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 > Technical Articles: / BMW E36 3-Series (1992-1999) >
Blacking Out Chrome Trim On BMW E30 3 Series

Pelican Technical Article:

Blacking Out Chrome Trim On BMW E30 3 Series

Jared Fenton


3 hours (not counting drying times between three coats of paint)






Car washing soap, bucket, hose and water, cotton towels, 600-grit sandpaper for wet sanding, 3M blue painter's tape, newspaper, tack cloth, car wax

Applicable Models:

BMW E30 3-Series (1984-93)

Parts Required:

Wurth satin black trim paint

Performance Gain:

Satin black trim that looks fresh and doesn't require chrome polishing

Complementary Modification:

Wax your car to make your fresh trim standout that much more

In this tech article, I will go over the simple steps involved in blacking out the chrome window trim on the early BMW E30 3 Series Models from 1984-89. This tech article applies to all BMW models and other cars in general as well.

On the BMW 3 Series models from 1990 to 1991, the exterior trim was updated slightly to receive new body colored front and rear bumpers as well as a blacked out window trim instead of chrome as on the early models. In my opinion, this was a huge improvement of the looks and character of the car. My car was manufactured right at the cutoff between years, so while it does have the body colored front and rear bumpers, it does not have the blacked out window trim. Instead it features the chrome trim. I'm not a huge fan of chrome trim on cars. In order to keep it shiny, it requires constant polishing and cleaning. In my case, the chrome trim had oxidized; leaving a hazy, bluish appearance that would not shine no matter what I did to it. Believe me, I've tried everything from Bon Ami to toothpaste. Nothing worked. So I decided to simply go ahead and paint them black to complete the look of the later cars.

The first step is to wash the trim thoroughly. You want to remove as much surface dirt as possible. Just use soap and water on this. Harsh chemical agents such as acetone or thinner may spill onto the paintwork and damage the vehicle's finish. I elected to paint the trim while still installed on the car. I could go ahead and remove the trim, however I run the risk of bending or breaking it.

The next step is to lightly sand the chrome trim with 600-grit sandpaper and a little bit of water. This will rough up the surface enough to allow the paint to adhere to the chrome. Just use light pressure. Once you have sanded the trim, you should notice that the chrome appears to have a dull finish. This is exactly what we want to see.

Now get a hold of some painter's tape. This is a blue tape that has a low adhesion point. We want to use the painter's tape because it will not damage the surrounding painted surfaces of the car. It has just enough stickiness to stay on the car. Now mask off around all the chrome trim. Use newspapers to cover the windows and body around the area. It's a good idea to leave and excess of tape around the edges of the trim. This way we can either trim away what we don't need with a razor blade or tuck the excess under the trim. Just make sure you mask off everything. Don't skimp on this.

Now we are ready to paint the trim. There are many paints out thereon the market for painting trim, however I have found that the best paint for this is Wurth. This stuff is easily the best spray paint I have ever used. It flows smooth, does not run and dries quickly. This is also the paint that the BMW factory uses to finish wheels and trim. It is also available from Pelican Parts (shameless company plug, sorry.)

I decided to use Wurth's Satin Black Trim paint for this. It is designed to be used on chrome surfaces. Before you begin to paint, make sure that it is at least 70 degrees F. outside and not over 90 Degrees. This will make sure that the paint flows correctly. It if is too cold or hot the paint could run. Now, shake the can until the mixing ball inside starts rattling and shake it for at least a minute. I usually shake it for a good 3 to 5 minutes to make sure the paint has mixed. It's also a good idea to shake the can in between strokes to keep the paint mixed. Now we are ready to begin spraying.

As with anything else, painting anything takes time and practice.It is an art form mastered only by a few. (That's why is costs so much to paint a whole car!) If you have never painted anything I suggest you practice your technique on a scrap piece of metal. The key here is control of the flow. What you want to do is keep a steady hand about 8 to 10 inches away from the surface and move the can parallel to the surface you are painting while moving the can across the surface. Try not to arc the can as you spray. It's also a good idea to wipe the surface you are painting with what is commonly referred to as a tack cloth. This is a rag that will collect any particles of dust that may have landed on the surface. It's also a good idea to paint in a large dust-free environment with plenty of ventilation, or you may end up stammering and stuttering like Ozzy Osbourne. Paint contains fumes that can cause brain damage. Use common sense. (I must take this opportunity to show my everlasting respect to the Ozzman for using him as an example).

Now start by spraying a light coat over the trim around the whole perimeter. Don't worry if it does not get over the whole trim. This first coat is what is called a tack coat. This first coat will provide the next coat with a surface to adhere to. Let this first coat dry for an hour before continuing.

After an hour, go back and spray the next coat. This coat will cover everything. Make sure you paint evenly and do not arc the can as you paint. Keep it 8 to 10 inches away and parallel. Now let this coat dry for three hours. After three hours, spray one more coat around the perimeter. This will be the final coat. Now let this coat dry overnight.

Once fully dry, start to remove the masking tape by grabbing one edge and peel it AWAY from the car at a 90 degree angle. This will prevent you from pulling off any of the paint on the trim. Go SLOWLY, and remove all the tape. Once all the masking has been removed, look for any overspray that may have gone onto the body or windows. If it has gone onto the glass, very carefully use a razor blade to scrape it off. If it has gone onto the body, Use car wax to remove it. Just use a very light amount and buff the spot until the paint is removed. It's probably a good idea to wax the whole car anyway now to accentuate the freshly blacked out trim.

Well, there you have it - it's really not too difficult at all. If you would like to see more technical articles like this one, please continue to support Pelican Parts with all your parts needs. If you like what you see here, then please visit our online BMW catalog and help support the collection and creating of new and informative technical articles like this one. Your continued support directly affects the expansion and existence of this site and technical articles like this one. As always, if you have any questions or comments about this helpful article, please drop us a line.

Comments and Suggestions:
Ronnie E39 retrofit expert Comments: no im planning to do this too even tho mine are new i want them black. i am gonna wrap it! good 3m wrap looks sick and can always pull off easy to correct for bubbles or to remove/replace. im not the only one doing this i saw also on youtube and works/looks great and easy fast and cheap job.
January 7, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Please share smoe tips and photos if you have time.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
lmg Comments: anyone powder coated their trim? I know powder coat is a thicker and harder paint than spray can.
December 30, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I opened a post in our forums. A Pelican community member may be able to answer your question.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Jaxplanet Comments: Here's what finally worked for me: Remove trim, sand w/220 grit, use self-etching primer Rustolem, black satin paint Wurth, clear satin topcoat Krylon, then use rubbing compound too smooth it out and wax to seal it.
I have an e39 touring, I used almost two cans of each and applied according to the instructions on the cans.
FYI: Trim is solid aluminum, not chrome. Dullness and light scratches can be sanded and polished away. Much easier and cheaper than painting so choose wisely ;
October 5, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Jaakejake Comments: how many cans will it take? will one can of 400ml do the trims on both sides
August 5, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would suggest having two on hand. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jaxplanet Comments: I followed these instructions to the letter on my e39 trim. Two problems:
Paint starting coming off almost immediately. 600 grit is not enough to let this paint adhere to chrome. I will try again with 500 grit.
This DOES NOT MATCH factory trim on e39. It has the wrong texture and is too shiny. I switched from vinyl to this thinking it would look better an last longer, it does not look better and it does not last at all.
In hindsight, I should have stuck to vinyl.
June 23, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Paul Comments: I have a MUCH EASIER solution that allows you to reverse the process when you go to sell the car: Plasti-Dip. I painted the wheels on my 325 with it and it turned out great! There are some great YouTube videos on painting your trim, your car, even your Mother-in-Law!!
Prep consists of cleaning the part well and masking the areas you want to protect. Then start spraying!! No sanding or priming. After a couple of hours it's cured and you're ready to roll.
Getting tired of it? Just peel it off. It isn't easy to get it started, but it comes off in large strips once you do. The cost? $6 a can at Home Depot.
Google is your friend.
November 20, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the idea - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Frank Comments: Does the Wurth European Blend Lacquer Spray Paint, Matt Black work on the chrome trim as well as the Satin Black Trim spray Paint?
February 26, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It should work on chrome trim, as long as you properly sand and prepare the trim for the application of the paint. I actually am guessing that the trim you're talking about is polished aluminum and not actually "chrome". - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Uncle Mookie Comments: Jared, omission of final pix is downright mean! Stop teasing and show us how it looks!!!
January 31, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: This article has similar photos: - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Oreo Comments: so Primer-ing the trim isnt necessary? Just clean, sand, and paint?
January 15, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Should be okay, as long as the correct paint is used. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
rich4rdee Comments: i think you should note that you almost certainly need at least 2 cans of spray paint to get a nice second coat
August 25, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the input on this one. We appreciate the help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Bill Comments: Blacking Out Chrome Trim On BMW E30 3 Series
Jared Fenton

can I follow the same instructions above to blacken the chrome trim on my dash?...too much glint from sun...
August 15, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Should work well, yes. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

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