(NA) Automotive plastic trim, what's it made of?. beware Little Tree Fresheners!

Discussion in 'Hangar Talk' started by Brad W, May 13, 2022.

  1. Brad W

    Brad W Cleared for Takeoff

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    What is the hard plastic trim in automotive interiors made of?
    ....that colored stuff with texture to mimic leather or some such thing...

    smart folks here so figured some of you likely know....
    I'm trying to verify the best glue to use.

    back story
    I have an Audi that has some very expensive damage caused by one of those Little Tree air fresheners. On a whim I bought a pack, but didn't want to hang it from my mirror...so I hung it from a little knob on my center console
    ...I remember having a momentary thought, second guessing if I might get some color transfer or something from this thing... but did it anyway. Guess I figured that with billions of these things sold for use in cars that they surely must have it figured out...

    so just 12 days later I noticed some real damage.

    The top surface... a very thin layer bubbled up. It's very thin, feels like tissue paper.

    I'm thinking about trying a hypodermic needle to inject glue into the bubbles and push them back down...won't be perfect, but might at least be not so fragile

    I contacted the Little Tree people, who immediately started leaning on some directions on the package saying to hang the air freshener free, and not touching anything..
    it's an air fresher....of course you'd want it hanging free in the air so the smell can do it's thing!!!
    when I contacted them I wasn't even considering trying to pinch them for money. Only just wanted to know what's in the thing so that I could more intelligently clean up the residue, and as a side note better understand the damage mechanism so I could try to fix it....is it alcohol of some type, some petroleum solvent, etc...?
    They were quick to respond and nice about it, but at the same time very cagey.
    Wouldn't tell me anything, started leaning on the excuse, refused to send the Safety Data Sheet.
    They even sent a claim form to me.

    Eventually I managed to get the SDS from them, but reading it this stuff is as inert as water. Clearly that aint so!...what are they hiding?
    Their sneaky spirit made me a bit mad, so I filed a claim reluctantly...
    Found out how expensive the repair would be to fix ($800). hey maybe they'll pay half.... nope...in short order they denied the claim, citing the same excuse.
    I considered escalating with a letter to the CEO, etc...but in my research learned that this is a very common thing, looks like they've fought this battle many times in the past.
     

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  2. ElPaso Pilot

    ElPaso Pilot Pattern Altitude

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    Yea, you messed up, unfortunately.

    I used to be an engineer at an auto trim manufacturer that made those kinds of parts.

    Most every colored, non-cloth surface in your car is painted. Plastic, vinyl, and leather. Seats, doors, and trim. Those thin bubbles are blisters in the trim paint sprayed on a hard piece of plastic that already has a grained surface from the mold.

    The trees have perfume, oils and some solvents to control the release rate soaked into a piece of paper. What you did was the equivalent of laying a solvent soaked rag on a painted surface for a few weeks.

    The choices you have:

    1) Buy new or eBay used trim pieces.

    2) Send it to a restoration specialist for repair. It’s not easy, and we rarely did well at the factory on spot repairs. The surface under the paint is grained, and getting the paint off and feathering the edge without seeing the paint line or damaging the grain is tough. Plus the new paint is hard to match for color and gloss without respraying the entire piece and maybe the mating pieces. Then, the paint will fill the grain in the repaired area differently than the surrounding area. But some of these guys are freaking artists. Also, the “soft touch”, rubbery feeling paints are often 2 component urethanes that resprays don’t like to stick to.

    3) Cludge it yourself to make it look a little better. Take the trim off or mask well. Scotchbrite, and poof it with a bit of interior auto trim repair paint with the requisite adhesion promoter and prep products. Good luck getting a good match on the paint.

    4) If you glue the bubbles back down, you will most likely fill the grain and destroy the surface. But it will be a cheap fix

    5) Epoxy a custom “Little Tree” holder to that very spot? You didn’t mind the look of a little tree there in the first place, might as well make it permanent?!?

    Oh, and you’re wasting your time and energy with the air freshener company. They aren’t going to do anything. They’ve been down this road before. Many times. That’s why the label clearly says to hang freely and don’t let them touch any surface.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2022
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  3. ElPaso Pilot

    ElPaso Pilot Pattern Altitude

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  4. kgruber

    kgruber En-Route

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    They stink. Would rather have a cigarette smell.
     
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  5. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Bro do you even lift
    I think they are tacky also. They announce to the world (or at least the other occupants) that "I smell really bad so I'm going to mask my hairy pit odors with perfume."
     
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  6. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    So, you have rubbed one in your arm pits just before you met your girlfriends parents.??
     
  7. ElPaso Pilot

    ElPaso Pilot Pattern Altitude

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    Yes, and they get much tackier...

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
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  8. ElPaso Pilot

    ElPaso Pilot Pattern Altitude

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    Um, no. In the 30 seconds it took me to google Little Trees SDS and the IFRA Standards referred to from there, you get this:

    Section XI - Toxicological Information The fragrance used in this product is formulated to comply with the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and CAR-FRESHNER Corporation’s guidelines regarding their safe use in consumer products.

    https://ifrafragrance.org/safe-use/library


    Which includes a list of wonderful potential solvents like toluene, which is also marketed as a paint thinner and remover.

    Browse the full list of IFRA compliant chemicals for your enjoyment. Make sure to inhale deeply later.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2022
  9. schmookeeg

    schmookeeg En-Route

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    Okay, that epstein one is hilarious.
     
  10. Van Johnston

    Van Johnston Cleared for Takeoff

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    :yeahthat:

    That was exactly my thought as I was reading your #2 recommendation.
     
  11. Cap'n Jack

    Cap'n Jack Final Approach

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    My first guess would be "essential oils". These are distilled or extracted from the plant, sometimes synthesized They contain terpenes and other compounds. Pine scent would be pinenes (a mixture of two mirror image enantiomers)- these compounds make a large portion of turpentine (1), a well known solvent. Other essential oils will also act like solvents as well, because they are solvents. They are all largely non-polar terpenes, alcohols, and esters, with a few compounds containing benzene rings as well. That list linked from @ElPaso Pilot is correct, but those compounds are all also produced naturally, and small nice in the context of essential oils or the outdoors, which is why they are used for perfumes and scents. As individual compounds, they often don't small nice at all.

    Sorry about the damage to your car.

    (1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turpentine
     
  12. ElPaso Pilot

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    Yes on the "essential oils" and other fragrances, but I'll bet that the low end commodity products like this are blended with a few industrial solvents to reduce cost and control the release rate in a hot and sunny car.

    There's another IFRA list that has those as well.

    https://ifrafragrance.org/priorities/ingredients/ifra-transparency-list

    Functional ingredients

    IFRA and RIFM define a functional ingredient as “any basic substance necessary for a fragrance ingredient or compound’s functionality or stability.” Functional ingredients include, but are not limited to, pigments, antioxidants, solvents, plasticizers, surfactants, UV absorbers, and buffering agents.​
     
  13. Nick Pilotte

    Nick Pilotte Pre-Flight

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    Depending on the cost of the replacement, there is at least one well regarded company that fixes things like this. They are well known in the Ferrari and Maserati communities. Website is sticky no more.com. I’ve used them and was happy to not have to buy the parts again.
     
  14. DaleB

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    My wife discovered that it doesn't even take direct contact; apparently the solvent fumes are enough if it's close enough to plastic. She tried the air vent clip type air fresheners in her Volvo... I don't remember if it was the Febreeze variety or the Air Wick. Fortunately the Volvo dealer covered it and replaced the plastic vent trim that started to dissolve.
     
  15. Cap'n Jack

    Cap'n Jack Final Approach

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    My guess is the "low end commodity products like this" don't need the industrial solvents to cause the damage. The scents themselves are either solvents, or closely related to solvents. I already mentioned pinenes, a major component of turpentine- a well known solvent. Linalool can smell like coriander or lavender depending on the enantiomer, and will be a solvent that damages paint. I also wouldn't be surprised if they took the individual compounds that were synthesized and mixed them together to make the various scents as well- if they did this, the scent would be reminiscent of the real scent. It's possible they added some solvent, but the compounds that comprise the scents are perfectly capable of damaging paint as well. Orange oil smalls nice, and is comprised mostly of limonene (2). It is also used as a cleaning product and solvent. The carvones (caraway or spearmint scent) will act like acetone (ketone with non-polar carbon chain). All of these compounds can damage finishes on their own, especially when concentrated in an air freshener. It's possible solvents were added, but that damage to the car's finish would have happened without additional solvents.

    (1) https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Linalool
    (2) https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/molecule-of-the-week/archive/l/limonene.html?cid=home_motw
     
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  16. ElPaso Pilot

    ElPaso Pilot Pattern Altitude

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    Good info.

    During long term aging testing and field warranty reviews, Windex and Armor All were two that wreaked havok on interior paints.

    On more than one occasion, we were able to identify when these two changed formulation due to ugly increases in warranty claims, requiring our paint suppliers to modify their chemistry to resist damage from these products.

    I never put Armor All on my vehicles, nor did anyone in our business. The tech folks just couldn't figure out what "nourishment" did for paint over plastics!
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2022
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  17. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    I have the same issue in my plane. I hung the air freshener from one of the latches on the pass thru door to the rear of my Cherokee 140. It damaged the paint. At least in my case it is a fairly easy fix in a less than noticeable spot.

    Useless information follows:

    I discovered the Christmas Tree air freshener factory by accident. Was driving with some friends from Watertown NY to Canada at night. It was November and I noticed the big lights in the shape of the air freshener. I commented that someone already had their Christmas lights up and it looked exactly like the shape of the air freshener. My friends told me it was the factory.
     
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  18. Cap'n Jack

    Cap'n Jack Final Approach

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  19. ElPaso Pilot

    ElPaso Pilot Pattern Altitude

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    Ugh. Forgot about DEET.

    Had an old Sears Suburban tractor with deep melt marks in the steering wheel from 100% DEET covered hands!
     
  20. Brad W

    Brad W Cleared for Takeoff

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    Well, I was correct...a lot of smart folks here. Thanks!

    I was figuring is was more like a vacuum formed membrane since it's bubbled up like this. Before that I just figured it was just color in the molded plastic. Never dawned on me that it would be just paint.
    I even briefly considered trying to paint but knew it would be tough to match IF I could even get something to stick!

    and about getting something to stick.... was my original motivation for trying to find out what it is that I need to clean off!
    (seems like a ton of different possibilities!)

    yeah, new from Audi is just shy of $180
    and I couldn't find any on ebay the couple times I checked. I guess the car is just too new and not sold in high enough numbers.
    Ebay is the first thing I checked before even dreaming of contacting Little Tree.

    I like cheap
    and it's out of my line of site so maybe still worth a try... but not so sure about gluing paint!
    What type of plastic is the trim...ABS? or are there many different possibilities?

    Now that is brilliant...and I'n very disappointed in myself for not coming up with that myself!
    except...I would NEVER make a little tree holder. Don't ever intend to buy them again, and in fact want to get the word out as much as possible. The really pi$$ed me off with their sneaky and cagey responses and withholding of information. I wouldn't have been nearly as ticked if when I called they owned up to it, explained it...because obviously they know.... I seriously did not at first expect anything form them but information.

    Maybe instead come up with a sunglasses holster, or something like that!

    yeah, I started being very patient and forgiving....but eventually my anger really boiled up..... and I finally realized after I started finding stories on TV news stations and such about these complaints...that chasing it will do nothing but to feed my anger about it.

    And thanks everyone for all the links for paint and restoration options. Now I've got some things to research!
    It really looks like it would be a royal pain in the neck to disassemble that console so trying to fix in place might be worth extra effort.
     
  21. ElPaso Pilot

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    In that location, Most likely a PC/ABS blend.

    It will be on the back side of the part — it’s usually letter stamped into the mold.


    Also, there’s really no benefit getting angry at some random employee answering the phone and just doing his/her job.

    This is a learning for you. Solvents and paints/plastics just don’t get along. Any similar product will do the same.

    And it’s labeled saying not to do what you did.

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2022
  22. Brad W

    Brad W Cleared for Takeoff

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    to be clear..... I was never "angry at some random employee".... and I'm sorry that somehow I gave you the idea that I was & that you came to that conclusion about me. I fully agree with your point. Understand that the people are just doing their job....instead it's targeted more systemically...at "the company". Of course there is some person or team at the pinnacle of it all that deserves every bit of the blame (for making the policy to hide, hedge, deflect, etc...) .... but it's probably not the people I were interacting with. I've never lost site of that.
    but regardless of it all.....
    the company knows this happens and has a huge potential for damage
    and they choose to put only a very small, not totally but nearly cryptic label/warning...one that could be easily covered by a price tag or something
    on a product that I at least, would hardly dream to be dangerous or damaging enough or complicated enough to ever need to search the package for directions
    and then refuse to report what the chemical is, how to clean it up, etc....
    ...and if you're selling a product for use in cars that causes damage to materials used to make cars, then why not endeavor to make the product safer??

    regardless
    I really appreciate all the help and suggestions.
    Currently I'm leaning towards the idea of trying to clean it up and paint in place with that special interior plastics paint. I've gotta look more closely at disassembly, but I'm thinking its likely I'd cause more damage guessing how to take it apart.
    so I'm kinda thinking to paint in place and to use a complimentary color rather than trying to match...all just loose brainstorm at this point
     
  23. ElPaso Pilot

    ElPaso Pilot Pattern Altitude

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    No ill meant, sorry for the quickly typed response.

    You probably don’t have to guess on the disassembly.

    Someone has already likely done it and posted it either on an Audi forum or on YouTube.

    That way you’ll know where the hidden push clips are, so less of a chance of breaking them off!
     
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  24. jesse

    jesse Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Honestly, it's a nice car, and you're talking a $180 part. You already have scores of time invested into this thread and messages to the little tree company. I would spend the $180, fix it right, and chalk it up as a lesson learned. If you don't want to do that, you probably can't afford to own a nice car.
     
  25. Brad W

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    wow, that's a jump.... I think you missed a couple points
    but thanks
     
  26. Bill

    Bill Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Nothing an NOS sticker won’t fix, and besides, it will give your car five horsepower!
     
  27. Brad W

    Brad W Cleared for Takeoff

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    love it!.... except
    .
    .
    .
    it's electric ;)
    maybe a Fox Racing sticker instead.....