Instructables

How to wrap your interior trim with 3M carbon fiber vinyl

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Picture of How to wrap your interior trim with 3M carbon fiber vinyl
These are instructions for how to wrap your automotive interior with carbon fiber vinyl.  I have done this on a number of cars, and the technique can be applied to just about anything, some people even wrap their hood or trunk lid with this stuff.

Materials/Tools needed:
-3M Di-Noc CA-421 carbon fiber vinyl (there are other styles available, including different shades of carbon fiber.  CA-421 corresponds to the traditional black-and-grey-ish carbon fiber look)
-Scissors
-X-acto knife or razor blade
-Measuring tape
-Plastic card for smoothing out bubbles (an old credit card will work, but it helps to smooth the edges a little)
-Heat gun (hair dryer will work, but an adjustable heat gun is preferred)

I found everything I needed except the vinyl at the TechShop in Menlo Park, CA.  Check out their website, http://www.techshop.ws, if you're interested.  TechShop is a membership-based workshop that provides members with access to tools and equipment, instruction, and a community of creative and supportive people so they can build the things they have always wanted to make.
 
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Step 1: Step 1: Measure trim

Picture of Step 1: Measure trim
Measure the trim as best you can leaving at least a half inch excess on each side of what you want to wrap, ideally more like an inch just in case.  You can do this on the car in most cases, just make sure to account for any curvature or irregularities that you might run in to.  Once you have measured each piece you want to wrap, you can figure out how much material you need to order.  It typically comes in a 24" roll, so you'll need to figure out how many feet you need from that 24" roll.  You can find the stuff all over the internet, including eBay.

Step 2: Step 2: Remove trim

Picture of Step 2: Remove trim
The "best" way to do this is to completely remove any trim from the car that you want to wrap.  Some people cover the trim directly on the car by just laying it over what they want to cover and trimming off the excess, but I personally think that it is necessary to wrap the trim around the backside on each edge so that it can't possibly peel off on a hot summer day.   I like to use plastic trim removal tools (pictured) rather screwdrivers, etc so that I don't risk damaging the trim or the surrounding leather.

Step 3: Step 3: Applying the vinyl

Picture of Step 3: Applying the vinyl
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Once you've cut all the pieces you need, start by removing the backing paper of the piece you want to work with, and lay it adhesive side up on a workbench or table.  Then take the trim piece and carefully lay it down on top of the trim to get the initial alignment.  The adhesive is pretty forgiving, and can be pulled off and reapplied rather easily if you mess up.

Once you've got the initial alignment done, you can start working it around the rest of the flat surfaces until you get to the corners.  Anytime you need to wrap around a corner or irregularity, you'll need to break out the heat gun.  The vinyl responds very well to heat, so be careful and don't get it to hot because it will melt if you do.

To wrap around contours, heat the vinyl a little until it is soft, then work it around with a plastic card, making sure to clear any air bubbles that you get and avoid any wrinkles.  Once you have reached the edge of the trim, you can trim the vinyl down to size, leaving about a quarter inch to wrap around the back side.

It helps at this point to notch the corners of the vinyl where the trim has a sharp external corner, and put a few slits in it anywhere the trim has a round internal corner, as pictured.

Make sure to use the heat gun when you fold the vinyl over to the backside, and it should hold extremely well once it cools.

Step 4: Step 4: Reinstall trim

Picture of Step 4: Reinstall trim
Once you've wrapped all the trim, you can go ahead and reinstall it.  If you've wrapped everything correctly, it should hold up even on a hot summer day.  If for some reason there are areas that you can't wrap all the way around to the backside, you can trim the vinyl off right at the edge, but I would recommend using some extra adhesive in these locations to ensure it doesn't peel back.

Now step back and admire your work!
SimCarbon6 months ago

Great tutorial! Measuring first and leaving extra around the sides is key. I would recommend a felt squeegee for larger projects. Trim wrapping is one of the most cost effective car mods you can do. You can do most, if not all, of a car's interior for under $50

jzrihan11 months ago
Its actually insanely hard to vinyl wrap a car and very expensive too. I found out about this supplier called vvivid vinyls who sell vinyls that are as easy to work with as 3M at half the price and similar quality. They also post step by step instructions, tips and videos on their website vvividvinyl.com
zomfibame2 years ago
Very nice instructable. that looks pretty cool. ...... I can dig faking the carbon-fiber on the interior, especially if one has the cracking sun faded plastic; but why would you fake a carbon-fiber hood? I'd never realized some were fakes. I helped a buddy put a real one on his car many years ago, it was pretty light compared to the stock steel one.
In my case (I'll be doing the car roof) it's for cost and convenience.
I don't like the prospect of masking the whole car to paint the roof. Also, the colour is hard to find. Someone could mix a batch for me, but it's a pearl metallic so will also require clearcoat. Even if I could get aerosol cans for the job, it will take longer and cost more!
So I'll be rolling on an etch primer, sanding that smooth then applying the vinyl with 3M primer 94 along the edges. Sure it won't last as long but it beats painting!
jondneumann2 years ago
Great write up. I just did this a few weeks ago to my car. Using the 3M material as well. Having a few trouble spots on my arm rests where the switches go. The 100 + degree heat in the midwest is pull it off. Otherwise, everywhere else looks great.
ydeardorff2 years ago
The one thing, I would recommend about this adhesive is to clear coat it!

This stuff will walk right back off the part over time and or develop blisters if any micro sized bubbles exist under it. Applying clear coat will really make the part fixed permanently. Clear coat comes in high gloss, and satin so you can get the desired finish you want.
FrozenIce2 years ago
very very nice indeed. If i ever get a car, and if i could fing the 3M carbonfiber thingy i would totally do this.
Neat work. i might try this to smarten up the next beaten up vehicle I end up being forced to drive.