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Project 4Runner: Adventures in Plasti Dip

Kamil Kaluski December 12, 2016 Project 4Runner 29 Comments


The one thing that I really don’t like about the current generation of 4Runners is Toyota’s overwhelming use of tacky chrome trim. The crap is everywhere: on the grill, a strip along each bumper, light surrounds, door handles, roof rack, a strip on the rocker molding, and who knows where else. Not all models have it – the 4Runner Trail Edition never had it and Toyota removed a lot of it from the SR5 in the 2014 facelift, but the Limited got even more chrome in that remake. I don’t think there’s a person on earth who ever said “yea, that plastic chrome trim looks great!”

I decided to do something about it. I looked to have this done right, either by repainting it or vinyl wrap. Some body shops did not even want the job because that kind of work is a pain in the ass for them – little profit and high potential of messing up. Vinyl wrapping was a sound option but at $400-$600 it was not any cheaper or better than a paint job.

In the end I decided to get $10 worth of Plasti Dip from Home Depot and rattle can this myself. The money I saved will go toward other modifications.


The above picture shows how my 4Runner looked stock. Notice the chrome trim around small round fog-lights and the chrome strip along the bottom. And the top grill where the badge is. And the roof rack. And there is a little visible trim along the bottom of the doors. I removed that whole molding and threw it in the trash when I installed my Slee rock sliders.

My first attempt was rather simple. While having new tires put on, my friend at Ace Performance, who was equally bothered by the chrome, masked off the painted grill surround, cleaned off the surface that he was going to dip,  and went to town. It came out looking damn good but not perfect.


What I did not like about the end result was that it looked aftermarket. Very few automakers would match the company badge into the grill. The solution to that problem was rather simple. After opening the hood and removing a small radiator cover, the back of the grill is easily accessible from the top. From there, the tabs to remove the badge are easily accessible. I popped the badge off. With a little prying and rubbing the Plasti Dip came right off. I reinstalled the badge, and bam, now it looks the way it should have from the factory.

While playing around with the front off the car I tried removing the fog-light surrounds. Internet forums told me that I’d have to remove the wheel well lining, but the surrounds came out quite easily with some careful and patient prying around from the front of the vehicle. I sprayed them with three layers of Plasti Dip. After 30 minutes of dry time I reinstalled without any drama. The final results are below.


My remaining problem was the fact that the chrome trim along the bottom of the bumper now stood out more because it is the only chrome piece left. I did not remove it at the time because it was not coming out willingly. I was also short on time and I did not want to damage it. My temporary solution to that is less frequent washing of the 4Runner. My plan is to Plasti Dip that, the rear bumper trim, and the roof rack end-caps when it gets warmer outside.

The Plasti Dip on the grill, which was sprayed in April (it’s mid December as of this writing) has held up pretty well despite being done in only two layers and rather quickly. There’s only one small chip in it, probably from a rock or something. I am curious to see how it is going to hold up in the winter months.

The interesting part is that both the grill garnish and the fog-light surrounds are available black from Toyota, as they come on the 4Runner Trail. Each fog-light surround is $20 and the grill comes as a whole assembly for $200, although some people were able to buy just the part I painted.

The real challenge will be the door handles. Since the door handles are constantly being grabbed, I’m not sure how long Plasti Dip will last on them. I’d rather leave them chrome than look half-assed with pealing dip. The door handles are more difficult to paint as they require disassembly of the doors or thorough masking. The ’14+ has factory color-coded door handles, total for which would be about $200, but I am not sure of they can be directly swapped over to the ’10-’13 cars. That would be my best bet in terms of doing it right – they come pre-painted.


The rear also has the tailgate garnish. It is bolted in from the inside of the hatch. Glued onto it is the badge and the 4RUNNER logo. I have not decided what to do with that yet. That part from the dealer is $150, which is just ridiculous, and the black Trail Edition part won’t work with my car as my car has a back-up camera and sonar sensors, which the Trail does not.

Some of you might be asking why I didn’t just buy a 4Runner Trail Edition. The reason is that I needed a third row seat which is not available on the Trail.

  • Sjalabais

    Looking good. How long do you think the front will withstand the permanent onslaught of flies, grimes and small stones?

    My daughter turns six on Wednesday. Reminded me that masking tape and I are engaged in an eternal war.

    • Oyyy.

    • 0A5599

      You had her paint it, I hope.

      That’s what I did when my son was about that age and ready for the next bicycle size. We raided the neighborhood trash for a couple of discarded bicycles, stripped one to the bare frame, and I let him pick the color and spray it. Then we mixed and matched components from the other trash bikes, and assembled.

      Did it look professionally done? No, but that wasn’t the point. Nobody cared. In his eyes it looked great.

      • Sjalabais

        Sounds perfect! I did much the same, but without her, unfortunately. But that’s an improvement I’ll have in mind until the next time around.

    • Alff

      Been there. Alphabet decals are your friend.

  • Dewd

    Owning one of these vehicles already predicates that you don’t care, whatsoever, about looks, so it seems a mute point.

    • Right… this is why I have the Lada.

    • Alff

      Being mute isn’t always a bad thing.

  • bbob

    The problem with plastidip is that it only last a couple of washes before it starts peeling, especially if you use degreaser, or it gets hit by bugs/stones.
    I recently cleaned of all the plastidip from my front grill and replaced it with matte black paint, and getting all the crevices completely clean was such a pain!
    I’ll stick to regular paint from now on.

    • JayP

      I’ve “dipped” the trim on the front on my cars and it lasted about a year. Not bad really and it’s an easy cleanup once it peels with a power washer.

      • mfbseth

        I did about 5 coats on my grille and it only really just began to fade and chip in the last couple of months, which means it’s held up for almost two years with regular washing.

    • “…only last a couple of washes….”

      An added bonus, therefore, is a built-in excuse never to wash it.

  • Looks like you did well. The longevity on the handles will likely depend on how many coats you used. I wanted a shine on my wheels and wanted the visual pop of white, so I did 4 coats of white, colored back in the Mazda logos with Sharpie, and then covered that up with 3 coats of clear gloss. They’ve just passed 2 years since that was done and if I didn’t have to have the valve stems changed, they’d still look freshly sprayed. The guy who changed the stems unfortunately clamped them into a mounting machine that left some scratches on the faces of the spokes. Other than that, they’re still in great condition. Granted though, your mileage may vary. In my case it’s on a fair weather weekend car. Things may be different on a daily driver.

  • Ross Ballot

    Looks good! Much better in my eyes. I did the same thing a few years back when I had my Avalanche. Got tired of the chrome plastic everywhere (which was flaking/chipping) and painted over it, though I regretted doing so almost immediately.


  • Justin Hughes

    I dipped my BRZ’s stock wheels before their first winter – partly to protect the factory finish, but mostly because gold is the only appropriate wheel color for a World Rally Blue car. I use different wheels for summer, but going into their third winter they still look almost as good as new. It’s all about the prep, and the application. Super clean surface, a very thin layer to start, then several thick layers after.


    • Nice!
      What’s up with your license plate?

      • Justin Hughes

        Amateur radio operator. (That’s what the extra antenna is for, too.) For some reason MA thinks a lightning bolt is a good way to show that. In reality all it does is make everyone ask “What’s up with your license plate?”

  • Victor

    Seems a lot of work for a few shiny accent pieces.

    • Not really… I did it with my kids.

      • Victor

        Anything you do with your children is worthwhile.

      • dead_elvis, inc.

        Was it tough to get them to hold still while you sprayed them? It does seem like a good idea, especially if it makes cleaning them easier.

        /not a parent

        • Vairship

          You don’t spray them, you just hold their feet and dip them…

  • CraigSu

    Of course, when you’re driving it you don’t see any of your handiwork.

  • Rudy™

    A year or two ago, I had read of someone putting Plasti-Dip over their entire car. It was black and in excellent condition, and he would put the Dip on it for the Winter months. Come Spring, the Dip was peeled off and the paint was preserved nicely. I wonder if it really works that well for Winter months, especially up here where there is a lot of road salt, and a lot of road debris from the crumbling roads. I am thinking that if the Dip got a few pinholes in it, that saltwater could get underneath and do some damage, more so than if the saltwater were allowed to dry on the paint’s surface and be washed away.

    • I would agree, it might trap moisture. I think there are better means of paint protection.
      Or just get a beater.