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