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How I Turned My Gray Panels Black For Under $10

165740 Views 370 Replies 132 Participants Last post by  PeteyFobLow
I always liked the contrast of the gray panels on my black Element but recently I wanted to really shoot for a darker stealthy look. I had toyed with the idea of swapping out all my 03 gray panels for the new 05 "black" panels but I'd lose my sidesteps and splashguards as the black rocker trim doesnt fit with the 03-04 sidesteps or splashguards. That along with having to redo my LED clearance lights on the corners of the roof and not to mention the freakin' cost of just going a few shades darker from an already dark gray to basically a really, really dark gray nearly black panel. I also thought if I were to go this route anyway then why not just go with the new 06 EX-P panels? I really like the painted panels on the black but it gives the Element a "dressed up" look and I want to lean a bit more toward the flat satiny black instead of being so glossy. More "Mad Max" and less "KnightRider". :D
But in the end I just didn't want to spend around the $2000 it would cost to swap all the panels and replace the sidesteps, splashguards etc.
So I put that idea into the back of my mind. Then I saw someone here mention a permanent black plastic dye to use for when black plastic trim becomes discolored or faded. I thought it wouldn't do a damn thing on the gray panels but I looked into it anyway. It's called "Forever Black" and it usually comes in small 4oz bottles with an applicator sponge on the tip. I googled around thru several car forums and found where truck owners, Jeep owners and even BMW owners have used it and liked it on their faded black trim. It's usually sold on Ebay so I figured I'd try a couple bottles out maybe only on the roof trim and see what happens. They were only about $20 for 2 bottles with shipping included. I figured 2 bottles should be enuff for the 6 pieces of gray plastic roof panels, I hoped. So when it arrived, the bottles looked even smaller than I thought they would and I got nervous. I decided to test this glorified shoe polish on the leftover plastic caps where the roof racks mounted. This way if it's crap, then no one will ever see it because the part isn't even on the car anymore. I sponge it on, covering the textured surface and let it sit. It says it only takes 15-20 minutes to dry and it did. It looked pretty good, not totally black but much much darker. I scratched at it with a fingernail and tried to rub it off but it still looked fine. Stuck it under hot water and scrubbed with a rag and still good. I should have probably waited atleast overnite to see if the mess would eat holes thru the plastic but I got all excited. So what the hell, I'll play the guinea pig. I grabbed a small hand sponge and went to town on the roof panels........
By the time I finished, only 2 hours had passed and I had done nearly every square inch of exterior plastic on the Element, and was only thru half of one bottle! This crap is amazing. It literally goes on like the sponge bottle shoe polish but it absorbs right into the plastic. A larger sponge than what the bottle is equipped with is best because it prevents streaking by spreading it with larger swipes but it's very easy to work with. It blended fairly well and darkened all the panels to where they are a pretty close match to the 05-06 "black" panels. I'm extremely happy with the darker tone and it gives the Element a more sinister look. It's been several days now since I applied the dye and the panels still look fine. Time will tell if they look like ass eventually but so far so good. :D

Empire endorses "Forever Black"

Here are some sample shots.
I'd say everyone knows what the standard gray panels look like thru different lighting situations so you can use that as a "Before" to compare with these. Most of these were taken either at near dusk or at night so that could be working for the tone but I'll post a decent daylight pic when I get the chance.

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As I recently told Blee9787, I just did yet another coat the other day, it had been months since i did one... so thats almost...4 or 5 coats, i forget, and im finaly getting to the point where it looks pretty good. I figure if i just keep it up every so often until my two bottles are completely empty, it will look just fine, at least fine...enough.
heres a sample


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im tempted to do this but i dont want streaking since i have an LX model. i cant wait to see how the herculined panels come out though. i love the stealthy black look on the NBP
I have already put like 10-12 coats in a 3 month period. At this point, the panels are died really well, and fewer touchups now need to be done. I am happy the the maintainance is now low.
When I saw your "E" at the Ohio rally, it was obvious that you were way ahead of the rest of fleet. Even so, I suspect you had a brief moment of doubt when first applying the blackening. You are a whole city!!
Every best wish,
Nope, no real doubts.
I find the whole experimenting of panels fun.
Sure it's a bit scarey but the panels can always be replaced.
Yo Empire,

How long till the "Hercules Element"? lol.
blee9787 said:
Yo Empire,

How long till the "Hercules Element"? lol.
Very, very soon now.
I was waiting for a couple new toys to arrive and I'll be installing these probably tomorrow. So maybe pics this weekened.
Hi im new there i will receive my element on friday... there's a pic, i just want to know if the panel was enough darker to use forever black

thank and excuse my english im from Quebec...
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If it's an EX and not the LX/DX panels then it would the same as what I used.
it supose to be an Y, how can i verify for the panel

RickyD77 said:
it supose to be an Y, how can i verify for the panel

This will work for the "composite" panels, they seem to be a little darker and rougher than the DX/LX panels. Check and see if the Y has composite panels.
ok i have found it was an ex

Year/Make/Model: 2003 HONDA ELEMENT EX
Engine Type: 2.4L I4 MPI DOHC 16V
Manufactured In: UNITED STATES
Can't believe this thread has been around for so long and I am just now finding it.

Order some of the stuff, I have been wanting to do the same thing and even priced out the panel swap. The cost pushed the idea from my head.

I think it will look much better (more contrast) with my silver E. Plus the black areas around the rear window and back doors aways make the side panels look like they were already faded.

Empire, do you still clean the panels like normal when you wash the E and do you use other products like Mothers on them?
MTP said:
Empire, do you still clean the panels like normal when you wash the E and do you use other products like Mothers on them?
Mine are still's just that the surface sits under about 3 coats of Herculiner.:D

But yes, you can clean the dyed panels as normal.
Very strong power washers might blast/scour the dye from the pores tho. Leaving some spots looking cloudy. I never experienced this with the DIY coin washes with their power washers. But some automatic drive-thru washes can be extremely strong. If this does happen tho, a 15 minute quick touch up application can even it back out.
cool...thanks empire.
I never hit the autowash places.

I always wash the E at home so the pressure should never be a problem.

Sounds like a good weekend project next weekend for me.
Good MOD to do.
The contrast on your Silver will look great!!!
Follow the instructions and take your time doing it.
Heres my black panels..finally

I been promising to post a couple of pics of the Element of Danger, that I use for storm chasing, well here it is. I dyed the panels black about 3 months ago and so far, except for the scratches on the front left corner from falling debris, its holding up well.
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Y version

It seems that the ex version in the US is the Y version in Canada. That's the version without the black panels around the tire hub. Am I right?

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