If you are working on you car stereo or security system, you
will most likely have to remove some panels, consoles, trim rings, etc. Factory
panels are not always easy to remove. If you break a panel, you will regret not
being careful. Dealers charge a fortune for parts.
Before you even think about pulling on a panel, make sure
all the screws and other fasteners have been removed. If you can't figure out
how to take a panel out, get help. Borrow a manual for your car at the library,
ask a car stereo shop in your area or ask a local car dealer.
If the car is out in the cold, panels tend to get hard and
brittle, and may break easily, particularly in old cars. Try heating the
panel(s) up before you remove them with a hair dryer or heat gun.
Most panels are mainly held in place by screws, snaps, other
panels that overlap them, and any combination of the three:
Radio Trim Rings
To make cars cosmetically appealing, manufacturers hide
screws behind "dummy plates" and electronic controls. In many cars you have to
pull out clocks, hazard light switches, defroster controls, etc., to get to
the screws that hold the panel. If you need to remove a switch or instrument
in a panel, don't just insert a flat screwdriver on the side and pry. This
will bend and scratch the panel. Try pulling the desired part with a hook. If
you have no other option than to pry, place a cloth on the screwdriver to
Many radio trim rings use snaps, either by themselves, or
in combination with screws. Double check to make sure you did not miss any
screws. Pull evenly on the panel, either using a panel removal tool, or a
hook. If the piece is too tight, there might be a screw somewhere you might
have left out. In many cases, such as most Hondas, you don't even need to take
the trim ring out at all to get to the radio, just remove a couple screws that
hold the radio from behind.
Relatively easy to remove. Ninety-nine percent are held in
place by bolts and/or screws. First, take all the stuff out of pockets, boxes,
compartments, ashtrays, etc. Remove all visible screws. If the console does
not pull out, search for hidden screws. Many cars (especially European) use a
piece of carpet to cover up screws. Cars such as Mercedes Benz have screws
hidden under the ashtray. The parking brake is a common obstacle. In some cars
you might have to slide the front seats all the way back and recline them to
get the console out.
Some people remove the whole dash to hide alarm
components, and access electronic devices in the car. These people are
experienced. Removing a whole dash takes many hours and patience. If you are
not careful when reinstalling the dash, wires might get pinched and you might
smoke something. Remember that the electronics around the dash control the
main functions in your car, so you can't never be too careful here. Most cars
have a clip that has to be pulled out in order to remove the speedometer cable
from the instrument panel. Before you take anything apart, unhook the car's
battery (this is good practice when you are working on your car in general).
Find hidden screws and bolts by "peeling" off panels. Unhook electronic
components and harnesses as you go along. Mark things if necessary for
Most front seats are held by bolts and nuts. Some cars
have extra brackets or seatbelt anchors that must also be removed. Many newer
models have pieces of plastic or carpet over nuts and/or bolts holding the
seats for cosmetic reasons. These pieces can be easily removed using a panel
removal tool, or taking screws out (if they have any). Before you pull the
seat out, be careful to unhook any wires plugged up to the seat, and take
extreme care not to scratch anything while you take the seats out of the car.
To make life a bit easier when remounting the seat, first slide the seat all
the way up, remove the bolts on the back. Slide the seat all the way back,
make sure the seat is locked in position, and then remove the remaining bolts
at the front.
Rear seats are fastened in many different ways. On most
cars, the base part of the seat is held in place by a metal snap going into a
hole. To remove, pull on the front of the seat. Some cars have a metal or
plastic tab that has to be pulled, pushed, or moved to the side, while pulling
on the front of the seat. Other cars, mainly German, use bolts or screws in
the front to hold the base of the seat. Many American car seats (GM) have a
hook that fits into a metal brace. To remove the bottom part of the seat push
hard towards the back and then up. Most Hondas use a bolt (10MM) on the back
part of the seat between the bottom part of the seat and the back support
(towards the middle) that has to be removed. Then the seat can be pulled up
from the back. Before you pull on a seat, try to analyze what is holding it.
Most seats do not need a lot of force to be removed, they all have a trick.
The back support on the rear seat is a bit more standard
in the way it is fastened. At the top, there are 2, 3 or 4 pieces of metal
that go into a hole. There are 2 or more bolts that hold the backrest at the
bottom. Once you have removed the bottom part of the seat, take the screws or
bolts out, and slide the back rest up and out. On a few cars you have to
remove the rear deck and other side panels out first. If you can't figure it
out, remove the panels in the other side of the backrest (trunk) and examine
carefully how the seat is fastened.
A bit harder to remove than the rest of the panels in a
car because they house window cranks, buttons, mirror controls, speakers, etc.
Some cars even have seatbelts built in the doors. The first step is to remove
all the screws on plain sight. Look for screws hidden behind speaker grilles,
power window/lock/mirror controls, ashtrays, interior light covers, dummy
plates, etc. Windows all the way down help a lot during removal and
If your car has manual windows, use a crank clip removal
tool to get the clip out. Pull the crank out. Since clips holding the cranks
are small and thin, they tend to fly away and get lost. Some cars (mostly VW)
hold the crank in position with a bolt, hidden behind a plastic cover. Other
cars (i.e. old AMC and Cherokees) use a crank that snaps in place. Once you
have removed all the obstacles (in some cars such as Isuzu this even requires
removing the speakers), try to see how the panel is ultimately held in place.
There are two basic systems:
- Snaps (most cars, especially
imports), which are best taken care of with a panel removal tool. Sometimes
snaps break from the panel and stay on the car. Remove them from the door
with a panel removal tool, and reattach the snaps to the door panel before
reinstallation. Once you get everything loose, most panels need to be pulled
out at the bottom and then up.
- Hooks (some Fords, i.e. Thunderbird
and GM, i.e. Camaro), in which the panel has to be pulled up first and then
Rear decks are not fun to take out. Most involve removing
the back seat and backrest, side panels, seatbelts, speakers, etc.
best way to remove a rear deck is to follow these guidelines: Remove snaps
using a panel removal tool. Remove third brake light casing, if necessary.
Remove other obstructions such as speaker grilles, speakers, seats, panels,
Manufacturers do not take much time trying to hide screws
and snaps on the trunk/hatch. That makes trunk panels fairly easy to remove.
Most are held by snaps, screws, or a combination of both. Again, the procedure
is to remove any visible screws and snaps. Search for hidden screws under
dummy plates, access doors and light bulb covers. On some hatchbacks, speaker
grilles, speakers, seatbelts, even the back seats need to be removed to clear
the way for the panels to come out.
Probably the easiest to remove, due to their small size.
Most manufacturers use bolts and/or snaps. In some cases, such as old BMWs,
the speaker grilles hold the kick panels. The most annoying obstruction is
generally the hood latch popper.
Repairing broken panels
Even the pros break a panel or a snap every once in a
while (professional installers are very good at repairing broken panels). If
you cracked a panel, there might still be hope. A hot melt gun is a must have
Since most panels are made out of plastic, it is fairly
easy to fix cracks and breaks. One of the best techniques is to cut a piece of
metal from a paper clip, and dig it in the plastic for support. Here's how to
do it: First place the panel to be fixed upside down on a flat surface (over a
cloth, so that it does not get scratched). Cut a piece of metal from a paper
clip (about an inch long or so). Place the piece over the crack (again, on the
back side of the panel) and hold it in place with a flat screwdriver or pliers
(NEVER with your fingers). Use a soldering gun to heat the metal, applying a
bit of pressure so that the clip melts its way in the plastic as it gets hot.
It is better if you start on one side, and then work your way to the other
side of the crack, don't try do it all at once. Be very careful not to push
the clip all the way through to the other side of the plastic, you don't want
anything showing on the front side of the panel. It is highly recommended that
you practice a couple times on a piece of scrap plastic before you attempt the
actual panel. When you are done with the soldering gun, clean the tip with a
wire brush. The left over burnt plastic will not let it hold solder very good.
Another technique, which can be used in addition to the
one previously mentioned or by itself, is to use a hot glue gun and pieces of
either plastic or wood: Prepare the panel in the same way as before, but
instead of placing a clip over it, spread some hot melt over the area, then
place a small piece of wood or plastic, and add some more hot melt. Let cool
down a couple minutes, and add glue on top as many times as needed. Make sure
that the panel will fit in the car before you do this. Hot glue can also be
used to attach broken snaps, and to build custom panels.
If you do break a
panel and can't fix it, try a junkyard before you go to a