The first thing I do when I buy a vehicle is remove the tacky dealership decals from the back of the car. Used car dealerships seem to be the worst offenders of this automobile abuse.
Many car owners never bother to remove these decals which means many second hand cars have these stickers baked to the paint and they seem impossible to remove.
I don’t know about you but I prefer to not be a free rolling billboard. It’s also an injustice to the clean lines and appearance of most automobiles.
Fortunately, most of these decals can be removed in a few easy steps.
How to Remove Stickers
If the sticker hasn’t been on the vehicle for very long, you may get lucky and be able to peel the sticker up without much trouble.
- Start by heating the sticker with a blow dryer or heat gun.
- Use a plastic razor blade (can be found at Walmart, Ace Hardware, and a variety of other big box stores) to lift the corner and slowly peel off the sticker. If the sticker starts cracking, you’ll have to resort to very carefully peeling it up with a plastic razor blade. Keep the heat on it while doing so.
- Soak any remaining residue using an over counter adhesive remover such as 3M Adhesive Remover, Goof Off, or Goo Gone. I prefer Goof Off because it’s quite strong but you have to be sure you’re working with the factory paint. Aftermarket / re-painted clear coats aren’t always durable enough to withstand this chemical and can be damaged.
- Once the adhesive remover has had time to dwell, carefully rub the adhesive off with a non-abrasive towel. If the adhesive is too thick to rub off without excessive pressure you can use a plastic razor blade to very carefully scrap it off. Be gentle, you can still scratch your paint.
- Should you have any minor scratches remaining from this, use a rubbing compound such as Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound on a microfiber towel to buff out the area.
How to Remove Decals
Removing decals is much the same process as removing stickers except you’re not likely to be able to peel it up. You’ll have to resort to using a plastic razor blade to lift it off of the paint.
- Heat the decal with a hair dryer or heat gun.
- Gently slide a plastic razor blade under the decal as the adhesive softens.
- If the decal is brittle it may start flaking off. If this is the case you’re going to be stuck scraping it of chip by chip. Be as gentle as possible and any scratches you install will be able to be removed using a rubbing compound such as Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound.
- Once the decal is removed, soak any remaining adhesive in an adhesive remover such as 3m Adhesive Remover, Goof Off, or Goo Gone.
- As with the stickers, if you installed any scratches while removing the decal, use a rubbing compound and microfiber towel to buff out the area.
How to Remove Emblems and Badges
It’s a rare circumstance that you’ll be able to pull off an emblem or badge on a vehicle. I wouldn’t advise trying for a couple reasons. There is a risk of gouging the paint if you try to pry it off. Also, some use alignment posts through the body that may leave you with visible holes in your paint if you remove them. I would consult the dealership or a forum for your particular make and model to verify this first.
- If all is a go, start by heating the emblem with a dryer or heat gun.
- Wrap a piece of dental floss or fine fishing line around each hand and pull it through the adhesive behind the emblem. You can twist multiple strands of floss together to make a stronger string.
- Lift off the emblem.
- If you have a thick amount of adhesive left, try to peel it away with the aid of heat from the dryer or heat gun.
- Soak any remaining adhesive in adhesive remover. Make sure to allow time for the adhesive remove to penetrate. If you have trouble with it evaporating too quickly you can soak a rag in the remover and hold it over the adhesive.
- Carefully rub the adhesive off or scrape it with a plastic razor blade.
- If you find any scratches remaining once the paint is clean you can gently buff the area using a rubbing compound like Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound and a soft microfiber towel.
How to Remove Door Trim or Molding
Some cars come with thin strips of door molding meant to protect the car from door dings. These can be removed following the steps above for Removing Emblems. The same caution about locating pins applies. Consult the dealer, body shop, or another owner before attempting to remove body molding.