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Removing decals without damaging paint

Removing decals and a show car finish: Ean Orsel

My Dad and I have used regular paint thinners to remove glue from decals (both factory installed, and the annoying dealer advertising). If it's the good old factory finish, it holds up to this fine.

If you have the time and energy, there is a solution that will give you a show car finish. All factory finishes (American anyway) have "orange peel" to a certain degree. It's so subtle nobody really notices.

With a constant run of water over the surface, take a peice of 2000 grit sandpaper to the paint. All you need is enough sanding to remove the sap and tar, along with the high points in the paint. Stop and look after a few passes. With the area dry you should see a perfectly dull area. If there are dots of "shine", then you need a little more sanding. After the area is sanded, go over with wet rubbing compound. The final touch is polishing compound to bring the shine back.

This work will give you a look of glass. Everything reflected in the finish will have greater detail. I recommended doing the whole car, because just one area will make the rest of the car dull in comparison. The only thing to watch for is edges. They sand through very easily.

I planned on doing this on my car after the first paint job, but it shows my wavy bodywork too much : )

Warning and alternative method: Dick Simonton

The writer suggests using paint thinner to remove decals. I have found that they can be removed easily with a heat gun - even my wife's hair dryer will work. Once they are heated they will peel off easily.

Regarding the sanding of the finish with 2000 grit paper and then using compound to bring back the gloss - that scares me to think that the average guy might try that on his car! I have recently begun using McGuires detailing clay on my Chrysler and Eagle Vision factory finishes. It leave the finish smooth as glass with a high gloss. Then simply use a high-grade wax product and the car almost glows.

Hope this is helpful. I appreciate the info on your pages - it has saved me time and money.

Another view: Derek Beland on the Daytona stripes, decals, and paint

[With regard to the] 1988 Daytona stripe, part of it is a decal, part of it is paint.

I used a rubber eraser wheel I got at the pro paint shop locally. You'll need either an air tool or a drill with adjustable speed. There's definately a sweet spot for RPM that the wheel likes to be run at. It costs about $20.

As in your case, the front and rear parts of the stripe were easy, because those were the decal parts. The paint on the side pieces did come off with the wheel, but I melted the plastic a bit. I will be wet sanding it shortly to correct that.

I also used the eraser wheel to get rid of a huge decal set (pink heartbeat stripe, blech) the dealer had put on my red car.

Both times it took about half an hour of taking my time to remove the stripes. Do NOT stay in one spot with the wheel. Start at one end of the stripe, move it back and forth across the *edge* of the decal, and use the eraser to "roll up" the decal. It works on edges, not the middle of the decal. If you make any abrasions with it, get some rubbing compound and smooth it out afterwards.

A word of caution on the bumpers - they're actually painted black, so go easy on them. The urethane underneath is canary yellow, and you'll know if you go through the paint... LOL!

The wheel was too thick to use in the stripe channel of the trim, so I cut it in half edge-wise with a very sharp serrated steak knife. Worked perfectly. Be sure to cut it evenly all around so that the eraser is balanced when you spin it up, otherwise it will wobble horribly at 3000 RPM.

I think it looks much better without the stripe. It's cleaner looking, and updates the car's look by several years. Equatorial red stripes were a fad a lot of car companies had in the late eighties, early nineties.

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