Intro: Wrapping Car Trim With Fabric
The inspiration for this project came from the instructable "Low cost way to replace car trim," while it makes for an easy cheap fix I've decided to offer up another low cost alternative as well. Everyone who owns a car likes to make it a reflection of their personality, the seat covers you install, the stuff that hangs from the rear view mirror, etc. With this project you'll be able to customize the interior of your car to your personal tastes, and repair old faded and cracked pieces of trim. While I'm using the pillar panels by the windshield, the process of wrapping the trim is applicable to many of the parts in your car. The materials needed are minimal, and if you do some shopping around you can pick up everything you need fairly cheap as well (since I already had most everything needed my cost was around $5 total for the project).
Before we begin, I'd like to state upfront this project is something that anybody can do, but it is best done when you have ample time to really focus on what you're doing. If you rush, the results will generally show.
Step 1: Step 1: Gathering Materials
Here's what you're going to need to get started: required tools to remove your trim, maximum strength spray adhesive (glue/contact cement), contact cement with a brush on applicator, rubbing alcohol or acetone, rags, a good pair of scissors, exact-o knife, or razor blade, your fabric of choice, a well ventilated area, and lots of time.
1) Depending on the year, make, and model of your car you may or may not need any tools. A great deal of older cars have pieces held in place with screws, while newer vehicles have panels that snap together (think very big Legos.) You'll want to be careful with either way when removing them so as to not damage your parts beyond use.
2) For the spray adhesive I went with the maximum strength because gravity tends to work against the material once the trim pieces are reinstalled, if you've ever had a headliner sag in your car that's what you can expect if the glue doesn't hold.
3) The contact cement with a brush is going to be used for the sides of your pieces
4) Rubbing alcohol/acetone and rags will be used to clean your pieces prior to hitting them with the glue. If there is any oil or cleaning product like Armor All on them the glue won't have a good bond, and that will create more work for you later.
5) A decent pair of scissors, exact-o knife, or razor blade are going to be used for the fabric.
6) Next is your fabric of choice, bear in mind that the quality of your fabric will greatly affect your end result. Commonly used fabrics for projects like this are suede or leather which can be costly, for this I used some spare fabric that my wife had laying around. While not high end stuff it still gave me the result I was looking for, and when I decide to spend on better quality fabric I can always remove what's I'll be applying.
7) Finally you'll want a work area that offers plenty of fresh air, some people are bothered by chemical smells more than others so use your discretion. A garage, basement, or any area where you can work without potentially ruining something like carpet is ideal. If need be, this can be done outside though I would caution against it, debris getting blown in to the glue or on the fabric can create problems and more work later on.
Step 2: Step 2: Prepping the Trim
My pillars are held in by screws, and since they were missing I was able to get what I needed at a salvage yard for $5 for the pair. This worked out for me since I got a practice run at removing them without having to worry about breaking my own stuff, and I know where I can get what I need without having to spend a lot of money for brand new parts. Once I got my parts home I was able to begin cleaning them up with rubbing alcohol and a couple of old rags.
With one rag covered in rubbing alcohol I made sure to get the entire piece on both sides completely wiped down and remove all of the dirt and oil that were on it. Using the other rag I wiped the pillar down again removing any excess rubbing alcohol or other stuff I may have missed or smeared. I was always taught that parts can never be too clean, so take your time and really ensure you've got them as good as you can.
Step 3: Step 3: Cutting Your Fabric
Once your piece is cleaned, lay it out on your fabric. With your trim on the fabric cut around it leaving roughly a two inch excess all the way around, the excess will be used for folding and overlapping where necessary. After you get the fabric cut it would be wise to do a test fit to see how the fabric should lay and where it will need to be folded, this gives you an opportunity to trim off excess in areas and remove creases to get the flat appearance that you'll want when it is all done. While not necessary it's strongly recommended to take the time to do this so as to not worry about making a mistake once the glue is down.
Step 4: Step 4: Spray Your Parts
Using your spray adhesive apply an even coat over the entire surface of the trim piece to be wrapped, take care not to over spray the glue as too much can bleed through your fabric leaving you with less than desirable results. When that is done allow your parts to sit for a few minutes so that the glue can become tacky, then slowly lay your fabric on the part and work from the center of it out to the edges smoothing the fabric down as you go getting rid of any bubbles or wrinkles that you find. Once the fabric is in place and everything is looking how it should, use your knife, razor, or scissors and trim the excess down to roughly 1/2", this makes the fabric more workable and avoids having it overlap too much.
Once your fabric is trimmed down apply the contact cement with the brush along the edges of the trim, again trying to avoid using too much so as to avoid having it bleed through the fabric. Once the glue is brushed on allow it to set up for a few minutes to become tacky, much in the same as the spray adhesive. When the contact cement has gotten tacky fold your fabric over the sides, for my pieces I was able to use binder clips to hold the fabric in place while the glue dried. Some pieces this will work for, and for others more creative problem solving will be required. A side note for anyone who has never used contact cement, that stuff gets really stringy and makes a big mess easily. Be careful to avoid getting it on your hands or having strings of it land on your fabric as that can ruin all your work, when in doubt it wont hurt to wash your hands a lot to make sure you aren't spreading it on to places you don't want it. Disposable gloves would be a great solution that I didn't think of until after I had finished my parts.
Step 6: You're Done!
Once you've glued everything down allow it to properly dry for a couple of hours before reinstalling in your vehicle, and that's it you're done! As I said earlier, take your time and your end results will be worth it. I made a few mistakes that I'm not too worried about at the moment because other trim in the car will easily conceal it, but at a later date I'll remove all the fabric and redo what was messed up. The fabric I used wasn't the best quality but it conceals really well, and the best part of this project is everything is completely fixable. If you make a mistake you can easily start over, it'll just be time consuming removing the glue.
I hope this was helpful and good luck if you decide to give this a try!