Plasti Dip – The Phenomenon, The frustration and The Rewards. The real question should be “Is it like riding a moped?”
Since it’s been around for a few years all the buzz has kind of died down a bit bit if you have never heard of it, prepare to have your mind blown. I discovered the wonders of plasti dip on youtube and I was hooked. A sprayable rubberized paint that provides a unique custom look and is totally temporary. This stuff is so forgiving yet so tough to work with. The devil is definitely in the details.
Plasti Dip is a rubberized paint and when thinned properly can be sprayed on just about any solid surface. The best part? If you want to go back to original finish, it just peels off. It is available in over a dozen colors and the standard finish is flat/matte. Satin and semi-gloss over coats are also available. After watching a few videos on dipyourcar.com’s channel I took the plunge and ordered up enough dip to cover four cars, and the electric sprayer from the local home improvement store. As frustrating as it can be to get right, it is equally rewarding and Plasti dip is an insanely less expensive alternative to vinyl wrap. So here’s the deal on the dip.
The single most difficult question to answer about Plasti Dip is “Why?” If you need to ask then you won’t get it. The first time I was asked why I would do that to my car I was totally stumped. “What do you mean why?” To me it was blatantly obvious but at the same time I couldn’t conjure up an answer that made any sense to a non-car person. I couldn’t really say “because it’s badass” or “it looks cool.” No, I have to stop and think in order to answer that question intelligently, and I can’t.
When you dip it right, it looks phenomenal. There is something so intriguing about a flat finish car. Another popular concept that is in full swing today is to black out the wheels or any one or combination of the horizontal panels (hood, roof, trunk), especially with wheels though, make’em black. Plasti Dip is fairly inexpensive compared to traditional automotive paint, only $50-$70 per gallon, and you can get the flat black spray cans at the local Home Depot for about $6 a can. One can per wheel and you are good to go. I did my Audi A6 in flat black which took about 4 gallons and the final outcome was rather impressive. This stuff really is user friendly and can be learned by any rookie with a fist full of hundreds to spend. The shop where I worked at the time donated a whole car dip to MedianMag’s Facebook contest and the winner got to have his tastefully modified Volvo S60R dipped in “Firebelly Orange” with flat black wheels, grill and roof. That car left our shop looking pretty good, and extremely orange. Not gonna lie though, that car sucked to dip with the two different colors. The car got some great reactions.
Since Plasti dipped is thinned for spraying purposes it lays down nice and smooth once you get the hang of it, but keep in mind I am talking about the good aspects. This stuff can and will make you angry at least once. It’s also easily repairable. We repaired a torn section on my front bumper by rubbing lacquer thinner over the frayed edges and basically melting the product so it would adhere again, then sprayed a fresh coat of dip to cover up any evidence of the damage. Now that’s pretty cool, rubber paint you can blend with. Masking is easy as well, you don’t need to over mask the car. Whole car dips require only the windows. When you are finished the dip peels perfectly off of the headlights, taillamps, side makers and emblems. Overspray can easily be removed from door jams with a dry microfiber cloth. It doesn’t get any more simple than that.
The blending and adherence qualities of Plasti Dip make it possible to layer different colors for camouflage or striping effects. There is literally hundreds of wheel, body, and trim combinations you could create and all it takes is time and patience. Also available are “metalizer” products that create metallic flake colors, so these guys from Dipyourcar.com are taking this phenomenon full steam ahead with development of new products.
Among the many uses of Plasti Dip is the clear version you can apply on the front end of your car to protect the finish against stone chips and road debris. Wheels are another common use, for both color change and protection against hazards. It is also a simple way to change trim color on a car and unlike paint, it will adhere to chrome which is really something I never thought I would see. You can take a rusty brush bar and make it look like new on that old Pathfinder, or those old wheels you have on whatever you are driving. You can take a car that is 4 different colors including bondo and primer and cover it up for just a few hundred bucks. Pretty amazing, really, it is quickly becoming the ricer’s dream product.
About that ricer’s dream product…if it’s not done right then you do not want your friends to see it. You see, in high school I had a moped and it was hidious. A 1978 puke green Puch called , well, “The Green Puke” (what else would you have called it?) My buddy, Seth, had the 911 of mopeds. Seth rode this white scooter like the Lone Ranger, I swear. A friggin white lightning bolt through the streets of Yarmouth. It was some sort of 80cc rocket powered Yamahonduziki product, who cares the thing made me look like Bobby Brady when his hall monitor suit shrunk in the wash on “The Brady Bunch”.
Looking like a complete idiot is exponentially easy. This stuff has “rice” written all over it when done in bad taste or in a poor application. I mean a flock of seagulls could shit all over your car and make it look better than trying to dip an entire car with spray cans. No man, just no. I saw a dude in a CLK 430 who did it. You could spot that hairy, zebra a mile away. Nice job buddy. You really put some effort into that. I would have ripped it off and hit the packy instead. Take your lumps for god’s sake. What an embarrassment to the rest of us. Then there’s the “stripes”. Guys, come on…Your ’95 4-banger S-10 pickup bone stock and looking like it needs to run off and die behind a shed really doesn’t need some bullshit ass “SS” stripes on the hood. Can it with that crap. I drove a rusty 84 Accord hatch full well knowing I need not do a damn thing aesthetically to that blue booger or else I would have been laughed right out of the D-Y parking lot.
It can be tough to get right, especially because it doesn’t act like regular paint products, so I had to unlearn traditional painting techniques and follow the simple tips you can find on YouTube. You must do your homework before you try to bust out a perfectly dipped whip. If you plan on doing a light or really bright color, you might need a base coat in white first in order to achieve that true color you are looking for. That means you are basically dipping the car twice. It takes at least six thick coats in order for it to be an ideal thickness. The thicker you apply it, the easier it is to remove when the time comes. So to get the color right you are looking at possibly nine coats all in, maybe more. Multi-color projects are not fun, but like I said, it’s equal portions of difficulty and satisfaction. Doing more than one color takes twice the time and twice the masking and when done back to back you run the risk of the masking tape compromising the initial coat. Try to find as many tricks as you can before doing it and plan on failing first.
Working with trim will test your patience, but I didn’t do all my homework initially so it’s not a surprise. Plasti Dip usually will tear a perfect line in the gaps on your car’s body panels and trim pieces. Certain ones however need special attention. Those thin rubber gaskets around doors and windows, and the rain gutter trim and belt moldings around the opening of the car. These gaps are so tight that when you remove your masking from the windows you can create frayed edges. Plasti Dip does not like to be cut with a razor and the razors will scratch without a doubt. You just got to trust me on that one…my poor car, the test dummy. Having frayed edges and peeling spots after putting all that work in can really suck the joy out of the experience, so learning the repair process was bitter sweet. Another thing I failed to learn was while painting around the doors it’s a good idea to open the doors while the dip is wet to create the break, otherwise when you leave the doors closed for all coats the dip tears unfavorably upon opening. Translation…you f’ed up Jimmy, do it again.
The finished product should be a smooth even color with very little texture. The two main difficulties in applying Plasti Dip are avoiding a striping effect and a raised, rough, textured finish. The striping develops from uneven passes with the spray gun and the surface is getting a thick wet coat is some spots and a light overspray coat on the edges. This is a very easy and common side effect of using Plasti Dip. Much of these technical issues revolve around the spray equipment. Aerosol cans tend to spatter some and leave more of a textured look, but this is suitable for wheels and small areas like bumpers, grills, spoilers, etc. Using spray cans on large areas is will not produce even color; it will look like you did it with spray cans. We tried both traditional automotive spray guns as well as a sprayer much like you would find in a home improvement store. Both of these had varying degrees of success but in the end, the cheapy DIY electric paint sprayer really was the best thing to use. The problem with a regular automotive spray gun is the tip openings are too small which creates a lot of overspray. When Plasti dip becomes that mystified, it dries in the air before it hits the wet panel and there you have your texture. The electric sprayers hold more paint and have a bigger opening to allow the dip to flow properly and settle on the panel wet and thick. They key is to clean the spray tip in between coats so the product does not gum up. A gummed up spray tip will cause the product to spit large chunks and drips, not good.
To further prove that simple and uncomplicated techniques work far better than the fancy shmancy spray equipment we had at the shop, we dipped two cars in complete different ways. The first car we did in a down draft spray booth with high air flow and heat cycles in between coats to speed drying time. This car took 8 coats and it was still wasn’t that thick. We used both a regular spray gun and a primer spray gun (primer guns have a larger spray tip). The second car we did right on the shop floor. We degreased the car and masked the windows, that’s it. We used the electric sprayer and applied 6 coats to the second car. The result was the first car had frayed edges all around the windows and doors, the raised, rough texture was everywhere and the striping effect was very evident. The second car, much to the surprise of all the nay-sayers in the shop, came out damn near perfect. It only took 4 hours, we used 3 gallons and it looked like a factory finish.
Then there is the removal or peeling aspect. The large panels are easy enough but only if you put enough on. you rub and lift the edges and peel the whole sheet right off. If you cheese out with 4 coats, then you are going to really be swearing your head off when you decide to peel. Plus, the more coats the more protection and better finish you get. The biggest complaints from people online was the peeling process. And it’s because they didn’t properly de-grease the surface and/or they didn’t put enough product on. Additionally, the gaps are a pain. The hood gaps, door gaps and all those little places it gets into. But to make things simple, I used a dry microfiber cloth and rubbed it until it was gone. Really not a big deal when you think about it, You can also use laquer thinner too, but go easy on that because you can damage and fade the original clear coat on the car, gentile gentile, don’t douse it with thinner and then rub as hard as you can. Light rubbing and let the thinner do its work.
Enough Already, How Much?
The last piece of the puzzle is choosing your method of installation. It is largely a DIY thing, that is how it is marketed but there are DipYourCar installers popping up all over the county. The problem with doing it yourself is the cost of the equipment, the learning curve, and the space to apply it. To buy all the liquid, a spray gun, masking supplies, and lacquer thinner will cost you around $400 including shipping. The learning curve will make or break you, if you don’t get it right you have to pull it all off and start over. You can do this in your driveway or garage, just be prepared to clean up a pretty big mess on the ground when you’re done unless you prepare the space properly with drop cloths. The problem with being an installer like is the profitability isn’t that great, but the fun factor is huge. Most of you cheap bastards don’t want to pay $600-$800 for removable paint. My phone rings off the hook with “How much is it to dip my car?” I get the same response 90% of the time. “Okay, thanks, Bye” It is a shortsighted decision; I think I’d rather spend the extra couple hundred bucks to have a professional finish. There is plenty of value in having an experienced installer dip your car rather than ending up with a less than desirable job you tried in your driveway. You get what you pay for.
OK, Shut up now, What’s the Short Version?
After my roller coaster of emotions regarding plasti dip, I’m a fan, not a huge one but a fan for a few reasons. I only like the black and a couple of the obnoxious colors. Other than that paint should be shiny. I like the fact that the initial frenzy has come and gone and the herd has thinned out. It’s a cycle; you discover it, lose your mind, drink the Cool-Aid and and then the ricers get out of control and ruin it for everyone until it dies off. We are either there now or close it. I think it’s safe to dip tastefully, like badges, grills, wheels, but not all three. Then you look like a D-bag. See what a fine line that is? You either do grille and badges, or the just wheels, got it?
As far as using it, after a few nightmare installs, I was ready to abandon ship. I gave it a few more tries; I stopped over-thinking the process and have restored my confidence in the dip. Weather you choose to DIY or to have an installer apply the product, this is an awesome product that can last over year or more. I have been told than it can last up to 3 years. My car was dipped for 8 months during the winter and the only issue I had was some peeling on the stone guards from all the rocks up at Team O’Neil’s gravel roads when I attended the car control clinic, but that was an easy fix.