Car Trim: Repair Your Car’s Molding

Carmakers long ago stopped using spring clips to attach car trim and molding. Instead, they use adhesive tape.

Reattaching car trim

The tape works well. But chemicals like wax and bug remover can destroy the tape’s bond to the car trim. Once that happens, car trim and emblems can eventually fall off. If you catch the problem early, you can remove the old tape, clean up the paint and reattach the car trim or decorative molding. It’s a DIY job that will cost about $25 and takes only a few hours. Here’s how to do it.

The adhesive remover is pretty potent, so perform this repair in an area where you’ll get plenty of fresh air. Start by repositioning the trim or emblem in its original position. Apply removable masking tape around the perimeter of the trim to act as a repositioning template when you’re ready to reapply. Next, grab some nitrile gloves and don a paint solvent-style respirator—this is a messy, stinky job. Dribble the adhesive remover along the top edge of the trim and let it soak into the tape for about five minutes. Then slip a plastic putty knife under the trim and rock it up and down and into the tape to slice through it. Continue adding remover as you go. Once the trim is off, continue using the adhesive remover to get rid of every speck of the old tape and adhesive residue from both the trim and the car paint. It’s important to remove all the residue so the repair will last.

Avoid touching the new tape with your fingers or you’ll affect the adhesion. So slip on a clean pair of nitrile gloves and apply the new tape to the paint around the inside edge of the template. Press it into place as you go. Remove the top liner and position the trim directly above the template. When it’s perfectly aligned, press the trim onto the tape. Apply pressure to the entire length. You’re done.

You can find these materials at any auto parts store that carries body shop supplies. Or order them from

3M 08984 Adhesive Cleaner and Remover, $17

3M 03614 Scotch-Mount 1/2″ x 15′ Molding Tape, $8

— Rick Muscoplat, Automotive Editor

Car Trim Repair Guide

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