A common problem with dirt bike and atv plastics is oxidation. This usually occurs from be over exposed to the weather and sun. It is not always in the budget to go and buy new plastics or a new gas tank. Here are a few tips to help restore your plastics or old nasty tank back to (or close to) their vibrant look.
These steps work well on most plastics, whether its the tank, fenders, side panels or shrouds. The process I will show is on an 2002 XR 200R gas tank. These particular tanks are notorious for becoming very worn and ugly, mainly because they are not covered by a shroud like a lot of other bikes.
First you should:
- Gather your tools and materials
- Remove the plastic or tank from the frame of the dirt bike (not always needed, but helpful)
- Do this in a well ventilated area
- Now you are ready to start the process
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Remove all old graphics, or what’s left of them, and any sticky residue. If the oxidation is very thin, try applying some Wipe New before using the razor blade and it may bring the colors back without too much effort. Applying Wipe New is definitely less time consuming than scraping with a razor. If you’re that fortunate. However, if the oxidation is deeper than what can be scrapped off with a fingernail, this will need to involve some scraping with a flat edge razor blade.
Once the most oxidized plastic is removed and the tank is cleaned off, you can apply the wipe new to give the plastic its natural shine and protection back. Wipe new has a very strong odor, so make sure you are applying this in a well ventilated area. After its been applied, it is usually a good idea to let it dry for at least 24 hours before applying any new graphics.
This process is a little time consuming if you have a very worn tank. The razor blade takes time to remove layers, and needs to be done carefully so the plastic doesn’t get deep gouge marks in it. It won’t be perfect and you will see lines and it may not all come out, but hey, it will look better than the old tank either way.
Here is a short video showing the process:
Remove the old graphics from the tank. One way this can be done, is with a little heat from a heat gun and a plastic scraper of some sort. I used an old squeegee used for applying graphics.
Try applying Wipe New to see if the coloring comes back. If it doesn’t fully restore the nice coloring, then the oxidation is deeper than just the surface and will need to be scraped off with a razor blade. Here I tried a small section on the bottom of the tank where you can see Wipe New will make a significant difference in color. If you are trying to reach a deeper color, scraping with a razor blade will help achieve that. I wanted to remove the deeper oxidation first and then use Wipe New at the end.
Using the razor blade, I started lightly scraping off each layer of oxidation. This process needs to be done very carefully so the plastic doesn’t get deep cut marks in it. There will be visible lines, but make small, even strokes and most of the lines can be removed later. You want to scrape lightly and not allow the razor to chatter. Scrape in the same direction, or with the curves of the plastic to minimize streaks and deep scratches.
Scraping may cause some lines in the plastic. Fine steel wool will help smooth the plastic again. If the steel wool is too coarse, it may cause deeper scratches that are difficult to remove. Test a small area and make sure to apply light pressure with the steel wool. Once you have reached the results you want, it is time to apply Wipe New as directed.
Wipe New is the final step. With a micro fiber rag, apply Wipe New to the tank or plastic. This helps bring back the shine and deep color, and also give the plastic a protective layer. Follow the instructions on the box. Use in a well ventilated area and remember, a little bit goes a long way! When you apply, wipe in the same direction in smooth, even strokes. Don’t over apply or it will streak.
I’ve had great success with this process and product on many different applications. This tank was pretty bad, but most of the oxidation off came off pretty well. That was the main goal. I wasn’t worried too much about the layer under the graphics because it was getting covered up with new ones.
You are done! It is amazing what a little elbow grease, time, and Wipe New will do. There may be other products out there that work to bring the shine back. This is a product I’ve found that works well for me. Now your tank is good to go for many more years and looks almost new again!
If the plastics aren’t brittle and broken, even in extreme cases, they can be restored to a satisfactory level. In order to achieve a completely factory look, other processes can be performed. But for an inexpensive alternative, this works quite well.
If you have any tips or tricks to restoring your plastics, let me know, I would love to hear them!