Removing Silicone From a Car Without Harming the Paintby Chris Stevenson
Most types of silicone utilized in the auto body and paint industries are water soluble additives used in waxes, polishes and paint protectants. When fatty acids and polydimethylsiloxane derivatives are generated, it creates silicone. Silicone also acts as a lubrication agent, and when added to polish, wax and special coatings, it creates a smooth, slippery finish. Another type of silicone exercises a glue-like substance designed for its adhesion and sealant properties, commonly used on window seals, weather stripping and trim pieces. Both types of silicone have their own removal techniques. A vehicle owner can safely remove either type of silicone from his vehicle without damaging the paint.
Removing Silicone Wax
Use masking tape to mask off the area to be cleaned of silicone wax.
Don safety goggles and a particle mask and respirator. Pour a liberal amount of wax degreaser into a hand-sized section of terrycloth towel and squeeze until damp. Use one hand to apply circular strokes over a small section of the area, and immediately follow it up with a dry section of terrycloth with the other hand, removing all residue. Make circular wipes; move a foot or two and wipe dry. Do this quickly since the degreaser rapidly evaporates.
Change out as many drying towels as you need. Use enough pressure to remove the surface wax. Lessen the pressure if the dry towel accumulates too much color. Repeat the process until the area has been thoroughly degreased. Rinse the area with clean water from a high-pressure nozzle. Towel dry or let the spot air dry.
Use a fine-texture scouring pad for heavy accumulations of built-up wax. The pad should have a foam base with a scouring pad cover, like those used to remove bug and tar accumulations. Use light, circular motions with the pad. Do not apply enough pressure to bring up the original car color. Wipe quickly with a clean terrycloth towel, then rinse with high-pressure water.
Removing Silicone Adhesive-Sealant
Mask off the area with masking tape. After you have removed the trim piece or component, use a hairdryer to warm up the old accumulation of adhesive sealant, starting at one end only. Hold the hairdryer nozzle 6 to 8 inches away and work the heat back and forth over a small section.
Pry up the old silicone with a razor blade to gently lift the softened silicone up from the metal. Try and hold the razor blade only a few degrees off the perpendicular; you do not want a sharp angle of attack that will scrape, gouge or cut the paint. Do this very carefully, pushing the hairdryer nozzle slightly in front of the blade. Heat and remove simultaneously.
Use an angled dental pick to reach into tight seams and gutters, picking out small sections of silicone at a time. Keep the silicone bead in one rope-like piece, if possible. The pick end should be held parallel to the surface, then twisted in an upward fashion.
Apply a stronger silicone stripper and a safety scouring pad to the adhesive sealant if a thin smear-like residue remains because of shallow razor cuts. The thin adhesive coatings of hardened silicon are the toughest part of removal, so take your time and concentrate on small sections before moving on. Wipe dry with terrycloth towels and thoroughly rinse with clean water.
- Remove silicone wax, or silicone-based polish protectant before and after sanding a vehicle's painted surface, before body filler application and between applications of undercoats and topcoats. Areas that will receive new finishes must be sterilized to remove all grease, oil, waxes, old silicone, hard water and oxidation. It is advisable to remove silicone wax after using an orbital sander and cutting compound during various cuts with different grit sanding discs.
- Remove old sealant after dismantling sealed window sections, decorative trim and weather stripping. Old silicone adhesive sealant that has cured is no longer adequate to reuse and must be removed completely so a fresh line or bead can be laid.
- If you are unsteady or uncomfortable using a razor blade to shave off silicone, use a plastic credit card. The credit card does not damage the paint, but its sharp corners cut and lift hardened silicone, much like a razor blade. Avoid melting the card with the hairdryer by heating first, then pointing the nozzle away.
Things You'll Need
- Masking tape
- Safety goggles
- Particle mask or respirator
- Wax degreaser
- Terrycloth towels
- High-pressure hose nozzle
- Safe scouring pad (bug and tar type)
- Razor blades
- Angled dental pick (if applicable)
- Silicone stripper
Chris Stevenson has been writing since 1988. His automotive vocation has spanned more than 35 years and he authored the auto repair manual "Auto Repair Shams and Scams" in 1990. Stevenson holds a P.D.S Toyota certificate, ASE brake certification, Clean Air Act certification and a California smog license.