How-To debadge your BMW

How-To | March 23rd, 2010 by 34

Debadging is something of an anomaly in the car world. Europeans love it, Americans, for the most part, don’t get it. For those unaware, debadging …

Debadging is something of an anomaly in the car world. Europeans love it, Americans, for the most part, don’t get it. For those unaware, debadging a car translates in car nerd talk to the removal of any external badges that might designate a specific model, engine capacity and fuel type. For example, if you remove the trunklid-based “335d” badging from an E90 and the “335i” badging from an E90 – the two cars would be, to the uninformed, nearly identical in appearance. At which point you have a naked car – a car that could have 400HP or it could have 120HP – you never know and that’s how some want it!

In Europe where diesels are much more prevalent, debadging is commonplace as those engines have less of a perceived negative image as they do in the United States. However, it seems that for Europeans, many debadge cars as a means of playing down the car: the roundel on the front is enough, it does not matter if the car is a 320d or a 335is, a 730 or a 760. Usually, the only difference being revealed by the placement of exhaust tips or perhaps the wheels relative to what is available from the factory for a specific model in the range.

How To debadge your BMW

In North America, it seems the badge on the rear of the car denotes more the masculinity of the owner than just the power under the hood. Debates have raged for years on web forums with BMW owners who consider debadging their car. If you own a 328i and debadge the car – the common perception seems to be that the owner is ashamed of their lack of horsepower compared to their 335 brethren. As if buying a lower echelon model means you don’t own a true BMW. That being said, as someone who likes the look of a debadged car and is, of course, upset by my lack of horsepower with my E46 325Ci – I decided to test the waters and debadge my car. I’m not trying to pick on 335 owners but that has been the most sizeable debate in recent history.

How To debadge your BMW

Armed with an assortment of Griot’s Garage car detailing products I went out to begin the process and for those interested, we’ve documented the steps below.

Step One: Wash and Dry the Car

I’ve washed and “clayed” a car before and it can take literally the entire afternoon so the best way to reduce the time of detailing a car is to cut down on the washing process. We picked up a multi-pattern car washing gun that lets you mix water and soap to dispense sudsy water onto the car. Then I went behind it with a terry cloth towel to clean the excess dirt off of individual panels and then hose the car down to remove excess soap and dirt. Be sure to either use multiple towels or rotate parts of the towel so that you don’t wipe more grit and grime onto the car. Once done wiping down the car, thoroughly rinse the car off. Also, use soft terry cloth towels to dry the car once done with the washing.

How To debadge your BMW

How To debadge your BMW

Step Two: Steal Women’s Hair Care Products – and Tooth Care!

The second step proves a little more difficult for me. I had to convince my fiance to let me borrow her hair dryer – which received the expected puzzled look. You will look silly but make sure you have a hair dryer and extension cord ready as you’ll need this to heat up and loosen the badging adhesive that has been in place since the day the car rolled out of the factory. While you’re stealing items from the bathroom – be sure to grab a case of dental floss which will be used to carefully remove the badges once soaked in adhesive remover and heated. You will need a few inches of floss, enough to wrap around two fingers and give you a about 4 to 5 inches to work with on flossing the back of the Bimmer.

How To debadge your BMW

Step Three: Remove the Badging

This can be a bit delicate just because you don’t want to damage the paint but don’t be too careful otherwise you’ll never get it done. The first step to removing everything after cleaning the car is the adhesive remover. I used a small bit of Griot’s Adhesive Remover along the top of the badging to help loosen it up. Be sure to keep a cloth handy and dab up any excess fluid that drips off. Once done with that, take the hair dryer and hold it about 6 inches back from the badging on low to medium heat – I also recommend moving the blow dryer back and forth over each individual character from top to bottom. This way each character’s entire adhesive has the chance to heat up and makes it easier for you to remove it.

How To debadge your BMW

How To debadge your BMW

About 20 seconds of heating should be sufficient at which point you should take the floss and start working it down behind the heated character; sawing away at the adhesive. A little bit of force should loosen the adhesive and the character should start to peel off. Repeat this process for each character and you’re basically halfway done – and you’ll have the grimy and gray adhesive shadow of the original badge left after you’re done.

Step Four: Clean and Clay

Once you’ve removed the characters you’re looking at a dirty piece of car. I recommend, for the easiest way to remove the left over adhesive, dampening a terry cloth and running it over the remaining adhesive to start cleaning it off. Additionally, using the hair dryer might help loosen up the adhesive then allow you to go back over it with a cloth. This could take a few tries as the adhesive is typically not looking to be removed in the first place. Once done getting all of the adhesive off there is still likely a “ghost” of the badging which can be dispatched via clay barring the area.

How To debadge your BMW

How To debadge your BMW

I recommend wetting then wiping down the area first then putting on a pair of surgical gloves. Griot’s provides a few pairs when you order their clay bar kit and it’s a great little addition to have. If you’ve clayed a car before then you understand how gross your hands are by the time you’re done – they’re coated in a film, smell bad and very chapped. Once the gloves are on, tear off a piece of clay and knead it into a more malleable ball. Run the clay over the lubricated area in a circular motion. Make sure to flip the clay often so that you aren’t running hitting the paint with the grit and grim you’ve already pulled up. It may take a few runs before you’ve successfully gotten everything off. However, once done be sure to wipe off the area and presto! you have a freshly debadged car.

How To debadge your BMW

I’ve had my car debadged for a number of weeks and I actually like it. I was apprehensive at first – concerned that it might yield negative connotations or disapproval. However, the contrary has been the case actually. I’ve received a number of compliments on the cleaner look and aesthetic of the car without badging at the rear. I would have to agree, I love the look of it and wish I had done it sooner – making my car just that bit more European!

How To debadge your BMW

(Special Thanks to Griot’s Garage for providing the products for this article!)

How To debadge your BMW

  • plaxico

    the most interesting article in weeks. Just for the sake of argument ……….in split second you can tell if its 400ph or 120ph. Anyways ,great job Andrew. Cheers mate

    • Andrew

      Thank you! Please feel free to shoot us emails if you have any questions or ever want to recommend a topic you’re interested in hearing about!

  • Joey

    In Europe it’s a 1-step process: order the car without the badge on the back.

    • Jimmy

      Actually, having worked for them at head office – you don’t have to be European for the one step process of removing the badge prior to production. Any market can do it, it’s defined as designation deletion so just advise your dealer when placing an order.

  • E92-Toronto

    Good article, but what’s point of debadge???

    • Andrew

      Asethetic, I think it keeps the car very clean looking and sleek. I also did it as a bit of a minature social study just to see if it made an impact.

    • Harold Thomas

       makes waxing easier.

  • Andrew

    My favorite part of the pics, was the JU license plate. Way to keep it classy Andrew and the car looked pretty slick too

    • Andrew

      Go Dolphins!

  • Jordan

    i have a 2000 328i, the top of the range for 2000 and I debadged mine!… i think it looks much better and gives it a really tidy and clean look at the rear. I’ve got a carbon fibre BMW roundel and LED smoked tails and silver paint. it looks pretty nice IMO!

    if i had a 335i I’d debadge it as well because of the clean look that it gives. if you’re a BMW fan you’d be able to tell that it was the 335i (or 335d) because of the twin tail pipes. if you’re someone who doesn’t know much about cars, just knowing it’s a BMW would be enough, you wouldn’t care if i told you it was a 325i vs a 335i.

    that’s my reasoning!

    • Jordan

      oh and I’m Canadian… so I guess you could group me in with the Americans…. :P

      • Andrew

        haha, sorry, perhaps I should have written North America and not U.S.!

  • Bryce

    Question: Do you know if this same process works for all models and years? Has BMW always attached the badge with adhesive, or did they use a different method on older models?

    Also, could this process be used on a Roundel? I don’t plan on removing a Roundel, just replacing one.

  • Malcolm

    Great write-up Andrew! The Roundel is total different… that is attacked using two plastic clips/sqrews only. No adhesive.

    • Andrew


  • Dix Norman

    2 BMWs

    E46 330xi and E90 328i xDrive

    both were debadge mainly because of the cleaner lines…could care less about the “oh i’m embarassed about the engine size”…the useless”xDrive” on both sides were easy to do because it was just the same adhesive type

    question though – what about the new F01s which have the xDrive on what appears to be full metal plates by the front wheel wells?

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  • Joe

    I really like the look of the debadged rear: clean and symmetric. In fact, I have just ordered my 335i E93 (here in Europe) and have asked for it to come factory debadged.

    • Andrew

      Agreed, I think the E38 rear deck looks especially clean without badging, as does the E92.

  • badger

    one question, could you order a new 328i without the badging, in US?

  • Jonathan Spira

    To amplify what Joey wrote, debadging is not common in Europe. This is because the badge-delete option exists and the car is the ordered sans badge. Hence, no debadging ever occurred since there was no badge on the car in the first place.

  • Karl

    Enjoyed reading this article. I ordered mine debadged for security reasons. Felt that the indication of the engine size on the back could attract more attention to the car although the exhaust pipes, the chromed grill and chromed frame on the windows all indicate a higher-capacity engine.

  • David

    I really dig the article, very interesting. I’m from Europe and I think debadging is just for the fun of it. Only real carlovers know the difference between one-another. It looks sleeker and it’s not really posh. I would even unbadge a M6, just to f*ck with Merc’s and Porsches… But Andrew, in the pics you started in broad daylight and ending at nighttime… Did you spend the whole day unbadging your car?? ;-) Nevertheless, great article and you guys should write this kind of good stuff more often.

    • Andrew

      Haha, about the daytime nighttime thing…I did this the afternoon of Valentine’s Day and had obligations to the fiance before I could finish.

      That and I plugged in her stupid hairdryer and thought it was broken…turns out I can’t properly turn on a hairdryer. Who knew? So I gave up in the afternoon when I couldn’t make that part work and then came back to it when she explained how to use the hairdryer.

  • Richard

    Did you know most manufacturers use a piece of Wax string, by carefully pulling it bahind the letters they then come off. Obviously you are left to remove the glue and polish.

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  • New Car Paint Protection

    personally, I am too scared to debadge my BM, bit scared that I will stuff it up.

  • Sfldetail

    Ive done this with every car Ive owned since my first car.  Ive debadged my fathers S63 awhile back and many people’s cars(Im a detailer) as well, from 318’s to M5’s.

  • Anonymous

    You could have save lots of time and effort by warming the logos up with the dryer then taking some 10 lb test fishing line and sawing it back and forth behind the logos.  Cuts right through the glue and removes most of it.  The remove the rest with some Goo Gone or what you used above. 

  • Mjbmw330ci

    debadged my 330 with a pair of locking pliers and goo-gone…  took 10 minutes…

  • SansBadge

    I myself tend to like debadging M cars; I’ve owned a couple e36 M3’s and find the police seem to be far more likely to leave me alone when there is no badge. Obviously I’m not embarrassed about the motor or anything, but the M badge says I have more money than I do, and that’s not what I want the cops to think if they feel inclined to pull me over.  If you can live without the M3/5 on the back of your car, do it.

  • tarena1991

    seems silly considering only someone with the crappier engine would want to remove the badge.. so if you “debadge” you are highlighting the fact that you are attempting to hide your car’s lawnmower engine

    • Horatiu B.

      True. It’s a common practice in Europe