How to remove car emblems

For a clean, uncluttered look
by Raymond Figuerres | Sep 4, 2019
PHOTO: Raymond Figuerres

‘Debadging’ or removing all or some of a car’s emblems is a popular modification. Contrary to what some may claim, it won’t void your warranty or make your vehicle illegal or not roadworthy.

I’ve even heard someone incorrectly say it will affect your car insurance policy, devaluing the policy’s coverage or maybe even cause the insurance company to not cover the cost of repairs, etc. It is a perfectly legal, sensible mod that has no bearing on your insurance coverage! I happen to think it’s a cool mod that sets your car apart and makes for a clean, uncluttered look. When debadging is done along with other external changes, your ride will inevitably get second glances as it will not be instantly recognizable.

Another reason you may want to remove the emblems is if you want to replace broken or deteriorated ones. If you look closely at the emblems on your car, the edges could be full of dirt and grime that are difficult to clean. Years of accumulated car wax may be left on the crevices, and even a detailer will struggle to remove those. If you have emblems that have flaked-off chrome or paint, removing or replacing them with new ones will improve the appearance of your car.

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Now that I’ve convinced you it is a worthwhile afternoon chore, let’s gather up the materials we need to properly do it.

  1. A couple of feet length of fishing line (a 20-30lb line will do, as will dental floss or string)
  2. A heat gun or a hairdryer
  3. Guitar picks or an old ATM/credit card
  4. Adhesive solvent or, as a substitute, penetrating oil or WD40
  5. Microfiber towels and clean rags
  6. Car wash solution in a spray bottle
  7. Optionally, car polish or clay bar

Before you start, make sure your emblems are attached using double sided tape only. Some badges are attached with pins on the back to holes in the bodywork. I won’t recommend removing those unless you’re okay with leaving holes on the panel.

1) Don’t pry it off.

Wedging a screwdriver, or even a soft plastic pry tool. will mar the clear coat or gouge it deep into the color layer. That is not the clean look you’re after.

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2) Heat it up.

With the heat gun aimed at an angle and constantly moving, heat up the emblem and the surrounding painted area. It should be warm to the touch, but not any hotter than that. This will soften the foam sticky tape and make it pliable and easy to cut.

3) Floss it out.

The double-sided foam tape is thick enough to prevent the plastic or metal plate of the emblem from directly touching the clearcoat. Insert the fishing line, dental floss, or length of sturdy string between the emblem plate and the body panel. Wrap the line around your hands, and, with a sawing motion similar to how you floss your teeth, glide the string parallel to the emblem. Careful and slow back-and-forth movements will guard against scratches. If you encounter the cold middle part of the emblem, it will be hard to floss, so heat it up some more with the hairdryer.

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4) Pick away the residual foam adhesive.

Once the emblem is out, you’re left with a mess of sticky goo. Continue heating it if it has cooled down. It will make scraping it with the guitar picks or plastic cards easier.

5) Soak with solvent

After most of the foam residue is out, place a generous amount of adhesive solvent or WD40 on a clean rag and wipe it gingerly over the remaining adhesive. If you’ve soaked it adequately with the solvent, it should easily be wiped off.

6) Clean thoroughly.

Spray the car wash solution on the area. Or better yet, wash the whole car, and dry completely with the microfiber towel.

7) Polish if you please.

Instead of just washing the area after removing the emblems, I like to spot-detail using a clay bar. It can remove residue stuck on the clear coat better than just a wash. Using a clay bar will remove any wax you had applied to the car finish, so it’s necessary to reapply a layer or two of wax to protect the paint. Alternatively, you could polish the spots where the badges were to blend in the shine better.

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Sit back, take a few pictures, and enjoy looking at your pristine, badge-less car.

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PHOTO: Raymond Figuerres
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