Fix for Flaked-Off Clear Coat on Rear C-Pillars
On early first generation Intrepids, the clear coat on the black plastic covers on the rear C-pillars often gets crusty and completely or partially flakes off. The plastic "applique" has a dull matte finish that doesn't look good. While the applique can be removed and repainted with clear coat paint made for especially for plastic, there is a fairly easy way to improve the look of the pillars that does not require removal and repainting.
The work is messy and wet so wear old clothes.
1. First wash all the dirt off the pillars off with dish soap and a rag and rinse well. Then use a stiff toothbrush or other small plastic bristle brush with water to remove any loose flaking clear coat. Obviously don't use a brush with metal bristles. Wash and rinse again and dry.
2. Next mask off all the adjacent areas on the car with wide multiple layers of easy-release blue painter's masking tape and a couple of layers of newspaper, or better yet plastic sheet. You want to do this to prevent scratching up the paint and the plastic rear glass seal in this process. You can also open the rear door to make things easier, but cover the rear seat well too with plastic (a plastic picnic tablecloth works).
3. Now the remaining areas of the clear coat that are still adhering to the pillars can be removed by sanding the pillars with fine 600 grit wet or dry automotive sandpaper (available at auto parts stores or Wal-Mart). You can apply duct tape on the back of the paper so it won't tear, and wrap it around a sponge or small foam block to make the sanding easier. Then keep the paper wet by dunking it in a bucket of clean water as you sand the old clear coat off in a circular motion.
If the clear coat is no longer bonded well to the plastic, it may also come off by polishing with regular automotive rubbing compound on a wet rag.
You want to use these fine abrasives since the plastic scratches easily. If you use a coarser grit paper than 600 the clear coat will come off with less effort, but it will leave scratches that will be harder to remove in the next step. Do not use regular sandpaper or you will scratch the plastic and it will look worse.
After removing the remaining clear coat, again wash the pillars with the dish soap and water.
Even if you don't want to take the time and effort to remove all the remaining adhering clear coat areas with the abrasives, you can still improve the areas where the clear coat has flaked off in the next step.
4. After using the wet or dry paper or rubbing compound, you can't remove the resulting dull finish on the plastic with normal automotive polishing compound. It will remain dull looking. However, there are special plastic polishing compounds made by Novus that work. These are available from Amazon.com. Just search "Novus" under the Automotive section. Some auto parts stores may also have the Novus kits. For the pillars you only need the two-part kit with the Novus #3 Heavy Scratch Remover and the #2 Fine Scratch Remover. You don't need the kit with the #1 Plastic Clean & Shine for the pillars. The 7057 kit with 2 oz bottles (about $9) may be enough, but the 7056 kit is usually just a few dollars more for 8 oz bottles (and you can use it for polishing lots of other plastic stuff). You can also spend a few more dollars and get one of the other Novus kits with the bottle of Clean & Shine. It is a plastic cleaner that removes the polish that also leaves a thin protective film.
Also buy a small spray bottle of Armor-All "Ultra Shine" rubber/plastic protectant. It is available for less than on Amazon at Wal-Mart or auto parts stores. Regular Armor-All protectant will also work if you have some, but it will be a little less shiny.
Follow the instructions in the Novus kit to polish the plastic. By the way, Novus calls call it a polishing "kit" because they also give you one fiber polishing rag, but you can use any clean soft cotton rag. A tight-weave rag like from a pair of cotton pants works well. A soft towel rag will absorb too much of the polish. You can wrap the rag around a firm sponge or a stiff piece of packing foam to make the polishing a little easier.
First try the fine scratch remover to see if that can give you good results. However, on my pillars the surface was quite dull so I had to use the heavy scratch remover first. It takes some effort with the two polishing compounds and a cloth. If there are any visible scratches in the plastic, first polish at a right angle to the scratches with the heavy scratch remover. If you have a low-speed automotive buffer you can obviously use that with the polishing compounds.
With some effort (and a tired arm if you don't have a buffer) you should be able to polish the bare plastic areas well enough with the Novus polish so you can see your reflection. You can also polish any remaining adhering clear coat if you didn't remove it. Now wash the pillar off again with clean soapy water to remove all the polishing residue. Dry and buff the pillar with a soft cloth.
Mask off any remaining clear coat area that you didn't remove and apply the Armor-All per the directions. You don't want to put the Armor-All on any remaining clear coat areas or it will just leave a milky film there. The Armor-All will leave a shiny finish on the plastic and also protect it from sunlight deterioration. You should periodically re-apply the Armor-All to the plastic pillar covers and other exposed plastic rubber parts on the car's exterior to maintain protection from sunlight.