Auto Vinyl Interior DyeingDo-it-yourself vinyl re-coloring made easy
If your vinyl interior is in good or excellent condition, but stained or faded from the sun, there is an inexpensive fix you can do at home. Most large automotive paint suppliers carry a full line of professional vinyl re-coloring products that are both easy to use and will match your original factory color. For example, you have a 1965 GTO with a Teal Turquoise interior like the example shown here. Simply specify the correct year and color, if possible, and the dye can be mixed on the spot. The dye requires no thinning, but a compressor and spray gun should be used for best results. Both of these items can be rented for a day or weekend at your local rental yard. The results are incredible, and you'll save a bundle over buying a complete reproduction interior kit.
The automotive paint shop where you purchase your dye will also carry vinyl cleaners. Use a stiff bristle paint brush to work the cleaner into the grain of the material in order to remove all skin oils, dirt or vinyl conditioners you might have applied over the years. Wipe the cleaner off with a clean damp towel. If your material is really soiled, several cleanings might be necessary. The surface of the part must be as clean as you can get it for the best adhesion of the vinyl dye. On this door panel, you can see the way the vinyl has discolored between the door handle attaching points. For best results, also remove any emblems and metal trim pieces prior to cleaning.
Here is a perfect example of why an original interior should be re-colored. These GTO seats have faded to several different shades of green, but the seams, stitching and overall condition is excellent. To make sure you color every nook and cranny, take the seats apart completely prior to cleaning them. Be sure to use the paintbrush to get all surface dirt from the stitched areas. This might seem trivial until the color starts to lift because you didn't clean the surface completely! After cleaning each part, allow at least 12 hours drying time indoors or an hour or so in the hot sun. These seats sat in the bright sun for about two hours and were completely dry prior to applying color.
The vinyl dye can be poured into the spray gun canister directly from the can. Usually, no mixing is necessary. For best results, the temperature should be between 70-85 degrees. Keep your spray nozzle about 16-18 inches from the surface and apply several light coats in a smooth back-and-forth motion. Regulate the air pressure to be about 45 pounds at the nozzle of the gun. Allow 10 minutes between coats. This is called the "flash off" period. You are not trying to achieve a glossy surface, just applying the color. If you're changing color, it will take a few more coats, which means more dye. Consult with your paint expert on how much dye you will need to do your complete interior. Plan on spending an average of $35 per quart. To do an average interior, about two quarts will be necessary (possibly three if you're changing color). Spray in a well-ventilated area and wear a particle mask for safety-you're not trying to dye the inside of your lungs.
The same process is used on hard plastic parts like this kick panel. Unlike the soft material on the seats, once you have cleaned the surface you can wash off the cleaner with the hose. Again, let the panels completely dry for a few hours. Another product available at the paint store is called adhesion promoter. It is available in aerosol cans and should be sprayed on hard plastic surfaces prior to the color. This gives the dye something to cling to on the plastic and provides a very durable finish. Again, several light coats will work better than a heavy application.
As you can see, these 36-year-old vinyl parts look like new again. The cleaning process took the better part of a day, but adding the color only took a few hours. The results are stunning when compared to the former condition, and the cost was minimal. If you don't mind doing the restoration work yourself, it's the only way to go. Plus, you get the bragging rights at shows when you claim you have an original interior that looks like it did the day it rolled off the assembly line. This process will work on any year, make or model vehicle-just make sure you can get the interior color you need before starting the project.
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