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Car Audio - Seat, Consoles & Panel Removal
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 prevents scratches.
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 reassembly.
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 reinstallation.
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 out.
Rear decks are not fun to take out. Most involve removing the back
seat and backrest, side panels, seatbelts, speakers, etc.
The 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, seatbelts, etc.
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 here.
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 dealer.