Like anything else on a car, over time the interior will begin to accumulate scratches and imperfections.
Most scratches on a plastic car interior will come as a result of children, dogs, groceries, transporting luggage or moving general goods from a-to-b.
In a lot of cases these can be prevented by covering up the plastic panels or fastening down loose objects in the back of your car.
But, If you’re already past the prevention stage, don’t worry!
In this article, you’ll learn how to remove scratches from plastic car interior, returning it to as close as factory as possible.
How-To Remove Scratches From A Car Interior
There are 3 ways to remove car scratches from the interior of your car.
- Buy A Plastic Repair Kit
- Completely replace the part in question
- Perform A Traditional Repair (Sanding, Painting, Heating).
The solution that you choose is completely up to you. There are pro’s and cons to each solution, you just need to weigh them up.
Buying a plastic repair kit will allow you to perform minor repairs at home, with all the equipment you need available in one small package. That being said, they’re very limited and a lot of the time, the colors provided will not match your interior.
If you were to completely replace the panel in question, it would guarantee a factory finish.
Doing so will require tools to take apart and refit the panel.
You’d also need to buy the replacement panel, so it’s much more expensive, and for many, completely unrealistic.
Unfortunately, In cases where the panel is heavily damaged with cracks and holes, replacing the panel may be the only logical choice.
Finally, you have the option to perform what I’ll call a “traditional repair”. This is the repair that I’ll be taking you through step-by-step in this article.
Keep reading to learn what equipment you’ll need and the steps required to repair your plastic car interior.
Equipment that you’ll need
- Razor Blade
- Interior Cleaner
- Plastic Prep Spray
- Dent Repair Kit
- Plastic Putty
- Heat Gun (optional)
- Spray Paint
Most of the tools, equipment, and products that you need are fairly self-explanatory.
The two things that may have piqued your interest is the Razor Blade and PDR Kit, but I assure you they’re key to a perfect repair.
Using the razor blade will allow you to remove the high spots and excess plastic in the target area. If you were to use sandpaper or a rubbing block, you’d most likely rub some of the surrounding area.
As for the PDR Kit, it will allow us to recreate the exact texture of the panel. You can use a grain pad, but, you’ll spend a lot of time trying to find the correct texture, and even then it may not be an exact match.
The Repair Process
The repair process is rather simple. It may take a couple of times to get the exact finish, but it shouldn’t cause you hours and hours of stress.
If you would like, you can perform repairs while the panel is on the car, though you may need some masking tape or masking paper to protect the surrounding areas.
The safest way is to remove the panel and set it aside while you work on it. For this, you’ll need a Plastic Trim Removal kit & probably a Torx set to remove some screws.
If you don’t know how to remove the panel, there are plenty of videos on youtube that can teach you the exact methods for your car.
- Remove the high spots from the damaged area – More often than not, scratches in plastic will result in excess plastic being pushed away from the impacted area.
The excess plastic creates a rough edge and high spot which needs to be removed before you even think about applying filler.
You can remove this using either a razor blade or sandpaper. I personally choose to use a blade because it’s much more targeted, just make sure you have a steady hand.
- Clean the panel & Apply prep spray – Before applying any body filler or paint, you should always clean the surface area. Doing this will remove any oils, dust, or unnecessary contamination from being trapped in your repair.
To clean the panel properly, you could use a 99% alcohol cleaner, degreaser, or even a dashboard cleaner.
After cleaning the panel, you will want to apply some prep spray. This will make both the body filler and paint stick to the panel a lot better.
Once you’ve done that, make sure to let it dry before moving on to the actual repair itself.
- Recreate the texture with a Glue Tab – To do this you’ll need a DIY Dent Repair kit, one that comes with glue tabs and a glue gun. You could buy them separately if you want, but I don’t think that it works out any cheaper.
To recreate the texture, find another area on the panel which is undamaged.
Spray some dashboard cleaner on that area and wipe it off, to prepare the panel for your glue tab.
Once clean, apply some PDR glue to your glue tab and push down on the undamaged textured area, letting it dry slightly.
Don’t let it dry for too long, otherwise it will stick to the panel.
Timing this right is crucial, the glue tab needs to be hard enough to keep the shape and texture, but not be stuck to the panel.
- Apply plastic putty to the damaged area – Grab your razor blade or a spreader and evenly apply plastic putty to the damaged area.
If you have any excess product still left on the repair, make sure to remove it using your blade.
Once you have applied the putty perfectly, use your “texture tool” that you created in step three and push down gently into the repair to recreate the texture.
Whenever you’re satisfied, let the repair dry. If you’re in a hurry, you may heat it up using a heat gun. Make sure you don’t apply too much heat, otherwise you risk burning the plastic and creating further damage.
- Paint the repair – Now that you’ve managed to repair the plastic properly, it’s time to apply more prep spray before painting it. Don’t go too crazy though, this is just a light coat that will help the repaired area to accept paint.
Before you start spraying there are 2 more things that you should do. Get the correct paint color by finding the interior trim color code and remove or mask up any areas that are a different paint color or material.
Once you’re satisfied you have the right paint and the panel is sufficiently prepped, simply spray the plastic using light bursts going from left to right.
After painting, let it dry before touching the panel or trying to refit it. You can use a heat gun to speed up the drying process, but I prefer to let it sit for the time that the paint manufacturer recommends.
If you’re not satisfied with the repair, unfortunately you’ll need to start it all over again. Grab a paint thinner, remove the paint and plastic putty before repeating the steps above.
Protecting Interior Plastic Trim
After you’ve spent the time and effort to actually repair the panel, it’s only natural that you want to make it look its best.
Removing scuffs from your car interior is just as important as repairing scratches.
While I don’t believe in “trim restorers”, I do believe that applying a trim dressing or quick wax will help to restore its color slightly while adding an extra level of shine and protection.
I like to use Meguiars Hyper Dressing. Since I started using it, my plastic trim has looked better than ever. It’s also a lot easier to clean.