Moving the project forward the past couple of weeks, here is where things stand and what I did to get to this point in the projects. Prior steps have been documented in my previous posts below.
Where I last left off, was the long pad and pod were both removed from the car along with all the associated trim/pieces needed to be removed to get enough space for working to get screws and clips out.
Here is what I then did to now get ready for reassembly/dash pad dyeing:
1.Test fit the long pad in the car. I needed to do some trimming here, and the manufacturing process will give you extra ABS that you will need to trim off. I trimmed off extra on the side of the pad that is under the windshield, cut out the area where the defroster vents go and trimmed out a little on the passenger corner by the windshield and notched the driver’s side of the pad by where the blinker area is. (Note, I have attached some pics of most of these things). This is why test fits are good- you want all this done before you dye the pad and pod- no use beating up a nicely done pad with a lot of extra handling during test fit time. Believe me, do multiple test fits, the work spent now on this will help you spend less time down the road. I screwed one of the underneath nuts that hold the long pad in to help in doing the test fit- if you don’t do that, the pad is going to slide all over when you are trying to see how it fits.
Remember, you have the old pad to give you a pretty good idea of what you are trying to create, so use the old pad as a guide, and remember, measure and test fit many times, cut as little as you need to- this is too expensive of a piece to start over with!
2.Test fit the pod. The pod is straightforward, it slips on the 3 metal fingers that poke up from the instrument cluster. You are going to notice there may be a gap between the pod and the pad initially. Do not worry about that right now- just gently push and see where you need to apply some gentle persuasion. Things are going to have to be tweaked a tiny bit to get it to fit just right, but it will line up. One thing I did not do, that I should have done, I did not poke the 3 holes through the ABS on the underside of the pod, as your looking at the instrument cluster. These are the holes that the 3 screws will affix the pod to the 3 metal fingers. I know there is the metal part that these screws will screw into once I do final assembly; I hope they line up correctly!
3. Cutting the square holes for the long pad clips to secure to. All I did was during my test fit, press down really hard with my finger to find the indentation that the square metal stamping would leave. Again, make sure your test fitting and cutting is done with the long pad, so you know this is where the front edge of the pad will be against the windshield. If you press really hard against the square metal stamping under the pad, it will leave an impression on the underside of the pad. That is your point that you will cut the ½ inch by ½ square. Again, you’re recreating the pad you just removed. If your car did not have a pad to begin with, my pictures here give you an idea of what you are trying to do. I used an xtacto knife to cut my holes, and had to trim them up again after doing a test fit again after those cuts. Just trim as little as you need, the goal is to make the hole big enough so you can get the screw into the cage nuts you are going to install in the underside of the dash in the next steps.
4.Cage nut installation. The clips that secured on the L shaped brackets to the front side of the pad are really one use clips. Sure, I have a couple that could probably be used again, but why take the chance. So, I got something that Ralph66 suggested below, cage nuts. Great suggestion. The side you will need is ¼ inch cage nuts. You need 5 of them, but get a few extra, just in case you lose or drop any and cannot find them(I have dropped, but found them- not a fan of metal nuts rattling around or shorting out something on the back side of the instrument cluster). Since the glove box, ashtray, under dash speaker are removed and the instrument cluster is unbolted to slide forward, you have enough room to get the 5 cage nuts into position and clipped in. Here are some tips. Use a pair of pliers to squeeze the cage nut tabs together, so installation will be easier, you will be working with one hand on some of them(and one finger on a couple of them!). Do not squeeze them too tight, as if you do, the tabs will be too close together and not clip correctly into the square stamped hole from underneath. The 2 on the passenger side are accessed from the glove box area, very simple snap in and up into the hole. The middle one is rather tight, under the defroster vent, I went in through the ashtray hole for that one. (a long blade screwdriver will be your friend also with this).
The one on the far left drivers side, there is a hole in the instrument cluster that you can get your hand up and in there, just enough to clip it in. The most challenging one is the one right in the middle of the instrument cluster area. If you have the cluster fully removed, then not so hard, but because I did not want to mess with disconnecting 53 year old wiring, I removed the bolts holding my cluster in and pulled it forward a couple inches, just enough to get my hand in there.
For this cage nut, this was the trick- taping the cage nut to my middle index finger, slicing out the tab area of tape, poking a hole in the top of the nut, to clear the tape away, and then blindly finding the metal tab. One finger method here is what you need, and believe it or not, you get pretty good at it after a few times. (insert joke here, we can go may ways with this one). But, it worked, and I ended up with 5 cage nuts installed.
4.Speaker spacer needs less depth. Under the pad, the original one, you will find a speaker spacer and metal grate. This is used to give the speaker void some support with the depth. Why it is used when the speaker mounts from under the dash, I do not understand, but this is what it is.(maybe this is for better audio quality at some level with the sound going through the metal dash, then the speaker spacer, the metal grate and finally the speaker holes drilled into the new dash long pad), The original pad has a bit more depth for these items to fit into vs the reproduction pad. Issue is that if you use the spacer and metal grate in the new pad space for them, you end up with a rather noticeable bump on the top of the pad when you are doing the test fit. So, to fix that, I used my bench grinder after carefully marking off how much I needed to trim off. When you grind off, remember your grinding at an angle, as the spacer has a bevel to it. Press gently, it is plastic and you don’t want to grind too much off. Do a couple of test fits of the spacer into the spacer hole of the new pad. You will probably end of grinding more off. Put the metal grate in the hole first, then the spacer, they should be fairly flush with the opening in the underside of the pad. Look at the pics I have added to this, in this case, a pic is needed to fully understand what I mean. And, test fit again the pad in the car, with the speaker spacer/metal grate installed into the underside of the new pad. You should have support under the speaker grill now, but not a bulge coming from under the pad, grinding off a bit takes care of this issue.
Now, at this point, I was ready to dye the pod and long pad. I setup my “paint booth”- which was really just a place in my basement that was out of the way. A couple of sawhorses and using the cardboard boxes that the pad came in was the perfect workbench. And, as a bonus, doing this job in the cold Northeast this time of year, the basement was very dry and about 60 degrees, ideal for painting. I also setup some fans that I would use after each coat was done to get a couple of minutes of fresh air into the basement, so I would be alive to continue this series without more brain damage than I currently have!(for this level of a write up, I must be a little nuts)
I used the SEM method of prep and their online instructions for dyeing ABS plastic, which this pad is. Here is the link again: https://www.semproducts.com/manage/html/public/content/techsheets/SEM RAP-1 Training Manual.pdf
I used their instructions under the “Refinishing Flexible and Rigid Plastic”, which ABS qualifies under. I also called SEM to makes sure this was the right way to go, it is.
If you are doing this in a cold winter climate, you’re going to want to get permission to use your bathtub, as you will see shortly. I used my gray 3M scuff pad(a very mild abrasive pad) and SEM Soap, and gave the long pad a nice rub down in my bathtub. If not for the winter and ice outside, I would have rinsed it off outside, but that was not to be. The tub worked just fine. I brought the pad down to the workbench I setup and used a hair dryer to make sure there was no water left on the pad , esp. the speaker holes, after drying. No super heat type of thing, just enough to dry, and as a bonus, you warm the pad up a bit to help with the dye adhesion.
Next, I used the SEM Plastic and Leather prep. I did it per the instructions, wiped one direction to wipe it off. I did it twice, just to make sure. Also, make sure to get the front side of the pad where it angles downward, just to be complete. After this step, I again used the dryer to make sure no lint or anything damp was still in place.
After that, we are ready to apply product. I used the SEM recommended product, Sand Free, one coat, semi damp. Before that coat dried, I applied my first finish coat. Here I deviated from SEM products and went with AccuMatch dye for my color interior. I did as the SEM instructions say, went light with the first finish coat of dye. I waited about 12 minutes between coats. I ended up with 4 coats on the long pad before I was satisfied with the results. Here are some tips: put a small block of wood under the pad on the speaker side, to lift the front lip of the pad off the workbench, to make it easier to spray the dye. I also used a small thin block of wood to lift the instrument cluster part of the long pad up, so I would be able to dye that completely. Also, have a work area that you have 360-degree access to the pad, makes it easier to get to it while spraying from multiple angles.
After that was done, it was onto the Pod. I used the same idea, SEM Soap, Plastic and Leather prep, Sand Free, etc. Also used a small piece of wood to prop it up from behind, just like I did with the long pad.
I think both came out looking pretty decent.
I still need to address before final installation these items- scraping off some glue residue before gluing down the new pad. Blowing some dust out of the instrument cluster while it is apart. Recreating and installing some of the disintegrated sound proofing that was/is behind the glove box/ashtray and behind the instrument cluster.
Until the next installment, be well and keep your bathtub clear!
(to get more info and video, see my Flickr site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/