Fix for Flaked-Off Clear Coat on Rear C-Pillars
On early first generation Intrepids, the clear coat on the black plastic covers over 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. There is a fairly easy way to improve the look of the pillars that does not require removal and repainting with clear coat paint for plastic.
If the clear coat is only partially flaked off, the remainder can be removed with FINE wet or dry automotive sandpaper like 600 grit (with water), or just with regular automotive rubbing compound if it is no longer bonded well to the plastic. Mask off all the adjacent areas on the car with wide multiple layers of easy-release blue painter's tape or you will scratch up the paint and glass. However, you must use a light touch with the abrasives or you could scratch up the plastic and make things look worse. For example, do not use regular sandpaper or it will leave bad scratches. However, even if you don't remove the remaining clear coat areas you can still improve the pillars by just going on to the next easy step.
You can't remove scratches or a dull finish on plastics with normal abrasives. They tend to just make the surface duller looking. However, there are 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 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.
The work is messy and wet so wear old clothes.
If you haven't removed the remaining clear coat, first use a stiff toothbrush or other small plastic bristle brush to remove any loose flaking clear coat. Then wash the pillar off with liquid dish soap and water and dry.
Mask off all the adjacent painted panels with easy-release blue painter's tape and a couple of layers of newspaper to protect the paint. You can also open the rear door to make things easier, but cover the rear seat well with a waterproof sheet like a plastic picnic tablecloth.
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 rough 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 scratches in the plastic, first polish at a right angle to the scratches with the heavy scratch remover.
With some effort (and a tired arm) you should be able to polish the bare plastic areas well enough with the Novus so you can see your reflection. You can also polish the remaining clear coat areas. 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 the remaining clear coat area and apply the Armor-All per the directions. Don't put the Armor-All on the remaining clear coat or it will just leave a milky film. The Armor-All will leave a shiny finish on the plastic and also protect it from sunlight deterioration. However, you should periodically re-apply the Armor-All to the pillar to maintain protection. It is good to also use it on other exposed outside rubber parts like the window rubber seals and door weatherstrip.
Armor-All can also be used on interior plastic like the dashboard to protect it from becoming brittle. However, it will make the surface shiny and slick-feeling so don't use it on things you touch like interior door handles.
Last edited by pt500; 11-19-2011 at 11:15 AM.