Many people prefer customizing their car’s interior as it adds a personal touch to the vehicle. Some opt for aftermarket interior modification parts which can be expensive, while others search for DIYs that fit perfectly into their budget. Lucky for car owners, spray paint is an easy and effective way to spruce up their dashboards.
Before you start painting your dashboard, you should remove or cover any parts that you don’t want to paint. Clean the surface with soapy water and some rubbing alcohol, followed by sandpaper to achieve a smooth base. Apply thin layers of primer and color coat, sealing the paint with a lacquer finish at the end.
Whether you want to improve the aesthetics of your car’s interior or repair signs of wear and tear in the dash, painting your car’s dashboard is a great idea. Make sure to use the right equipment and follow the correct procedure to get near-professional results in no time.
The Materials You Need To Paint Your Dashboard
If you want your car’s interior to look as good as new but are still wondering, ‘can you paint a dashboard?’ the answer is yes, you can! All you need is a few materials mentioned below, and you’re ready to start your paint project.
- Tools for disassembling your dash
- Mask (preferably a vapor mask)
- Latex or vinyl gloves
- Painter’s tape
- Soapy water
- Rubbing alcohol
- 1500-grit sandpaper
- Clean microfiber cloths
- Plastic primer
- Base coat (color)
Preparing Your Dashboard
Unlike other surfaces, a dashboard is surrounded by several parts, most of which you don’t want to paint. Therefore, you are left with two options: you can either remove those parts or cover them thoroughly to prevent the paint from spraying on them accidentally.
How To Remove Dashboard Parts
If you are going to paint smaller trim pieces, such as the ones around the air vents and stereo, it would be best if you removed them from the dashboard and painted them out in the open. Removing them is still advisable if it’s the other way around and you want to paint the dashboard but not the trims.
You can follow these steps to remove any dashboard parts safely.
- Ensure the car’s ignition is off, and then disconnect the car battery before removing any parts.
- Refer to the car’s manual for guidance on how to remove trim pieces. While you may be tempted to take the screwdriver and start disassembling the parts on your own, it’s better to consult the manual to ensure you’re removing the parts correctly.
- Take out snap-in dashboard parts with a screwdriver or trim removal tools.
- You can unscrew other pieces that are fixed on the dashboard.
- Disconnect any wiring behind the parts you remove.
- Store the parts safely.
- Save the screws for re-installation after the paint has dried.
Step-by-Step Guide for Painting Your Dashboard
Painting your car’s dash is a straightforward process, and if you follow all the steps outlined below, you can achieve a finish you will be proud of.
Step 1- Clean the Surface
Before you start painting, you want to make sure the surface is free from dirt and grime, and the best way to do that is by cleaning it with soapy water. You can use any tack cloth dampened with soapy water to wipe all the dashboard components. Allow the surface to air dry.
Step 2- Wipe with Rubbing Alcohol
After all the components you have washed with water and soap have dried completely, take a microfiber cloth and wipe the dashboard with isopropyl or rubbing alcohol. This helps you get rid of oily residues left behind by fingerprints.
Step 3- Sand the Surface
Take a scouring pad or 1500-grit sandpaper to scrub the surface of the dashboard. Be careful to apply only a little pressure and sand in a circular motion. Roughening up the surface will help the primer adhere to it better.
Once you are done, wipe away any sanding dust with a clean microfiber cloth.
Step 4- Cover Surrounding Areas with Tape
Cover any areas or parts you don’t want to paint using painter’s tape. You might need to use multiple strips to cover the area completely. You can also protect the steering wheel by placing a plastic bag over it and securing the ends around the base of the steering column with tape.
Since many parts surround your dashboard, take your time making sure all the areas around the dashboard are shielded with plastic, tape, or paper. This includes the car’s vents, knobs, windshield, front seats, floorboards, and so on.
Step 5- Put on your Vapor Mask and Gloves
Auto spray paints contain potentially hazardous fumes, so you should always work in a well-ventilated area. Put on a vapor or respirator mask and wear proper eye protection gear to protect yourself.
You can paint outdoors as long as it’s not too hot or humid and the temperature is between 65 to 85°F. It’s better to avoid painting under direct sunlight as it may hamper the drying process.
If you’re working in the garage, make sure to keep the main door and windows open. Setting up box fans also helps to exhaust air and fumes out of the area.
Plastic parts absorb skin oils very easily, which means your fingerprints can cause spots or fisheye. Wearing powderless latex or vinyl gloves when handling the components can help avoid these marks.
Step 6- Apply Primer
When painting your car’s dashboard, your best bet is a plastic primer like the Rust-Oleum Automotive Universal Bonding Primer Spray. It helps adhere the top coat on automotive surfaces and creates an ideal surface for the next step.
Shake the can well for about a minute and start spraying the dashboard while maintaining a distance of 6-8 inches. Keep the can moving in a steady back-and-forth motion to avoid thick layers. Apply 2 to 4 layers of primer to achieve an even and durable finish. You should wait at least 5 minutes before the second layer, but if you can wait for 10 to 15 minutes, that would be even better.
Step 7- Spray Paint the Dashboard
You should chose a paint designed for automotive plastic parts for this project. The SEM Paints Color Coat Aerosol is a good dashboard spray paint as it offers Elastometric Coating that doesn’t crack. You can also use any other quality vinyl dashboard paint for the job.
Shake the can thoroughly and spray the color coat in thin, even layers. Spray in quick bursts and keep a steady hand. You should apply 3 layers of paint at the least, but it is recommended to spray 5-8 layers for more durability. Wait for 5 minutes between coats to avoid saturating wet paint.
Step 8- Finish with Lacquer
Applying lacquer is an optional step, so you can skip it if you want. However, a top coat greatly improves the durability of your paint job.
You can choose between a glossy or matte finish for the lacquer, and it should be applied the same way as the primer and color coat.
Step 9- Re-install removed parts
You should give your paint job more than 4 hours to dry completely before you touch the surface. Let it cure for 24 hours if you can. Once the paint feels dry to the touch, peel away the painter’s tape from all areas you have covered and re-install any trims and panels you removed.
What is the Best Paint for a Car Dashboard?
Using the correct paint for your dashboard can significantly impact its finish and resilience. Here are my top picks for achieving excellent results:
This paint is perfect for vinyl and fabric coating; whether you want to restore your interior vinyl seats or customize dashboards, consoles, and door panels. As it’s formulated with a maximum adhesion promoter, you can skip the primer and still achieve a smooth finish.
The spray paint is a multi-surface car interior paint that provides a urethane solvent-based coating. It offers a brilliant and lasting finish that doesn’t flake, peel, or crack.
This paint provides excellent adhesion without rubbing off, cracking, or peeling. It is fitted with a comfort tip that allows you to spray at any angle and cover any hard-to-reach areas.
Can you paint a dashboard with a brush?
Yes, you can paint your dashboard with a brush. However, you should keep in mind that using a brush to paint small surfaces leaves brushstrokes that might not look as appealing as the even finish you can get with spray paint.
Can you spray paint a car dashboard without removing its components?
You can definitely paint a dashboard without removing its components, but you need to make sure all the surfaces, trims, and fixtures you don’t want to paint are adequately covered with painter’s tape, plastic, or craft paper.
How to recolor a dashboard?
If your car’s dashboard requires paint repair, you can easily cover any scratches and recolor them using a combination of plastic primer, color coat, and lacquer.
How do you paint plastic dash panels?
You can quickly paint plastic dash panels with automotive plastic spray paint. You can achieve lasting results with quality paint if you prepare and prime your surface correctly.
Spray paint allows you to repair and refresh the appearance of a worn-out and dull dashboard. You can even get creative and try different colors or masking patterns to customize your car’s interior. As long as you follow the process outlined above and use a suitable primer and paint coat, you should be able to get the job done perfectly.