During a visit with family over 2012 Christmas holiday, my nephew Jake introduced me to the world of “Plasti-Dipping” car parts. Jake drives a white VW Jetta, and used a product called Performix Plasti Dip to “blacked out” a few key elements of his car (grille, emblems, wheels, tail lights, and other trim pieces) to give it a custom look. Here’s a pic of Jake’s Jetta that I stole from his Facebook page:
With cars that are relatively ubiquitous (such as a Jetta), I really dig the custom look. My 2008 GMC Yukon Denali (which lives at our house in Utah) is also a very common car — especially around Utah. I’d challenge anyone to drive more than 5 miles anywhere in Utah without spotting at least one… probably in black (like mine).
I bought my black Denali used at a car auction, and the previous owner had already customized it with wheels and tires, and also by removing the “GMC” and “Yukon” badges from the rear — giving it a clean look. I took the customization a bit further by installing these Escalade-style LED tail lights a couple of months ago, and by replacing all exterior incandencent white bulbs with “hyper-white” LEDs, but seeing Jake’s Jetta over Christmas inspired me to change out one more exterior element of my black Denali that had always quietly bothered me: the red “GMC” logo on the front grille. I always believed it would look way better in black.
Recently, I dropped by Home Depot to pick up a can of black Performix Plasti Dip (it comes in lots of colors), and found some time yesterday afternoon to tackle my first Plasti Dip project.
My good friend and master house painter Jerry Whalen has demonstrated to me over the years that applying the paint isn’t the most important part of a quality painting project: it’s all in the prep. So I initially started this project by applying four wide painter’s tape strips around the external edges of the GMC logo’s red sections, then I tried tearing small pieces to mask off the internal bits:
It didn’t take me long to realize that a far better approach would be to simply cover the entire logo with four strips of painter’s tape:
and then use the blade of my pocket knife to carve out just the red parts. However, while using my thumbnail to try and locate the correct spot to insert my knife, my nail pierced through the tape perfectly, and I found it quicker and easier to get a precise edge just by using my thumbnails and fingernails to unmask the red parts:
After discovering this trick, unmasking the rest of the logo only took a few minutes:
Since I’d never used Plasti Dip before, I didn’t know how bad the potential overspray could be, so I used some more painter’s tape to mask off a wider area around the logo:
Next, I followed the directions on the can and shook it for a full minute. I did a test spray on my snow-covered front lawn to get a feel for how wide the spray pattern would be, and then I shot my first coat on the emblem:
You can still see a lot of red through the first coat, but that’s fine. The can says to wait 30 minutes between coats, and then keep applying until you’re happy with the result.
I went a little heavier on coat 2 (maybe a bit too heavy) and probably went a bit too early, too:
I had some drips and bubbles, but I did my best to smooth them out with my finger.
Eventually, after 4 coats, I was happy with the color and texture:
Before removing the masking tape, I used my pocket knife to quickly run around the outside edges of the letters, just to make sure everything would separate properly. Then I carefully removed the tape to reveal the finished product:
I’m pretty happy with the result, especially for a first attempt. Although, If you know where to look, and you look really close, there are a few minor imperfections… but those are my fault for going too heavy and quickly on the second coat. That’s OK, though, because one of the great things about Plasti Dip is that while it stands up to weather and car washes just fine, it can be easily peeled off with your fingers. So I might take another shot at this the next time I’m down in Utah.
Also, the finish I used is a matte black, but Plasti Dip makes a “Glossifier” that will give a shiny finish to anything — including something that’s already been Plasti-Dipped. That’s something else I might try in the future.
Thanks again to my nephew Jake for introducing me to Plasti Dip, and for encouraging me to go ahead and give it a shot. It’s a cheap, easy, and non-permanent way to customize your car (and if you’re really crazy, you can even Plasti Dip your entire car).
After texting him photos of this product, Jake is now encouraging me to “dip my wheels.” That will take a few more cans of Plasti Dip… and a bit more courage. But I’m seriously thinking about giving it a go!