How to Recover Vehicle Door Panels

Introduction: How to Recover Vehicle Door Panels

my thunderbird had some pretty terrible door panels that the fabric was ripped and coming apart so i decided to recover them with black cloth.

Step 1: What You Need

1: a door panel, preferebly 2 that you want to recover.  thunderbird door panels are a single sheet of cardboard so they work very well to recover.  this may not work on all cars.  its up to you to figure out if this method will work or not.

2: cloth, my door panels used 2 yards of cloth and 1 yard of backing per door.
    the cloth you choose should be tough yet easy to work with, i went to the local crafts store and wandered around til i found the one that i thought would work well, its a fairly heavy black canvas and as a backing i used fleece.

3: spray adhesive, 3m or krylon permanent spray on adhesive

4: razor blades, at least 2 brand new sharp razor blades

5: duct tape

6: sharp scissors

7: clean wire brush

8: clean place to work.

Step 2: Getting Down to Business

take your door panel off your car and strip the mouldings and such off of it.

peal off the fabric but be careful not to damage the cardboard.

carefully bend the metal tabs out of the way to pull off the moulding

carefully bend the metal tabs to remove the lock button surround.

wire brush the whole thing to get the old glue and fabric remnants off of it.

Step 3: Prepping the Door Panel

after the whole door is glue and fuzzy free use your duct tape to close up all the holes you wont be using, honestly i have no idea why my door panel had like 15 holes in it but close em up by putting duct tape over em and over the back as well

Step 4: Covering the Door With Backing

lay out your backing on the door panel and align it how you want the backing to lay, you can use one layer over the whole door, 2 layers for a more plush door, or 2 up top and one on the bottom, also if you really want to get fancy you can cut out designs in the backing to make neat patters but that is for another time.

cut your backing to fit with 1 to 2 inches of overlap pretty much the whole way around.

after it is cut, fold one side over and spray it down with your spray adhesive. I dont have pics of this because you have to work really fast, you have maybe a minute til the glue sets.  spray it down and then lay your backing, working the wrinkles and such out and towards the edge.

after the front is all glued down, flip the panel over and glue the edges to the back, using a razor blade to cut reliefs so it lays flat.

if you have curves where there is a bunch of material and you have 2 layers you can cut the first layer out and then glue the top layer to the back. 

make sure to cut around all your push in plastic clips

Step 5: Covering With Fabric

now that the backing is done cover your panel with the fabric you chose.

it goes on just like the backing.  nice and easy and make sure that you get all the wrinkles out, if you have a wrinkle you can smooth, pull it up before the glue sets and re-position it.

glue the fabric to the back just as you glued the backing.

re install your lock surround

cut a hole for your  door handle and glue the strips back so that it looks nice and smooth.

as you can see on the one panel i did not cut my backing perfectly straight so i had to take it apart and re do it.

Step 6: Put Back on Car

put your panel on the car

i will be taking the door handle mount off and painting it black to match.

Be the First to Share


    • Home and Garden Contest

      Home and Garden Contest
    • Electronics Contest

      Electronics Contest
    • Science Fair Challenge

      Science Fair Challenge



    12 years ago

    This is a great Instructable, but you need to add a main image of the final project to the intro step. Please do that and leave me a message when you have so that we can publish your work. Thanks!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Have to agree with Kevan on everything he's said, I own a 1962 Corair that's been painstakingly restored and anything you can do to prevent moisture and rust from damaging metal and cardboard helps.... It's a lot easier to do when you've already got things apart anyway. Would have liked to have seen a picture of the final finished panel with all the pieces installed.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Good job! Made this kind of recovering to my 77' Opel Kadett C:s door panels but used black, "hairy" cloth to keep it retro. Works fine with little discoballs hanging from inner roof ( )8>)


    11 years ago on Step 6

    May I suggest a modification to this? If it were me, and I do have this very job to perform on my 40+ year old Land Rover, I would waterproof the inside of the cardboard. An ordinary gloss paint will do and any old colour as it's hidden after all. You could also stretch a piece of heavy duty polythene over the door frame so that it sits under the nice new panel. It may not seem worthwhile in a very sunny and dry climate but if you live in a rainy one then that nice new panel will soon end up as mush if you don't protect it....

    Another little tip. while you have the panel off paint the inside of the door with rust stabiliser and then prime and paint it properly. The door will last a lot longer that way and it only takes an extra few minutes... well, maybe an hour or two :-)

    Good ible, thank you.



    12 years ago on Step 6

    What was the purpose of the backing ? For padding ?
    Looks good !


    Reply 12 years ago on Step 6

    for padding and to make the cloth smoother over the cardboard.  if you glue canvas right to cardboard it will show every imperfection.