(Updated on December 27, 2022)
Want to customize your car for free in 5 minutes? Debadging your car might be a great option.
What is Debadging?
Vehicles usually come with some sort of label or badge telling you what make, model, features, or trim level you have. Some manufacturers even use badges for marketing, adding a Hybrid, Flex Fuel, or All Wheel Drive label.
Although vehicle badging can be tastefully done, it often ends up looking like alphabet soup. This is especially for longer brand or trim level names that clutter up the rear of the vehicle.
Why Would You Debadge Your Car?
Debadging your car cleans up the look of the rear end, showing off the lines of the vehicle. Many enthusiasts debadge their cars for this reason.
Some owners like to debadge the car so they can fly under the radar. It’s much harder for a non-enthusiast to see that you’re driving a BMW M car or a Mercedes AMG if they don’t have a fancy badge to look at. If you live in an area with high crime, this could be an appealing reason to debadge your car.
Other owners do the exact opposite. Perhaps someone wants a BMW M3 but can only afford a 335i. Since the lower trim is less prestigious, the owner is more inclined to debadge.
Some people prefer not to advertise for the manufacturer. They like how the car looks or drives, but would prefer not to give the manufacturer free publicity.
Will Debadging Damage the Vehicle?
When done correctly, debadging your car is safe and easy. Most modern vehicles apply badges with a simple adhesive that is easy to remove.
Some badges are clipped or pinned into place, and may take a bit more work to remove. In these cases, it’s best to research the best removal methods to avoid breaking these clips and scratching the paint.
Some automotive paint fades in the sun over time. If you’d like to debadge an older vehicle, you may notice a stark contrast in paint color under the badge, showing an outline of where the badge used to be. To resolve this, you would likely need to have the paint blended by a body shop.
Does Debadging Affect Car Insurance?
In almost all cases, debadging will have no impact on your car insurance or vehicle registration. Since the vehicle is identified by its color and VIN for insurance and registration, you don’t have to worry about this if you want to take your badges off.
Debadging your car is not illegal in the United States.
As a side note: you should notify the state (and possibly your insurance company) if you wrap your car or paint it a different color.
How Does Debadging Affect the Vehicle’s Value?
This is a tricky question to answer, as it depends a lot on the vehicle in question. A vehicle’s value is determined by its desirability. If the vehicle in question is commonly debadged, you are unlikely to affect the value by debadging your car.
If you’re driving a rare vehicle or rare trim level, debadging could negatively impact your vehicle’s value. How much the value is affected will depend on how easy it is to rebadge the car and how collectible the car is in its unaltered, original condition.
How to Debadge Your Vehicle
1) Do Your Research, Plan the Job
Check back of the body panel for rivets or fasteners that would indicate a hole in the body. If there are none, then it’s probably traditional adhesive or double sided tape.
If in doubt, Google your make, model, and year. Example: “how to remove badges on 1998 Toyota Corolla”. Your vehicle’s repair manual may indicate how the badges are attached to the hood or trunk.
Allocate enough time so you don’t need to rush. It’s generally to save about an hour to make sure you can do a thorough job of removing the adhesive and waxing the car.
You will likely need the following supplies: a heat source, such as a heat gun or hair dryer, and dental floss or fishing line.
Clean the badge and surrounding area well with a car wash soap and microfiber towels. Remove debris that could scratch the paint as you work.
2) Heat the Adhesive, Remove Badge
Apply a bit of heat to soften the adhesive. Heat each area for 1-5 minutes. Be careful not to put your heat source too close to the paint, or you could damage the paint.
While you heat the badge adhesive, monitor paint for changes in color that could indicate damage. Try wiggling the badge to see if the adhesive is soft enough.
Use your dental floss or fishing line to get between vehicle and the badge. Do not pry on the badge, just wiggle the floss back and forth until you are able to free the badge.
Make sure none of the corners of the badge are allowed to dig into the paint. Do not use a razor blade to do this, as it will easily scratch the paint.
3) Wash and Wax
Remove any remaining tape or adhesive. Wash and rinse the area one more time, then follow up with a clay bar if you have one on hand.
There is usually no wax beneath the badge, leaving the newly exposed paint vulnerable to the environment. As a final step, apply some wax to the paint to make sure the area is fully protected, and won’t fade prematurely.