Does your car really need to advertise what it is on the road everyday? I’m sure that OEMs rely on vehicle badging for visibility and brand recognition, but that advertising is plastered on your car that you’ve paid for. Much like dealership license plate frames or bumper stickers, I have always preferred the look of a car without stick-on plastic lettering telling the world what it is. I don’t wear a name tag every day; neither should my car.
The weather was gloomy this weekend, so I went out to do some small wrenching projects to cheer myself up a bit. The cheap-ass Nissan Leaf I bought is getting some aesthetic attention, and this weekend was the perfect opportunity to get rid of five of the car’s six oversize badges. I left the Nissan logo on the charging door at the front of the car, but gone are the Zero Emissions emblems from each front door as well as the one on the hatch, plus a Nissan badge and a Leaf badge on the hatch.
I really hate chrome, like a deep-seated burning passionate anti-chrome kind of hate. I already painted over the chrome taillight housings that were all over the back of the car, and that was a huge improvement, but there’s still more to be done. That this car had chrome on all of its badges, all of its lights — and the door handles have irked me from the beginning. Let’s get to work!
With a simple plastic scraping tool, I managed to pop all of the individual letters off of the car. That’s 26 individual badges that I had to plunk off the sheetmetal. And each one of them left behind an adhesive that was such a massive pain in the ass to remove. Armed with a chemical combination of Goo Gone, Simple Green and WD-40, plus a spate of blue shop towels, a microfiber towel, the aforementioned scraping tool and a couple of hours worth of elbow grease, I managed to get all of that adhesive off of the car.
Once the adhesive was gone, there was still a phantom outline of the badges from where the paint had been protected from a decade of sun and full-contact car washes. I took my buffing wheel and some cutting compound to try to even some of that out. It’s not perfectly invisible, but it’s difficult to tell there was a badge there from more than a couple of feet away.
OK, so now that’s out of the way. I had a few more minutes of free time before dark to tackle another couple of quick projects. First, I wanted to get rid of those ugly white fender-mounted turn signal lamps. One of my pet peeves is the ability to see an amber lightbulb through a clear lens. I can’t explain why, but I just plain hate it.
Nissan used this exact unit on the Leaf, Cube and Juke to save a few bucks, which means there are tons of aftermarket options out there. I cruised eBay until I found something that I thought might look passable. Aftermarket LED housings are always a dodgy proposition, but these blackout units looked like they might work. For $17, I was willing to take a flyer on them.
The installation was less than a minute per side. The housings clip directly into the fender without any kind of hardware, so removal is as easy as popping one side out and disconnecting the bulb housing. The new unit included an electrical connector that popped into the bulb holder and re-inserted into the fender the same way as the old one. It was slightly loose in the hole, so I wrapped one edge of the clip in electrical tape to keep it from rattling. Not perfect, but it looks pretty damn good for the money.
LEDs should be more energy friendly, too. I’m sure it won’t make much difference, but for a car with range this short, every little bit helps. Even if it’s all psychological.
The finished result doesn’t have any of the common LED issues, like rapid flash or a “bulb out” warning on the dash. It seems that the housing comes pre-ballasted from the factory to make it truly plug-and-play. Good stuff, that. It looks great on the black, as it completely hides the housing when the light is off, but I’m not sure how it’ll look once this car gets wrapped. We’ll see. I kept the originals, just in case I hate how these look when the car is a bit more colorful.
And the final project for this weekend was to remove the four mud guards at the rear of each wheel opening. Some ecomodders choose to flip these around and run them in front of the wheel in order to deflect air around the tire. I chose to remove them entirely, as I’ll have some more intensive aero modifications coming in the future. For now, getting those off the car just helps to streamline the frontal area of the car by a few square inches.
It’s nice to get a few minor projects done on a nasty weather winter day. Even with the rain drizzling down on me all day, the dopamine hit from getting a task accomplished felt great. And this intermediate result of debadging and streamlining the look of the Leaf is getting me pretty jazzed for what is to come.
If I had a recommendation for all of you, it would be get out into the garage or driveway and do something small to make your car look, feel or drive better, even if it’s as simple as changing your air freshener. Doing a little thing when you have a few spare minutes could help you reconnect with your car. We’ve had a weird year, and there’s not much better than doing a fun and simple project. Ya dig?
If you’re going to pick a small project, may I recommend debadging your car?