No matter how careful you are, it's likely you'll eventually have some scratches and wear on the interior of your car. These imperfections, which are particularly noticeable on plastic pieces, such as arm rests and door handles, can significantly detract from your car's appearance. Fortunately, you don't have to "live with them," or incur the cost of replacing the damaged parts. For only a small investment in time and money, you can make professional-looking repairs. Here are the steps I took to spruce up my car's interior.
Matching the Interior Paint Color
Finding the right color is easier for American-made cars, because interior paint codes are available for many of them. You only have to check with your local car dealer for the paint color used in your particular model. Unfortunately, imported models don't always have documented paint codes, so you'll need to visually match the interior color to a paint chip. Automotive paints that are specially formulated for use on interior parts should be used for your repair project. Retailers, who specialize in these products, will usually have sets of paint chips that will help you make your selection. When repairing my car's interior door handle, I had excellent results with SEM Classic Coat paint.
Prepping for In-Place Painting
Sometimes, it may be very difficult to remove the part that needs to be painted. If so, consider painting it without detaching it. I've successfully painted interior parts by applying plenty of painter's tape around the area that needs repair. I made sure there was enough overlapping material to catch any overspray.
Detaching the Part Before Painting
Removing the part before painting is the preferred option, because you'll get the best possible surface finish. You'll also avoid having paint transition ridges around the edges, where the masking tape was positioned. However, this is the hardest step of the repair process. For example, my car had well-concealed clips that fastened the door handle to the door. With the help of a detailed assembly diagram, which I received from my local service garage, I started in an inconspicuous location under the handle, and carefully pried around the edges with a small screwdriver until the part was freed.
Preparing the Surface for Painting
For the best results, it is important that you have a smooth and clean surface before you begin painting. To achieve a good surface finish and to remove any loose material, I recommend using either steel wool or Scotch-Brite Pads (6444). Then, clean the surface with rubbing alcohol. Lint-free cotton rounds, which are available at any pharmacy, work very well for applying the alcohol.
Painting and Reinstalling the Piece
Apply several thin coats of spray paint in rapidly moving strokes, allowing each coat to dry before applying the next. For best results, allow the part to dry overnight before you reinstall it. You'll be amazed at the improvement to your car's interior, and you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you did it yourself.