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How–to Paint Interior Trim – Automotive DIY
- Materials & Tools required:
- Krylon Interior/Exterior paint
- Clear Enamel
- 320 grit sand-paper
- Rubbing alcohol and Q-tips and/or cotton balls
- Masking tape (also good to have masking tape with attached drop-cloth)
- Various sockets/screw-drivers, etc. for removing pieces
- A few words about technique/safety:
- When spraying your primer, paint, or clear-coat, be sure to keep the tip of your finger out of the spray. Having your finger in the way will cause paint mist to build up on your fingertip, and the airflow will blow the built-up paint off your finger in the form of little droplets of paint. If these drops land on the piece you're working on, you might as well start over, cuz they look like crap. The same thing happens if you use a plastic pistol-grip attachment on your spray cans.
- I can't say enough how important patience is. If you rush, you are going to make mistakes, and if you don't fix the mistakes (which is a huge hassle), you'll have a horrible looking interior. So it's best to just do it right the first time. Do whatever you can to avoid over-spraying the pieces. Personally, I smoked A LOT of cigarettes and drank A LOT of beer between applications, just to keep myself from using too much paint all at once.
- I made the mistake of painting all my trim outside on my back deck. For some reason, bugs were really attracted to my paint and clear-coat, and kept landing on the pieces. They'd get stuck in the wet paint, and some of them are still visible in the finished pieces. If you have access to a well ventilated garage or paint-booth, I would highly recommend using it.
- If you follow these steps, you'll end up with a durable, professional looking painted interior.
- If you plan on painting your entire dash, or your gauge cluster cover, a really light color like white or bright yellow, be aware that on sunny days, it will be reflected onto your windshield, and in my opinion is a bit distracting, and can make it difficult to see sometimes.
- Always spray paint in a well ventilated area.
- This process is only meant to be used on plastic pieces. I have no experience painting vinyl-covered surfaces.
- The Process:
- Remove each piece that you want to paint (consult manual if unsure how to remove pieces).
- Use the following process on each piece you want to paint:
- Wash with soapy water to remove built-up dirt and grease.
- Sand each surface you wish to paint with 320 grit sandpaper.
- Swab each piece with rubbing alcohol to remove any left-over Armoral, finger grease, etc.
- Wash again with soapy water to remove rubbing alcohol residue.
* at this point, be sure hold the pieces by the edges, or by surfaces that won't be visible. This is to avoid getting greasy finger-prints on the prepped surfaces.
- Mask off any areas that you do not want to get paint on.
- Apply 2 coats of primer. I used Rustoleum Primer.
* When I refer to "coats" I actually mean LOTS of really light applications of primer/paint… remember to take your time, spray a little bit, give it a few minutes, spray again, etc… Do whatever you have to in order to avoid soaking the pieces. You'll just get runs and sags like crazy.
- Once each coat dries, it's a good idea to lightly sand the primer with 320 grit paper. And sand after the 2nd coat as well.
- After sanding each time, wash the piece again with soapy water to remove sanding dust.
- Apply 3-4 coats of paint. I used Krylon Interior/Exterior paint from the local parts supply chain.
* Again, remember to take your time applying the paint. The Krylon takes a lot longer to dry than the primer does, so give it a bunch more time.
- Once the paint has completely dried (I would give it at least 24 hours to be on the safe side), apply 2-3 coats of clear enamel. I used Rustoleum Crystal Clear Enamel for this.
- Let the pieces dry again for at least 24 hours before handling. It's the most frustrating thing to spend all this time and energy on painting the pieces, only to put a fingerprint in them or scratch them with a screw-driver trying to install them while they're still a little soft. BE PATIENT!
- Cleaning your painted interior:
- Any solvents will eat through the paint, so stay away from the obvious things like rubbing alcohol, etc. (I found this out the hard way). Apparently, certain dash-cleaner products like Armorall will also ruin the paint. Instead use a product called Spray Nine, which can be found at auto parts stores.