April 27, 2023: Plastic Fantastic

Automotive trim spa treatment.

Following up on the exfoliation efforts from last week, it's time to turn our attention to breathing fresh air onto lifeless, aged, dull, depressing, or otherwise disgraceful trim pieces which screams neglectful ownership. No matter how often the car is washed, if the rubber and plastic trim have decayed into gray hair territory then it's a dead giveaway that Big Blue is just another has-been, first-gen Autopilot, super-slow, single-motor, 0-to-60 in 5+ seconds obsolete technology nonsense. And we can't have that now can we? Time to reduce that shame ... somewhat.

I finally received my bottle of CarPro Perl (which apparently stands for Plastics, Engine, Rubber, Leather ... yay marketing) to help rejuvenate the factory-new luster for certain faded areas, namely the rocker panel trim pieces, the front splitter, rear diffuser, and front wheel well liners. After 8+ years on the road these have leveled-up to near-retirement status (at least visually) given the constant UV bombardment while rolling outside during commutes and errands. The objective here is to bring back that showroom appearance as much as we can.

There's no shortage of plastic dressing products both in mass-market retail as well as boutique offerings and YouTube has endless reviews covering which ones provide better lasting protection and durability. In my experience the specialized boutique items which are typically not found at your local auto parts store, Target, etc. tend to perform better but are a bit more expensive. The only other CarPro product I've tried is their DLUX coating which I applied on the rear valance and cowl of my old car several years ago ... and it's impressively still going strong (although to be fair I barely drive that old beater).

But surface prep is really the key to ensure the longest-lasting results for any product. With today being the beautiful day it was I deep cleaned by quickly spraying the target panels with some Meguair's D10101 APC (diluted 5:1, water:cleaner ratio), worked it in with a soft bristle brush, rinsed, followed-up with some Optimum No Rinse (at standard dilution), wiped it down clean, then followed up with Optimum Paint Prep to remove any remaining cleaner residue. Paint Prep is probably not the most appropriate product here since it's meant more for painted surfaces but it was the closest thing near me and I wasn't in a patient mood.

Once the surface was free as practical of anything which could interfere with the bonding/curing between the dressing and plastic, I made a small bottle of Perl diluted 3:1 (water:dressing ratio) and sprayed along the rocker panel trim. Here's what it looks like before spraying Perl on:

Could be worse, but it's been taking punishment for a long time now. For a 50/50 shot, I put on some painter's tape:

Then after applying the dressing and gently wiping down to remove any blotches (it's pretty runny, a thin milk-like consistency while smelling of apples):

Instant improvement! Oooo, look at that nice clean sheen. It's noticeably darker and I'm emotionally reminded of the day when I took delivery of Big Blue. Now the question is how long this will last. Since it's a water-based dressing it probably wouldn't withstand a lot of rainy days but now that summer is approaching in the SF Bay Area I might get some decent longevity.

I moved my focus towards the front wheel arches where the deteriorated plastic liners awaited. This area really takes a beating:

Repeated the same process as before, although without being able to lift the car and remove the tires it's quite cumbersome to clean given the constrained access, even with a small Wheel Whoolie brush. Keep in mind I don't have air suspension since I went with the basic coil option when I ordered the car back in summer 2014, so I don't have the ability to raise the car's height and open this area up more for a better reach. I figured I'd at least try the outer areas as that's the most visible while driving. However after one application of Perl I was left with a still-streaky, blotchy mess with a slightly-darker looking finish.

Quite disappointing but perhaps this is a case where a dressing product is out of its league and a more permanent restoration product like Solution Finish would be better suited. The type of plastic used here is probably a different composition than the other trim pieces and might explain why Perl responds differently. The before/after difference was minimal enough that I decided against wasting my time working on the passenger side. Additional layering of Perl probably wouldn't do much to be worth it. That said this is probably at least marginally better than the Adam's Invisible Undercarriage spray that I used maybe 15 years ago on my old car (with results that faded away within a couple of weeks), although to be fair that product isn't intended as a longer-lasting dressing like Perl.

Would CarPro DLUX be a better option? Perhaps. If Perl doesn't work out in the long run then I always have the option to try DLUX again as that's more of a coating than just a simple dressing.

I left the front splitter, rear diffuser, louvers, nose cone grills, and rubber seals as projects for another day. It'd be good to see how the rocker panels look after a week and compare against the untreated areas which I suspect would rejuvenate nicely.

Then, of course, I will have to make the effort to pull up alongside other older Model S at the Superchargers and gloat how incredible my old car has fared compared to ones with neglectful owners.

Yes, this is terribly vain. Something something ownership pride. It's all I have left against virtually every other cheaper Tesla on the road with superior specs front to back, top to bottom.