Learning vinyl wrap

One thing I really don’t like on the E90 3 Series cars is the “soft touch” plastic coating used on the interior plastic bits. It should have been called “don’t touch” for how easily it is damaged.

I wanted to fix the steering wheel trim which looked like this:

So I ordered some 3M vinyl wrap and went to the junk yard to get something for practice. I found a good candidate from a 2006 325i.

It was in much worse shape than ours. Perfect. I took off the thumb switches and ran it under hot water to remove the rest of the coating. After much rubbing, it looked like this:

Once dry, I placed it on a piece of vinyl and started to stretch and shape it before wrapping the edges and heating it with the heat gun.

The vinyl film is fairly forgiving and as long as you don’t catch a sharp corner, you can really stretch and manipulate it for a good fit. This type of film is applied dry and the adhesive isn’t activated until pressure is applied.

I was really happy with the results so I went ahead and pulled the piece on our car. Start by carefully removing the airbag. I used a Torx 20 screw driver to release the springs on both sides. And set the airbag out of the way. (Don’t unplug it unless you’ve disconnected the battery for at least 15 minutes.)

The panel can now be removed by first removing the three T-20 screws from the back of the steering wheel, and then the two T-20 screws holding the thumb switches in place.

If you have the sport steering wheel, you also need to remove the silver trim by removing four more T-20 screws and carefully undoing the catches. I then used the water method to remove the coating.

Vinyl was applied the same way, only this one was much quicker having done it before. Then the trim was reattached. Installation is the reverse of removal.

It looks great and there’s no more peeling paint by the thumb switches. (And yes, it was raining when I took the picture so the spots you see are rain drops….)

The vinyl wrap was $16 on Amazon for a 1×5 foot roll. The test trim piece was $4 at Crazy Rays. I had wrap left over so i covered an old trim piece that goes around the shift selector too.

So what did I learn? If the soft touch paint is peeling, it will probabably wash off—you don’t need to sand or use solvents to get it off. If you plan ahead and keep things clean, vinyl is pretty easy to work with. I can see how an extra set of hands would help with larger pieces. Heat can be your friend, but don’t over stretch.

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