim restorer, you can easily have the exterior trim looking just as it did when it was new.

Cleaning and restoring exterior trim is similar to waxing and buffing. All you have to do is wash and dry the plastic, apply either a car plastic cleaner or black trim restorer, then wipe it away. Some cleaners even include an applicator to work the product into the plastic. 

Performing this process several times may lead to a darker, newer appearance. Depending on the trim restorer you choose, it might last anywhere from two weeks to two years.

Choosing a car plastic cleaner

Choosing a black trim restorer comes down to, in short, two factors: quality versus quantity. 

According to Consumer Reports, two products perform substantially better than others currently available, but they come in smaller, costlier bottles. 

During Consumer Reports' testing, ReNu Finish and Wipe New not only made black trim pieces look dark and new again, but they lasted for 70 days and through 10 wash cycles.

The downside is that ReNu Finish and Wipe New both come in bottles less than two ounces in size. At $20, that’s double the cost of most other brands. 

If you’re a car care enthusiast and detail your vehicle frequently, you may want to consider other options like Meguiar's Ultimate Black Plastic Restorer or Turtle Wax Premium Trim Restorer. 

Meguiar's Ultimate Black Plastic Restorer comes in a 12-ounce bottle and costs $11. It has a consistency similar to liquid car wax and provides excellent results after application. But compared to Renu Finish and Wipe New, the look fades much quicker. 

Turtle Wax Premium Trim Restorer is another economical option, with a 10-ounce bottle priced at $10. Although it doesn't offer the longevity of more expensive choices, it outlasted Meguiar's Ultimate Black Plastic Restorer in Consumer Reports' testing. 

Keeping your car looking and running great is just one of the many associated expenses that come with owning a vehicle, along with exterior maintenance, fuel, and insurance. Finding ways to save money on auto-related costs helps keep extra cash in your bank account for other obligations. One way of doing that is by securing a good car loan. Shift works with a network of trusted lenders who compete for your business, so you get the best deal on financing. Applying for financing with Shift is quick and easy, with no cost or obligation. Many applicants receive an offer within minutes instead of days. Financing with Shift is so convenient that nine out of 10 customers choose us when they need a loan. If you have low credit, don't worry because we welcome cosigners. And when you purchase a car from Shift, you'll know it's good for the long haul with our best-in-industry service contracts. With a Shift Vehicle Protection Plan, not only are essential components covered, but you also receive roadside assistance. Wherever you happen to be in the continental US, Alaska, Hawaii, or Canada, help is just a toll-free phone call away, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

2019 Lincoln Nautilus (from $46,950)

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Author
Shift Editorial Team