Good as New - RV Enthusiast Magazine

Good as New

by | Feb 23, 2023 | Pro Tip, RVEXPERT

Photos by the author
Attempting to restore the original color and luster of plastic and vinyl parts used on most vehicles these days can lead to disappointing results. The Car Guys Plastic Restorer will make a believer out of you.

I take a lot of pride in keeping my truck clean and waxed, but today’s vehicles are loaded with plastic parts and accents — most of which tend to fade quickly. Intense sun and UV rays can transform any black plastic into an ugly gray color (and even sometimes white), detracting from the overall look of any vehicle.

When the plastic bed rails, rear bumper and other parts on my 2017 RAM 3500 started looking faded, I was compelled to research products that are formulated to restore and protect all these plastic pieces. I found the Car Guys Plastic Restorer on Amazon, and although it’s not cheap the results were certainly worth the $16.97 investment in an 8-ounce bottle.

close view of the plastic that covers the top of the tailgate on a later-model truck
One of the places on later-model trucks most vulnerable to weathering is the plastic that covers the top of the tailgate; this plastic is always exposed to direct sun and fades quickly. The Car Guys Plastic Restorer made short work out of bringing back the original color. It’s mixed and bottled in the U.S.A.

The squeeze bottle comes with a foam applicator that made it easy to apply; always start with a clean surface. While the company touts the lack of an oily finish, the thick liquid does seem a little greasy during the initial application, but it dissipates rather quickly after buffing (10-15 minutes after applying) and completely dries after a day or two. The product is not a dye; it’s a formula that restores the original color to the surface, and it does so with aplomb. It’s designed to not only restore the look of plastic, rubber and vinyl but also offer UV protection for months — and is mixed and bottled in the U.S.A.

view of the plastic trim on the top of the bumper a 2017 Ram 3500, with an area restored
a toothbrush is used to penetrate the grooves in the pattern on the bumper
The plastic trim on the top of the bumper on this 2017 Ram 3500 gets beat up by the elements and from stepping on the surface to reach inside the bed. The pattern looks nice when new, but after a while it turns ugly. A toothbrush was used to penetrate the grooves in the pattern and the look was restored to new.

Applying the restorer to most surfaces with the foam applicator worked well, but I did have to use a toothbrush to apply the thick liquid in the pattern grooves on the bumper where you typically step on to reach inside the bed. Also, the foam pad that came with the plastic restorer got chewed up on rougher surfaces, so I ordered a bag of eight, 4.3-inch Polyte Foam Detailing Application Pads on Amazon for $8.99. I think that next time I might search for waxing pads that have cloth on one side and foam on the other, figuring they may last longer.

The company claims that the product will last for months and is resistant to rain, which seemed a little optimistic at first, but I’m happy to report that six months later the parts I restored were only just starting to fade — and were summarily treated to another application. There are numerous places where this product can be used, including the dashboard and surrounding panels on the doors. It is not intended for use in restoring headlight covers.

I then got to thinking about how this stuff might work on the vinyl stripes gracing the sidewalls of my fifth wheel. Even though I had all the vinyl replaced only three years ago, the graphics take a beating in the sun and some were looking terrible again. I did some research and even emailed 3M, the manufacturer of the vinyl graphics on my trailer, and its representatives said not to put anything — not even wax — on the vinyl.

two fingers point to different colored pieces of vinyl graphic on the RV
a foam pad with two drops of the Car Guys Plastic Restorer is used to wipe one of the graphics
Vinyl sidewall graphics are used extensively in the RV industry. These were replaced three years ago and are taking a beating from the sun. As an experiment, without the blessing from 3M (the maker of the vinyl used for the graphics), the Car Guys restorer was applied and seemed to work decently. The coating collects a little dust but can be wiped clean with a microfiber ­towel—wrapped around a broom to reach higher areas.

Of course, at this point, there were a few unsightly places where I figured that I didn’t have anything to lose so I tried the Car Guys Plastic Restorer — and I am quite happy with the results. It didn’t rejuvenate the vinyl back to the original color, but it looked much better. So far, this treatment has lasted for five months and most of the treated vinyl still looks good (with the exception of a couple of places where the material has been beaten to death by the sun).

a foam pad containing the Car Guys Plastic Restorer is applied to another area on the vehicle
Since the Car Guys Plastic Restorer is designed for use on plastic, rubber and vinyl, it was applied to the door lock and button console, the slide-out seals and other surfaces on the fifth wheel and truck. It can also be used on the dashboard and door panels (not shown).
full view of the restored 2017 Ram 3500 bumper plastic
The Car Guys product is not a dye; it’s formulated to restore the original color and will completely dry in a day or two without leaving an oily residue. The treated areas were just starting to fade after six months. After reapplying the restorer, the bumper once again looked factory fresh.

Applying the restorer to the vinyl graphics takes some effort, considering you have to get up on a ladder to reach the higher sections of sidewall. I just wiped the restorer on and left it in place; it does attract some dust, but it can be wiped off easily with a microfiber cloth wrapped around the end of a broom to reach the higher sections. I even tried the restorer on the plastic door latch and the slide-out seals — and applying the product made them look new again.

Sometimes, a little experimentation can go a long way.

If Your Graphics Can’t be Restored, They Can be Replaced

While we discovered Car Guys Plastic Restorer does help restore the luster of faded graphics, nothing can cure weathered graphics that have cracked after years of exposure. Fortunately, RV Enthusiast magazine has learned that Burlington Graphic Systems, the premier supplier of vinyl graphics to the RV industry, has entered the retail side. And that’s a big deal; most RV dealers and manufacturers stop stocking replacement graphics after three or four years, leaving RV owners with few options.

“We’ve been in business almost 40 years, and I could get you designs dating back 40 years ago,” said Doug Graham Jr., BGS vice president and general manager of the company’s Elkhart, Indiana, facility. “Our library of designs and parts and shapes and sizes for the RV and marine industries is extremely large. There’s a good possibility that for any retail consumer who calls, we have what they need. We will have instant access to that design.” The continuing technological improvements of digital printing, he added, allows BGS to meet requests for out-of-date designs “rather quickly.”

three quarter profile view of an RV wrapped in a Pirates of the Caribbean themed graphic
When RV Enthusiast visited the BGS facility in Elkhart, installation specialists were putting the finishing touches on a host of Forest River products wrapped in various themes for a company-wide Halloween event. The printing capabilities of BGS are amazing, as is the fine detail of finished vinyl.

The replacement graphics can be shipped directly to the buyer or a local shop with capable techs for installation — or campers can take their RVs to Burlington’s Elkhart facility, where Graham’s talented staff can install everything from graphics to a complete vinyl wrap. Plus, the company’s design staff can work with you to create a truly custom look.

“Vinyl just offers a quick, clean and, in many cases, less-expensive alternative to paint,” Graham pointed out, while noting that it’s also much easier to repair if needed. And for those not looking for a full wrap, “You can freshen up the entire look of an RV just by wrapping the front cap.”

Interested in wrapping your RV, or needing replacement or new graphics? Contact:

Burlington Graphic Systems
Ellen Damron
(262) 554-8808
[email protected]

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