“Basics of Basics”

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By Brian Martin

If I would have been told when I started messing with cars in the early seventies that most all cars would have glued on mouldings and emblems I would have laughed. But here they are, two sided tape holds even the largest Cadillac Escalade side cladding, not a single screw or clip, just tape. Sometimes it makes the work easier being you don’t have to pull off interior panels to get to the nuts like in the old days. And if you want to “shave” your cars emblems it doesn’t require welding up holes and repainting, just pull them off and polish the paint.

However, they offer a few new challenges, like no holes for alignment and if you have to reuse them, a little more work is needed.

First let’s talk about removing the old emblems and mouldings. Let me make something clear, these are guide lines and there is a learning curve. Some are just simply not re-usable. A late model Dodge Durango emblem for instance is a very thin flexible rubber like material that would be very difficult to re-use if it is possible at all. Then many mouldings have a thin tin foil like insert in the back that when the moulding is pulled off the car it is bent, ruining the moulding making it impossible to straighten out again. So though these tips may work wonders on 80% of the emblems and mouldings there are some places where they will be of no good.

First, when removing the emblem you want to record exactly where it was located being there are no holes to guide you. I have found this to be a very valuable tool doing this work everyday. When it comes time for re-assembly it saves a lot of time and aggravation. Take a look at photo A and you will see that some masking tape has been applied below the emblem. Tape is also added over the top of that tape to line up with a body line on the deck lid. This is so you can stick this template back onto the deck lid after the paint work is done and apply your emblems exactly where they were before. Take a sharpie and mark little lines on the end of the tape at the edge of the panel, and at each letter. Also writing the letters on the tape in the right position is very important. On this Mercedes for instance the letters will come out of order! Being they use the same numbers but in different order depending on the car they sell one emblem and you have to rearrange them!

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Removing the emblem can be very easy popping right off with your bare hands to looking like it will never come off without pulling the paint with it. Now, please believe me, unless there is an existing, known paint failure I have never, EVER, seen OEM paint fail while removing an emblem or moulding.

Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if you scratch the paint, other times like if it is a blend panel or if you want to just remove them and no paint work is being done. Either way, even if you are painting you might as well do it without damaging the paint so you have less work when prepping. Also, even though you are putting an emblem back in the same spot it is much easier to do so if you don’t have to position it perfectly to cover up a scratch.

There are two things you need to be careful with while removing the emblem.
1. Not to gouge the paint under the emblem with your tool.
2. When the emblem is coming off on one end it can push the other end into the paint chipping it. This is actually more common that you would think, so be careful.

If you park the car in the sun it will warm up the moulding or emblem to help with the removal as well. A heat gun, heat lamp, or "inductor" will do the job as well. But that good old sun shine is pretty amazing, it will only take a little longer. This isn't absolutely necessary. But sometimes it does help.

Here is the caveman removal method. (photo #16). It will work and I have done it many times (my pocket knife is an invaluable tool). The trick to it is to barely get the tip under the edge without hitting the paint and pulling out with just the tip. Don’t slide it under the emblem until you have pulled it away from the paint a little. If you sort of roll your knuckles on the panel you can pull this off without damaging the paint. After you separate the tape a little you can get the knife tip under another side and pull it up a little. Then move to another side and so on until it is off.

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A putty knife works as well, but honestly, scratching the paint is pretty likely with this method. (Photo #15) Be sure the putty knife is free from any burrs on the edge. Sand it with some fine paper laying on a nice flat surface to clean it up.

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Photo #14 is a good way if you don’t have a special tool. A plastic body filler spreader that has been sharpened a little works great and rarely damages the paint.

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I have used this chisel for years. (photo #20) I believe it is a “Steck” tool. They make some great tools, this isn’t one of them. I have no idea why I continued to use it, force of habit I guess. But it is way too thick and I have put more than one dent in cars using it. If you have one, put it in the seldom used drawer and get the following tool.

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The best tool I have found out there for the job is this “SIR” brand tool #ST9007-1. (Photo #19) I bought it by it’s self but the only way I could find it on line was in a kit #ST9007 for about $28. It was a lousy $6 and is the best I have found.

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Using the SIR tool to remove a moulding is possible as well, as long as the area where the moulding is attached is flat. But if it is in a recessed area you may need to use something thinner. Honestly, I use my pocket knife a lot on mouldings because a little scratch under it isn’t going to be a big deal. But if used properly you don’t get any.

Slide it under the end of the moulding and just push it on it straight thru the tape. (Photos 7 and 8).

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Once you get some of it off you can get your hands around it and pull the rest off usually. The big trick here is to pull the moulding, sort of stretching it longer as you pull out slightly away from the panel. This is an amazing trick that was taught to me by a fellow bodyman in the shop. He learned it while removing a rubber seal on a front bumper. This trick will help you remove something like that soft rubber bumper to hood seal on a 2008 Camry without so much as tearing the tape! You can literally remove the rubber seal and stick it on the inside of the back glass or windshield and then pull it off and stick it back on the bumper after it is painted! But it works well for all mouldings, not as good but helps.

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Removing the tape residue used to be such a pain, not anymore. Not since some brilliant mind developed the “eraser wheel”. This is literally a wheel made from the same material (or something very close) that a pencil eraser is made from. It “erases” the glue and tape right off without damaging the paint. This is not to say that you can’t damage the paint with it, you can. But with a little care it does a magical job. You can put this wheel in a die grinder or drill. But I can’t recommend enough to spend the money and get the correct tool. It is a die grinder with a gear reduction, it has tons of torque and works much better than a regular die grinder for this job. (Photo #17) Mine is a cheaper Astro brand as I remember and has performed flawlessly for years.


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Here it is in action.. http://s200.photobucket.com/albums/a...t=100_8395.flv

This is an eraser wheel on steroids that you can get if you have a lot tape to remove on a regular basis. It also has wire attachments for removing seam sealers. (Photo #18) It can be bought at Autobodystore.com for about $200.

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Ok, to get the tape off the mouldings or emblems is a little tougher, a pain in the butt is more like it. Some mouldings and emblems have a perfectly smooth surface on the back and it is a piece of cake to remove the tape residue. But most will give you some challenges. They will have a strange “ribbed” sort of surface that the tape is stuck to, or they will have a recessed area where the tape is. In either case removing every speck of the tape residue is simply impossible. Don’t sweat it, if you remove most of it, and what is most important the surface is flat, you will be fine. Let’s face it, the tape residue is stuck there pretty good, so it isn’t going to go anywhere once you stick new tape over it.

I have tried many different ways to get it off, none as successful as simply “shaving” it off with a single edge razor. The trick here, and this is a must, put a little bend into the blade. (photo #1) This tip is one of those that after doing it for a while you will kick yourself for not learning it sooner. Again, thanks to whom ever it was that showed me, I don’t remember who it was.

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Now, the magic to using the blade like this is not to “scrap” the adhesive off, but to “shave” it off. If you go right straight to shaving it like you would shave your face of it’s morning beard it won’t work. You need to slide it sideways as you shave. Move the blade in a “sawing” like motion getting it under the tape residue. Not so much back and forth, though you can do that as well, more so in one direction. Slice a little tiny bit under the tape, then move it back and slice a little bit more, then move back and slice a little bit more. Don’t try to simply push the blade and remove all the tape in one fell swoop, it just won’t work that way. The direction is usually towards you. (photo #2 and 11) I can not emphasize enough, BE CAREFUL! Don’t EVER pull the blade towards a finger that is holding the emblem or moulding. Don’t EVER hold something in your hand while shaving the adhesive off. I have cut myself too many times, and I have seen others do it as well, even with a warning minutes before. These blades are SHARP and will cut to the bone in nothing flat.

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Which brings me to another point, use a LOT of these blades. Don’t go cheap on me and try to save money on them. Use them for only a short while and when you see it is giving you a little trouble cutting, toss it in the garbage. But not before you wrap a little masking tape over it so no one gets cut on it. I highly recommend getting a pint paint can and cutting a slit in the lid to drop them into. When the can is full just throw away.

The tape comes in many different thicknesses and widths. It can be bought in little retail packs at the parts store only a few feet long. (3m #3609) Or if can be bought in very large rolls (3M #6386) (usually cheaper) at auto body paint stores and web sites. (photo #12)

The 3M white is the strongest from what I understand. There are gray, black and white available. The white you see in the photo actually is dirty having been tossed around the shop a little so it has a black edge. A new one wouldn’t look like that, just crisp white.
Next to the white tape you will see a “tape” that isn’t tape at all. It is adhesive, JUST adhesive. So you can lay this over something, peel off the backing and stick it on. It is as thin as scotch tape and has many uses. (I couldn’t find the part number, sorry) The little packet with the yellow foam pad in it is 3M adhesion promoter #6396. This stuff is just amazing! The foam pad is wet with it, you simply rub it on the surface where you are going to stick the tape and let it dry. I am not kidding you, this stuff makes a HUGE difference and we wouldn’t live without it. It isn’t needed on fresh paint to stick the moulding or emblem, but on a moulding or emblem that you have shaved off the old adhesive residue it is invaluable! It is a MUST HAVE in my opinion if you are reusing emblems or mouldings.



Ok, let’s re-tape a few mouldings and emblems. First off, there are many sizes of tapes and there is probably one that will work perfect on your moulding. If your moulding is an inch wide and had from the factory a little quarter inch tape at the top and bottom that doesn’t mean it has to have the same now. You can put a half inch at the top and bottom or a one inch right down the middle of it.

Doing an emblem is a little tough but not impossible. Before you do, check with the dealer to see how much yours are. Some emblems are only ten bucks or less. Many are just not worth re-taping. Others like a Cad Escalade can be as much as $65 or even $150 for that crest one on the back gate!

If you lay the emblem on the tape (or the other way around, makes little difference) (photo #3) and then press the tape onto the emblem real good so you can see the outline. (photo #4)




Cut straight down into the back of the emblem with a nice sharp straight edge razor. Remember to change it often, they are cheap so use a new one if necessary.
You don’t have to be perfect, just get it close. If you press hard cutting straight into the back it usually cuts pretty nice. (Photo #5)



We don’t ever re-use emblems so I didn’t have a real nice example for you. I did this one kinda quick so it isn’t real nice. But honestly, it is still plenty good enough. It doesn’t have to be cut with the same perfection that it was from the factory. Once this emblem is on the car you won’t see the tape. You use the razor corner to pull up the pieces you have cut out and want to remove. (Photo #6)



So you only have to cut the tape on one side, line the tape up the edge. Then again, cutting straight down into the moulding you can make a perfect sized tape for your moulding. (Photo #13)


And again, like the emblems using a guide to install the moulding is a BIG help. Running a length of masking tape straight is a lot easier than a moulding! So, apply your tape right where you want the moulding and then you can stick the moulding onto the panel right above the tape nice and straight. (Photo #10)



Of course as you would imagine having the paint perfectly clean is very important. I like to use compound to clean the paint nice if it is old paint. Then wax and grease remover to get it ready for the tape. When re-using mouldings I like to also put a small dab of urethane window adhesive at each end of the moulding. Just a dab the size of a pea is fine. That is where it will come up first if it is going to, right at the edge. So for a little added insurance I put a dab of urethane. On those big “claddings” I like to put a little bigger dab, I just feel better knowing that it is NOT going to come off.

If the paint is fresh, that is the best thing to stick that moulding or emblem to so doing any extra cleaning is not needed. A quick wipe with wax and grease remover is all you need.

That should get you going, have fun!