But I’m going to tell you anyway. A few weeks ago, a buddy of mine was bemoaning the way the old plastic on his street bike was faded and oxidizing. He’d tried everything – the old school stuff like polishing compound, the latest gimmick on YouTube, and he’d even considered how he might be able to repaint the panels and get a fresh start.
Now, for those of you who know me, I’m about as tight as I can be with a dollar (one of the reasons I drive old stuff and work on it myself) and I reached out to a nerd friend of mine who happens to be a chemical engineer. Now, Shawn’s a plastic guy. He’s fascinated by it and he’s pretty good at understanding what it can and can’t do. He’s also got a few things he’s built on the International Space Station, so he’s got a pretty good track record.
At any rate, his answer surprised me. “Try either Wintergreen Oil or Boiled Linseed Oil. Just rub on a light coat and let it cure, but try it in a spot that’s kinda out of sight.”
Now, I couldn’t track down any Wintergreen Oil, but I had some artist’s grade Boiled Linseed Oil in the shop, and we checked it out.
The test spot was a strip of plastic immediately below the fairing, and two days later, when the linseed oil had dried, there it was: nice and shiny.
The damned thing looked like new.
Now, Brent’s bike is all black, so I can’t tell you how well this might work on other colors, but if you’ve got some faded plastic trim – and even light lenses – you might give this a shot.
So far, here’s what I’ve learned with the linseed oil trick…
It works great on faded black plastic.
It works great on faded grey plastic.
It works great on taillight and market light lenses, both clear and colored (we’ve tested amber and red).
It appears to work on one beat up Honda 250 dirt bike red plastic fender.
If you try it and it doesn’t work on your plastic, we’re not responsible…
Now, some of you might be saying, “Man, that’s that Rat Rod crowd garbage! They’ll cover any-damn-thing in Linseed Oil.”
Yes, and my grandfather did too. He put it on his cast iron and steel tools, his tool handles, the steel flatbed on his truck, and even the chicken coop and barn. I don’t know how long it will last on the plastic on a bike or an old car or truck, but I know this: it’s a helluva lot cheaper than the gimmicky stuff you can buy online or in the parts store, and unlike some of the “protectants” that contain silicon, it’s a lot easier to remove it when it comes time to strip and refinish/repaint and I haven’t heard that it will make plastic brittle like Armor All is rumored to.
Besides, at about $10 for a quart of Boiled Linseed Oil, you can potentially sort out a lot of problems with plastic and not waste a lot of money.