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Restoring chromed plastic trim on door panels


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Next time you're at the wrecker's yard, check out the front and rear bumpers on the wrecks. Some have a "chrome" strip running accross the bumper. It's actually a pliable plastic strip which, when held in place by double sided tape, looks very close to original.

Not sure if there's a pic in my gallery or not.



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what causes the chrome to peel? mine are perfect but i would like to take preventative action if posible.

If the process of plating it was not done properly step by step it can create bad adhesion. No way to prevent sloppy workmanship. I was told that sometimes the parts such as yours will last a long time and others peel like crazy...

The process....

Firstly, all parts are washed in a special bath to remove any impurities on the surface of the plastic from handling. Then the pieces are hand sanded to ensure proper adhesion and to remove small imperfections and scratches.

The parts are then painted with a base coat so the vacuum metalized finish will adhere to the part and then baked to cure the paint. Now the piece is ready for plating.

The pieces are placed on racks that are attached to a large carousel which will be loaded into the vacuum chamber for the plating process.

In the middle of the carousel there are filaments which aluminum canes are loaded onto. After the carousel has been loaded the chamber is pumped down (all the oxygen removed), the filaments are then fired and like magic all the parts come out shiny.

After the parts are plated a top grade urethane clear coat is then applied to protect the finish and then the parts are baked once again to cure the paint.

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David, the process you cite is what gets used for HARD plastic "chroming" and not the vinyl strip on the doors. Vinyl striping with this type of "coating" usually gets it's film covering applied immediately after the vinyl tubing has been extruded.

The door panel vinyl strip is therefore, already "chromed" on it's surface before it gets welded (possibly Ultra High Radio Frequency weld as that doesn't involve a hot press) to the base vinyl and hardboard. This is done with a large machine that presses down on the vinyl strip and the vinyl covered hardboard and "zaps" it into place. Look at your door panel and you'll note a distinctive weld flange at the junction between the door panel vinyl and the tubing.

The vinyl strip can lose the "chrome" film for a number of reasons. Most commonly due to the heat expansion and cold contraction differences between the vinyl tubing and the film.... minute, but present. Add to that the subtle differences in the adhesive coating on the film as the tubing and film were mated and you have the future potential for them to separate. The film is THIN... thin enough to resemble a decal, which it basically is.

Once the film separates ... anywhere... it starts peeling. The difference in the strength of the adhesive (after 30+ years) and the film's strength is what keeps part of it from peeling, while other areas don't.

While the typical tubing on the door panels after the chrome film peels off is a nice semi-transparent blue, I have seen pale amber and even a "green" tint.

The repair or replacement of that vinyl chorme strip depends on it's condition. I have been able to re-film the strip with what I consider acceptable results. The link I gave above shows panels 3+ years AFTER they were re-installed on the car. The car, while not the exclusive Daily Driver, is the preferred vehicle of choice by the owner of that car. As a result it has seen sufficient traffic to "pass" a "beta" test.

The problem in offering this "service" is in the shipping both to and from. However, with "used" panels at $185 each (making it $370 for a pair), it might be an alternative. Especially if your door panels are in good shape and acceptable ... except for the chrome vinyl strip.



P.S. The process I use also allows for "custom" color matching to an extent. Meaning, you pick the color from a color sheet. Colors can be metallic, pearlescent, and all one tone.

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I'm sure environment and weather had lots to do with the strip peeling off. I placed my door panels on the garage wall in 1980. When I pulled them down 28 years later, the strips on both had come off and was just hanging on the last 3 inches closest to the dash. They were never moved or touched so I imagine the constant hot and cold over the years had something to do with it.

Bonzi Lon

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'll probably end up peeling the rest of the chrome off of mine, and then painting the strips black. Eventually, I'll recover the whole panels and do away with the strip altogether. I don't understand why Nissan put a single wooden trim strip on the doors, and nooooowhere else in the car. haha, sorta looks out of place.

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  • 4 weeks later...
I've been thinking of painting mine with modeling paint. If it sticks to a Tamiya, it should stick to a Datsun:bulb:

I don't think the problem is a matter of getting paint to stick, but to get something that closely resembles the factory chrome coating.


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  • 1 month later...

I tried the chrome pin stripe tape on mine and it looks pretty decent, but the main problem is getting the tape to lay down/stick to the curved molding on the door panels. I also tried applying contact cement to the chrome tape hoping it might form to the curved molding. The contact cement worked, but was a messy job and I was affraid of getting the cement on the door panels. I'm also not sure how well the tape would hold up in summer heat. Mine hasn't come loose and unless you get close you don't notice it is not comformed to the curve of the molding.

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