This guide will teach you How to Paint Plastic Interior Parts properly! If you want to customize your car or truck, this is a great way to start. If you have mismatched plastics from junkyard replacements or whatever, Painting Plastic Interior Parts is a great way to remedy that as well!
A Word on Paint
If you’re somewhat skeptical about painting plastic interior parts, it’s probably because you’ve seen a lot of failed attempts. A lot of those failed attempts are due to either rushing the job, or using paint that wasn’t up to the task. If you’re trying to keep the factory textured look to your plastics, I suggest using SEM Flexible Coatings. Specifically, SEM Sand-free primer, and the SEM paint color of your choice. If you want a smoothed, high-gloss finish to your plastics, I suggest using automotive grade paint. Not the stuff you buy at Home Depot or Auto Zone, but the stuff from an automotive paint supplier. Trust me, it will make a world of difference when you Paint Plastic Interior Parts.
Step 1: Removal
Remove the parts you want to paint from the car, and find a suitable place to paint them. You’ll most likely want to raise your parts off of the ground, so a workbench or table covered in painter’s plastic works well for smaller parts and trim pieces. For large parts like dashes and door panels, you may have to get creative with a couple sawhorses, cardboard boxes, or whatever you can manage. It will be awhile before you actually spray any paint, but it helps to get things ready beforehand.
Step 2: Cleaning
The first thing you’ll want to do is some serious cleaning. Interior parts are most likely going to have years worth of ArmorAll and other oily, waxy dressings all over them. If you want to have a snowball’s chance of your paint job turning out well, don’t rush this step! Scrub your parts down withsoap and water. Dish soap should work well, but if you’re not on a shoestring budget, SEM 39362 Soap – 15 oz. is specifically for this task. No matter which soap you use, make sure to rinse everything off thoroughly when you’re done. If the part still looks or feels dirty, go over it with soap another time or two. If you want to go the extra mile and be SURE those parts are clean enough for paint, I suggest using SEM 38353 Plastic Prep – 12 oz.. It’s a plastic cleaner made specifically for pre-paint cleaning.
Step 3: Deciding on Finish
From here there will be 2 separate paths. One path for the guys who want to keep the factory ‘textured’ look to their plastics, and one path for the guys who want their interior as smooth and shiny as their exterior paint. If you’re in the “factory look” camp, read on! If you’re in the “smooth and shiny” camp, skip down to that section!
Factory “Textured” Look
So you’ve decided to keep a factory “textured” look to your interior. Cool! The good news is, you don’t have to do any sanding! The bad news is you’ll need a Sand-Free Adhesion Promoter to get your paint to stick effectively. Once the parts you want to paint are clean and dry, shoot them with the can of sand-free making sure to start the spray off of the part, and move across it one section at a time. Make sure the end of your spray is off of the part. So, for example, start your spray off to the left of your part, move your can to the right across your part, and end your spray to the right of your part. Keep bursting your way through it untill you’ve covered the whole part, making sure you got all of the cracks and crevices. Once you’ve got that covered, switch to your color of choice and shoot that over top of the still-wet adhesion promoter (assuming you’re using SEM). If not, follow the directions on the can(s) you are actually using.
Custom “Smooth and Shiny” Look
So you’ve decided to impart some custom style to your ride? Great! The good news is, you’ll have a pretty unique interior when it’s all said and done. The bad news is, it’s gonna be quite a bit of work. But hey, if it was easy everyone would do it, right?
Step 4: Sanding
Yep, you’re gonna be doing a lot of sanding. Hopefully you have a small power sander handy, since they can be a real time saver in this step. Start off with a sand paper grit around 200 and sand down any texture, lettering, etc. on the interior pieces you intend to paint. You’ll want to sand across (perpendicular to) any major curves in the pieces, because if you sand with (follow) them, you risk flattening out the profile, which will probably be noticeable. Once most of the texture and whatever else is gone, switch to a finer grit like 400, and keep the part (and your sandpaper) wet while sanding. The goal here is to both finish removing the texture, and also remove the marks left by your 200 grit. Once that’s done, move on!
Step 5: Primer
Primer is what we will use to fill in some uneven spots, sanding marks, and whatever else is left at this point so our color coat will come out smooth and mirror-like. Note: Whenever you’re spraying anything, make sure you begin and end your passes off of the part, or else you’ll end up with runs galore. First, shoot everything with a plastic adhesion promoter. This will make sure that the primer fully bonds with the plastic. After that, spray on a light coat of filler primer or high build primer. This is what fills in those sanding marks and whatnot. Wait 24 hours (or however long is recommended on your can of primer) and spray another light coat on. If everything is even and uniform at this point, move on! If not, keep reading. If you get runs in the primer or stippling, you will have to wait till the primer dries, and wet-sand those specific spots down with some 600 grit. Be careful not to sand all the way through the primer if you end up doing this. Once that sanding is done, spray a new light layer of primer over everything and pat yourself on the back.
Step 6: Color
Now it’s time to spray on your color. Remember the note in the last step? Good! Start spraying that sucker (or those suckers) with your color of choice. Make sure you get a good, solid coat without any big runs or high spots.
Step 7: Clear
Clear Coat is what will protect your base color from chips and wear in general. Just like with your color, your goal is to get a good, solid layer of clear down with as few runs or high spots as possible. If you get some at this point, don’t stress out about it. We’ll fix those next. Wait 24 hours (or however long the can recommends) and spray another layer.
Step 8: Color Sanding
If your clear coat is less than perfect, you’ll be doing what is known as color sanding. Basically, it’s a process of removing any and all imperfections so you’re left with a mirror-like shine. Your clear coat will need to be TOTALLY dry before proceeding. Get a bucket of water and add 1 drop of dish soap to it. Now get some 600 grit sandpaper and a sanding pad. Wet your sandpaper and LIGHTLY sand your clear coat, making sure to re-wet your sandpaper as often as is needed. You’ll want to use no pressure here, just let the sand paper do the work and DO NOT sand all the way through the clear coat. After sanding an area, wipe it down with a clean, dry towel to check for high spots. Use an air nozzle to help dry if necessary. After the surface is dry, if you have high spots, which show as the dull areas and low spots which show as the darker or unsanded areas, this is what they’ll look like. Once the imperfections in your clearcoat are pretty much gone and everything is pretty close to even, jump up to 2000 grit and sand with that untill you’ve removed the marks from the 600 grit and evened everything up. Once you’re left with just 2000 grit marks, buff that sucker out by hand to remove those, and congratulate yourself on a job well done! Now you know How to Paint Plastic Interior Parts, and you can share with your friends!
Have tips of your own for paint plastic interior parts? Feel free to share ’em below!