HOW TO FIX PLASTIC SCRATCHES, GOUGES AND BREAKS: PART 1
Do It Yourself and save some money
If you've got a dirtbike or ATV, you've got plastic all over the machine.
Fenders, gas tank, side panels; the works. And unless your bike is a garage queen, chances are you've got scratches and wear marks all over the plastic.
Some colors show scratches and gouges more than others. For example, we recently had two project bikes - the Honda CRF230 and the Yamaha TTR230, and both of these started life looking clean and sharp. Rather quickly, the Yamaha blue started looking really old. The poor paper-backed stickers on the gas tank had much of the color rubbed off quickly and then the stickers started peeling badly. In a few months, it looked like a bunch of old dried leaves had found a home on the tank.
While the Honda tank stickers looked better after time, the fenders on both bikes showed scratches and wear. Price of a Yamaha front fender is close to fifty bucks. Hmmm. For some reason, blue plastic tends to show scratches quicker and easier than any other color. Maybe its time we started looking at making the fender look better ourselves.
WHAT CAN BE FIXED
Most of the smaller scratches (not deep ones) can easily be removed. If they're deep gouges, you can smooth them out and make them look better.
WHAT CAN'T BE FIXED
Color fading cannot be fixed without re-painting the plastic. This happens when the plastic is OK, but the color is sun or time-faded. You can also get fading or gas/oil staining, but this is mostly on white tanks like the older Yamahas and KTMs. Because the fuel or premix usually has soaked through the walls of the tank, there's not much you can do with the plastic.
Oxidizing happens when exposure to the sun, or high temperatures in a dry place, leaves a coating much like powder. The plastic surface is white and powdery, but plastic underneath might still be OK. You can tell right away by sanding a bit and seeing if the plastic is usable. If this is the case, just getting rid of oxidation might reveal decent plastic.
Now on with the process...
FIRST, CLEAN THE PLASTIC
Before you start any fixing stuff, clean the parts you're going to be working on. In this case, the front fender, gas tank and a side number plate. All the stickers were removed from the Yamaha tank via a simple razor blade. Some parts of the stickers were crustier than others and the sticker material was made softer and easier to remove by applying a bit of heat.
Caution: don't apply too much heat, or you can actually melt, or deform, the plastic.
Use ordinary contact cleaner to get any glue or sticker residue off.
|Crummy stickers on Yamaha TTR230.||Tank stickers can be removed with a small blade. If the stickers are hardened and difficult to remove, heat them up with a hair dryer and then they'll peel off.|
|We got rid of the small sticker on the front fender.||The Yamaha looks much better with the el cheapo stickers removed.|
Then, put some regular auto degreaser on the plastic. There's no sense trying to sand scratches with dirt or grease in them. You must start with clean pieces. After using the degreaser, finish the cleaning with ordinary soapy water, followed by a liberal dousing with water. With all your plastic parts clean, you are now ready to tackle the repairs.
Next up, deep scratches...
DEEP SCRATCHES FIRST
Your best tool to use on serious scratches is a single-edged razor blade. Plan on using a bunch of them, as they dull quickly under this use. We got a pack of 100 blades for $1.99 at Harbor Freight Tools. Holding the blade firmly, pull it along the deeper scratches, taking care not to concentrate on a small area. Scrape across a wide section and not just where the scratch is, or you might end up with a pronounced low area that will ruin all your hard work.
|Fender on the bike had an assortment of scratches.||Single-edged razor blade does the initial work on deeper scratches.|
After you get out most of the deeper gouges and scratches with the razor blades, its time to get out the sand paper. Start with 100/120 grit wet/dry paper and use plenty of water and a sanding block of some sort to keep things flat and level, rather than sanding in one spot and creating a depression.
After the blade does the bulk of the work, sand the plastic with some 100/120 wet/dry grit paper.
Sand the scratched area with long strokes.Use a pad to keep from sanding deep grooves.
|If you have a jitterbug sander, this can save a lot of work. Start out with 200 grit.||Sand the whole surface evenly.|
We used a unique product with our sanding: Novus plastic cleaner and restoration polish. This comes in a three-part kit consisting of Number 1, a plastic cleaner and shine, Number 2, a fine scratch remover and Number 3, a heavy scratch remover. Naturally, we used the Number 3 solution with our sanding. For some really bad scratches and gouges, you might want to use a power tool. This is not easy work and your fingers will get tired in a hurry. Just be careful not to use too much pressure on the power tool, or you can heat the plastic up easily and ruin it.
|Novus Number 3 heavy scratch remover is applied, then rubbed in. You can use a power tool to help things along, but be careful not to burn the plastic.||Using a circular motion and a clean cloth, rub the area until the scratches start to go away.|
After using the rougher sand paper, go to a finer sanding with # 300 wet/dry paper and spend some serious time with this. Correct sanding here is the key to making the plastic look good later on. After sanding with the #300 (aprox., could 280, 320) the plastic will have a whitish look overall.
Next, sand with #500 wet/dry, using lots of water. After a preliminary sanding,wash the area down and have a close look. More time will be spent on this, but energy spent here will be well worth it. Wash the plastic again with water and dry it off. Check the plastic surface carefully and chances are you'll see spots you might have missed and scratches that might need more sanding. Then use a scouring pad on the plastic. This should get rid of most of the whitish haze.
|Fender gets sanded until the scratches are gone.||After the initial sanding, repeat the process using 500 grit and then 1200 grit paper.|
A Scotchbrite pad is then attached to the electric sander. Install it diagonally.
|The entire piece gets hit with the pad. The edges can used in the grooved areas.|
Now we'll tackle the fine scratches...
At this point, you should be ready to handle the fine scratches and finish off the work you've done on the heavy scratches. This called for the Number 2 fine scratch remover. Using #1200 wet/dry sand paper and lots of time and labor, we applied the Number 2 and worked hard.After about 15-20 minutes of work, the plastic was looking good. You can use a power polisher at this point, but use it gently and make sure that you don't have any of the Number 3 heavy scratch remover left on the buffing pad. Clean the plastic thoroughly one more time and now you're ready for the final polishing.
|Clean the plastic using water and 1200 extra fine grit sand paper.||Now use Novus Number 2 and apply the solution.|
|Rub it in a circular motion until the lighter scratches start to go away.A light haze should appear on the plastic when youre done.Wash the surface again.||Now the cleaner/polish should be applied. Use a clean soft cloth and make sure that none of the Number 2 scratch remover is left on the plastic.|
THE FINAL TOUCH
After you've done all your fixing and scratch removal, its time for the last step, and that's making things look shiny and new. This calls for the Novus #1 plastic clean and shine. This requires that you use a clean soft cloth (cotton works best) to buff it out after applying the Number 1. Done right, this eliminates all the hazing and leaves a smooth, clean, greaseless shine.
|When you're done, the plastic should have a shine to it and will look a whole lot better than when you started.|
Keeping it looking good...
If you want your bike to look good between rides, there's a simple trick you can do after you wash your bike. Spray the plastic with Pledge furniture polish. Ours was lemon-scented, just in case anybody wants to sniff at your plastic. Then give the Pledge-coated plastic a quick buff and it'll shine like it's new on the showroom floor.
|Between rides, we sprayed the plastic fender and gas tank with Pledge. Lots of dealers do this to bikes on the floor to make 'em look nice and shiny.||Make sure you buff the plastic after applying the Pledge.|
|Don't apply and stickers or decals to the newly coated plastic. The polish/cleaner must be removed with something like contact cleaner first, then the polish/cleaner can be applied over the stickers or decals.|
In Part 2, we'll show you how to fix cracked and damaged plastic. Stay tuned.
NOVUS PLASTIC POLISH
12800 Highway 13 South Suite 500