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Thread: Your Guide to Trim Restoration

  1. #1

    Dr_Snooz's Avatar
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    Your Guide to Trim Restoration

    If you know anything about car restoration, you know that door and window trims can be a very difficult part of the restoration. Watch a show on car restoration and you'll see builders who are yanking out old parts with sledgehammers and Sawzalls suddenly slow to a careful crawl when they get to the trim pieces. Why? Because the pieces are irreplaceable in a lot of cases. Restoration buffs will spend a lot of time and care scrutinizing and restoring old trim because it's so visible and so difficult to fix.

    The same holds true for our trim. We're dealing with door bump strips turning grey and windows trims fading, peeling and chipping. Unlike other car restorers, who can simply bend their trims straight and re-chrome, we have to put greater thought and clever-ness into our restorations because of the unique construction of our trim.


    1. Our bump strips are a molded, rubberized piece. You can't really re-chrome that. You have to devise a coating.
    2. Our windows trims include molded plastic flanges and integrated rubber window seals. To the extent you can, you want to preserve those.


    Consider this thread an open discussion on restoration tricks and strategies. I'll add my tips and tricks as I am able. Please feel free to add your own. We've been dealing with this issue for years now, and a lot of what we used to do (dressings, preservatives, paint, etc.) isn't working anymore. How do we take this to the next level?
    Dr_Snooz

    "I like to take hammers, and just break stuff, just break stuff." - Beavis


    1989 Honda Accord LX-i Coupe, 240k miles, MT swap, rear disc swap

    Shop manual downloads available here: CLICK TO VIEW



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    Re: Your Guide to Trim Restoration

    I'll start with those difficult rear pop-out windows on the coupes. The paint on the lower trim piece is a rubberized coating that degrades in UV light, cracks and peels off in big ugly chunks revealing the silver metal beneath. You can't simply strip the piece and paint it either. There is an integrated rubber window seal on the inside of it, and another integrated plastic flange on the outer side. You can see the flange clearly on the lower picture. (Sorry, there are only 2 pics because it was either give you a couple crappy pics, or give you nothing at all. I'll build this out better later on).

    Whatever you do, you want to preserve that inner window seal. The best way to do that is to trace a very straight line, cut along the line deep enough to cut through the layer of rubberized paint, but not so deep as to cut through the rubber window seal. You can see my line pretty clearly in the pics below. That allow you to strip off all the rubberized paint.

    That leaves the plastic flange at the outside. The problem with the plastic flange is that it too degrades in UV light and begins to come off in chunks leaving very noticeable gaps. If your flange is in good shape, simply paint over it. If it isn't, you can try to patch it somehow, maybe with epoxy. I had one trim with a good flange and one trim with a busted up flange. On good one, I simply painted it. On the bad one, I chose to break the whole thing off and go without. The bad one is in the above pic and the good one is in the below pic. Either one looks acceptable to me.









    That plastic flange is what really complicates the trim restoration on these cars. You can't simply strip the trim and refinish it because you'll lose that flange. And the flange is an important part of the aesthetics and the aerodynamics of the car. You can choose to strip it all off, which I am toying with right now. While that looks okay on this piece, it might look bad on other pieces. Just think about it and make your best guess before you commit.
    Last edited by Dr_Snooz; 04-26-2020 at 09:49 AM.
    Dr_Snooz

    "I like to take hammers, and just break stuff, just break stuff." - Beavis


    1989 Honda Accord LX-i Coupe, 240k miles, MT swap, rear disc swap

    Shop manual downloads available here: CLICK TO VIEW

  3. #3

    Dr_Snooz's Avatar
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    Re: Your Guide to Trim Restoration

    A word about paint, because paint is really the only option for refinishing these pieces. I have a long and hateful history with spray paint. It looks great for a year, then fades, flakes, chips off and looks awful forever after. I abhor pretty much all of it. Rust-O-Leum is the worst I've used, failing in mere months it seems. Duplicolor and Krylon are better, but still the same story. The Tractor Supply paint is doing best of all so far, but it has faded noticeably in only a few months. The only spray paint I've ever found to be good was some epoxy appliance paint I dug out of Dad's tool trailer years and years and years ago. That stuff what awesome, but I can't find it anymore. I have a can of SEM trim paint here that I'll try soon and let you know.

    What improves the odds of success is to ignore all the instructions for prepping a piece. The instructions on the paint can, the car gurus on the web, your best friend who works in a body shop, it's all crap; it all ends in failure. Just ignore it all and do this:


    1. Make sure the piece isn't noticeably dirty. Wash any mud and grime off.
    2. Wipe the piece down with rubbing alcohol or denatured alcohol. Rubbing alcohol contains acetone, which is the only way I've found to get all the greasy greasy off. Soap and water will not work. If you skip this step, your paint job WILL end in failure. (It will end in failure anyway, because that's what spray paint does, but it will last longer this way).
    3. Sand lightly with a find grade of sandpaper.
    4. Maybe do another wipe with the alcohol to remove any sanding dust.
    5. Paint the piece.


    That's it. That's the only thing that works.
    Dr_Snooz

    "I like to take hammers, and just break stuff, just break stuff." - Beavis


    1989 Honda Accord LX-i Coupe, 240k miles, MT swap, rear disc swap

    Shop manual downloads available here: CLICK TO VIEW

  4. #4

    Dr_Snooz's Avatar
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    Re: Your Guide to Trim Restoration

    I just got some trims for my back window from the junkyard.




    These are in about as good a condition as you can hope for now. They have the rubber flanges that have become hard and brittle, but they aren't broken and chipped at least.

    The first job is to remove the remnants of flaking "paint" from the center spans of metal.




    As stated before, the "paint" is actually a rubberized coating on the metal that blends seamlessly into rubber sealing flanges on the edges of the trim. In this case, it wraps around to the back of the trim.




    The idea is to remove the flaky stuff and create a nice transition from the metal to the rubber flanges without chipping the brittle edges while you're doing it. In this case, I used a utility knife to scrape the paint off.




    It takes some care to get the transition right. This was the best I could do on one of my side windows.




    An alternative is to cut the rubber flange off entirely like I did on the opposite side window.




    I'm not sure which looks better. The trim looks cleaner with the flange removed, but it also leaves a noticeable panel gap that you can't really see in this photo. I'd say keep the flanges if you can, but if you can't, it isn't the end of the world.

    Here is what my trim looks like after the utility knife. Nice and smooth with smooth transitions from metal to rubber flange. It's not perfect, but it will still paint up nicely.






    Broken flanges can be rebuilt with epoxy.

    Last edited by Dr_Snooz; 04-04-2021 at 04:26 PM.
    Dr_Snooz

    "I like to take hammers, and just break stuff, just break stuff." - Beavis


    1989 Honda Accord LX-i Coupe, 240k miles, MT swap, rear disc swap

    Shop manual downloads available here: CLICK TO VIEW

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