Restore Your Original Car Emblems

By March 21, 2012Bodywork
How to Repair Car Emblems

If you’re performing a true factory restoration, being able to use the original emblems on your finished project is a bonus. Beyond enhancing its historic beauty, original emblems also help raise the value of your classic. You can purchase New Original Stock (NOS) emblems on the internet and at local car shows, but most of them won’t have those original part numbers that so many resto enthusiasts look for. NOS emblems are also becoming more scarce and therefore more expensive so you can save money by restoring the originals you already have.


  • Soap & water
  • Toothbrush (or other small brush)
  • Clean rags (lint-free)
  • Safety glasses & gloves
  • Hobby knife (or small precision blade)
  • Paint stripper or thinner
  • Small-pointed paint brush
  • Model paint
  • Steel wood (extra fine)
  • Chrome polish

If the plating on your original emblems is in good condition, we’ll show you how to make them look even better later in the process. With just a little model paint, a small-pointed paint brush and some thinner you’ll quickly have your emblems looking like new again. In order to pick out the right colors, take your emblems with you to your local hobby shop. If the colors on your emblems are especially faded, look at some photos online to get a better idea of their original vibrancy.

1. Clean Your Emblems

Start by washing your emblems using soap and water along with a toothbrush to remove any dirt or build-up in those tiny corners. You’ll note that your emblems consist of recessed areas divided (or surrounded) by raised metal ribs. Depending on your emblem, you may even have raised lettering in the middle of your recessed areas. Any areas with chipped or scratched paint must be cleaned to bare metal prior to adding new color. Some paint chips may be removed with the tip of a hobby knife but you might need paint stripper to fully clean out areas where the paint is really bad. Don’t sandblast your chrome or the plating will be ruined!

After the old paint has been removed, clean your emblems thoroughly with paint thinner and wipe them off well with a clean cloth. Set them aside to dry completely. Then, wash them with soap and water, and wipe thoroughly again with a clean cloth. Always work in a well-ventilated area and properly dispose of all used containers and rags.

2. Paint Your Emblems

For best results, choose an environment where the temperature is 70 degrees or less because you want the paint to flow well and dry slowly so a cooler temperature will work best. You’ll also note that the pegs on the backs of your emblems make it impossible to get them to lay evenly on a table. Instead, take a cardboard box and punch small holes to slide the pegs through so that your emblem lays flat against the surface of the top of the box. This will give you a much sturdier surface to paint on rather than trying to hold your emblem in the air while painting.

Before opening your bottle of model paint, shake it thoroughly by hand. Make sure it’s at room temperature and thin enough to flow easily. Pick up a small drop of paint with the end of your pointed brush and place it into the area you wish to paint. Don’t brush or push the paint into the area. Simply work back and forth transferring small drops of paint to your emblem so that several drops flow together and fill the recessed space. If the paint is too thick, it won’t flow properly so thin it out and apply more paint drops to your emblem until the area is evenly covered. Remember to clean the brush thoroughly before you apply a new color. Do this by washing the brush in the paint thinner several times.

After painting is complete, make sure the emblem is level and let it dry completely before handling. This can take a few minutes to a few hours depending on the thickness of the paint. You can also use a hairdryer on low at a distance or place your emblems next to a closed sunny window to speed up the drying time.

3. Clean Up the Edges & Fix Any Mistakes

Car emblem details are very tiny, so some paint will always end up flowing where it doesn’t belong. Let the paint dry overnight and then scrape unwanted paint off with a small knife (X-Acto knife blade). Scrape any spill-overs or uneven paint along the raised edges. Patience is the key to success when working with extremely detailed pieces. Keep in mind that imperfections were already present in the factory emblems so your emblem doesn’t have to be an absolute masterpiece.

4. Polish the Chrome

Now that you’ve let the paint dry on your entire emblem, the last step is to polish the chrome until it shines like new again. Take a small piece of fine steel wool (0000-grade) and gently rub the plated areas (this super-fine steel wool won’t scratch it). Carefully avoid touching your new paint job or you risk having to do it again. You can also apply a little fine chrome polish with the steel wool for extra shine.

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