How To Remove Car Trim Adhesive

If you’ve ever removed mouldings, trims or even car badges, you probably also uncovered a horrible dirty adhesive.

While most trims and mouldings are clipped into the car in one way or another, a lot of them are also taped or sealed to the car.

The same goes for number plates. A lot of them are screwed in to the bumper, but don’t be surprised if they’re also taped.

Truth is, removing car trim adhesive is super easy. In-fact, with the right tools you can do it in a matter of seconds.

In this article I’m going to tell you how to remove car trim adhesive using various different methods.

If you’re removing the tape so that you can renew it, I’m also going to tell you a little secret that will make the tape that’s already on the car sticky again.

The Best Way To Remove Car Trim Adhesive

There’s a couple of methods you can use to remove car trim adhesive.

Using a decal eraser wheel is by far the quickest and easiest but it also requires a drill.

Another suggestion is to simply pick it off or even use plastic tools, cutlery or spreaders to pry it free from the panel.

Whatever you do, don’t take anything metal to it. I’ve seen so many suggestions to use a blade… even with the most steadiest of hands, that’s just asking to damage your paint.

Below is a list of the methods that I recommend using to remove adhesives from your car. I’ll also tell you exactly what you need and mistakes to avoid.

Removing Adhesives With An Eraser Wheel

3m wheel for car adhesives

This piece of equipment has a number of different names. In the trade it’s called a Caramac or Caramel wheel, however, on the packaging it will be called a wonder wheel or an eraser wheel.

For the sake of this article, I’m going to call it an eraser wheel.

Using an eraser wheel is by far the quickest method you’re going to find for removing tapes, adhesives and decals from a car.

Unfortunately, to use a wonder wheel you’re also going to need a drill. So if you don’t have one, you’ll either need to buy one, or use a less effective method.

If you are going to use a wonder wheel, it’s super easy. Simply attach it to any standard drill and you’re good to go.

Once attached, place the wheel on the adhesives that you want to remove and slowly turn on the drill.

Using the drill at a slow speed is much better than using high speeds. If you start going too fast the wheel become harder to control and start jumping from the car.

Another issue you may encounter at higher speeds is the paint chipping. This depends mainly on the quality of the paint, however, keep it low and you should be fine.

One last thing to watch out for is the heat that it generates. Too much heat on your paint can lead to it melting and bubbling. This is the last thing you want to do, otherwise your car will need a professional to fix it.

Eraser wheels are only to be used on certain surfaces. I use it on car paint and the back of license plates.

These wheels are not suitable for plastic mouldings, fiberglass or even painted aluminium. If you’re unsure, test it on an area that’s out of sight or even a separate panel.

Eraser wheels are available at all different price points. The one that I trust the most is the “3M Stripe Off Wheel“, however it’s fairly expensive.

A good cheaper alternative would be a whizzy wheel product. Their “Wonder wheel” vinyl decal remover does the same job, its just slightly cheaper.

If you are going to use these wheels, don’t get carried away. Keep it slow and you’ll be completely fine.

Use Heat And A Plastic Spreader

use a heat gun to remove adhesives from cars

Another way that you can remove adhesives and decals from your car is by applying heat.

When you apply heat directly to the adhesives you’ll be able to work with them a lot easier. The best way to do this is with a heat gun, but a hairdryer will do.

Once the tape or vinyl remains are warm, take a plastic spreader/credit card and carefully scrape them off the panel.

Doing this is a lot safer than using a metal tool or blade. Using a metal tool or blade almost guarantees that you damage the paint with one slight misstep.

After you’ve removed a majority of the adhesive, you may still find a little bit of glue remaining.

To remove the left over glue from your car, an eraser wheel is the best option but using thinners or panel wipe and a rag is the next best.

The only thing you need to consider when using this method is how much heat you apply to the car.

Applying too much heat to the car will burn the paint and make it start to bubble up. Try to apply as little heat as possible, and always keep the heat gun moving.

Use Thinners & A Scraper/Rag

The final method I use to remove adhesives is using paint thinners or panel wipe while scrubbing or scraping the adhesives off.

This is probably the least efficient method on the list so I’ve kept it until last.

If you dont have thinners or panel wipe, you could do it without. However, i think that’ll be even less effective. You certainly wont get the glue remnants off.

Making Car Trim Adhesive Sticky Again

There’s a couple of ways to go about this.

If you want to use the tape that’s already stuck to the car or moulding, you’ll need some thinners and a rag.

Dampen the rag with thinners and then slowly wipe it across the adhesive that’s already in place. Doing this will make the tape sticky again and strong enough to hold your moulding or license plate for many years to come.

Another way to do it is simply tape over the top of the adhesive using more double sided tape or something a little more subtle such as refix tape.

Applying double sided tape over adhesives that are already thick will just make your moulding or license plate sit further from the car and could look ugly.

I’d like to think that I’ve given you enough options and information to find a solution that you like.

If you have any other methods, please do let me know, I’ll try them out and add them to the list!