By no means is this an all-inclusive FAQ, so feel free to add to it. I'll be adding to it later, myself. Things like fibreglass and seat brackets would be good to write about as I have zero to none experience with them. Other things I just don't have the patience to write about (tonight). I will some other time, or maybe somebody else will.
I hang out in this forum a lot, and every day somebody asks something about the following topics. I'm just writing this so that hopefully people will read it and we won't be continuously getting these same questions over.. and over.. and over. If you ask a question about something listed here, chances are you'll get referenced to this thread (how nicely is up to the referrer). If your question remains unanswered, or perhaps you're still confused, then don't hesitate to ask for clarification. Just don't do it in this thread - try to keep this as tidy as possible, with just tips for some of the interior work that gets done.
Ok, so here goes. Side note: installation instructions and whatnot are for third gen cars... I'm not familiar with 2nd gen. Sorry guys! Also, I should state that I'm most comfortable with 98-99 Cavalier Sedans. There may be a few discrepancies between 95-99 & 2k+ j-bodies, as well as differences between the Cavalier & Sunfire. But you can always just add to it
1. Painting my interior
- this is something that comes up every day here. What kind of paint to use, how to do it, how this part comes out, the list goes on and on. I'm going to try to answer just about every question possible related to painting your interior (wish me luck, I'm gonna need it!).
A) What's the best paint to use?
Well, I'm gonna steal a line from Event and say to strip the word "best" from your vocabulary. Now. If you do the prep work properly, spraypaint will last just as long as say, auto paint from an HVLP gun. Feel free to use whatever floats your boat best - there are some amazing interiors done with auto paint sprayed using an HVLP gun (see Z2FLIP4's reg
for an example), and there are some great interiors that are done using spraypaint.
B) Ok, so there is no "best" paint.
What should I use then? I personally suggest just using spraypaint. It's cheap and effective, and gets the job done if you do it correctly. Krylon Fusion
and SEM products
(available online at Your Auto Trim Store
) are the oft-suggested spraypaints to use here; people have also had success with normal Krylon
. What it really boils down to, as stated in 1.A, is that the prep work is typically more important than the paint itself. As Looney Tuner and Lowered Standard have both pointed out in previous threads, you should follow usage & recoat instructions to the T. Krylon has provided a few tips for usage of their Fusion line:
Lowered Standard wrote:
I sent an e-mail to krylon with a few questions. Here are a the tips they sent me:
1. New/unweathered plastic requires a paint thinner wipe down. Older/ weathered plastics require an ammonia based cleaner wipe down. These wipe downs are specifically recommended to kill the plasticizers which prohibit good adhesion. We do not have any testing data on whether the rubbing alcohol does the same job.
2. You indicated 7 coats over the course of a week. Keep in mind that coats must be applied within 24 hours (chemical adhesion) or after 7 days (mechanical adhesion).
3. The only clear product we have that can be applied over the Fusion is the Krylon Low Odor Clear (gloss or matte). Fusion does not require a clear coat, and many of our acrylic lacquer clear coats can eat through the paint (lacquer is a hot solvent).
Keep in mind the wipe downs and recoat times on the label. If you do desire a clear coat, use one of the Low Odor Clears.
I'd like to take the time to point out that I used Krylon's "Triple Clear" over my Krylon Fusion, and it worked fine. The first coat of clear was applied within 24 hours of the Krylon Fusion.
C) Ok, how do I take 'x' out of my car so that I can prep it?
i) Front dash pad, radio/HVAC trim, door panels, rear deck, seats, center console: Team Forward Motion
ii) Dash trim closest to window:
On Sunfires, this portion just pops out. On Cavaliers this is rather difficult (here's why
) - I hope you're up for a long task. Follow the directions at Team Forward Motion to remove the front dash pad
and the radio/HVAC trim. Once you've got that done, your steering wheel needs to be pulled. See directions in question 17. What else? Passenger-side airbag has to go. All of the HVAC piping needs to be removed. The HVAC controls, radio, gauge cluster, steering wheel trim, windshield washer/blinker arms all need to be removed. As everything is coming off, you'll note that that one little trim piece is part of the entire dash. Remove the brass bolts and the entire assembly can be pulled out of the car.
iii) All the other trim in the car:
This is all held in with metal clips... when in doubt, pull! It'll come out eventually.
D) Ok, it's out of the car. I want to sand it smooth before I prep & paint it.
That's fine. If you plan on sanding it smooth for a fibreglass look, break out your sandpaper now (120 to 240 to 320 works fine, in my experience). Sand it smooth, and then you're ready for the next step of preparation - cleaning.
E) Great. How do I clean it?
This is the most important step
. Cleaning the surface allows the paint to create the most secure bond. I cannot stress that enough - clean it to remove all dust, oil, grease, and any other contaminants that may be on the plastic's surface
. I suggest Simple Green, it's a very effective cleaner that leaves the surface literally spotless. A mild soap and water solution will work just as well!!
F) Paint time?
Yes! After you've finished cleaning it, decide whether or not you want to prime the surface. Although it's not necessary for certain paint (Krylon Fusion), I strongly suggest priming your surface. Use 2-3 coats, whatever floats your boat best. Keep your coats thin so that you don't have any runs... if you have runs while priming, sand it down and recoat. Allow sufficient time to dry, and then start putting on your color. 2-3 coats here should be sufficient... how much paint you use is entirely up to you. Again, make sure to use thin coats to avoid runs! Allow time to dry again, and then start your clear coating. I personally suggest at least three coats here; the clearcoat is what will protect your paint from chipping, scratching, etc. Keep your clearcoats thin to avoid runs
G) Can I use the paint on my vinyl dash? NO
. Unless you'd like to have a giant piece of flypaper as a dash, do not use paint on the vinyl dash. They make dyes specifically for this application. Some people have had luck with painting the vinyl on their dash, but I wouldn't suggest it. The risk just isn't worth it, IMO. Go take a look at Your Auto Trim Store
. They have SEM's vinyl dye here
2. Lighting - Neons & LEDs
A) How do I wire 'x' in my car?
There are a few basics of electricity you need to know first. First things first - our cars run "12v" ("12v" because it's not really 12v, but whatever) DC. To keep things simple, we'll just say you need a 12v source ("hot") and a ground point ("cold"). Your 12v source is positive (typically red wire, or the lighter-coloured wire), and your ground point is negative (typically black wire, or the darker-coloured wire). Never allow a hot wire to directly touch a cold wire, or a metal surface - it will short
Getting power to your accessories is the first step. You have to decide how you want to do it. The most straightforward method is to run a wire directly from your car battery into your interior (make sure to put an inline fuse in it - 15a works well). Others decide to tap into wires in the fuse panel - the cigarrette lighter is a oft-used source. Whatever you tap into, make sure the wire is hot. This is now your 12v source. Now you have to find a ground. A ground is anywhere that electricity can flow to after it's passed through your accessory - ground wires can be tapped into, or you can find a ground in your car (I suggest this). An excellent ground point is any of the four places that your center console bolts to. Run your ground wire there, and use a wire terminal to connect it.
You now have a 12v source
and a ground point
. ... so? Well, with these you can now splice them all you want, and route them to different accessories/switches in your car.
B) Wonderful! But you didn't answer my question. How do I wire 'x' in my car?
You're right, I didn't answer your question - but the previous answer gave you nearly everything you need... watch.
These come in two common flavors: two lead and three lead. Two lead is just an interrupt - connect your 12v source to one lead, and then connect the other lead ("Acc.") to the positive wire of your accessory. Three lead is an interrupt with a ground - these leads are labeled Ground, Acc., and Source (or Power). Connect "Ground" to your ground point, "Acc." to the positive wire of your accessory, and the "Source/Power" to your 12v source.
Connect your 12v source to the positive wire of your neon. If there's a switch between your 12v source and your neon, follow instructions in 2.B.i. Connect the ground wire of your neon to your ground point. Easy eh? Mounting neons isn't bad either. Zip-ties work really well for this!
Ok this is a bit trickier. There are two ways to wire LEDs - in series, or in parallel. This can get complicated though - typically, LEDs need only (approximately) 3v (you can get LEDs for real cheap at http://www.lsdiodes.com
). This creates a problem because our cars run 12v, remember?
a) Instructions for wiring in Parallel
: You need to put a resistor on your LEDs, otherwise you will fry them by supplying too much voltage. Our cars put out 12v, but most LEDs take anywhere from 2.3v to 4v. If you get your LEDs at LSDiodes
, they have a spec sheet for each of their LEDs. Using Ohm's law, R = V/I (resistance = voltage/current), you can determine the amount of resistance you need.
If you're wiring a single red LED from LSDiodes
, you'll need to supply 2.5v for 20 milliAmps of current, to get the brightest glow possible. Since we're wiring in parallel, you use Ohm's law for one LED:
R = (12v - 2.5v)/.02A
Ok, that's probably a little confusing. 12v is our supply voltage, obviously. The 2.5v is the drop across our LED. That results in 9.5v left that need to be accounted for. The .02A is our current (20mA converts to .02A). This leaves us with 475v/A, or 475ohms. 470ohm is the closest resistor, get it!
Note: The resistor you need depends on the LED you get and how bright you want it to be!!
If you purchase LSDiodes
's 5mm, white 12000mcd LEDs and you want them to be as bright as possible, then you need to supply 4v with a current of 25mA. Ohm's law strikes again:
R = (12v - 4v)/.025A leaves us with 320ohms. So you need a 320ohm resistor.
Now you need to solder a resistor to a lead (I choose the positive (longer) lead, just because) of each and every one of your LEDs, like in the following picture:
If you're going to put multiple LEDs on a single 12v source, follow the below diagram to wire them (only four shown below, but this can be used for as many LEDs as you like!). Notice that you have a resistor for each and every LED. This is necessary if and only if you're using 1/4 watt resistors... I'm not going to go into details, but if you know what I'm talking about then you know you can use only one resistor if you use the right one.
That's wiring in parallel. Note that you can add or remove as many LEDs as you like, without worrying about adding a new resistor.
b) Instructions for wiring in Series
: Wiring in series involves less work than wiring in parallel. Take wire and lead it to the positive lead of an LED, then connect the negative lead of that same LED to the positive lead of another LED using wire. Continue as necessary.
One problem. If you're using 2.5v LEDs, Ohm's law states you can only wire up four LEDs. If you're using 4v (like the white LEDs), only three. Example: four red LEDs in a series
R = (12v - (4*2.5v))/.02A
Note that we have more of a voltage drop than we do in parallel. That's because each LED adds to the voltage drop across the entire circuit. Resistance here is calculated to be 100 ohms.
The differences between series & parallel should be pretty clear now. Note that you can always wire a few series in parallel, or whatever you need to do to get your LEDs wired up. I typically choose in parallel because I don't have to worry about needing to change resistors if say, I want to add one LED to a circuit.
So, to answer the question.. how to wire LEDs? Pick a method above. Once you have an assembly, mount it in your car, and connect the 12v source & ground point to the postive and negative wires you have for your LEDs. Pretty simple eh?
iv) Other 12v accessories:
Simply connect your 12v source to the positive wire of the acc., and the ground point to the negative. It's all really this simple once you have your 12v source & ground point!
3. I hooked up my LEDs in parallel, but some of them aren't lighting up. What's wrong?
Chances are you've mixed voltages with your LEDs. Electricity will always take the path of least resistance. For example, if you have two red LED (2.5v) wired in parallel with a white LED (4v), then the white LED obviously requires slightly more power. Due to this fact, the electricity will flow to the red LEDs and that's it. In order to resolve this problem, you'll need to make sure that each LED is going to get the right amount of current flowing to it. Since the red LED takes a max current of 20mA, you need to bring the white LED to that same current.
R = (12v - 4v)/.02A = 400 ohms. Picking the next highest rated resistor will give you what you need (it's 470 ohm, so this is a bad example. whatever
4. How the heck do I get these window cranks off?!
First, pull your crank away from the door panel. See that c-clip? You have a few choices here:
a) Buy the GM window crank tool at your local auto parts store (if you're not careful with this, it will scratch your panel badly).
b) Use a rag and jimmy it around the crank until the clip comes off.
c) Bend an ice pick and push the clip out by one end (this is what I did, works like a charm without scratching my interior paint!).
5. How do I clear my climate control knobs?
Aili (BlkOutStLchevy) deserves a huge thank you for this writeup. Be sure to thank her.
6. How do I change the color of lights in my HVAC controls or gauges?
The first thing you'll notice is that these bulbs are damn small. I was originally just going to put covers on them, and then when I realized how small they are (about the size of an LED), I decided I'd just replace them. What you do is up to you, but I'd just replace and/or paint them. Wiring in LEDs is a much more effective route though
I don't have a 2k+ car, but I have reason to believe (ie, what I've heard here) that it is near impossible to replace the bulbs in those gauges. Replacing the bulbs in a 95-99 is possible
, but it takes time and patience. I replaced mine with custom-diffused LEDs (which takes more patience, but probably less time!). For those same bulbs, you can instead just buy covers at any place that has an automotive section, including department stores.
7. How do I put in my new gauge face?
Take careful note of your needle positions. Search the forum for various techniques on this - you should record values at different RPM levels as well as when the car is shut off. Once needle positions are noted, remove your gauge cluster - there are directions for removing the gauge at the link in 1.B.i to Team Forward Motion. They have very in-depth instructions for removing your gauge cluster. Once removed, you're able to install your new gauge face. If you own a 2k+ model, DO NOT REMOVE THE NEEDLES
. It's been tried, and many people have ruined their clusters (it's possible but the risk involved is VERY HIGH). Save yourself the trouble and slip your gauge face over the needles! Needles on 99- models can be removed, but if you can slip the gauges on without removing the needles, go for it!
8. Cluster swaps?
I'm not very well-versed on this subject either, but I'm gonna do my best with the information that I've found in a quick search.
First things first, 99- have a theftlock issue. Instructions here are courtesy of KickAzz98z:
Seriously, this is the way to get around it, the theftlock must be reprogrammed, and this is how:
1. Start the car and let it die. The theftlock light will be on, DO NOT TURN THE KEY OFF, OR OPEN ANY DOORS, OR TURN ON ANY ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT. Just fold your hands under your arms and wait 10-15 minutes...
2. After the car stalls, the theftlock light will blink. wait until it stops blinking.
3. Wait 1 minute after it stops blinking.
4. Turn the key to off, wait 10 seconds, then start the car again.
You may have to do this 3 times for it to work correctly.
2000+ clusters cannot be swapped with 1999- clusters (this is due to the BCM).
You can switch through 96-98 if they are mechanical, and 98-99 if they are digital. Apparently these are plug and play, but sometimes you have to find a cluster from the same year as your car to work properly (this is a quote from a previous post).
9. My dash is cracked!
See question 1.C.ii
10. How do I get my shift knob off?
If you have a 2k+, just grab a hold of it and start twisting and pulling. It'll come off eventually. Anything else, take out that little c-clip in front of the shifter using a standard screwdriver and it'll pop right off with ease.
Information in the following section (shift knob & shifter) was provided by SilverStallion
1) I wanna replace my shift knob, how do i do that???
First i recommend you take out the boot. To do this you just have to squeeze both sides of the plastic peice connecting the boot to the lower dash. Next, make sure your hands are nice and dry so you can maximize gription (i know its not a word). Twist and pull the shifter like a Mofo. It'll come off, trust me.
2) You mean you can shorten the stick??
Yes. I cut about 1 inch and a half from the top. I just took a metal saw to it and hacked away. If you have any other power tool that can do the job quicker, damn you for not lending it to me.
3) Replacment shift knob.
Now I'm not that familiar with all the other methods different companies use to install their knobs, but with MOMO, they have a universal setup. They come with rubber "adapters" that fit onto your metal stick so that their knob fits nice and snug. Just attach it and voila! Presto! Daddy's got a new toy!
11. Can I put a manual shift knob on my automatic?
Yep, it's been done. Check here for plenty of info: http://www.j-body.org/forums/read.php?f=45&i=19001&t=19001
Info courtesy of Joe Schulte.
12. How do I reupholster parts, like the door panel insert?
First you have to take out the piece you want to redo. The door panel inserts are fastened using plastic welds, metal clips, screws, and all sorts of other weird fasteners GM came up with. You can later reattach them using small screws and washers, epoxy, or whatever floats your boat best. Once the part is out, remove the old fabric if you prefer, and get yourself some hot glue, quality spray adhesive (3m is an excellent brand), and if you're using vinyl, a hairdryer or heat gun (use caution with both!!!). Follow the instructions on the spray adhesive, and lay your fabric on slowly, to avoid wrinkles. Use the hairdryer/heat gun to warm up the vinyl to stretch it and remove wrinkles. Use hot glue on areas where the fabric is stretched (like corners) to keep it down tightly.
Information in the following section (reupholstering your doors) was also provided by SilverStallion
How to reupolster the door fabric.
1) Remove your door (clicky
2) Remove the styrofoam. Don't worry if it breaks off. Later you can just fit it together using carpenter glue.
3) Remove all the plastics "welds". To do this i use the old fashion method...... hammer and chisel. This is a PITA to remove.
4) Remove the piece you want to reupholster. For maximum hold, remove the existing carpeting and foam. Make sure you scrap all the foam of the plastic. Once everything is removed, wash it with regular dish soap and dry it up.
5) Gluing. this is where it gets tricky. I used contact cement. Any hardware store will carry it. Some people will tell you to use the 3M spray (and i agree, much easier). Apply the contact cement whether it be with spray or with the brush. Once applyed to BOTH surfaces, let it dry for about 15-30 minutes. Its gotta look glossy.
6) For this step you need two people. One person holds the fabric up so as not to touch the glue. The second person to lay out the fabric. Once its applyed, there's no turning back baby. When you lay it out, make sure to really apply pressure to get all the bubbles out. Around the contours, make sure to stretch the fabric (you can also use a hair dryer to heat up the fabric to it becomes more malleable).
7) You done.... for now. Cut the fabric away around the corners and cut out the holes the were used to bind the plastic in the first place. Put it back on your door and make sure it lines up properly. Remove it and apply silicon cocking all around the trimming. It doesn't matter if some of it goes on the fabric, it comes off easy (with vinyl fabric). Lay it back down on your door and let it sit over night (VERY IMPORTANT).
8) Viola. enjoy.
13. Can I replace my pedals?
Quite frankly, this is a safety vs. risk issue. The pedals on our cars are solid state - ie, if you want to replace the entire pedal you will have to cut it off using whatever means you see fit, and then weld on a new arm for your new pedals. Now imagine what would happen if you need to slam on the brakes, and this arm say... breaks (no pun intended). See the problem here? In short, it's up to you... there are a lot of companies that make pedal covers ("clip-on" pedals, if you will). I personally suggest taking the safer route and using pedal covers.
14. How do I fiberglass my interior?
Well, I'm still learning myself... So, I'm a newbie at that kind of thing and hence am probably a bad source for information, but there are all sorts of places to learn online. http://web.njit.edu/~cas1383/proj/main/
are both really nice sources of information. In short, what you need to do is the following:
1. If you're making a mold for say, a sub box, prep the area with masking tape/aluminum foil. This is absolutely imperative if you're working around areas that you don't want fiberglass everywhere, such as if you're making kick-panels and don't want resin all over your carpet!
2. Pre-cut and layout your mat/cloth in the area you want it.
3. Mix hardening catalyst with fibreglass resin.
4. SATURATE the mat with your resin/hardener mixture. Be sure to remove as many/all of the air bubbles as you work. Air bubbles = create a weak final product.
5. Recoat as necessary. It's not necessary to allow time to dry between layers.
6. Sand. Paint. Admire. Gloat. Brag. Move onto next fibreglass project
15. What about carbon fiber?
Thanks Castor Troy!
16. How do I replace the rear bench with seats?
Take out the rear seat. Instructions are on Team Forward Motion
's website. After doing this, you need to drop the gas tank (you're going to be drilling into your floor, and if you don't drop the tank you'll drill right into it).
In order to do this, first make sure the tank is empty or nearly empty (I wouldn't suggest taking it out if there's more than 1/4 of a tank). You need to relieve the pressure in the fuel system now, so remove the filler cap. After doing this, get under the car and find the fuel pump's electrical connector. Disconnect it. Make sure the car is in park/neutral and start it; let it stall out. Put the key in the off position and remove the negative battery cable. Disconnect the hangers for your exhaust. There might be a heat shield on 99 models, remove that too. There are two hoses near the fuel filter - one fairly large, the other about medium size. These are the filler hose & vapor line. Take off the hose clamps to disconnect them. After that, remove the fuel feed/return lines, as well as the vapor return line. They're all pretty much in the same vicinity as the filler hose/vapor line. Basically the idea is to remove all hoses coming to and out of the gas tank Take the bolts off the fuel filler and remove it. Support the tank by any means necessary (having somebody else here helps), and disconnect the tank straps. Lower the tank just enough to remove the electrical connectors on top, and remove it from the vehicle.
Now, figure out how you want to place your seats in your car. Make sure they're aligned, and get out a nice, strong drill. Drill into your floor, install some studs, and you're set. Just dress up the area (because it just got real ugly), and then put the seats in. Put the gas tank back in (installation = reverse of removal) and you're all set!
17. How do I remove my steering wheel?
Disconnect your battery. If you have Theftloc or something similar, make sure you have the activation code before disconnecting your battery. Remove the airbag fuse from the fuse panel. Turn your steering wheel straight forward, place the ignition in the "Lock" position, and lock your steering wheel. There are two bolts in the back of the trim, they face the driver. Remove both. Remove the airbag module and disconnect all wires attached to it (the main connector, and the horn lead/ground). If you're worried about it going off, be sure to carry the airbag with the front facing away from you. Put it somewhere it won't get damaged, with the front facing up. Remove the nut on the steering wheel. If the steering wheel & steering shaft don't have an alignment mark, mark them now. Use a steering wheel puller to remove your steering wheel
. Anything else could cause permanent damage to either the wheel or shaft. Don't let the shaft turn while the steering wheel is removed!! You'll have to recenter the airbag coil if you do!
18. How do I remove/install my airbags?
First things first, and I should've mentioned this earlier too. Do not use electrical testing equipment (voltmeter, ammeter, etc) on the airbag system wiring.
Ok, now... this is another safety issue. It's up to you to decide whether or not your passenger's life (as well as your own) is worth the risk. Follow the above steps (question 5, first post) for disabling the airbag system - it also includes instructions for removing the driver's side airbag. After that, there are a few bolts on the passenger side airbag to remove. Don't forget to unplug the yellow connectors - you may have a tough time getting them out of the car otherwise.
Installation isn't quite the reverse of removal. There are a few things that need to be considered, and I suggest having it done professionally - however, I'll supply instructions anyway. First you have to make sure that the Supplemental Inflatable Restraint (SIR) coil doesn't become uncentered (it's the round piece just under your steering wheel, has a giant sticker that says "NOTICE" on it). If it does become uncentered, refer to a Hayne's/Chilton's manual for specific instructions on recentering it, or email me (address is in my reg).
Since you probably uncentered it, once it's recentered, installation of airbags is the reverse of normal When you power your car back up, watch the airbag light. If it doesn't flash exactly seven times, there is a problem. It is imperative that you take your car in to have it serviced by a certified mechanic/technician.
19. Where does this bolt go?
Send me a picture of it and for a small fine, I'll tell you.
Note: question 19 was my pitiful attempt at humor after a few hours spent on compiling this FAQ (again).
Hope this helps, and feel free to add more...
- Interior FAQ
J-Body of Michigan