How to Restore an Oxidized Plastic Bumper Finish

by Bonnie Peterson

The exterior plastic on cars tends to lose its color over time. This process -- called oxidation -- occurs on plastic sooner than on the rest of the car. Many products are available to help you remove the chalky look from your plastic bumper and restore its finish. Follow a few basic steps to get rid of that oxidized look.

Plastic-Restoration Products

You can buy plastic cleaners and restoration products at your local auto parts store or even at some general merchandise stores. You need only a sponge applicator to apply the products and a towel to remove the excess. They provide a temporary shine to your car's plastic parts, as well as protection from the sun's harsh UV rays. They will even help prevent cracking. Some products are made especially for black.

Whatever products you use, apply them over all textured plastic moldings and bumpers. Some products work on vinyl and rubber as well, so you can protect your tires, dashboard, door panels and other interior parts of the car. The protection provided by these products will last about six months.

Tip

  • Apply plastic-and-trim cleaner and restorer as part of your car wash routine to maintain all plastic, vinyl and rubber and prevent future oxidation.

The results with a plastic restorer/cleaner product are immediate. The shine will fade quickly, but the color should continue to look almost new.

Plastic Dye

Dye products are also available that will permanently change the color. Black and gray are the most common colors. Some are spray-on dyes, while others require a wipe-on application. Tape around the edges of your bumper before applying these products to avoid discoloring other parts of your car's exterior.

Tip

  • Avoid getting dye onto anything other than the bumpers, including your skin.

Although dye is more expensive, you will only have to use it once . Apply dye with gloves and a applicator sponge.

Bumper Paint

Sometimes painting your bumper may be the best option: Spray and brush-on paints are available that are specifically made for painting bumpers -- and restoring them to their original finish. These paints are designed to match the original factory colors. If you have a lot of scratches, then a can of rubberized coating is your best bet to retexture the bumper. Black is the standard color, but gray bumper spray paint is also available. Mask off the surrounding area and clean the bumpers. You can spray or brush the paint directly onto your plastic bumpers. Go across the entire bumper with each pass, alternating between horizontal and vertical applications. A light coat should do the trick.

Tip

  • Always use a respirator when applying spray paint.

Items you will need

About the Author

Bonnie Peterson has been an automotive writer and custom automotive painter since 2011. She graduated from Cypress College in the field of Automotive collision repair in 2010 and now has numerous certifications in automotive collision repair, refinishing and detailing.